The Panasonic DMC-LX7 Compact Camera... (9/06/13)
After many months of playing with the pocketable
Panasonic DMC-LX7, here is what I think about it
-- The overall design, small size, low weight, and
handling characteristics of the Panasonic LX7 are
excellent - and it even fits nicely into a T-shirt
-- Its 24mm-90mm lens (35mm full-frame equivalent)
is a VERY good and fast f1.4-f2.3, and it can take
surprisingly good stills and video even in low
-- The zoom range can be extended from 24mm
to 180mm-equivalent with "iZoom" enabled, with
surprisingly good quality even at 180mm. The image
quality does decline gradually as the zoom is
extended beyond 90mm, but it remains useable for
smaller images even at 180mm. The good close-focus
capabilities of this lens are also maintained, so
decent macro images can be made even at 180mm.
-- Close-focus photos can easily be taken with the
LX7, and even animal activities can be caught due
to the very fast shutter response.
-- The LX7 is very easy to use and to control in
ALL modes. This camera was designed to be used by
both snap-shooters and by those who like to "fiddle
with the guts" while using a camera.
-- It has MANY good adjustments in well-designed
and organized menus, and numerous external controls
are also available for changing and optimizing
camera functions. Some of these can even affect
aspects of the internal digital image processing
that are normally beyond user control. All things
can be independently adjusted, and the LX7 gets an
A+++ for this. (I particularly appreciate that the
white balance can be tailored to your preferences
for ALL the individual WB presets on both the
red/green and yellow/blue axes.) A brief printed
manual is included in the box, and the rather
lengthy complete manual (224 pages!) is included
on a disk, also in the box, along with some
additional photo and video editing software. The
LX7 complete manual is also available online here.
-- The built-in light metering and exposure bias
display and the camera leveling indicators are good.
Interesting is the ability to move the image in
the display panel upward to clear some information
display areas (and all non-image material can also
be cleared from the display).
-- The high-resolution OLED rear screen is good,
and it can be made VERY bright by adding together
the effects of adjusting a couple of different menu
controls (although doing this does shorten the small
battery's run time). Several other types of display
adjustments can also be applied to customize the
viewing image. I find the LX7's screen easy to use
for precise framing, even in sunlight, and even
when viewed off axis at very sharp angles.
-- Mini USB/AV and HDMI ports are provided.
-- A high-resolution accessory EVF is available,
but it is relatively expensive compared with the
original cost of the camera - but it may be well
worth the price for some users.
-- The lens is quite sharp, and it is even good
when used wide-open throughout its zoom range
(which is limited compared with that of many other
compact cameras - but that trade-off is a useful
one for having generally much increased lens speed
available, and also for having its very high lens
image quality). The lens on the LX7 is unique in
that (with a good sample), the lens is excellent
even to the far corners even when used wide open.
I have not seen this before with any lens at any
price that offers an f1.4 maximum aperture.
-- Having an aperture ring on the lens is useful,
as is having the focus-mode and aspect-ratio
selection switches also on the lens rather than
having those functions in the menus.
-- Setting the aperture to f2.2 (or to a smaller
aperture) results in having what is essentially a
constant-aperture zoom lens, useful when shooting
-- The easily-engaged macro function works well for
extending the lens focus range, and it is a useful
-- The various available shooting aspect ratios are
16:9, 3:2, 4:3, and 1:1 and, except for the last,
all use the maximum sensor diameter available for
the aspect ratio chosen. As a result, the image
frame's long-side coverage angle is greatest with
the aspect ratio set to 16:9, which can be useful
with some types of subjects and with video with
the lens set at its shortest focal length.
-- The photo quality is generally quite good, even
in fairly low light levels - and video shot in low
light is also surprisingly good. Panasonic has made
good choices for optimizing the mix of parameters
(lens quality and speed, sensor size and resolution,
and image processing characteristics) for getting
excellent performance in all light levels with a
very compact camera - and Panasonic has combined
that with providing a wide range of available user
controls over its picture characteristics.
-- Image noise is fairly low, especially for a
camera with a small sensor, and the image doesn't
have faults often seen in competing models, such
as obvious CA problems, field curvature, and soft
corners (and sometimes even soft edges). Even at
remarkably wide stops, corners and edges look good
in the LX7 images.
-- The image stabilization works well, and it
permits the successful hand-held use of shutter
speeds that are considerably slower than those
normally possible without it.
-- Auto-focus is very fast and accurate, even in
low light levels. I have been able to shoot sharp
close-ups of a cat in low light that would be very
difficult to shoot with any other camera I have
-- Overall, the color is excellent - with a minor
exception being that it sometimes tends to render
some reds as more orange than they really are
(although it often avoids a common digital camera
tendency for blue skies to tend toward green in
lighter-toned areas near the horizon).
-- The video specifications are the same as for
the excellent Panasonic TM700 camcorder, having a
28Mbps 1920x1080 60P video mode available (but,
-- The video image is (fortunately!) unusually free
of the common CMOS rolling-shutter distortion with
-- Video shot in bright light can be good (but not
excellent), but (in common with most other still
cameras with video added) it is not as good as
that shot with a good similar-spec camera designed
primarily for shooting video. The 28Mbps 1060-60P
video is, though, MUCH nicer-looking than the 720P
"AVCHD-Lite" video offered on many other compact
cameras. It also looks better with motion than the
video taken with most other cameras, which are
limited to a 30P sensor frame rate. When switching
the LX7 to video mode, I find that the best picture
comes with using the PSH (1080-60P) mode, using a
high enough shutter speed to catch sharp frames
with motion, and with the picture settings changed
from their "0" positions as follows: EXPOSURE to
minus 1/3rd to 2/3rds stop; SHARPEN to plus 2; and
SATURATION to plus 1 (relative to the picture
settings choices preferred for shooting stills).
-- Video shot in low or medium light levels can
look quite good, possibly because the lower edge
contrasts likely to exist there show fewer of the
image defects that can be more evident in bright
-- A stereo microphone is included for video.
-- Compared with the Panasonic GH3 body plus a
zoom lens, the LX7 costs a small fraction of the
price, it is FAR smaller and lighter, and its lens
is generally almost three stops faster - but the
video quality taken with Panasonic's best current
micro four thirds format bodies (the GH3, GX7, G6,
and G5) is generally much better.
-- Given its high quality, its price can be quite
moderate compared with its competition. While the
Panasonic DCM-LX7 retails for $500 in the US, it
often sells for $400-$450, sometimes for about
$350, and occasionally it even sells for $300,
making it then a "steal"! Also, its functionally
identical "partner" camera (the Leica D-LUX 6)
continues to sell for $800, and with a recent
"boutique" version, for $1300!
-- A quite good 1.4-megapixel compact eye-level
viewfinder is available for the LX7, and that can
tilt upward for low-level shooting.
-- As I continue to enjoy using the LX7, I remain
very impressed with (and often surprised by) its
photo image quality and also by its versatility.
Overall, the LX7 is an excellent all-purpose
pocket camera which is stronger with stills than
it is with video, and it can take very high-
quality stills and better-than-OK video under a
surprisingly wide range of conditions...
-- The LX7 has a poorly-designed lens cap, and I
replaced the original cap with something else that
worked better - but if the original cap is used
and it isn't removed before turning on the camera,
the camera warns that it must be removed before
turning the camera on again, preventing damage to
the lens extension mechanism. For a friend's LX7,
I cut off the card that comes attached to the
camera by a thin silver string and I threaded that
through the lens cap that comes with the camera
(using the provided hole in the cap) to attach the
cap to the camera to prevent it from being lost.
-- One must pay an absurd amount for a small
accessory threaded filter ring adapter and a new
lens cap in order to fit 37mm filters on the lens.
This part should have been originally made an
integral part of the lens front structure. I bought
the replacement, but I was unable to remove the
front ring from the lens to permit the installation
of the Panasonic accessory ring, so I cancelled the
order. I was also unable to remove the larger ring
around the lens (this should bayonet off...) to
add an inexpensive auto-folding cap. I eventually
made my own cap with one that now covers most of
the retracted lens barrel, and it comes off easily
enough so that there can be no possible damage to
the lens extension and zooming mechanism when the
camera is turned on.
-- There is no way to attach lens converters to
the front of the lens (even with the accessory 37mm
lens thread adapter installed on the lens) since
the weight would have an ill effect on the lens
telescoping and zooming mechanism.
-- Serious lens flare is too often apparent when
the sun is within the field of view or just outside
of it (but generally there are no lens flare issues
-- Panorama photos often have unwanted vertical
lines in them, and therefore using that mode often
results in unsatisfactory images.
-- The unmodified video quality is often so-so even
in 28Mbps 1080-60P mode. Also, no matter what the
picture settings are for video, some sharpening
"halos" still show on high-contrast edges, as,
oddly, do some occasional "stair-stepping"
(aliasing) artifacts which are not ordinarily very
evident with progressive scan 1080 video. These
likely indicate the use of some over-sharpening
to offset sharpness losses that occur with
down-sampling the stills resolution to the video
resolution. Even so, the HD video quality from
this camera (given its very small size) can look
-- The zoom control is generally too fast for video
use, and the LX7 unfortunately lacks menu control
over its speed.
-- There is no remote control of any kind available.
-- While the LX7 can record acceptable-quality
stereo sound, it (not surprisingly) has neither a
microphone nor a headphone jack.
-- Overall, the LX7 is a nifty little camera, but
I think it could easily have been even a bit
A NOTE ABOUT SAMPLE-VARIATION:
As with ALL lenses and cameras (regardless of brand
name and price!), sample variation exists. When I
bought my LX7, the only references I had for what
to expect were some full-resolution samples I
gathered from various review articles online. These
led me to expect a very high performance level from
the built-in zoom lens on the LX7. This included
very good and even sharpness to all the frame
corners at all focal-lengths except for some slight
softening toward the far corners near the widest
focal-length at stops wider than about f4, which
was easily corrected while working on images. My
sample of the LX7 met this standard, and I am happy
with it (see the sample images included here to see
why...). Since then, I have seen two samples (in a
group of about half a dozen) that were evenly sharp
to the far corners at the widest zoom setting, even
at f1.4! (I had never before seen ANY other lens by
ANY maker sold at ANY price that performed this
well at f1.4!) I have also seen one sample that was
noticeably soft in one of the image corners near
its widest zoom setting until about f5.6 (this one
was returned for exchange). One other sample did
not respond to the exposure bias setting changes
and it consistently overexposed photos (this one
was also returned). ALWAYS check cameras (and
especially lenses!) for performance when purchased!
"New" does NOT equate with "perfect"!
-- LX7 photos plus LX7 video frame-grabs
-- LX7 - and GF3, G5, G6, and GH4 MFT photos
THE LX7 COMPLETE MANUAL (PDF):
-- Panasonic DMC-LX7 Manual (Click "I Accept", then
"View", and adjust the magnification to your screen.
This PDF file can be saved to your computer if you
want to do so.)
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