Home | Reviews | Q&A | Links | Gallery | Free Photo Hosting

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX1 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 16/11/05
Rating: Recommended
Buy Now: Get the Best Price


Introduction: Announced on the 20th of July, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 is the first 16:9 wide-aspect ratio (effectively "wide-screen") digital camera with a 16:9 wide aspect ratio 8.4 megapixel CCD sensor. The camera has a Leica 4x optical zoom lens starting at 28mm - 112mm equivalent, with "Mega Optical Image Stabilisation" - this should allow blur free low-light / zoom photography. The Panasonic Lumix LX1 is available from £360, this makes it average value for money, although the LX1 is rather unique making it difficult to find comparable cameras. The camera is enclosed in a black or silver metal body. The LX1 records 16:9 movies with sound at 30fps! The camera would be very compact were it not for the protruding lens, despite this it still fits into trouser pockets. The camera takes a rechargable lithium-ion battery and measures: 105.7 x 55.8 x 25.6 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 185g (without batteries and memory card) Nb. Leica have released a version of this camera, called the Leica D-Lux 2.

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"8.4 Megapixel World's First 16:9 CCD* with 28mm Wide Angle** LEICA DC Lens Full Manual Compact DMC-LX1 - Available September 2005

Panasonic launches its new LUMIX 16:9 wide LX series with the introduction of the DMC-LX1, 8.4-Megapixel 4x optical zoom full manual compact camera. This creative compact incorporates a 8.4-Megapixel CCD and a high resolution 2.5-inch LCD in its undersized body. The lens unit is comprised of 4x optical zoom LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT Lens and renders superb picture quality. Like other LUMIX cameras, what distinguishes the DMC-LX1 from the rest is MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), a key feature Panasonic considers should be standard in all digital still cameras.

* As a CCD of digital still camera, as of July 7, 2005. **In 16:9 aspect ratio"

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ3)


Front - Camera off, lens cap on.


Front - Camera on, lens extended, focus assist lamp, small handgrip.


Back - 2.5" screen, AF/AE lock, 4-way joypad, 4-way buttons, menu button, display, delete.


Top: Flash open button, speaker, mode dial, zoom control / shutter release, MEGA O.I.S mod button, on/off switch. On the lens is an aspect ratio switch giving you a choice between 4:3 [6mp], 3:2 [7mp], and 16:9 [8mp].


Bottom - battery / memory compartment, metal tripod mount. The battery is a 3.7v 1150mAh Lithium-Ion battery.


Left Side - AF, AF/Macro, MF selector, pop-up flash raised, lens at telephoto position.


USB / Video out, DC in connection compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison. (Lens at wide angle)


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 8.4 Megapixel CCD
  • Advanced Mega Optical Image Stabilizer
  • 2.5" screen, 207,000 pixels
  • Leica 4x Optical Zoom,
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • ISO AUTO, 80, 100, 200, 400
  • Video modes: 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 848 x 480 pixels, 30 fps / 10 fps,
  • Video modes continued: 4:3 Aspect Ratio 640 x 480 pixels, 30 fps/ 10 fps 320 x 240 pixels, 30 fps / 10 fps.
  • 5cm AF Macro mode, Manual focus mode

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • 32mb SD Memory card
  • Battery pack
  • Battery carrying case
  • Battery charger
  • AV Cable
  • USB Cable
  • CD-ROM
  • Lens Cap
  • Lens Cap String
  • Strap
  • 126 page printed manual

Average box contents - you will need to buy a larger memory card (as with almost all digital cameras).

Battery usage: Up to 240 pictures with the supplied battery according to CIPA / Panasonic testing. Battery life seemed good, but not as good as the 500-shot Fuji F10 for example.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the top dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 207,000 pixels is good, as with all (current). The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Photo menu options: White balance, Sensitivity, Picture size, Quality, Audio record, Metering mode, AF (Auto-Focus) mode, Continuous AF, AF assist lamp, AF/AE lock, Digital zoom, Colour effect (Cool, Warm, Black and White, Sepia), Picture adjust (Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise Reduction (High, Standard, Low)), Flip animation.

Scene mode Setup menu

Scenes: Portrait, Sports, Food, Scenery, Night portrait, Night scenery, Baby, Soft skin, Candle light, Party, Fireworks, Snow, Starry sky, Self portrait. Pressing left will show a screen explaining what the scene mode does.

Setup menu options: Monitor, Auto review, Power save, MF assist, Beep, Shutter, Volume, Clock set, No. Reset, Reset, USB mode, Highlight, Video out, TV aspect, MF m/ft, Scene menu, Language.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick, although initial display can seem a bit sluggish. The zoom is quick, and allows you to zoom up to 16x.

Playback menu options: Slide show, Favourite, Rotate display, Rotate, DPOF Print, Protect, Audio dub, Resize, Trimming, Aspect conv. (can convert 16:9 to 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratio), Clean up (promises to speed up SD card access), Format.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 32mb memory card provided with the camera:

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
  Ratio RAW TIFF Fine Standard  
8mp 3840 x 2160 16:9 1 1 7 14  
5.5mp 3072 x 1728 N/A 1 11 22  
2mp 1920 x 1080 N/A 4 28 54  
7mp 3248 x 2160 3:2 1 1 8 17  
4.5mp 2560 x 1712 N/A 2 13 27  
2.5mp 2048 x 1360 N/A 3 21 41  
6mp 2880 x 2160 4:3 1 1 9 19  
4mp 2304 x 1728 N/A 2 15 29  
3mp 2048 x 1525 N/A 3 19 37  
2mp 1600 x 1200 N/A 4 30 59  
1mp 1280 x 960 N/A 7 46 86  

As shown in the table above, you can fit a small number of images on the 32mb memory card - a large memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, and a very good choice regarding image compression.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix LX1:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 128mb: £9.99, 256mb: £11.74, 512mb: £19.19, 1gb (1000mb): £36.03.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just over one second. Focusing seemed fairly quick even in low-light. The playback mode is also quick. The camera shutter response seemed quick when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was quick. The flash recharge time was quick. The cameras menu's seemed quick. Continuous shooting is very quick, at roughly 2.5 fps.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, especially in AUTO mode, or one of the scene modes, even though the camera has a lot of options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straight forward - the menus are very responsive and easy to read and navigate. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple, mainly thanks to the right number of dials and buttons on the camera (the options aren't hidden away in menus which makes it easier to use). Most functions can be worked out without having to refer to the manual. The joypad makes it easier to alter the shutter / aperture in P / A / S or M mode.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seem to be the right amount of buttons - and dials allowing easy access to the most commonly used functions and features. The buttons feel okay, although some may find them small. The shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, with a good size hand grip. I like the zoom control, and the quick access to the aspect ratio - there's no need to go into a menu to change it. The camera feels like a solid, robust and well built camera.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Panasonic Lumix LX1 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower Group photo - Quartershade playing Live (flash on)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo, although there is some purple fringing in the flash reflection. It has a decent flash (despite its small size), and copes well with group photos, although on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting is often increased, which in turn increases noise to quite a high level. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light. I did see red-eye.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200 and 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.


ISO Noise Test Photo - Flash on

ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels

Noise is visible in photos taken at ISO80 and ISO100, at these low ISOs you would normally expect there to be no noise. At ISO200 and ISO400 noise becomes even worse, with ISO400 best avoided, and depending on your preferences ISO200 is probably best avoided as well. When left on AUTO, the camera uses ISO160, and ISO320 as well, with both settings producing too much noise for my liking. (Have a look in the gallery to see if this will cause you a problem) For small prints noise isn't as much of an issue.

Anti-shake / Optical Image Stabilisation effectiveness: Here are some test photos taken with "Mega Optical Image Stabilisation" on and off - these photos were taken without flash in low light.

Image Stabilisation On Image Stabilisation Off
1/4 second, f2.8, ISO200 1/4 second, f2.8, ISO200

As you can see - image stabilisation is very effective for low-light, slow shutter speed photography allowing blur free photos. Anti-shake is also very effective when used with zoom.

Outside:

Shops (on a grey day) Super Lamb Banana

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail, and there seemed to be good dynamic range. Noise seemed higher than normal, and was noticable. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: The camera has a 4x optical zoom lens, and a 4x digital zoom - I've included examples below to show what the zoom range of the camera is. Using the digital zoom degrades image quality and is best avoided.

Wide-angle 4x Optical zoom Optical and Digital Zoom (blurry*)

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems very good, with the dark areas of the photo not too dark, and the bright areas of the photo still visible. *Probably my fault - unfortunately I ran out of time, so couldn't re-shoot this picture.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is almost silent. The shutter is very quiet. There are roughly 18 steps between wide and telephoto giving you very good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing seemed slightly higher than average, but nothing serious, just something to be aware of. Purple fringing is noticable in flash reflections from people who wear glasses, and noticable in the "Super Lamb Banana" photo around the window frames.

Macro: You can use the flash in macro mode, although this has a tendancy to wash out the picture when the subject is too close. The camera can be roughly as close as 5cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in wide setting, when set to AF:Macro mode.

Macro Timex Watch Actual Pixels (ISO200)

The macro mode is good - colour and detail is quite good, although noise is visible and removes detail. The camera allows you to get quite close to the subject. Images did seem a bit soft - and benefitted from sharpening. You'll need to be careful when / if using the flash, to ensure the picture is correctly exposed.

Movie: The movie mode on this camera is very good with 16:9 aspect ratio at 30fps, with sound. The camera also has 640x480, and 320x240 video modes with sound. The only let down I found is that the camera isn't able to video in low-light - for example video a band playing live indoors resulted in a completely dark video. Videos are recorded as .MOV files (requiring Apple Quicktime for playback).

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good, the images have very good colour, saturation, contrast and detail - although with higher than average noise. The camera did a good job focusing even in low light thanks to the focus-assist lamp. I did not notice vignetting in photos, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a very good range of image sizes, thanks to the multiple choices regarding aspect ratio, and a very good choice of compression options (including RAW and TIFF, which is rare for compact point and shoot digital cameras). The macro mode is good, and provides good detail and colour. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good the majority of the time. Red-eye was a problem in some of the photos, and purple fringing was visible in some photos. The movie mode choices are very good, providing the 16:9 aspect ratio and 30 frames per second with sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and fits in (baggy) trouser pockets. The camera feels well built. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a very good layout of buttons and controls, with the majority on the outside of the camera (rather than hidden in menus). The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, good flash recharge time, quick playback mode, quick menus, and very quick continuous shooting.

Value for Money: The Panasonic Lumix LX1 is unique as a 16:9 wide-aspect ratio digital camera featuring an 8 megapixel sensor and a wide-angle lens. However, nearly all other "point and shoot" 8 megapixel digital cameras are cheaper than it. Alternative 8 megapixel digital cameras worth considering include the Ricoh Caplio GX8 with wide-angle lens, full manual control and high ISO settings, the Canon Powershot S80 with wide-angle lens, and manual controls, and the Olympus Mju Digital 800 with manual controls and high ISO settings - none of these feature the 16:9 aspect ratio though. See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Panasonic Lumix LX1 is in the unique position of being the only digital camera to offer a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio with wide angle at 8 megapixels (other Panasonic digital cameras feature a 16:9 aspect ratio but not at the full resolution). This in itself will sell this camera to people who love this aspect ratio. The camera is also the only digital camera to record videos with a 16:9 aspect ratio (as far as I'm aware). The camera is very good, with good image quality and very good features. There are only two or three problems that let this camera down, and they may unfortunately put you off buying this otherwise excellent camera - they are: very high noise, visible even at the lowest ISO settings, high price compared to other 8 megapixel cameras, and the video modes inability to "gain up" in low light. However, the prositves outweigh the negatives so I would still recommend this unique digital camera!

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX1 Rating: Recommended
Get the best price below!

 

What I like:

  • Very good image quality
  • Very compact and stylish with a solid metal body (will fit in trouser pockets)
  • Built in "Mege Optical Image Stabilisation" allows blur free low-light photos.
  • 2.5" screen is good with a high resolution (207,000 pixels)
  • Unique wide-angle / 16:9 aspect ratio - some people love this aspect ratio! (Including me)
  • 16:9 aspect ratio video recording at 30 fps
  • Fast continuous shooting mode
  • Very good detail
  • Leica wide angle 4x optical zoom lens

What I don't like:

  • High noise (ISO200 and above practically unusable)
  • Screen isn't widescreen
  • Expensive compared to other compact 8 megapixel digital cameras
  • Video doesn't "gain-up" in low-light
  • Some purple fringing

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Panasonic Lumix LX1 Sample Photo Gallery.