Panasonic have recently released the latest in a line of high quality advanced compact cameras that carry the LX designation. It has been 2 years since the very successful LX5 was released, and I was very interested to see what improvements have been made.
Nearly all recently released advanced compact cameras have had larger sensors than their previous model, however with this model Panasonic have gone in the opposite direction, reducing the size of the sensor slightly, this is due to the introduction of a C-MOS rather than CCD sensor in the previous model. The sensor still remains at 10.1 megapixel, but don’t let this put you off as keeping the pixel count low increases the performance of the sensor. The Lens, sensor and processor have been designed to work perfectly together to produce as higher image quality as possible. These three elements have resulted in excellent image quality for such a small camera. Colours are punchy without being over saturated and detail is high giving the look of a larger sensor camera. Colours can be customised in camera to suit your taste.
The new lens is the Lumix LX7’s crowning feature - with an aperture of f1.4-f2.3 - which at the time of writing is the fastest lens of any compact. The camera now supports a manual ring on the lens to change the aperture which is a welcome addition. Other additions to the LX7 are a built in 3 stop ND filter, which is activated by pushing a small jog switch on the back of the camera. Pushing the jog switch left and right adjusts the focus in manual focus mode. One feature I particularly like is the ability to shoot at equivalent focal lengths that are commonly used. Rather than ‘guestimating’ the focal length you can now set it at 24, 28, 35, 50, 70 and 90mm equivalent on to full frame. This is especially helpful if you use prime lenses on a film or full frame digital camera.
There is also a good selection of artistic modes for the creative users, these can be used retrospectively to add any of the artistic modes to images already taken and save them in camera as a new file. The LX7 can shoot RAW and comes supplied with Silkypix Developer software for RAW conversion. Adobe Lightroom 4 now supports the DMC-LX7 RAW files and Adobe Elements will follow suit shortly. Panasonic are renowned for producing very nice RAW files which can be edited very successfully. ISO performance is the only area where the LX7 let’s itself down compared to other high end compacts on the market. Shooting at ISO 800 or below, produces very high quality images but image quality starts to suffer and digital noise is apparent when shooting above ISO 800.
11 frames per second at full resolution is achievable with options for 5fps with AF tracking or 60fps at 3.5 megapixel resolution. One of my personal favourite features is the Macro capability. The camera has a 1cm focussing distance in macro mode, coupled with the f1.4 lens creates beautiful out of focus areas. The depth of field is easy to control with the aperture ring giving your subject the right depth of field while retaining a smooth blurry background.
There are some new features in the video recording ability which includes recording in MP4 format as well as the standard AVCHD format. The Lumix DMC-LX7 can record 1080/60p / 1080/50p (progressive) which conveys about twice the information of 1080i (interlace) recording. It creates intricate detail and silky smooth motion. Even when subjects move quickly, afterimages are minimized to create more natural images. Couple this with stereo microphones results in superior quality video. You can record using the cameras photo styles or use the creative video mode, allowing shutter speed adjustments and aperture in video mode. Time lapse video is now available also.
The feel of the LX7 is one of the cameras strongest features. It boats a very high build quality, enhanced by metal buttons on the rear of the camera. There is a built in flash and a hot shoe for adding either a flash gun or Panasonics latest electronic view finder, the LVF-2. This view finder has a high quality 1,44,000 dot screen for a clear bright near 100% view.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 faces stiff competition, but in my eyes doesn’t fail to impress. If you take into account the superior build quality and high end design, excellent image stabilisation, f1.4-2.3 Leica DC-VARIO SUMMILUX Lens and impressive autofocus, it makes a very good case for itself and could be all you need in a compact!
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