Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 10.1-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch MOS image sensor
  • 3.8x optical zoom lens (24 - 90 mm equivalent)
  • High-quality F1.4 lens with manual control aperture ring
  • 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD (920,000 dots)
  • Optional viewfinder available
  • Up to 12,800 ISO available
  • iAuto mode is easy for beginners
  • Program AE mode and Manual mode available for more experienced photographers
  • Full HD video
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • Popup flash unit
  • Autofocus/manual focus switch

  • Pros
    • High-quality Leica F1.4 lens with aperture control ring
    • Good image quality and sharp focus
    • Mode dial makes it easy to select the options you want
    • Popup flash provides excellent low-light photo quality
    • Included lens cap fits tightly to protect glass
    • Shot-to-shot delays are minimal
    • Autofocus works fast with almost no shutter lag
    • Hot shoe mount is included
    • Can select autofocus or manual focus
    • Dedicated switch for changing aspect ratios
    • Separate battery charger included
    • HDMI slot included
    • 3.8x optical zoom lens is a bit small
    • Image quality may be just a little below what advanced photographers are seeking
    • Movie recording button is too small
    • Some controls may be a bit confusing for beginning photographers
    • Menu structure isn't consistent and can be frustrating to use
    • Lens housing extends beyond camera body, making this model 1.8 inches thick
    • LCD is sharp, but it has some problems with glare outdoors and is susceptible to fingerprints
    • Although ISO up to 12,800 is available, highest ISO settings create too much noise to be useable
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured = 1.9 seconds (with start-up image turned off)
    • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
    • Shot to shot delay without flash = 2.3 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 1.6 seconds with review Off
    • Shot to shot delay with flash = 2.9 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.1 seconds with review Off
    • High-Speed Burst Mode = 60 frames in 1.9 seconds @ 2.5M
    • Full Resolution Burst Mode = 10 frames in 1.5 seconds @ 10M
    • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    The Panasonic Lumix LX7 is a camera that has some really nice features that aren't found on most fixed-lens cameras. Finding an aperture ring and quite a few manual control options is a nice change of pace for those who are used to really thin point-n-shoot cameras. For intermediate and beginner photographers, the LX7's image quality will be impressive, as long as the almost $500 price tag fits in their budget. However, advanced photographers who are looking for a high-end fixed-lens complement to their interchangeable lens cameras may find that the LX7's image quality and 3.8x optical zoom lens aren't quite good enough.
    Pick This Up If...
    You want a fixed-lens camera that can provide some advanced features and more manual control settings than what most point-n-shoot cameras offer, as well as really good response speeds. Just be certain you can live without a large optical zoom.
    Advanced fixed-lens cameras have become a popular option for manufacturers, as they look to provide a set of cameras that are easily distinguished from the budget-priced point-n-shoot cameras and cell phone cameras. With these advanced fixed-lens cameras, you're going to find a price tag that's much closer to an interchangeable lens camera, but you're also going to find larger image sensors than what's available in the previously mentioned low-end cameras. The advanced fixed-lens cameras also are going to offer some more manual control options than their less expensive counterparts.

    One of Panasonic's latest entries into this advanced fixed-lens market is the Lumix DMC-LX7, which is a model that can shoot some very impressive photos, thanks in large part to its F1.4 lens. It also works very quickly, thanks to a high-powered autofocus motor and fast recovery times after each photo. Unlike most fixed-lens cameras, the LX7 allows you to twist a ring to manually select the aperture, and use a control switch on the back to focus manually. Those features are usually reserved for interchangeable lens cameras.

    Although the LX7 has quite a large number of very impressive features for a camera in the $500 price range, you may find that its 1/1.7-inch image sensor (0.59 inches diagonally) isn't quite as large as you'd like to see for that price. Having a smaller image sensor can result in lower image quality versus a larger image sensor, so some photographers may want to spend a bit more for a model with a larger image sensor, whether that model would be an interchangeable lens camera or another fixed-lens camera.

    For example, the fixed-lens Sony Cyber-shot RX100 features a new 1-inch image sensor, while the RX100's price tag is only a couple hundred dollars more than the LX7. The Canon PowerShot G1 X has a 1.5-inch image sensor for around $800, while the Fujifilm X-S1 has a 2/3-inch image sensor (0.67 inches diagonally) for about $100 more than the LX7.

    The LX7 does compare favorably with the size of image sensors on the P7100 from Nikon, the XZ-2 iHS from Olympus, and the G15 from Canon, all of which have a similar price tag, so the LX7 definitely isn't out of line in terms of image sensor size versus price.

    Even though it may have a slightly smaller image sensor than some other high-end fixed-lens cameras, the image quality with the LX7 is very good, and it's going to be a significant improvement to almost anything you'll see in the point-n-shoot market. It may not provide image quality equal to a consumer-level DSLR model, and some advanced photographers may be a little disappointed, but the LX7's image quality will impress most beginner and intermediate photographers.

    In automatic mode, I felt like the LX7's images were just a little dull, but this camera has enough manual control features that you shouldn't have any problem adjusting the camera's settings to the point that you get the exposure and colors that you want in the images.

    One area where the LX7 performed very impressively was in terms of its response times. It can shoot its first photo less than 2 seconds after you slide the power switch, and it recovers very quickly between shots, even when using the flash.

    The autofocus also works quickly and is sharp in almost every situation. Shutter lag is not noticeable the vast majority of the time. However, if you find a shooting situation where the LX7's autofocus just can't quite achieve the sharpness that you need, Panasonic included the option of using manual focus. A switch on the side of the lens allows you to select between autofocus and manual focus, which is a great feature in a fixed-lens camera. The Lumix LX7's manual focus doesn't work through a focus adjust ring on the lens itself, as you'd find in many interchangeable lens cameras. Instead, you'll use a switch on the back panel of the camera to adjust the manual focus. I didn't think this method of manual focus was as precise as what you'd find with a DSLR camera and a focus adjust ring, and it just seemed a little awkward to use versus what I'm used to using. With more time to work with the LX7, though, this feature probably would've been more natural to use.

    Another interesting switch that Panasonic added to this camera is an aspect ratio switch on the lens. You can use this switch to quickly move from 1:1 to 4:3 to 3:2 to 16:9 aspect ratios. This is the first fixed-lens camera I've seen with an aspect ratio switch; with other models, you must make aspect ratio changes using on-screen menus. I thought this was a very cool feature, but I'm a photographer who likes to change aspect ratios quite a bit. For some other photographers, this type of switch isn't really going to be useful. You'll find a mode dial, too, which makes it fast and easy to select the shooting mode you want.

    Even with those types of advanced features, the clear star of the LX7 is its high-quality F1.4 lens. Few cameras at $500 or less can match the quality found in this bright F1.4 lens. In addition, Panasonic included an aperture control ring on the LX7, which gives you the ability to manually twist the ring to pick the aperture. The aperture settings can range from F1.4 to F8, which is a nice range for a fixed-lens model.

    Panasonic added a pop-up flash with this camera, which gives you a bit more flash power and a better angle on most of your photos. It'd be nice if the flash popped up automatically any time the camera sensed that you might need it, but you must open the flash manually. If you choose to skip the flash, you can bump the ISO on the LX7 as high as 12,800, although you can expect quite a bit of noise at this ISO level. Overall, low light photo quality is very good with the Lumix LX7.

    If you're someone who's looking to move from a beginner-level camera to an advanced fixed-lens model, the LX7 may disappoint you in a few areas. First, although it has a high-quality, bright F1.4 lens, it only offers a 3.8x optical zoom. That's going to be tough to handle for some photographers who are used to seeing 10x or greater zoom lenses in beginner-level cameras, even though those lens' qualities don't compare well to the high-quality lens of the LX7. Secondly, all of the manual control features may be a bit confusing for some inexperienced photographers. If you can't take advantage of the advanced features of the LX7, it's going to be tough to justify its price tag.

    Another area of the LX7 that may frustrate some users is the camera's confusing menu structure. I just never was able to get the hang of using this camera's menus during my several days of testing. For example, I'd be working in menu areas where I felt like it was natural to press one button to achieve a goal, but it wouldn't work in the way I thought. In addition, the menu navigation is sometimes a bit different, depending on which menu window you're using, which is confusing and frustrating.

    The LX7's display screen is a sharp, 3.0-inch LCD, but it didn't quite have the brightness that I'd like to see. It also had some problems with glare when being used outdoors in sunlight, and it seemed like it showed fingerprints more than some other LCDs on high-end models. These are minor problems, but you'd like to see issues like this eliminated in a camera this expensive. However, you can add an optional "Live View Finder" (aka an EVF) to the LX7's hot shoe to counteract any problems the LCD has.

    Video performance with the Lumix LX7 is excellent, with several options available for the HD format you want to use. The optical zoom is available when shooting video, although it tends to move even more sluggishly with video than it does with still images. Panasonic included an HDMI slot for downloading video more quickly, but there was no HDMI cable in the box, only a USB cable, so you'll have to purchase an HDMI cable separately. For a $500 camera, it's a little frustrating that Panasonic skimped in this area - then again, most cameras don't offer a HDMI cable.

    Panasonic provides a separate battery charger with the LX7, which is handy, as you can charge one battery, while still using the camera if you have a second battery available. Then again, you may not need a second battery, as I found during my tests that the battery life with this camera is very good.

    For those who are used to very thin point-n-shoot cameras, the Lumix LX7 measures almost 2 inches in thickness, so it may seem a bit bulky. When the camera is powered on, the lens extends another 1 to 1.5 inches beyond the lens housing.

    Still, I liked the feel and balance of the LX7. It's comfortable to hold, thanks in large part to its rubberized right-hand grip. The controls are all in good locations, and they're easy to reach while shooting. A few of the buttons are a little small, but this isn't a significant problem, as most of the small buttons are raised away from the camera body, making them easier to press. The camera's various switches are sturdy and are well designed.

    The LX7 is a nice looking camera. It has quite a few rounded edges, and the large lens housing in the middle of the front of the camera looks stylish. I tested the black model, which looks great, but I like the look of the white Lumix LX7 camera even more.

    Bottom Line - The Panasonic Lumix LX7 has quite a large list of desirable options. It's a fast-working camera that has many advanced features. It produces sharp images, however the colors are a little dull at times. While the images it creates might not have the image quality that's equal to an interchangeable lens camera or a fixed-lens camera with a larger image sensor, the LX7's image quality compares pretty favorably to other advanced fixed-lens models in the $500 price range. Although the LX7 has a high-quality lens, it doesn't offer much in the way of an optical zoom measurement (only 3.8x), so don't expect to be able to zoom into subjects well in the distance. Panasonic included quite a few dials and switches dedicated to giving photographers quick access to certain features. Some photographers may not make frequent use all of these features -- such as the aspect ratio switch or the manual focus option -- which can make it a little tougher to justify the price tag of this model; so carefully consider whether the LX7's list of advanced features meets your photographic needs. If you believe its features will be a good match for you, the performance level and image quality of the LX7 should also meet your needs.

    You can check out the price of this camera on Adorama by clicking here.

    Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.