Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

The Lumix DMC-LX7, surprisingly interesting

My two camera setup, Olympus E-PL1 with 45mm and 20mm

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7

Just 2 days ago Panasonic introduced their new Lumix DMC-G5 and the premium point and shoot Lumix DMC-LX7. Being a micro 4/3 shooter, you would think that I would be interested in the Lumix G5 but on the contrary and to my surprise it was the LX7 that piqued my curiosity. The G5 seems like a nice enough update and my micro 4/3 lens would be compatible with it but the lack of in-body image stabilization is probably a deal killer for me. I shoot in dark areas, often shooting in the evening or night and indoors. A good in-body IS and a large aperture prime lens enables me to shoot in dark places with comparably lower ISOs. No, for the foreseeable future, my micro 4/3 bodies will remain in the Olympus camp. However that LX7 point and shoot has an super fast f1.4 lens and even at it’s maximum zoom it’s a fast f2.3. Incredible. That is 2/3 to 1 stop faster than the previous premium point and shoots. A big aperture lens, in body IS and a compact size, exactly the kind of camera I like.

Unlike the mirrorless system cameras, the LX7 does not have interchangeable lenses. But with a 24mm to 90mm equivalent zoom range, it is more than enough for me. Heck, when I carry around my multiple Olympus PENs with prime lenses, I only cover a focal length of 28mm to 90mm anyway. So with a small body and a useful zoom range, what kind of low light performance will this thing have? Of course it uses a lot smaller 1/1.7 inch sensor so at any given ISO it will not perform as well as a micro 4/3 camera. However, if we factor in that fast, built-in lens, can it effectively compete against a micro 4/3 camera?

Let’s compare the new Panasonic LX7 against the Olympus E-PM1. Amazingly, and to my surprise, the E-PM1, which is one of the smallest micro 4/3 cameras is actually smaller than the Lumix LX7 when comparing the body size. You can see it here at cameraize.com. Of course, if you factor in the zoom lens, the Lumix is going to be smaller overall. So in actual usage the LX7 is going to be more compact. The Olympus E-PM1 comes with a typical kit lens that ranges from f3.5 to f5.6. But compare the speed of that kit lens with the f1.4 to f2.3 lens that’s on the LX7. The LX7 has a lens that is 2 2/3 stops faster than the typical kit lens.

Now let’s make some assumptions. I’m going to assume that the LX7 has about the same image quality as the LX5 (the previous model, there was no LX6) at a given ISO. In reality, I expect the LX7 to be better with the improvements in sensor technology. DPreview has an excellent tool to compare RAW ISO performance, visually. With it I compared the quality of the Olympus E-PM1 to the Panasonic LX5. I realize this is somewhat imprecise and open to interpretation however, generally the LX5 at ISO 200 seems to be similar to the Olympus at ISO 800. There are color and sharpness difference in favor of the Olympus but noise wise they are roughly comparable. Now, let’s apply the larger aperture advantage of the LX7. At 2 2/3 stops, if you shoot the LX7 at f1.4 at ISO 200 it would be equivalent to the Olympus shooting at ISO 1250 at f3.5, if I did my calculations properly. So based on my eyeball test, if shot wide open, the LX7 point and shoot will have a lower noise and potentially better image quality than the E-PM1. Now that is compelling. That is what a fast lens can give you. Yes, I realize there are many factors such as lens quality, sharpness, color and dynamic range. This is a theoretical test with some assumptions. But still I think it is very interesting.

The E-PM1 has interchangeable lenses and if you attach a f1.4 lens instead of the kit zoom, yes, the Olympus is going to smoke the LX7. So again, with the ISO and lens aperture being equal, the E-PM1 is certainly superior image quality wise. On the other hand, there are no f1.4 to f2.3 zooms for the micro 4/3 platform; the Lumix LX7 will be a very handy and versatile camera. So am I going to get the Panasonic Lumix LX7? Probably not. After my initial interest, practicality began to set in. For me, it is always about price performance. I can get a factory refurbished E-PM1 at Cameta Camera for $300. To it I can attach my 20mm f1.7 or 14mm f2.5 lenses that I already own. This will make for a very compact camera albeit without the zoom capability which generally is fine for me. U.S. pricing for the LX7 has not been announced buy I suspect it will be at least $500.

I realize that I’m a bit out of the main stream. My desire of shooting with non-zooming prime lenses is more of an advanced concept. For the person that wants a compact camera with high image quality and a usable zoom range, the LX7 should be on their watch list. I will be interested when the actual test results come out. Panasonic has upped the ante again in the premium point and shoot market. It will be interesting to see how the others respond.

16 responses

  1. I have the Leica D Lux 4 which is the counterpart of the LX3, LX5. I also have the old Pana LX2 iteration – that camera was pretty much terrible. What a noisebox. But I got along with it for a few years – I just had to realize the limitations. Even today, the LX2 is a viable camera (I still have it) – it just doesn’t pass scrutiny of today’s whiners. Pretty awful in low light too.

    The newer iterations of the LX do an excellent job of holding whites in hard sun. For the Leica D Lux 4 vs Pana LX3, we did a head to head test when I got the Leica, and the Leica won but only by a whisker. The newer iterations of the LX as compared to the old DMC-LX2 are like night and day – there was that much improvement. There was not that much of a quality jump from LX3 to LX5. They made their hay on the Pana LX3 improvements.

    Not interested in the LX7 myself as I am happy with the Leica. They would have to up the sensor size for me to buy in. But I am interested in that FZ200, I had the old FZ50 and I sold it. I miss it even though that was a bit of a noisebox too.

    New second E-PL1 body came today so now I’m well equipped ;-)

    July 19, 2012 at 12:41 am

    • Good to know, thank you for your actual user feedback. It nicely adds the discussion. Regarding the FZ200, I’m amazed by the range of these super zooms. It’s like having a built in telescope.

      July 19, 2012 at 8:30 am

  2. Andy, doid we talk about this camera on the Soco photowalk? I’m very impressed with the LX7 and I’m anxious to see how flickr users, etc handle low light situations. Did I understand correctly that the LX7 can also use the EVF that can be used on the GX1? And 60fps video!

    You mentioned the G5 in passing so; this is another very nice upgrade (of course I’m partial to the DSLR style M43 cameras). It looks like it will have 1080 60p video, the GH2 sensor, and I like the touch pad screen that can be used while viewing through the EVF. Very cool.

    BTW, I finally had leave my GH2 at Precision for cleaning, etc. I either spilled beer on it or dropped it such that the AF knob is sticky. C’est la vie.

    July 19, 2012 at 10:10 am

    • Bill, maybe we did. It is a great time for camera gear. So many possibilities; so many niches filled.

      July 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm

  3. Raw files and jpegs here at Imaging Resource

    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/panasonic-lx7/panasonic-lx7A7.HTM

    I don’t know if Adobe DNG converter will support these yet. I could view the raws in Ifranview but I think I an getting a very large preview there and not the raw. I don’t use Ifranview very often DNG converter might be your best bet to try. No support in any of the raw converters I have which was as expected.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    • Yeah, waiting for RAW converters are a pain at times. However, I’m rarely the first out of a the gate on a new product so by the time I buy a camera, the RAW converters are already available.

      Thanks for the Imaging Resource link, I’ve been reading though it.

      July 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm

  4. Laurent

    Thanks for this post. I am following your blog in an attempt to one day help my decision process for what will be my next camera (I am currently using an old fz28). Not currently owning any lens obviously could tilt the financial equation toward this little gem (which could be big for people like me interested in digiscoping, by the way). What would you pick for $500, if it was your maximum budget? refurb EPL1kit+Pana 20mm (150+360, roughly), or refurb EPM1 kit with lesser quality lens (such as sigma’s?). Thanks

    July 20, 2012 at 8:00 am

    • The big defining factor for me between the Olympus E-PL1 and the E-PM1 is the focusing speed you need and the ISO image quality. From what I’ve read the E-PM1 has the same focusing speed and image quality as the E-P3, the camera I own. Based on my experience, I believe the E-P3/E-PM1 has about a 2/3 better high ISO image quality. It also focus at lot faster however I find that the E-PL1 focus slightly better in darker, less contrasty conditions.

      I’m not familiar with digiscoping, however if you are shooting in bright areas or on tripod and can shoot long exposures and focusing speed is not an issue, I would go for the E-PL1. If you need a faster focusing, responsive camera with lower (by 2/3 of a stop) noise at higher ISOs, then consider the E-PM1.

      July 22, 2012 at 9:20 pm

  5. I enjoyed this.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:27 am

    • Thank you, Tony.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

  6. Pingback: Creating a favorite, not knowing when or where « atmtx photography blog

  7. Andy, first time here.

    Also considering a lower cost best bang for the buck solution. I’d be interested to know the focus speed of say an LX7 compared to a EPL1 with a prime

    November 13, 2012 at 6:52 am

    • James, I have yet to play with a LX7 so I can’t give you a informed decision. If I had to guess, I would say the LX7 is probably faster. The E-PL1 is pretty slow, though not as slow as the Canon EOS M that I played with recently.

      You may want to consider the Olympus E-PM1 instead of the E-PL1. The E-PM1 is also available at Cameta camera for a great price, not much more than the E-PL1 and it is a very fast camera with better image quality. It’s downside, not as many external controls.

      November 14, 2012 at 12:58 am

  8. Please keep in mind that about 4 years ago Panasonic introduced LX3 which was equipped with fast wide lens. LX5 was introduced two years later and had a higher zoom capability; however due to lack of great bold features it didn’t achieve the same success as LX3. But with the introduction of Lumix DMC-LX7 Panasonic seems to regain the lost market position. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 is equipped with the fastest lens available on a compact camera till now with the minimum focal length f/1.4-2.3 even better than Samsung EX2F; however, the camera sensor is slightly smaller (about 80 percent) than LX5, but Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 is equipped with new 12-megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor as mentioned at http://www.fisooloo.com/product/Cameras&Photo/DigitalCamera/Panasonic/Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_LX7

    December 24, 2012 at 5:24 am

  9. Probably a much tardy reply to your post but just came across it and given that there are no hands-on reviews to it, I might as well pour mine in.

    I got my LX7 a couple of months ago and haven’t got the chance -due to work and family issues- to put it to real life tests. However, I’ve been doing all kind of experimental shooting with it and I’m truly amazed with this little “giant-killer”.

    I’m not new to photography, having practiced it intensely for over 50 years. I’ve handled most everything you can think of, from old 127 Kodaks through 4×5″ view cameras, passing through 35mm SLR’s and RF’s, rollfilm Hassies and Rolleiflexes, Leicas (screw-mount and M’s) and finally digitals (PS, DSLR’s Superzooms, etc…).

    My last film years were dedicated to street shooting with Leicas M, macros with SLR’s and landscape with a 4×5″. My favorite was a Leica M with a 50 or 35mm. I could go weeks without needing anything else.

    When the digital debacle came about, I switched to DSLR’s but eventually got my hands on a Lumix LX3. What an epiphany!

    To the LX3 followed the LX5 which I deemed almost perfect: Improved zoom range —that 90mm was just what I needed for some candids and portraits– EVF, almost like having a real viewfinder and, probably the most missed feature, the camera remembered the last focal distance (zoom setting) used. Also, it had a setting to “jump” the zoom in discrete settings; 24, 35, 50, etc… It came real handy too for some street shooting situations. The image quality was just fine for decent 11×17″ enlargements, provided some RAW refinement was done.

    Now, out comes the LX3. Superb bright Leica lens! Cleaner IQ. Ultra fine monitor and EVF. What can be wrong about this setup? Well, for starters, the hideous lens cap, then the slow zoom, and then… not much else. Nitpicking, I stowed away the supplied neckstrap and replaced it with a $1 wrist-strap.

    For me the LX has become my all around camera, always beside me and specially a great —the best, I should say– option for traveling. Gone are the pains in neck and shoulders, the cumbersome equipment bag, the tripod even! The IS function let’s me shoot handheld as slow as 1/8″ with rock solid results. Lean to a wall or lamppost and look through the EVF and you can go as slow as 1/2″.

    The whole “system” (camera, EVF, two extra batteries, assorted cards and even a toy flexible tripod) goes into an old Billingham “Pola” that once held only an M Leica with a small lens and two extra rolls of film. Small, light, capable. The results, better than I can manage with a Nikon D700, mainly due that the Nikon stays home when the LX7 is at my wrist.

    I hope it helps; the LX7 is already being sold at $430 in some web stores and a friend got one at $300 at one of those 24 hour specials from one of the NY biggies. Can’t go wrong there.

    January 31, 2013 at 12:42 am

    • Jorge, thank you for your long and detailed post. It will be an honor to host your mini-review of the LX7.

      Indeed these premium point and shoots are quite good and in the hands of knowledgeable photographers, quite an formidable tool.

      January 31, 2013 at 2:13 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s