Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC70 Review
One of Panasonic's new Lumix cameras for 2004, the DMC-LC70 combines a 4.0-megapixel imager with a high-quality Leica DC-VARIO ELMARIT 3x optical zoom lens. This is a simple point-n-shoot camera that can be used by any level photographer with its "Simple" mode, and the more experienced will appreciate the adjustments for ISO and white balance. When you want to explore your creative side, simply select one of the pre-programmed scene modes or color effects.
The ergonomics of the DMC-LC70 are good. The controls are well placed and functional, and despite its small size, it fits well in your hands. The menu system is logically arranged, and offers choices that will not confuse the novice user, but allow the more experienced to quickly make changes. The LCD viewfinder's brightness can be adjusted, making it fairly usable outdoors, but it does not have an anti-reflective coating, so it can be difficult to view on the brightest of days. Fortunately, it is also equipped with a zoom- coupled optical viewfinder for such circumstances. When using the camera indoors in low ambient lighting, the LCD "gains up" well, which is crucial for framing your subject when shooting in these conditions. The camera also features a very useful Economy mode (located on the Mode dial), which helps extend battery life by decreasing the brightness of the LCD and turning it off when the camera is idle for more than 15 seconds. Plus, it will turn the camera off when 2 minutes has passed without any operation.
The shooting performance of the LC-70 was average. From power up to first image captured measured about 3.5 - 4 seconds. Shutter lag averaged a fast 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, but a slower 9/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in single exposure mode, I averaged about 2.2 seconds between frames with the flash off and approx. 3.2 seconds with the flash on. This camera offers two Burst mode settings to choose from (High- speed, Low-speed.) Using the Low-speed setting, I was able to capture 3 frames in about 1 second. High-speed captured 3 frames in approx. 7/10 of a second. Our tests were done using a Lexar 256MB SD card, shooting in "Normal" mode, size/quality set at 2304x1728/Fine, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Overall image quality in 2304x1728/Fine mode was good. I was pleased with our indoors test shots, skin tones were very natural and the "Auto" white balance setting works well. The wide-angle focal length of 35mm (in 35mm equivalence) provides a field of view sufficient for most indoor circumstances. The above average flash range (about 15.75 at wide angle) is adequate for small group portraits and shooting across small rooms, but does not have sufficient power to cover large open rooms, like wedding chapels, gymnasiums, etc. Unfortunately, there is no focus-assist lamp, so it will sometimes be unable to focus in dimly-lit indoor shooting situations. Outdoors, the camera does very well. The majority of our test shots were sharp, well exposed, and colors were nicely saturated. The Leica 3x optical zoom lens offers enough range to provide flexibility in composing your shots. A 3x digital zoom feature is also included, but we recommend not using it, you'll get better results by cropping your photos in an image editor when necessary.
Bottom line - The Lumix DMC-LC70 makes a good choice for anyone who wants a portable, easy to use digicam. Its size allows it to be carried in almost any size pocket or purse, and with its 4.0 million pixels of resolution, you can create photo-quality prints up to 11x14-inches. With an affordable price of around $299, its sure to be a hit. If you don't need 4-megapixels of resolution, then check out the 3.2-megapixel LC50, it's physically identical and offers all the same features found on the LC70 (except the ability to record audio with movies), but can be had for $50-75 less than the street price of the LC70.
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