The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5 digital camera is the new top dog in Panasonic's compact digital camera line-up, taking over from the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX3. It has a host of new specifications and features that make it a superior camera to its predecessor.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5 is the best digital camera that the company has produced, with an excellent quality 10-megapixel sensor and a versatile 24-90mm lens that has a maximum aperture of f2.0 at the wide end. It can take high quality photos even in dim lighting thanks to the combination of good high ISO performance and a well-designed lens. However, we don't like the menu structure and there are a few design features that are disappointing.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5: Design
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5 has a traditional digital camera design. The camera's top face includes an accessory hot shoe that can be used with a Panasonic electronic viewfinder. On the rear of the camera a 3in 460k dot LCD screen is accompanied by a typical button layout that includes a rear dial to adjust manual settings like aperture and shutter speed.
On the whole the camera's layout is intuitive and easy to grasp, but we took issue with the LCD screen which generally looks washed out — as a result, pictures look better when viewed on a computer screen or printed than on the camera itself. The use of a clip-on lens cap also adds unnecessary complication to the lens assembly, and in our testing we often left the cap off for convenience's sake. We would have preferred an in-lens shutter like the one on the Canon Powershot S95.
The menu of the Panasonic LX5 is an odd combination of overly simplistic and unnecessarily convoluted. There are only three main menus — Setup, Motion Picture and 'Rec', which we gather stands for Recording — but this simple approach means it can be hard to find the setting you're looking for. The Recording and Setup menu options each have seven pages of options to scroll through, which is excessive.
Thankfully it's not necessary to delve into the labyrinthine menu often. A quick menu allows common settings to be altered while still shooting, and this is far more logically laid out. Manual control in the P/A/S/M modes is easy thanks to the rear dial, which can be clicked to switch between aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation when appropriate.
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5: Picture quality and performance
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5 produces excellent quality pictures for a compact digital camera. It's easily on par with the Canon Powershot S95, Nikon Coolpix P7000 and other great digital cameras thanks to its large (for a compact) sensor size and high quality lens.
The 10-megapixel JPEG and RAW images the Panasonic LX5 produces have impressive detail levels at the base ISO of 80, and good detail levels are retained in default JPG settings up until ISO 800. Images get progressively grainier and noisier until the maximum of ISO 3200, and ISO 6400 and 12800 options are available for low-light photography (albeit at a reduced 3 megapixel image size).
The multi-aspect switch on the lens barrel allows users to easily switch between 1:1, 16:9, 3:2 and the standard 4:3 aspect ratios, and the specialised sensor means non-standard aspect ratios are almost equal in terms of megapixels. If you enjoy trying out different compositions when shooting this is a great feature.
The f2.0-3.3 24-90mm Leica-made lens on the Panasonic LX5 is excellent at every step of the zoom range — 24mm provides a relatively undistorted wide angle and 90mm works well for portraits. We didn't find any significant problems with the lens of the LX5 — it's among the best we've seen on a point and shoot camera.
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