Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS2 Review
Coming in at the entry-level of Panasonic's Lumix line, the LS2 is an affordable point-n-shoot
model that features 5-megapixels of resolution, a 3x optical zoom lens, Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S.
(Optical Image Stabilization) system, QVGA (320x240) movie mode w/out audio, and 2.0-inch TFT
LCD monitor. It offers fully automatic operation for beginners with its Simple mode or one of
the pre-programmed creative scene modes. Normal mode is also mostly automatic, but adds options
like ISO, White balance, Aspect ratio, AF mode, Color effects, etc.
Ergonomics are good. The LS2 can easily be carried in just about any size pocket or purse, but still fits nicely in your hands. The various controls are well placed on the body and the menu system is logically organized. This large 2.0-inch LCD covers more than half of the back of the camera, and is the only viewfinder available. I found it was effective for menu navigation, image review and as a viewfinder outdoors in the bright sunlight, and although it fails to "gain-up" in marginal lighting, the exposure system is so sensitive that you can frame a shot with the slightest amount of ambient light.
The LS2 is quite the performer, especially for an entry-level camera. From power up to first image captured measured only 2.5 seconds. Shutter lag was almost absent when pre-focused, measuring less than 1/10 of a second, and only 4/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting a sequence of shots in single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without using the flash, slowing to between 2.8 and 4 seconds with the flash (depending on subject distance and battery life.) The LS2 offers three Burst mode settings to choose from (Low-speed, High-speed, No-limit.) Using the Low-speed setting, I was able to capture 3 frames in about 1.1 seconds. High-speed captured 3 frames in approx. 6/10 of a second. No-limit mode allows you to continuously capture images at about 1.5fps, limited only by available memory. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 256MB SD card, shooting in "Normal" mode, size/quality set at 5M Fine, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was pleased with the overall image quality when using the 5M Fine mode. Both our indoor and outdoor samples showed good exposure and color balance. Its 3xoptical zoom lens offers a typical zoom range of approx. 35-105mm (35mm equivalent.) It helped produce sharp images, with noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle and slight pincushioning at full telephoto. I also noticed some image noise in areas of contrast, but no more than the average consumer model. Indoors, you have to work with in the limited range of the flash, about 12 feet at wide angle. As you use the zoom, this effective range will drop off significantly. We achieved the best results shooting small groups and individual portraits in mid sized rooms, using the mid telephoto range of the lens.
The LS2's movie mode captures 320x240 clips without sound at either 30 or 10 frames per second, lagging the competition's 640x480 resolution. I was surprised that you could not use the zoom while recording. Almost every model I have seen that doesn't record audio allowed the use of the zoom. You can however, preset it before starting. Our movie samples showed very little compression noise and the exposure system did well in mixed lighting. The LS2's MEGA O.I.S. feature helps reduce the effects of camera's movement in movies, especially when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. This is a handy feature that just about every model from Panasonic includes, which we greatly appreciate.
Bottom line - with great performance, good image quality and an appealing price tag, the Panasonic DMC-LS2 is a worthy competitor in the $200 or less entry-level category. We feel it will please either the family, business, or tourist user who would like to enter the digital world, without having to break the bank.
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