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. It has a lovely combination of creative features, traditional exposure controls, an excellent viewfinder and good build quality. I love the ability to switch image aspect ratio using the switch on the lens barrel. The image quality is also very good and I’d happily shoot raw files at up to ISO 12,800 if the conditions demand it.
I was really hoping for a tilting screen, but sadly that’s not to be.
- Large multi-aspect sensor
- Lots of control with easy reach
- Good build quality
- Fixed screen
- Variable maximum aperture
- iA button easily pressed by accident
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 on 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. This can be set to transfer images automatically but I find that each time I turn the camera off, I have to confirm this function. The camera seems to be prepared to wait indefinitely for that to happen, which has an impact on battery life. When I confirm the transfer, the images arrive quickly on my phone and are ready for sharing.
It’s really nice to have this functionality, but I think Panasonic needs to streamline the whole process. It still feels a little clunky.
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. It’s one of my favourite features of the LX100 and LX100 II.
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.
The iA button is useful for setting the camera to take control of all the settings. However, there were a few occasions when I managed to press the button as I flicked the power switch to turn on the camera. That’s annoying when you think you’ve set-up the camera to shoot in a particular style and you get a very different result.
Screen and Viewfinder
I find that I regularly switch between using the EVF and the main screen for composing images on the LX100 Mark II. 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 confirms that it delivers nice results with vibrant yet natural colours. Switch to the L. Monochrome and L. Monochrome D Photo Styles and you’ll also get nice black and white images.
The metering system 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. Low ISO raw files, for example, can usually cope with 2Ev of brightening. On some occasions, they’ll even stand-up to more than 3Ev without the noise becoming too visible. Higher ISO images, such as those shot at ISO 3200, need more careful treatment but they’ll withstand 1Ev or so brightening.
The LX100 II’s autofocusing is nice and snappy. It’s not the natural choice of camera for shooting sport or action, but the focusing is fast enough to get moving subjects sharp. It’s certainly fast enough for most street photography situations.
The fast lens and the image stabilisation of the LX100 II mean that you don’t have to use the highest sensitivity settings very often. If you go as high as ISO 25,600, you’ll find the Jpegs look a little smooth in places. It can give them a kind of diffuse glow. The simultaneously captured raw files look much better. Noise is visible, but the images have more bite and look more natural. Dropping down to ISO 12,800 improves the image quality a lot and I’d make this my maximum setting for raw files. If you want Jpegs, I recommend dropping a stop lower to ISO 6,400.
At ISO 3200, the LX100 II keeps noise under good control. Even at 100%, there’s little noise visible and the fine details aren’t smudged.
The Leica DC Vario-Summilux 24-75mm (equivalent) f/1.7-f/2.8 on the LX100 Mark II is a peach of a lens. It does a great job of maintaining detail across the frame and chromatic aberration, vignetting and flare are all controlled very well.
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I really like the Panasonic Lumix LX100 Mark II. It feels great in your hand, it’s small, discrete and has a decent viewfinder built-in. I especially love the ease with which you can switch aspect ratio. I found myself shooting a lot of square images when testing the camera but it was great to be able to switch to another setting quickly.
I also like the traditional exposure controls, they put you in charge and you can see what settings you have selected before the camera is powered-up. In addition, the 4K Photo modes are useful in all sorts of situations and the touch-control is well implemented.
The only real 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.