The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is a full-featured, 10-megapixel, compact digital camera with a 16:9 widescreen capture mode, image stabilization, and an extra-wide LCD display built into an attractive, sturdy metal body.
I've been using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 as my general walkaround camera for a couple of months and shot everything from family get-togethers to urban landscape photography. I've used a few Panasonic digicams and I really like their camera design, controls, and menus. The LX2 confirms my opinion about Panasonic's excellent camera design. It's a pleasure to use, a quick learn, and the easily accessible controls and real image stabilization make it easy to take good pictures with.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Features
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 falls somewhere in between a pocket camera and a full-featured prosumer compact digital. It's a powerful little camera with lots of options, controls, and a very nice
image-stabilized Leica 4x zoom lens. The most important features of the LX2 and what set it apart from other comparable cameras are RAW capture capability, Panasonic's two-mode MEGA O.I.S. optical image stabilization, the Leica lens, three selectable aspect ratios, and full manual exposure controls. The lens actually offers real wide-angle capability with a 28mm (equivalent) focal length at the wide end of the zoom - but only if you're using the 16:9 aspect ratio. The LX2 also has a wide sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 3200, which should make it better for shooting in low light.
Besides the standout features I just described, the LX2 has pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from a serious compact digital camera – a video capture mode; a full range of exposure modes including full manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and 18 scene modes. It also has a great 2.8-inch LCD display with multiple of display options including a histogram and composition grid. As far as features go, Panasonic didn't forget a thing with the LX2.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Design
I am a big fan of Panasonic's camera design. Every manufacturer tries to differentiate their cameras with styling, cool features, or image quality. I think Panasonic's biggest selling point is the simple, straightforward usability of their Lumix digital cameras. The LX2 is no exception. It has a clean, traditional rangefinder look with a solid, confidence-inspiring metal body. There's a small but effective plastic grip on the right front of the camera that works quite well. It's a bit larger than a pocket camera and I think that makes easier to hold and more stable. All of the buttons and controls are intuitively placed and easy to reach. Most adjustments became second nature to me fairly quickly. I like the Mode dial on the top and the little joystick control on the rear of the camera. The joystick is used to select and adjust exposure settings. It's very easy and natural to use and for me it's one of the best things about the LX2.
Left: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 joystick Right: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 mode dial and top controls
I'm not sold on premium lenses on compact digital cameras making a huge difference in image quality. That said, a great lens can't hurt. And the Leica lens does make me feel good about shooting with the LX2. The LX2's 4x Leica zoom lens protrudes a bit and has a traditional lens cap that you remove by pinching the sides. I've seen complaints on the Web about the lens cap being easily lost. But the camera comes with a small lanyard to attach to the lens cap to the camera body. If you use the lanyard it will be next to impossible to lose the cap.
The lens has two mechanical switches - one on the top and one on the left. The top switch selects 4:3, 3:2, or 16:9 aspect ratios. I shoot with an SLR most of the time so I prefer the 3:2 ratio, the same proportions as 35mm film and most digital SLR sensors. The switch on the left side of the lens selects manual focus, macro, or auto focus. The switches make the LX2 look more serious and traditional. They also provide easier access to the focus and aspect ratio controls than if they were buried in the camera's menu system.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 during capture with image info and histogram displayed
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 playback mode with all image info displayed
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 main menu
The best thing about the Panasonic Lumix LX2 is its simple usability. Intuitive camera design, manual exposure controls, and Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization made it easy for me to get the photos I wanted in most conditions. And good photos are the bottom line. Cool features don't make one bit of difference if they don't help you get better photos.
I am generally a manual exposure kind of guy. However, with compacts I usually use shutter priority or aperture priority. Because of the easy-to-use exposure controls on the LX2, I switched around between the different modes, depending on how I wanted to shoot. And although it's not something I would ordinarily use, I quite liked the Program shift. It's offers access to aperture and shutter speed exposure controls via the joystick without requiring you to make any decisions if you don't want to. It's the best of full auto and manual rolled up into one very user-friendly exposure mode.
One of the things I like the most about Panasonic's Lumix compact digital cameras is their MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization. Optical image stabilization uses tiny actuators in the lens or on the image sensor to compensate for shaky hands - and everyone has shaky hands. Most people can't take sharp handheld photos below 1/60th second without camera shake making their photos blurry. A camera with optical image stabilization will minimize camera shake and deliver more useable photos. Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization allowed me to shoot handheld with the LX2 as slow as ¼ of a second. And 1/15th of a second wasn't at all uncommon. A less obvious benefit of image stabilization is being able to use a camera's lowest ISO setting more often. Lower ISO means better image quality but it requires slower shutter speeds. Image stabilization makes it possible to use slow shutter speeds without a tripod. So it's not just about getting sharp photos - image stabilization also means better photos in good light. All of Panasonic's compact digital cameras feature their MEGA O.I.S. optical image stabilization. I can't emphasize enough how wonderful image stabilization is. It absolutely means better photos and it's a great reason to consider buying Panasonic digital cameras.
I shot all kinds of stuff with the LX2 - ghetto street photography in San Francisco, party snapshots, night photos, mountain biking in bright sunlight and in the dark redwoods, fall color details, and all kinds of kitty-cat and family photos. In the end, the only subject I had real trouble with was low light action photography. For me, that means mountain biking in the redwoods. And that's hard stuff for any camera. However, the lack of an optical viewfinder makes the LX2 especially poor for any photo that requires fast panning. To pan well you need a real viewfinder to follow your subject accurately. I've tried it over and over and it just doesn't work with an LCD display. Most compact digital cameras only have an LCD display now because people don't realize the value of an optical viewfinder. Unfortunately, that makes most action photos difficult to impossible.
I don't like the LX2's pop-up flash. It has to be manually opened with a switch on the top of the camera and it was very hard for me to remember to use the switch. The result was the flash wouldn't fire when I expected it to because I'd forgotten to open it. I'm not sure why they designed the flash they way they did. It's not super powerful and it causes redeye as much as the next compact camera does. So I think it would have been better if no switch was necessary. Any design feature that contributes to missed photo opportunities is questionable.
Although the LX2 is wonderfully capable when it comes to getting the photo, I wish it were smaller. I’ve used a lot of pocket-sized digital cameras in the past year and I wish the LX2 were actually small enough to fit in a pocket. It’s sort of in-between a pocket camera and something more powerful, without really having the benefits of larger cameras. I’d happily give up a little to have it fit in my pocket.
Like most digital photographers, I usually look at my images on the computer at full size to check for sharpness and digital noise. This being the case, my initial opinion of the LX2's image quality was mixed. The color, exposure, and tonal range are very nice, but noise is apparent at ISO 200 and over and there's obvious purple fringing with backlit subjects. However, I don't believe looking at digital image files on the computer is an accurate, real world way to evaluate image quality. It's a good way to compare the pixel and noise characteristics of different cameras. But it doesn't tell us what an image looks like in normal viewing conditions, e.g. a print or Web gallery. So I've started making 8.5x11 inch test prints instead of just staring at photos on the computer. A lot of the image quality problems I see at full size on the computer (100%) disappear in an 8.5x11-inch print. And that's what happened when I made prints from a variety of my Panasonic LX2 images. Well-exposed ISO 100 photos were basically noise-free with an excellent tonal range and accurate, pleasant color. Even at ISO 400, photos printed at 8.5x11 had plenty of detail and looked natural. Sure, there's visible noise. But it's not unreasonable or distracting and I can live with it. I even made a print from an underexposed ISO 800 image that was brightened up with Photoshop - a sure recipe for lots of digital noise. Although the print is pretty chunky, I don't find it unpleasant and I'm pretty happy with it. The LX2 doesn't match digital SLR image quality. But overall I think it's pretty good.
Full-size crops comparing the in-camera JPG processing (left), standard RAW (right), and a RAW file with corrected white balance and noise reduction (center). Images were shot at ISO 400. The RAW images were both converted from the same file.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 offers RAW shooting capability, as well as JPEG. I shot the studio tests in JPEG since that's how most people will use the camera. However, I also did RAW tests for comparison. For those who don't know, RAW files are unprocessed image data, straight off the sensor. All JPEGs have to be processed in the camera. A RAW file should have a wider tonal range, more detail, as well as offering the ability to adjust white balance after the fact. The tradeoff is that RAW files are much larger than JPEGs, they take longer for the camera to save, they require more work on the back end, and you need special software to handle them. Panasonic includes software for viewing and converting the LX2's RAW files, although I didn't use it. I used Adobe's Lightroom workflow software to convert my LX2 RAW images to JPEG and TIFF. There's a clear difference between the JPEG and RAW studio tests (see the comparison image above). The JPEG files have less noise, more contrast, more saturated reds and yellows, and obvious haloing at contrasty edges - a telltale sign of oversharpening. It's obvious that the LX2's in-camera processing includes some noise reduction. But the cost is some harshness in the final image quality. I believe I got better results using Adobe Lightroom's noise reduction when I converted my RAW file. The RAW option definitely offers the potential for better image quality if you're willing to invest the extra time and effort. But for the average user, the Panasonic LX2's JPEG image quality will be great, most of the time. The real benefit of the RAW mode is for low light, high ISO photography, when noise becomes a serious problem.
The serious look and high-end features of the Panasonic Lumix LX2 might lead some people to believe it can produce professional image quality. And under the right conditions it can. But for the best image quality you still need to invest in a digital SLR. The LX2 is a powerful and flexible compact digital camera but it has a much smaller sensor with much smaller pixels than a digital SLR. It's not in the same class as any digital SLR when it comes to image quality. But it does offer a lot of creative options in a very portable package. Sometimes that's more important than perfect image quality.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
For the most part I enjoyed using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. The controls are excellent and allowed me to quickly and easily access the features and settings I needed to get good photos. I especially like the joystick on the back for exposure adjustments. And Panasonic's MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization is invaluable in helping capture better quality images in all types of conditions.
The biggest problems I had with the LX2 were the awkward size and poor action photo ability. If you plan to take a lot of action photos you should cross the LX2 off your list. Likewise, if you want a camera you can keep in your pocket, the LX2 isn't it. On the other hand, the image quality is excellent at ISO 100 and pretty good even at ISO 400. Lots of my photos looked very good right out of the camera, and photos I invested a little Photoshop time in came out great and printed very well. I would try to avoid going over ISO 400, though. It's not an SLR replacement but the image quality is very good for a compact camera.
Who Should Buy The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is a good choice for experienced photographers who want a compact, full-featured digital camera with manual exposure controls that doesn’t need to fit in a pocket. The LX2 is also a good camera for beginning photographers who want manual controls but can’t afford or don't want the hassle of a digital SLR. The LX2's manual exposure controls offer the beginner everything they need to learn basic photographic rules and techniques.
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Contents of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Digital Camera
Battery Carrying Case
AV & USB Cables
ArcSoft PhotoImpression, ArcSoft Panorama Maker,
USB Driver, Lumix Simple Viewer, Photo Fun Studio Software
and Silkpix Developer Studio
Strengths: easy to use
HD video mode
Weaknesses: Is there really no USB???
I'd rather not have a pop-up flash
some controls are made by using either the joystick or round button pad, for the same thing. other controls mandate that you use specifically use the joystick, or the pad. this is confusing and inconsistant.
A great stylish camera for an amateur photographer or snap-happy blogger.
This is my first digital point-and-shoot camera and it rocks.
I bought this camera after reading the pro review here, and after having great experiences with other Panasonic gear. I am a documentary filmmaker/photographer professionally.
I use it for photos of friends and roommates, but I plan to take it with me during location scouting. Since it can shoot a 16:9 image and has a wide angle of view, it's perfect to see if shots will work when I return with the movie camera.
A couple features I really needed in a camera were:
I'm stoked on the SlowSync/ Red eye feature in the Aperature Priority mode. This is a great "slow shutter w/ flash mode". Indoors, it snags a sharp subject while brightening and smearing the background.
The video mode is great. It's not MPEG-2, so I can edit it. It makes Motion JPEG Quicktimes. And, the high def 1280 x 720 res video rocks. Perfect.
The full manual controls are good. Focus is made using a small joystick, which works surprisingly well for close-ups and macro work. (Ask to see my 100 soft-focus shots of my bicycle.)
The pro reviewer, John, knocked it down a little for it's low light action abilities. It was just fine for me though. I'm probably not as demanding :)
Strengths: 1. The 16:9 display.
2. The control layout with reservations about the joystick.
3. The mega O.I.S image stabilisation. My dslr (a Konica Minolta 5D) has built in image stabilisation, so it's a feature that I am used to. The stabilisation in the LX2 definitely works, though not as well as the stabilisation in the KM5D.
4. The lens quality, resolution is very good indeed, outperforming budget dslr lenses in some cases.
5. It's small.
6. The on-lens aspect ratio and AF mode switches are very accessable.
7. RAW mode, see the weaknesses section for more info.
8. The colours produced by the camera are very nice, more so in RAW mode and the auto white balance works well.
Weaknesses: Noise produced by the sensor is no worse than the Canon A620, if slightly different in nature. It is often commented on because the camera goes to iso800 &1600 where the A620 stops at iso400.
The single biggest weakness is the in camera jpeg processing. At iso 100, for the most part you need to view the images at 100% to see it's effects, but from iso200 up, the effects are more noticeable. Jpegs from the camera especially at higher iso exhibit artifacts and an effect that makes images look like a watercolour painting. I must emphasise that these effects will not be apparent in 6x4 or 7x5 prints until the iso value is 800+.
The saving grace of the camera is that it will output images as RAW files allowing them to be processed to jpeg files by software more competent than that which is in the camera. Iso100 raw files produce great artifact free images and iso200 and 400 images also retain a lot of detail with better processing. I have tried a number of different raw processors with the LX2 RAW files and the best is the supplied SilkyPix V2SE or SilkyPix V3Free (though you lose a lot of adjustability and batch mode with this version), next I would rate Adobe Lightroom (and presumably Photoshop/Elements via ACR) and last of the processors tried, is Bibble which is a shame as I prefer it's layout and I use it for my DSLR RAW files.
I purchased the LX2 as a replacement for my Canon A620 and as a backup for my DSLR. I shoot a lot of landscape and the standout feature of this camera is the 16:9 format sensor.
The camera is small, it won't fit in a shirt pocket but fits into a jacket pocket quite happily. Side by side, it is noticeably smaller than the A620. The layout of the controls is generally good, but unlike the reviewer, I don't find the joystick as useful. It is too close to the screen and a lot of it's functions are replicated by the four way button array. The full range of PASM controls is also a feature that drew me to the camera, I don't buy cameras with auto only modes as they are too limiting.
I am very happy with the camera so far and would recommend it with reservations. As the reviewer says, it's not for action work or even low light work at parties. Other cameras will fill those roles better but if a tripod is used and the camera is set at iso100, night photography is very rewarding. I haven't used the movie mode, so I can't really comment on it.
The camera is also superb for black and white photography, iso400 images processed from RAW files have a grainy film like look to them.