Just as Canon decided to drop raw-format support from its compact enthusiast model, the PowerShot G7, Panasonic comes along and decides to add that very feature to its G-series competitor, the Lumix DMC-LX2. It's just packed with other amateur-oriented features as well, including a variety of focus modes, all of the essential metering and semi-manual exposure options, a wide-angle lens, and an overstuffed information display.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 also uses a 10-megapixel CCD as the G7 does. There's one significant difference in the implementation, however: the LX2's sensor has a native 16:9 aspect ratio instead of 4:3. To produce 4:3 or 3:2 aspect photos, the LX2 simply uses the relevant fraction of the sensor. This enables the LX2 to produce higher-resolution 16:9 images than would be possible with a standard 10-megapixel sensor -- it would require a 13-megapixel 4:3 aspect sensor to generate 10-megapixel 16:9 images. Conversely, the resolution of the LX2's 4:3 images is only 7 megapixels.
Which all begs the question: what do we gain by jumping to 10 megapixels? These are extremely small pixels, which equal extremely high noise. Panasonic's noise-suppression algorithms work fairly well at high ISO speeds -- 400 to as high as 1,600 -- but at low ISO sensitivities such as 100, the images start to get noisy. The good news is that they print better than they look onscreen, though you'd be well-advised to avoid serious crops.
In all other respects, the LX2's photos are quite decent, with excellent white balance, exposure, dynamic range, and colour saturation. There are a few optical artefacts, most notably fringing, and though there's some lens distortion at the wide end of the 28mm-to-112mm-equivalent, 4x zoom lens, it's relatively symmetrical and unobtrusive. Movies don't quite measure up, though. They're full of compression artefacts, and you can't zoom while you're shooting.
While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2's performance won't induce profanity, it definitely lacks the responsiveness of the G7, always taking a fraction of a second longer than we could spare when shooting animals and children. A 0.7-second lag in typical lighting is too slow, though 1.1 seconds in dim light is pretty good. It takes 2.2 seconds between shots under the best conditions, and the flash recycling adds little overhead -- a mere 0.5 seconds. Raw shooting takes a relatively slow 5.1 seconds between shots. And though the LX2's continuous-shooting speed is a decent 1.3 frames per second (fps) to 1.5fps, it can take only a few shots before stopping to process.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
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||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
At least the camera's interface won't slow you down so much. There are a few settings which we would prefer on the outside rather than in the menus -- white balance, ISO sensitivity, metering, and AF mode spring to mind -- but most shooting options can be accessed from the well-laid-out array of buttons, dials, and switches. You will want to skim through the manual, however, or you'll encounter some mystifying options. For instance, there are five different AF modes: nine-area, three-area high speed, one-area high speed, one-area, and spot. They're hard to work out from the icons if you don't know they exist. Thanks to the bright, large, 71mm (2.8-inch) wide-aspect LCD, though, they're pretty easy to read. But no matter how good an LCD is, we still miss having an optical viewfinder.
At 215g, the metal-clad, sturdily built Pansonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is no lightweight. But if you're looking for a compact camera that fits more comfortably in your jacket pocket than the smallest dSLR will, it's an attractive alternative.Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin