Panasonic has retained what many people love about the LX100 for the LX100 II while still managing to give it a decent upgrade. The lens is the same, as is the level and nature of the control, but the resolution of the sensor has had a major boost and the screen is touch-sensitive.
I was really hoping for a tilting screen, but sadly that’s not to be.
- Large sensor
- Lots of control with easy reach
- Good build quality
- Fixed screen
- Variable maximum aperture
The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is one of my favourite compact cameras of recent times. However, it was launched in 2014 and is starting to date. So naturally, I’m delighted that Panasonic has introduced the Lumix LX100 Mark II as its replacement.
It’s actually the first time that Panasonic gone for ‘Mark II’ rather than a rename of a Lumix camera and it’s easy to see why. The new camera has a very similar look and feel to the old one and many of the key features are the same.
There are lots of similarities between the LX100 and the LX100 II, but the sensors are not identical. Panasonic has still gone for a multi-aspect Four Thirds sensor, but the resolution has been boosted to 17million pixels in 4:3 mode. That compares with 12.5Mp in the LX100.
The Four Thirds type sensor in the LX100 II actually has 21.77million pixels, but it’s designed with the ability to shoot with different aspect ratios in mind. As before, you can choose between 4:3, 3:2, 1:1 and 16:9 using a switch on the lens. When you switch between them, the resolution remains high and focal length stays the same.
Combined with Panasonic’s latest Venus Engine, the sensor enables as maximum sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600.
It’s also possible to shoot at 11 fps (frames per second) with the focus set at the start of the sequence, or 5.5 fps in continuous autofocus mode.
One of the most attractive features of the LX100 is its lens. This Leica DC Vario-Summilux 24-75mm (equivalent) f/1.7-f/2.8 optic has also been used on the LX100 II. Its resolving power is considered high enough to stand the jump in the pixel count.
The lens is constructed from 11 elements in 8 groups. Six of these groups are involved in zooming and focusing and this enables the lens to be short. Panasonic’s Multiple Centring Technology helps keep all the elements in correct alignment.
There’s a total of 5 aspherical elements and 8 aspherical surfaces, including 2 dual-sided aspherical surface ED lenses to deliver high image quality.
A 9-blade diaphragm also helps smooth the bokeh – the appearance of out of focus areas.
Panasonic’s Power O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabiliser), is built-in and this plus the wide maximum aperture helps boost low-light performance.
Close-up fans will appreciate the Macro mode that enables a minimum focus distance of 3cm at the widest point of the lens and 30cm at the longest.
Like the LX100, the LX100 II has a 3-inch screen, but this has also had a resolution boost. The new 1,240,000-dot device is also touch sensitive.
Panasonic has gone the whole hog with touch-control, so although there are buttons and dials to take control of the camera, you can also make setting selections with a tap on the screen. It makes many aspects faster and/or more intuitive. It’s just a shame that the screen is fixed rather than tilting.
The screen is backed-up by a 2,764,000-dot electronic viewfinder with 100% field of view. Its magnification is 0.7x at the equivalent of 35mm equivalent.
The LX100 II has Panasonic’s usual array of autofocusing options: 49-Area, Custom Multi, Face/Eye Detection, 1-Area and Pinpoint AF. There’s also focus peaking available to help ease manual focusing. And of course, you can choose whether to focus continually or for one shot at a time – or for the camera to choose between the two automatically.
Panasonic claims that the LX100 II can focus in approximately 0.10 sec.
Panasonic is all over 4K video, so naturally, the LX100 II is capable of recording 4K footage at up to 30p – with the right SD card installed.
And as you’d expect on a Panasonic camera, there’s also 4K Photo Mode. This allows you to shoot at 30fps (using the cameras video capability) and then extract 8Mp still images from the footage in-camera. This was in the LX100, but the Mark II also has a helpful Auto Marking feature. This adds marks to frames when the camera detects a face or movement. You can then jump quickly to that frame to check it and save if it’s got the moment you want.
The LX100 II also has Panasonic’s Post Focus and Focus Stacking features as well as Light Composition mode for easy night and firework photography.
In addition, there’s Sequence Composition. This enables you to combine different frames from a sequence into a single image. It’s great when there’s a moving subject against a still background. It could be useful for capturing the multiple steps of a skateboard trick for example.
There’s a collection of Picture Styles (Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait) available give images a particular appearance in-camera. The popular L.Monochrome D , which creates dynamic black and white images has been added under the Monochrome Picture Style banner. There’s now a Grain Effect that can be applied to any of the Monochrome Picture Styles.
In addition, there are 22 filter effects: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color and Sunshine.
Panasonic has given the LX100 II Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for easy connection and transfer of images to a smartphone or tablet.
The LX100 II’s battery can be charged by mains power or USB.
Build and Handling
Panasonic has given the LX100 II a more pronounced grip than the original model, but in other respects, it looks pretty much identical to the camera it replaces. As far as I’m concerned, that’s good news. I like its understated look and the level of access to the controls.
It’s a solid-feeling camera that’s just about the right size for slipping in a jacket pocket without being too fiddly. I carried one for several hours without a strap, and it felt nice and secure in my hand the whole time.
Another attractive aspect of the LX100 II is that it has traditional exposure controls. This means that the lens has an aperture ring with markings from f/1.7 to f16, plus A (for automatic). Adjustments can be made in 1/3 stop steps. On the top-plate there’s a shutter speed dial with markings from 1+ to 1/4000sec plus T (for Time) and A (for automatic).
If both the aperture ring and shutter speed dial are set to ‘A’, the camera is in program mode. That means that the exposure is set automatically. If the shutter speed dial is set to ‘A’ while the aperture dial is on a specific value, the camera is in aperture priority mode. Conversely, with a shutter speed set on the shutter speed dial and the aperture set to A, the LX100 II is in shutter priority mode.
You can also select specific values for the shutter speed and aperture and shoot in manual exposure mode.
The aperture ring gives a slight click as it’s turned from one setting to another. The resistance is quite low, but it doesn’t seem to get knocked out of position. The shutter speed dial needs firmer pressure to turn it and it also stays put.
There’s a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the top-plate with settings running in the range +/-3EV. This is easy to use, but if you want to set values up to +/-5EV, then the customisable lens ring is available. This is very convenient to use, especially when you’re looking in the viewfinder, but it’s a little laggy.
A lever around the shutter button allows you to zoom quickly and easily between focal lengths.
There’s also a sliding switch on the lens barrel near the body to set the image aspect ratio. This has settings of 4:3, 1:1, 16:9, 3:2. It’s really nice to be able to switch between them quickly and it encourages you to think more carefully about composition at the shooting stage.
Buttons and Dials
A total of 10 buttons can be customised to give you quick access to the features you want. I’ll look a more closely at this when I get a review sample in. It’s worth spending some time on it as it can really help you get more from the camera.
It’s nice, for example, that there’s a switch on the lens barrel to swap between the focus modes. That’s useful if you regularly switch between single, continuous, macro or manual focusing.
There’s also a My Menu option in the main menu to which you can assign up to 23 features for quick access.
Screen and Viewfinder
For the few hours that I shot with the LX100 II, I found myself regularly switching between the EVF and the main screen for composing images. There were a few shots where I would have used the screen had it been on a tilting bracket. Instead, I had to crouch down and use the viewfinder because a combination of the foreshortening of the image and reflections in the bright sunny conditions made it impossible to use it to compose the shot accurately.
A few of my ground-level shots are wonky because I couldn’t see the level on the screen and I didn’t want to lie in the busy street.
The screen is very responsive to touch, which makes it very useful. The Touch-Pad AF, that lets you set the AF point with your finger on the screen while you look in the viewfinder, also works well.
It’s great to have a viewfinder on a compact camera and the LX100 II’s is just about the right size. You don’t feel like you’re peeping through a keyhole like you do with the Sony RX100 cameras.
Browsing through all the images that I’ve shot with the LX100 II so far confirms that it delivers nice images with vibrant colours.
The metering system also takes quite a lot in its stride so you don’t have to use the exposure compensation control that often – and not when you wouldn’t expect to.
If you get the exposure wrong for some reason, the files can withstand a pretty good degree of brightening. I’ll look into that in more detail when I have more time with the camera and can process the raw files.
A combination of bright sunny conditions, the fast lens and the image stabilisation mean that so far the highest sensitivity setting I’ve used is ISO 1600. At that value, the LX100 II keeps noise under good control. I can’t process the raw files yet, but the jpegs look good. Even at 100% there’s very little noise visible and the fine details aren’t smudged.
The focusing is also pretty snappy. I need to test it against more moving subjects, but so far it’s holding up well.
Follow the link to browse and download full resolution images
With the caveat that I need to shoot more with the LX100 II and the raw files can’t yet be processed, I really like it. It feels great in your hand, it’s small, discrete and has a decent viewfinder built-in.
I love the ease with which you can switch aspect ratio. The 4K Photo modes are useful in all sorts of situations and the touch-control is well implemented.
The only disappointment is the lack of a tilting screen. Why am I banging on about that? Well, the LX100 II is a great tool for creative photography. It encourages you to think about composition at the shooting stage and offers plenty of control to enable you the capture the decisive moment just as you picture it. Having a tilting or vari-angle screen would make so much easier to shoot from creative angles. You could bag a shot quickly and unobtrusively.