Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Review
For 2006, Panasonic has updated their DMC-LX1 from last year with the
Lumix DMC-LX2. This new model includes all of the features that made the LX1 popular, however it is improved
with a 10-megapixel imager, larger 2.8-inch LCD display, Intelligent ISO Control (IIC) mode, broader ISO
range (100 - 1600 compared to the LX1's 80 - 400) as well as increased shutter speed (60 seconds in Manual
mode) and several new scene modes. Unchanged is the versatile Leica DC-VARIO ELMARIT 4x optical zoom lens and
exclusive MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization system. While the LX2 can be a simple point-n-shoot model with the
variety of automatic exposure modes, it offers a wealth of manual control with more advanced modes like
Aperture/Shutter priority and full Manual.
Ergonomics are identical to its predecessor, still retaining that "older Leica 35mm camera" look, with the sleek body and bulging lens. The various controls are positioned well over the entire body and navigating the onscreen menu system was very easy. This model includes a large 2.8-inch display that is the only viewfinder on the camera, and takes up over 2/3 of the back of the body. Overall I found it was a pleasure to use, both indoors and out. When shooting in marginal lighting it gains up nicely to help you frame the subject, and in the bright sunlight, there are only a few angles which reflected the sun and made it difficult to see.
Shooting performance was good for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured just 2.2 seconds. Shutter lag measured 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 4/10 of a second including autofocus. Shooting in single exposure mode, average was approx. 1.4 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and between 2 and 3 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. You can also choose from three Burst mode settings (Low-speed, High-speed, Unlimited.) Using the Low-speed setting, I was able to capture 3 frames in about 1.6 seconds. High-speed captured 3 frames in approx. 9/10 of a second. Unlimited mode allows you to continuously capture frames at about the same rate as Low-speed mode and is limited only by available memory. Our tests were done using a RiData Pro (120x) 2GB SD card, shooting in Program AE mode, size/quality set at 10M Fine (16:9 aspect), flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The LX2 features an exceptional Leica DC-VARIO ELMARIT 4x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 28mm - 112mm. This lens offers much more versatility in composing your shots when compared to standard 3x optical zoom lens. The 28mm wide angle focal length provides a much wider view than your typical models 35mm range, creating pleasing landscapes and group portraits. The 112mm telephoto extreme also enables you to fill the frame nicely for close-up portraits, and bring your distant subjects a bit closer. This lens exhibits noticeable barrel distortion at full wide angle and slight pincushioning at the telephoto extreme. Like the LX1, the LX2 also features Panasonic's exclusive MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization), which helps reduce the occurrence of camera shake in your images. Working especially well when shooting at full telephoto or when shutter speeds are lower due to poor lighting. I found this system helped the lens produce sharp images throughout the zoom range, and allowed me to capture useable images at shutter speeds as slow as 1/10 of a second.
Image quality is one of the most important factors when considering a digital camera. Luckily, the LX2's 10-megapixel results were good. Unlike your average digicam, you can choose from a variety of image sizes as well as aspect ratios. When selecting different ratios, the maximum resolution will change: 4:3 = 7.5- megapixels, 3:2 = 8.5-megapixels and 16:9=10-megapixels. This great deal of versatility ensures that there is an image size choice for just about every user, no matter what the application may be. Outdoors, the majority of our images were sharp, and showed nice exposure and color saturation. Noise levels were average for a consumer model. At ISO 400 and below, there are typical amounts present, however, as the sensitivity is increased (800 and 1600) noise is an issue. There's also a High Sensitivity scene mode you can use, which boosts the ISO to as high as 3200. However, I strongly urge you not to use this mode, as these images look horrible.
Panasonic boasts the LX2's pop-up flash can illuminate subjects to about 16 feet at wide angle and 7.2 feet at full telephoto. This is an above average range for any consumer model, and I found this unit was sufficient when shooting individual or small groups from about 6 or 7 feet away, depending on the position of the zoom. Our indoor people shots were pleasing, with good flash exposure and natural skin tones. The LX2's macro capabilities were also very good, allowing you to focus on a subject under 2 inches away, while controlling the flash output nicely to ensure you don't overexpose the subject.
Movie mode allows you to choose either a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. When using the standard 4:3 mode, you can choose the typical 640x480 or 320x240 resolutions at 30 or 10fps. 16:9 mode allows you to choose from 848x480 (30/10fps) or 1280 x 720 (15 fps). While I like how the 16:9 ratio movies have a letterbox or wide screen feel to them, the overall quality of the movies (both aspects) are just average. The AF system did do well with moving subjects, however there are a lot of compression artifacts.
Power is supplied by a small but powerful 3.7v 1150 mAh Li-ion battery pack that is charged outside the camera with the handy DE-A11 rapid charger, which is included. Panasonic claims a battery life of 300 images, using the flash 50% of the time. I had no problems capturing a large number of our samples (about 125 shots) and concluding our other tests on just one single charge. Since the battery is charged outside the camera, and you can charge a battery while using another, a second pack would make a great accessory choice.
Bottom line - I have mixed feelings about this new Lumix model. While offering some awesome features, and a wealth of exposure controls, the higher noise and poor movie mode quality is disappointing. And, with an MSRP of US$499.95, it's also a bit overpriced. Especially when you consider some of the alternative 10-megapixel models, like Canon's PowerShot A640 which can be had for about $100 less.
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