Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

The LX5 offers many tools and controls for a photographer wanting a small, do-it-all camera, and almost wins best-in-class.


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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Panasonic has had a niche for many years with the Lumix DMC-LX3, a versatile compact camera that could easily serve as a weekend replacement for any photographer's digital SLR.

Since then, Canon has entered the market with the PowerShot S95 which has earned high praise from us and consumers.

The LX5 is the new version of the LX3 that refines the formula and adds a few new features, but does it still have what it takes to be the top of the class?

Design and features

There is little difference between the exterior design of the LX5 and the LX3. The LX5 is still a black box with indentations and protrusions in all the right places, looking more like a "proper" old-school camera than any of its direct competitors.

Up top is a mode dial with all the common PASM shooting controls, a pop-up flash plus hotshoe, power switch and dedicated video record button. The hotshoe also comes with a small accessories port beneath it, covered by a removable plastic cover, which can house an optional electronic viewfinder. Controls are similar to the LX3, though there is now a click wheel on the back that can be used to flick through settings and change exposure values. Press it in once to switch between values.

Panasonic LX5

The controls at the rear of the LX5. The click wheel (top right) changes between shooting options, and is carried over from Panasonic's G-series of cameras. (Credit: Panasonic)

The lens, which extends to 3.8x optical zoom, opens up to a maximum aperture of f/2-3.3, slightly wider at the telephoto end than the Canon S95, which is f/2-4.9. On the lens itself, Panasonic has carried across the aspect ratio selector that was also found on the LX3, allowing the camera to shoot in either 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9 format. The sensor size (1/1.63-inch) and resolution (10.1-megapixels) remains the same as the LX3. Panasonic does claim, however, that the LX5's sensor features improved technology that increases its sensitivity by 31 per cent.

One of the shifts from the LX3 is this camera's use of the AVCHD Lite format, used to encode its 720p HD videos. Pleasingly, this camera allows video recording in all manual modes and the zoom works during filming. By contrast, the S95 doesn't have any of these provisions in video mode.

Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5 Panasonic Lumix LX5

Click through for a complete gallery of images taken with the LX5. (Credit: CBSi)

The screen remains the same size and resolution as its predecessors, at 3-inches and 460,000-dots respectively. Side by side with the Canon S95, it does appear less bright and contrasty, even though their basic specifications are much the same.

Compared to

Here's how the LX5 stacks up against these other do-it-all cameras:

S95 vs. WB2000 vs. LX5

Canon PowerShot S95 Samsung WB2000 Panasonic Lumix LX5
10 megapixels 10 megapixels 10 megapixels
3-inch, 461,000-dot LCD 3-inch, 641,000-dot AMOLED 3-inch, 460,000-dot fixed LCD
3.8x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle 5x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle 3.8x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle
HD video (H.264, 720p, 24fps) HD video (1080p, 30fps) HD video (AVCHD Lite, 720p, 30fps)
Pop-up flash Built-in flash Pop-up flash

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Panasonic Lumix LX52.21.42.60.3
  • Canon PowerShot S952.42.22.50.4
  • Canon PowerShot S902.31.83.40.5

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Panasonic Lumix LX52.6
  • Canon PowerShot S951.9
  • Canon PowerShot S901

Note: the LX5 only takes three shots in continuous shooting mode before stopping to process them. Panasonic rates the battery for the LX5 at 400 shots.

Image quality

The LX5 has a pretty good colour profile, with default settings producing some very true-to-life tones without oversaturation. Photographers will get the best results when shooting RAW images, though, as the LX5 has a tendency to produce inconsistent JPEG results. These inconsistencies appear as unwanted blotches on JPEG images at low ISO levels when shooting in dim light, and how the camera deals with overall JPEG processing.

LX5 RAW vs JPEG

As you can see in the image above, the LX5 tends to over-process JPEG images (top, note the compression artefacts and over-zealous sharpness). (Credit: CBSi)

Given the widest focal length of the lens (24mm), there is a small amount of barrel distortion visible on images. Fortunately for the most part this is where any issues with the lens itself end. There is very little chromatic aberration, and the lens is able to resolve a good amount of detail from its images, particularly in RAW format. White balance is mostly accurate, with a small amount of yellow colour casting on indoor scenes. The Power OIS image stabiliser is very effective too; we were able to get down to a shutter speed of around 1/20 second without excessive camera shake.

LX5 vs. S95

(Credit: CBSi)

The LX5 controls noise well at its low native ISO levels; at ISO 800 is where things start to come undone, as they do on most compact cameras of this class. See below for further examples of images taken at higher ISO levels.

LX5 ISO 3200

A shot taken at ISO 3200 showing JPEG and RAW processing. (Credit: CBSi)

Video quality is decent enough but not spectacular; the LX5 records at 30 rather than 24fps. The S95 does tend to edge the LX5 out on this count, particularly thanks to its stereo microphone. The LX5 only has a mono microphone built-in unfortunately, but given the accessory port under the hotshoe, an external microphone may be a possibility in the future.

Image samples

Click each image below for JPEGs straight from the LX5. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.

Exposure: 1/25, f/2.9, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/30, f/2, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/40, f/2, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/80, f/2, ISO 80

Exposure: 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 200

Exposure: 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 200

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The LX5 offers many tools and controls for a photographer wanting a small, do-it-all camera. It does have some inconsistencies that to most users probably won't affect everyday photos — but they still deserve mentioning.

While the S95 delivers some excellent results on its JPEG images straight from the box, the LX5 is more for tweakers and those who want to eke the most out of the camera by shooting in RAW. It also offers more control in video recording, and has double the battery life of the other camera.

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Claire posted a comment   

For general point & shoot, plus HD video - would I go for the LX5 or the T210?

question
9
Rating
 

question posted a review   

If nothing has been done to the JPEG sample images then why is there no exif data?
They could be shots from any camera.

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi,

These images are straight from the LX5. It looks like the upload process on our site has somehow stripped the EXIF data, and I'm not sure why. However, the exposure details are provided, which were transcribed from the EXIF data when the review was written. If you really want to see the originals with the EXIF data intact, I can upload them elsewhere for you.

aethelraed
9
Rating
 

aethelraed posted a review   

The Good:just about everything

The Bad:jpegs at default settings

This is a great little camera that produces fine quality photos. The biggest issue is that the jpegs are suffer at the default settings, which, however, can be changed. The culprit seems to be the denoise filter, which is too aggressive at the default and which tries to compensate for that by oversharpening. The result CAN be ugly. But turning down the noise filter to -2 (as low as it can go) improves things considerably. At that setting, and with color saturation at -1 (I'm not a big fan of punchy colors and shot vps rather than velvia as a film shooter) I get jpegs that are quite good.

 

nila posted a comment   

question - does it still have the stupid lense cap? Awesome camera except for the damn lense cap.

 

geegee posted a reply   

you can buy the exploding camera lense off ebay.. less than 20 bucks..

 

Shappy posted a comment   

Based on the above, I think I will stay with my current LX3.




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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

  • Claire

    Claire

    "For general point & shoot, plus HD video - would I go for the LX5 or the T210?"

  • question

    question

    Rating9

    "If nothing has been done to the JPEG sample images then why is there no exif data?
    They could be shots from any camera."

  • aethelraed

    aethelraed

    Rating9

    "This is a great little camera that produces fine quality photos. The biggest issue is that the jpegs are suffer at the default settings, which, however, can be changed. The culprit seems to be the ..."

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