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Date: 17/12/2014 | By: Heather

First impressions of the Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Is it a worthy premium compact?

lumix lx100 sample images

First impressions of the Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Is it a worthy premium compact?

The Lumix LX100 is the first premium fixed-lens compact camera from Panasonic to house a four-thirds sensor, which is twice as large than the 1” sensors found on the likes of the RX100 series and Canon G7X. This is a big step-up from the popular LX7, the LX100’s predecessor, which was released more than two years ago and whose sensor was only 1/1.7″. Of all the mirrorless cameras released this year, the LX100 has been met with some of the most excitement, not only due to its large sensor but also owing to its 24-75mm (equivalent) zoom with a fast aperture of f/1.7-2.8.

I will admit that Mathieu and I started out somehow wanting to dislike this camera even after seeing it in person at Photokina and trying it out at the Riflessi Store’s Fowa Day.

DMC-LX100, 1/30, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
DMC-LX100, 1/30, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

It is compact but not truly pocketable like an RX100. It has an electronic zoom instead of a manual zoom like on the X30. It looks like a camera that is trying too hard to be the X100 with its various external dials and retro design. And yet, as you’ll see in this article, it has truly grown on me over the past week that I’ve been testing it.

As is always the case with our first impressions articles, we’ll be limiting our thoughts to the functions we’ve tested so far. Since at least a month is needed to thoroughly test any product, we’ll be leaving the full review until after we return from our Christmas break in Lyon, where we’ll be putting the camera to the test in as many diverse situations as possible. In the meantime, here are our first thoughts!

Design, Handling and Ergonomics

NX1, 1/25, f/ 4/1, ISO 1600

Any doubts I originally had about the LX100’s design were swept away after the first day I spent shooting with the camera. It may not be pocketable like an Sony RX100 iii or Canon G7X, but it handles incredibly well. In some ways, I actually find premium compacts like the RX100 too small and fiddly to be comfortable for regular use, whereas the LX100 fits my hand like a glove. I suppose it is a matter of compactness versus comfort, and I have to say that I tend to gravitate towards the latter.

That said, the LX100 is still more compact than most mid-range mirrorless cameras. It slides into my Porteen Gear camera bag with room to spare, and will also fit into my coat pocket. Even the Fujifilm X100t looks a little beefy when placed beside it!

“Is that a Leica?”

Speaking of design, the Lumix LX100 is what I’d call a feast for the eyes of the aesthetically hungry. The first day I took it out, I was met with a tidal wave of compliments on the attractiveness of my new camera from adults and children alike. One little girl wanted to take it home with her and another thought it was a Leica. (I’m not sure if this is a good sign, as mirrorless cameras are supposed to be discreet!) The camera comes in two versions: pure black and silver. I’m using the latter and it is definitely the more attractive of the two, especially with the plastic faux leather grip on the front.

NX1, 1/25, f/ 28/10, ISO 1600

Working manually

Likewise, the dials are a pleasure to use. I like how every dial, from the exposure dial on top to the aperture dial on the lens, turns with a decisive click. It can catch a little on the A detent when you want to move from A priority to a specific aperture but otherwise, the resistance is perfect. They are even easy to turn with winter gloves on.

The buttons, too, are a good size and are satisfying to press. Instead of installing an on/off button, Panasonic went with a switch that hugs up against the shutter speed dial. It flicks back and forth with a good deal of resistance so the chance that the camera will accidentally switch on in your bag is next to none.

NX1, 1/20, f/ 28/10, ISO 800

There are a few options for customisability thanks to the Fn1, 2 and 3 buttons on the rear but not as many as I’d hoped for. Specifically, the iA (intelligent auto) and Filter buttons on top would be of far more use to advanced amateurs and professionals if they were customisable as well. We can only hope that Panasonic can make these changes via a firmware update.

Something else I miss on the LX100 is the touch and tilt screen found on almost all other modern Lumix cameras. Be it a marketing strategy or a homage to traditional rangefinder cameras, I find it a shame that I can’t pick my autofocus point with the quick touch of the finger or take a shot at an awkward angle without having to contort my body into positions I never thought possible. I suppose that by removing these two features (as an excuse to keep the camera as manual as possible) the company also managed to keep the camera’s price below $1000.

NX1, 1/25, f/ 28/10, ISO 800

That said, the resolution of the screen and EVF is very good overall. I’ve had some trouble calibrating the diopter of the EVF as none of the settings seem to perfectly suit my vision but it isn’t a big deal–I’ve never ended up with out-of-focus images when manually focussing.

In terms of design and handling, the Lumix LX100 is perfect in almost every way. I’d like to give the designers a pat on the back if I ever get the chance to meet them!

Image Quality

Is 12MP enough?

The Lumix LX100 actually has the same 16MP sensor found on the GX7, but the catch is that the camera uses a lower megapixel count (between 12 and 9MP) depending on the selected aspect ratio. The lens doesn’t cover the whole surface of the sensor so while the sensor is indeed a four-thirds sensor, the effective area being used by the camera is always cropped for multi-aspect shooting and that results in having the same diagonal angle of view for any given ratio. You can change the aspect ratio on the barrel of the lens via a sliding switch, with the four options being 4:3, 16:9, 1:1 and 4:3.

, , f/ , ISO

NX1, 1/50, f/ 28/10, ISO 100

A few years ago, professional photographers were regularly using cameras with 12MP resolution, sharing these images with clients, and printing them for professional use, but it is also true that 16MP is now the standard resolution of many mirrorless cameras including Micro Four Thirds and the Fuji X series.

That said, the difference between 16MP and 12MP is negligible for potential users of the LX100. In my experience so far, the resolution of my images has been more than enough. As for printing, Eric Cote of Mirrorless Journey recently ran off a number of images taken with his LX100 at 12” x 16” and his feeling is that the quality is very good.

Dynamic range, high ISO and colours

Despite the difference in resolution and the fact that the LX100 doesn’t use the whole sensor surface, I haven’t found any significant difference in image quality with the GX7, with which the LX100 shares the same sensor. The main point I’d like to communicate is that the image quality is exactly what you’d expect from a modern Micro Four Thirds sensor: great dynamic range with more flexibility in the shadows than in the highlights, very good high ISO performance up to 1600 (3200 if absolutely necessary), and natural-looking JPGs with a coolish tint.

DMC-LX100, 1/500, f/ 5.6, ISO 200
DMC-LX100, 1/500, f/ 5.6, ISO 200
DMC-LX100, 1/80, f/ 22/10, ISO 800
DMC-LX100, 1/80, f/ 2.2, ISO 800

A really helpful new feature, especially for those who don’t post-process on the computer, is the RAW Processing option in the Playback menu. It can be found only on the most recent Lumix cameras like the GH4 and allows you to adjust a number of settings as varied as white balance, exposure, dynamic range, photo style, contrast, highlights, shadows and more. I tried it on a couple of images and found it straightforward to use, though it would not easily replace an advanced program like Lightroom.

24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 Zoom Lens

A love-hate relationship

I’ll be talking much more about the Leica-branded 24-75mm lens in my full review as there are quite a few aspects I’d still like to test more thoroughly including flare, sharpness and out-of-focus rendering, but for the time being I have very few complaints as far as quality is concerned. The fairly broad yet standard focal range combined with the very fast aperture makes it good for many kinds of photography including landscape, portrait, street and macro. Sharpness is good at f/1.7 and at close distances the lens seems to produce a pleasant bokeh and out-of-focus areas. It is also impressive how Panasonic managed to pair such a compact zoom with such a large sensor.

NX1, 1/50, f/ 28/10, ISO 400

I do wish they had included a lens hood with the LX100 as the glass is quite vulnerable to scratching when the lens cap is off. In truth, I’m not completely at ease even when the lens cap is on because it has popped off twice so far: once when my arm brushed against the release points, and a second time when I took it out of my camera bag. So far, I’ve only seen one third party hood being sold online for the LX100 but hopefully this will change soon.

NX1, 1/50, f/ 28/10, ISO 400

The aspect I like the least about the LX100 is also related to the zoom. Instead of opting for a manual zoom like the one on the Fujifilm X30, Panasonic went with an electronic zoom similar to those on low-end compacts. Not only is it slow to react but it also comes across as incongruous with all the other purely manual functions on the LX100 body.

Thankfully, there is a function called Step Zoom in the menu that improves the usability of the lens. In essence, it allows you to hop back and forth between a set list of common focal lengths with one flick of the zoom lever. In this way, you can avoid haphazard zooming and ending up a couple of values off your desired focal length.

I also like to pick one focal length and pretend that the camera has a fixed focal length lens–doing so allows me to focus more on my composition and subject.

NX1, 1/50, f/ 28/10, ISO 100

Autofocus Performance

The autofocus of the Lumix LX100 is the one characteristic I’ve been able to test the most so far. This is because two marathons were held over the weekend: one, a serious marathon for regular runners, and the other, a Santa Claus charity marathon for our local sick kids’ hospital. Additionally, there was a Santa motorbike parade held after the marathons had finished, giving us extra material to work with!

DMC-LX100, 1/250, f/ 56/10, ISO 400
DMC-LX100, 1/250, f/ 5.6, ISO 400
DMC-LX100, 1/500, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
DMC-LX100, 1/500, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

Lumix cameras are well-known for their high-performing autofocus capabilities. My experience using the Lumix GX7 at a contemporary dance performance a year ago, for instance, was more than positive, and the GH4 is widely considered one of the highest performers on the mirrorless market in terms of continuous autofocus and tracking.

DMC-LX100, 1/200, f/ 56/10, ISO 400
DMC-LX100, 1/200, f/ 5.6, ISO 400

The great thing about the LX100 is that it has inherited the GH4’s DFD (depth from defocus) technology, meaning that it is both fast and accurate. With subjects coming directly towards me and at an angle during the marathon, I rarely missed a shot with the camera set to continuous AF, high burst and tracking. The same applied when I switched tracking to Custom Multi and 49-Area.

DMC-LX100, 1/400, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
DMC-LX100, 1/400, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

Even when it did miss a few shots, I was impressed by how LX100 managed to regain focus. In the series of images below, you can see that it temporarily loses the focus on the runner a couple of times, only to get it back after one or two frames.

With the burst rate set to High, you can take 100 shots in a row with the image quality set to Fine or Standard JPG. The buffer rarely fills up when you shoot in JPG format. When you switch to RAW and JPG, however, this drops to around 22 shots and the buffer fills up much more rapidly. After taking the 22 shots, it takes about 15 seconds before the buffer is ready to work at full capacity once again. This doesn’t mean you cannot shoot in the meantime but the frame rate will slow down significantly. For this kind of action shooting, I would recommend that you stick with fine JPGs anyway as you don’t want your computer to be overrun with thousands of heavy RAW files.

DMC-LX100, 1/320, f/ 56/10, ISO 400
DMC-LX100, 1/320, f/ 56/10, ISO 400

Single point single AF shooting was nothing short of flawless–no surprises here!

The only problem I encountered happened about ten minutes into shooting in burst mode with C-AF and tracking: the tracking suddenly stopped working and a few minutes later, the camera froze. The only way to reboot the system was to remove the battery. I will be curious to see if this was an isolated event or if it happens frequently with burst shooting.


Is the LX100 a worthy premium compact?

I’ll admit that I’ve eaten my words since the Lumix LX100 came into our possession. It really is a great little compact camera, and I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of its potential. While these are just my first impressions, in the full review we’ll be trying out the 4K video, 8MP still from 4K, the WiFi functions, 1/16000 shutter speed and much more. Our trip to Lyon can’t come soon enough!

DMC-LX100, 1/30, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
DMC-LX100, 1/30, f/ 2.8, ISO 200

Do remember that if you have any questions about the LX100, leave them in the comments section below and Mathieu and I will do our very best to answer them.

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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Heather Broster

    Thanks, David. I’ll still link back to you anyway! 😉

  • danieljcox

    I’m a big fan of the LX100 partially due to one of it’s unique features of being able to pull 8 megapixel stills from the 4K Photo Mode. For those interested, you can see more about this subject and a video on how to pull stills from the video clips at

  • david_molliere

    Of course glad I can share with others, no link required I am just anenthousiast :)

  • Heather Broster

    David, would you mind if we use your suggestion in an upcoming article? I will gladly credit you and link back to your website/social profiles. Let me know!

  • Heather Broster

    Nice, I’ll definitely check it out!

  • colin henry

    Great review. For the lens cap try the Panasonic DMW-LFAC1. Works a treat.

  • Heather Broster

    Thank you Klaus! It is hard to say how I’ll feel after a month of using the camera but what I can say is that it is growing on me more and more each day. :) I’m hoping for a bit of sun so I can really show everyone what the lens is capable of!

  • Klaus Thielking-Riechert

    Thank you for this detailed review! I am already curious if your overall positive will continue in the second part. Although I never had one in my hand until now (just to save my bank account) it looks like a very interesting piece of camera which lets you feel prepared for a lot of light situations (as you already show in your great samples! Oh, I have never seen such a Santa cloud …). And it seems to make a lot of joy (as Eric Cote also underlined already with his blog by quoting his wife!). Currently I fear, that it will be hard for me to decide, if my “next years photo budget” will be assigned to a new lens or to jump to the LX100 instead ;-).
    PS: I wish you both a good journey!

  • J O

    Thanks Heather,
    Flickr: thesrpspaintshop

  • Heather Broster

    We’d like to but we aren’t sure if we’ll be able to get our hands on the camera to test. Fingers crossed!

  • Heather Broster

    Thanks for the comment, David.

    I agree about the ISO limit. On the X100t, for instance, there is a great feature that allows you to select between a variety of Auto ISO modes with different high ISO limits. (In the Auto ISO mode, you can also set a shutter speed limit, which is useful.) It would be great to see something similar on the LX100.

    I’ll definitely have a look at the ND filter! Thanks!

  • gp

    My thought: the price of this camera is more or less in line with that of the Olympus 12mm f/2.0, but it’s faster at that focal lens. If I would be in the market for that lens, I know what I would buy…

  • J O

    Will you testing the Leica DLux too to compare the differences between this camera?

  • david_molliere

    About lens protection, I have purchase a 43mm Rodenstock Digital Pro UV neutral filter and it’s working great, as the lens cap is fitting on it (Thanks for the lens hood link, will definitely check this out)

    My biggest wish from a firmware update is that they allow to choose ISO limit in Auto ISO mode (locked to ISO 3200 while 6400 would make more sense…).

    Great camera, I am just sadly missing the mechanical zoom but step zoom is indeed handy

  • Heather Broster

    Thanks Mike. I will do my best to have it finished by January. There is quite a lot to test! 😉

  • Heather Broster

    They do tend to issue firmware updates for their cameras, yes, but I don’t know if button customisation will be one of the changes they make. As for the zoom, there isn’t much that can be done as all electronic zooms are somewhat imprecise. Nothing beats manually twisting the barrel!

  • Heather Broster

    About 300-350 pictures depending on whether you primarily use the rear monitor or LVF. :)

  • Claudio Franco

    Hi! Do you guys have an idea of how many pictures can it take on a full charged battery?

  • Sean T

    How fun, what a neat camera. I’m looking forward to the full review. Does Panasonic issue big firmware updates that might fix the fiddly zoom and crack the two silly buttons for customization?

  • Mike Hendren

    A great start to your review, Heather. The LX100 has certainly piqued my interest, but I’ll hold off until I’ve seen a couple of thorough reviews.
    Thanks, Mike.

  • Heather Broster

    It is a toss up. The LX100 is more flexible thanks to the zoom but if you like the 35mm equivalent, the X100t is a great choice as well. Both are excellent as far as form and function are concerned. If you are asking my personal opinion, I’d say that I am leaning towards the LX100 at the moment as I prefer the intuitiveness of the Lumix menu and the superior AF.

  • ChrisQuijote

    A rather silly question – but given a choice between this LX100 and an X100T – which would you choose for carrying around with you?

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