When we mention the term re-branding in the world of photography, it’s somehow natural that the first thing that crosses our mind are two companies: Leica and Hasselblad. Re-branding encompasses creating a new name, redesigning the logo, and even a new visual identity for the product, which will differentiate from others in that way. This definitely includes launching the same product once again. For example, if you are Hasellblad, than it’s quite logical to take a Sony A7 or RX100, decorate it with a wooden grip made of the African tree Pterocarpus soyauxii in combination with carbon fiber, and on top of that, jack up its price to $10,000 with a new logo. On the other hand, Leica turned out to be more constructive concerning this, which it proved in the early 70s while working with Minolta. A couple of decades later, instead of Minolta, Panasonic is now the partner that patents, knowledge, and ideas are shared with. Here, re-branding has wider meaning, which had a favorable impact on the basic model as well – in this case, the Panasonic LX100. In the parallel world of Leica, its name is the Leica D-Lux and it features a red dot, ISO 100, it’s 300 bucks more expensive, it has longer guarantee, and offers ‘free’ Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Alright, now we can get back to the Panasonic LX100.
Panasonic DMC-LX100 – table of specifications
DESIGN AND ERGONOMICS
We can’t avoid the impression that the visual identity is very close to the current retro style. It’s not hard to draw parallels between old Leica rangefinder cameras and new cameras, such as the Fuji Xpro-1, and see that Panasonic granted to this model all the best features from those listed. Not only the design is top-notch, but it’s almost impossible to find any weakness on it, in any aspect. An aluminum body gives the feeling of firmness, while the grip on the front enables really comfortable and stable handling of the camera. The rear ‘grip’ for the thumb lacks the REC button, which traditionally leads to complete imbalance when handling these cameras comes into question.
Simply, that’s it. It’s hard to imagine a digital camera with better design when it comes to compacts. Somehow, we all have a tendency towards cameras that require as less use of the LCD screen as possible when setting parameters during photographing is taken into account, and we prefer manual controls. This camera precisely is a treasury of buttons and control dials for manual settings. The top side is dominated by a dial for controlling the shutter speed, as well as a smaller one, for exposure compensation. An On-Off button and a shutter release button surrounded by a zoom ring go without saying, and there was also room for a Filter button, by which you can select some of the 22 predefined effects, such as monochrome, sepia, toy camera, etc.
Oh, yeah, I remember now – it doesn’t have directly to do with ergonomics and design, but I must mention that even the box that the camera is packed in is something that we rarely see. Classy all the way through.
UNDER THE ‘HOOD’
The sensor is a 12.7MP CMOS, with the size 17.3 x 13 mm, better known as Four Thirds, and it’s combined with a Venus Engine processor. There are probably those that would like this camera to sport 20MP, but I must admit that I’m not prone to understand such wishes. Let’s leave large digits for large cameras. After all, the Canon PowerShot G1 X features the same amount of pixels, so this Panasonic camera is not lonely in that respect. Its ISO values range from 200 to 25600, which is one of the differences between this model and the Leica D-Lux, which exhibits natural ISO 100. The exposure compensation is ±3 (at 1/3 EV steps), the shutter speed goes up to 1/4000, while the continuous drive reaches 11 fps. The absence of the ND filter, such as the one on the Sony RX100, requires getting a new one.
What can I say? If there is no red dot on the body, then at least a caption on the lens says Leica. It’s a DC Vario-Summilux 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8. If you use a CPL filter, than you should buy a 43mm one. This lens is in complete harmony with the manual concept that characterizes the whole camera, so it also brings a heap of manual possibilities on itself. Not only it is possible to change the aperture value and zoom in stepwise in the values of 24, 28, 35, 50, 70, and 75mm, but it also offers an option to change the aspect ratio of a captured photo (3:2, 16:9, 1:1, 4:3). On the side is a slider button, by which we can choose from the manual focus, autofocus, and macro mode.
The decision to leave out a pop-up flash and place a hot shoe instead gives this camera much wider possibilities. First, we can use the included external flash, but in case there is need for a stronger flash or a microphone, this can only be a plus. The flash that comes packed with the camera doesn’t exceed the standard capabilities of flashes on compacts as far as its strength is concerned.
The Panasonic LX100 features an exceptional 2,764,000-dot viewfinder, with 100% frame coverage and the refreshing speed of 60 images per second. The preview is great, and it’s one of those that can provoke a certain anomaly, but there is only one question that needs an answer – why do we do that? Like the majority of viewfinders of this type, it suffers from slightly increased saturation up to a certain level, but it’d unjust if I failed to mention that it’s one of the best I’ve ever come across. Moreover, it’s possible to set lighting, contrast, and colors as you wish, so that’s no problem either. Let me also mention that this viewfinder is identical with the one on the Panasonic GX7. The diopter is present, too.
The screen is a fixed 3” 921,000-dot TFT LCD. It is not touch screen, which, along with the fact that it is fixed, is another feature that is usually commented on. If we compare it to the Sony NEX 6, we’ll see that the viewfinder isn’t a reason why the screen can’t be made to be moveable. The preview is exceptional.
The camera is powered by a lithium-ion DMW-BLG10E battery, which manages to pull 300 images according to the CIPA standard. What is praiseworthy is the fact that an external battery charger comes with the battery, which will save your camera from being captivated when the battery is charging.
Like a bigger and more serious bother, the DMC-GH4, or just bigger, the DMC-FZ1000, the LX100, too, features 4K video. This in practice means 3840 x 2160 pixels at 30 fps. But like they say: “Every solution brings about new problems.”; it is clear that you must have a 4K HDTV, which will be able to show such high resolution. The 4K technology is the future, no doubt about it, and, in this category too, the Panasonic DMC-LX100 offered much more than its rivals. What is more, this is probably its trump card.
Before I laid my hands on this camera, I hadn’t been lazy, so I’d read the impressions of others and a couple of reviews. First, I have no idea why everyone is comparing it to the Sony RX100 III, as they’ve got absolutely nothing in common. An entirely different conception, sensor, dimensions, design. The other thing is criticism about the viewfinder, which many labeled as average, which is quite opposite to my impression. If anything of this can be criticized, then that’s definitely the absence of a moveable screen. Generally, the camera can’t make you feel indifferent. If you are indifferent nevertheless, reassess your ‘sense for feeling’. Joking aside, frankly, I regard the Panasonic DMC-LX100 as one of the most beautiful compact cameras, with tremendous design, numerous manual settings, to such a degree that you can almost forget the existence of the screen. It’s not a camera to put in a pocket of your jeans, but with the viewfinder and the said options, you get a compact camera that is visually and functionally the closest to the analog feeling.
What definitely reminds you that there is no roll film inside it is the ability to shoot 4K video. Alright, we could’ve wished for an APS-C sensor, an interchangeable lens… but then we’d be out of the boundaries of compacts. If we consider it as it should be, that we’ll hardly find a better compact camera. Perhaps the Leica D-Lux!?!
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