Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Review
Performance & Photo Quality
The Lumix DMC-LX7 is definitely a strong performer, which is what you'd expect from Panasonic's flagship compact camera. The table below summarizes how much (or rather, how little) waiting you'll do while using the LX7:
|Timing||Measured Performance||How it Compares|
|Startup||1.1 sec||Above average|
0.1 - 0.3 secs (W)
|~ 1 sec||Average|
|Shutter lag||Not noticeable||Above Average|
(JPEG, no flash)
|~ 1 sec||Above average|
(RAW, no flash)
|~ 1 sec||Above average|
|~ 2 sec||Above average|
The LX7 has a whopping eight different continuous shooting modes. On the 'slower' end of the spectrum we have 2 and 5 frame/second options, with or without continuous autofocus. The fastest you can shoot at full resolution is 11 frames/second, with focus and exposure locked after the first shot. You can also switch to an electronic shutter and fire away at 40 or 60 frames/second, though the resolution drops to 5 and 2.5 Megapixels, respectively. Finally, there's a flash burst mode, which takes five flash photos in a row, albeit at 3 Megapixels.
|There are 8 drive modes available on the LX7.|
Let's see how the DMC-LX7's two most interesting burst mode options performed in our tests!
|Image quality||5.5 fps w/AF||11 fps|
|RAW + Large/Fine JPEG||12 shots @ 4.8 frames/sec||12 shots @ 11.3 frames/sec|
|RAW||11 shots @ 4.8 frames/sec||12 shots @ 11.4 frames/sec|
|Large/Fine JPEG||24 shots @ 4.9 frames/sec||12 shots @ 11.8 frames/sec|
|Tested with a SanDisk UHS-1 SDHC card|
The good news: the DMC-LX7 shoots incredibly quickly in burst mode, with a fairly large amount of buffer memory. At the slower speeds, the camera will just slow down when you reach the above limits (a little bit for JPEGs, more for RAW). At 11 frames/second, the camera will stop shooting when the twelve shot burst is done.
The bad news: expect long write times if you're shooting RAW. For both of the speeds I tested, it took over thirty seconds for the LX7 to save its images to my very fast UHS-I SDHC card. During that time you can't take another high speed burst or enter playback mode.
|Photos are taken under indirect lighting provided by two Smith-Victor Q80 lamps at a focal length of 37mm (equivalent) and an aperture of f/5.|
Now it's time to see how the LX7 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. I've opened up the full ISO range here, though the highest sensitivity (ISO 12800) is at a much lower resolution (and uses pixel binning). With a reminder to view the original images in addition to these crops, here we go:
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1600||ISO 3200||ISO 6400||ISO 12800|
Everything looks nice and clean through ISO 400. At ISO 800 we get a tiny bit of noise appearing, as well as a drop in color saturation. Even so, it's still quite usable for mid-sized and large prints. That trend continues at ISO 1600, reducing your print sizes a bit. If you're shooting JPEGs, I'd probably stop there. If you're shooting RAW, you can venture onward to ISO 3200, which should clean up well enough to be used for smaller-sized prints. The ISO 6400 photo is pretty lousy, though playing with the RAW images using SilkyPix makes me think that you could squeeze out a small print with a little work. I wouldn't touch ISO 12800 with a ten-foot pole - I don't know why camera companies even bother with settings this high.
Panasonic claims that the new sensor on the DMC-LX7 has less noise than that of its predecessor. Let's take a look and find out:
I'd say that that Panasonic can safely say that the LX7 has less noise than the LX5. It's not a dramatic difference, but it's an improvement nonetheless.
|This shot was taken in manual exposure mode at f/4 at an equivalent focal length of 90mm.|
After some big-time focusing problems with two different early-production LX7's, I was finally able to get sharp photos with a third model without having to resort to manual focus. Since the DMC-LX7 "only" goes to 90 mm at its telephoto end, our night shot is quite a bit wider than usual. Exposure is generally spot-on, though there's some nasty blooming in a couple of places (and I shot this at F4). As with all recent Panasonic cameras I've tested, there's a slight yellow color cast here. The buildings are nice and sharp, from one edge of the frame to the other. Noise levels are relatively low, and purple fringing was not an issue.
Alright, now let's analyze noise. Below are crops from the same night scene as above, taken at each sensitivity (ISO 80 - 6400). Here's how the noise levels looked:
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1600||ISO 3200||ISO 6400|
There's not a huge difference between the ISO 80 and 100 crops, as you'd expect. Noise starts to show up at ISO 200, though a mid-sized or large print is still very possible. Details start to go south at ISO 400, and I'd save this setting for small prints only (if you're shooting JPEGs). This trend continues at ISO 800 and 1600, so I'd reserve those sensitivities for desperation only. The ISO 3200 image is quite noisy, with horizontal banding visible in the sky. By the time you get to ISO 6400, the buildings are vanishing into the fog (figuratively speaking).
The LX7 features a Raw capture mode, naturally, and although the camera's JPEG performance is very good, you get a little more when shooting Raw files, both in terms of flexibility (you can adjust white balance and exposure much more effectively post-capture) and critical image quality. If you're shooting at high ISO sensitivity settings in poor light, shooting Raw can also make a difference, as long as you don't mind spending a little time working on the files later.
Another benefit to shooting Raw is that you get a small increase in dynamic range, which allows you to slightly pull back highlight areas that might have have clipped - or be close to clipping - in JPEGs.
Low Light, High ISO
Our Mickey figurine is looking very good here. Its sharp as a tack, with plenty of detail. Colors are accurate for the most part, though the whites are a little on the brown side. I looked far and wide for noise and couldn't find any - and that's a good thing. The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 1 cm at wide-angle an 30 cm at full telephoto. Don't forget to flip the focus switch to the Auto Macro position in order to take close-up shots!
|The DMC-LX7 takes a two-pronged approach to reducing redeye. First, it'll fire the flash a few times (before exposure) to shrink your subject's pupils. If any redeye remains after the photo is taken, the camera will digitally remove it.|
Unfortunately, the LX7 produced a lot of redeye in my tests, which is the exact opposite of how the LX5 performed two years ago. While your results may vary, odds are that you'll have at least some redeye in your flash photos.
There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the LX7's 24 - 90 mm lens. Corner blurring is very minor, and vignetting isn't an issue. in my experience of using this camera.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 produces some of the best quality photos of any compact camera out there. Exposure was accurate on nearly all occasions, so you won't need to leave bracketing on all the time, as with some other cameras. The LX7 will clip highlights at times, which is the case with most cameras in its class. Colors were nice and saturated, whether they were the bright red of an Audi R8 or the green grass at Mountain View Cemetery.
Subjects are quite sharp, thanks to the high quality Leica lens. That said, I do like having Intelligent Resolution set to low or standard, to apply a bit more sharpening to fine details, but that's purely a subjective thing. Detail smudging is not a problem at low ISOs, which is not the case on the majority of compact cameras these days. The LX7 keeps noise under control through ISO 400 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light, which is certainly better than your typical compact. I did not find purple fringing to be an issue on the LX7.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our huge photo galleries and draw your own conclusion about the LX7's photo quality!