Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 Digital Camera Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 digital camera review
Testing / Performance
As with all digital cameras that pass through our office, we tested the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 to see how accurately it could reproduce color. We did this by photographing a standard GretagMacbeth color chart in bright studio lighting and uploading the images into Imatest software. The software program analyzes the images and shows us exactly accurate or inaccurate the colors are. Below is the color chart we snapped pictures of which is modified by the software program to show any differences in color. In each of the 24 square tiles, the vertical rectangle represents the ideal color. The outer portion of the square shows the color as produced by the Panasonic LX2, and the inner square shows the luminance-corrected version of the ideal.
Because it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between all the shapes and colors and such, Imatest outputs the following chart. It distinguishes between the ideal colors (squares) and the Lumix LX2’s colors (circles).
Most of the colors are inaccurate to some extent, with the deep blues and reds straying the farthest from their origins. The LX2 received an 8.38 mean color error. Colors were oversaturated by an average of 16.2 percent. The LX2’s colors are just as saturated as the LX1’s, but the LX2’s are slightly less accurate. The LX1 received an overall color score of 8.23, beating out the LX2’s 7.94.
Still Life Scene
Below is a shot of our intoxicating still life scene, captured with the Panasonic Lumix LX2.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is the second digital camera to have a native widescreen-formatted image sensor. The LX1 had 8 megapixels, and the newer LX2 packs on 10 megapixels. To see how effective the resolution is, we photographed an industry standard resolution chart and uploaded the pictures to Imatest imaging software. We shot the chart at several focal lengths and apertures, but the sharpest image was taken at a focal length of 20.9mm and an aperture of f/4.5.
The software program measured the camera’s ability to create sharp pictures and output the results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). The Panasonic LX2 can read 1957 lw/ph horizontally and 1897 lw/ph vertically. It only does this with a substantial amount of in-camera sharpening though. Horizontally, there was a 23.5 percent oversharpening. Vertically, oversharpening came out to 24.4 percent.
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix LX2 performed decently with a 4.78 score but it didn’t perform as well as it should have with its 10-megapixel sensor. The heavy oversharpening combined with the camera’s noise reduction system results is very contrasty images. The pictures will be usable out of the camera, but post-production could be tricky with all the in-camera sharpening.
Noise – Auto ISO*(1.56)*
Using bright studio lighting, we photographed the resolution chart using the automatic ISO setting. Ideally, the camera would meter the scene properly and automatically select the lowest ISO setting possible. The Panasonic Lumix LX2, however, fumbled and produced about as much noise as would be found at ISO 500. That amount of noise just happened to be more than usual anyway, so the LX2 didn’t score well here with its 1.56 auto ISO noise score.
Noise – Manual ISO*(9.67)*
The LX2 has made some significant improvements upon its predecessor in this area. The LX1 had manual ISO options up to 400, but the LX2 extends its range from 100-1600. Below is a chart showing the amount of noise present at each ISO setting. The settings are on the horizontal axis and the noise is on the vertical axis.
The LX2 makes some huge strides when compared to previous Panasonics. The LX1 had a horrible 2.51 overall score and produced almost the same amount of noise at ISO 400 that the LX2 produces at ISO 1600, although there appears to be much stronger noise reduction imposed on the LX2. For its good snapshot performance, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 received a 9.67 manual ISO noise score.
Low Light* (6.0)*
Most of our testing is done in bright lighting, but we wanted to see how the camera would perform in more challenging low light situations. For users who often shoot at night or indoors and prefer to use ambient light, we testing the LX2's ability to meet the challenge by photographing the color chart at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux to see just how far the LX2 can go before images become unusable.
We used a tripod and the highest ISO setting, 1600, for these pictures. We found that images were incredibly noisy, and the image quality went out the window. The illumination, however, remained fairly consistent and certainly better than the LX1. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 is capable in low light, especially with its vast shutter speed range that slows down to 60 seconds; however, users will get much higher image quality when a lower ISO speed is used with longer shutter speeds than relying on the expansive sensitivity range alone. While its optical image stabilization system will help steady bumps during some 1/15th second exposures, for longer shots, a tripod will be necessary.
To test how well the camera handles noise on long exposures, we adjusted the shutter speed and set the ISO to 400. We tested the noise level from 1-60 seconds, shown below in the chart. The horizontal axis represents the exposure time and the vertical axis represents the noise level.
There is a steady increase in noise as the shutter remains open, but it isn’t nearly as bad as some other digital cameras. Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 performed well in low light with its manual shutter speeds extended and its ISO set to 400. With its optical image stabilization system and ISO 800 and 1600 settings, users will have a lot of flexibility, but expect a lot of noise in the resulting images.
**Speed / Timing
***Start-up to First Shot (7.4)
*The Panasonic Lumix LX2 took 2.6 seconds to start up and take its first shot. Many compact cameras take about that long, but it's a long time to wait, if a candid shot presents itself. Users who hope to catch spontaneous moments will need to turn the camera on, and make sure it doesn't shut itself off, whenever they think a good shot might come up.
*Shot to Shot Time (9.61)
*The Lumix LX2 has three burst modes: High, Low and Unlimited. In High mode, the LX2 took 3.3 shots per second for 3 shots, then needed 4 seconds to recover for the next shot. That's a quick rate, but being able to shoot only 3 frames at a time is limiting. The LX2 is not the camera for paparazzi. Its Low mode is slower, clocking in at 1.2 frames per second, but doesn't offer a longer burst. It still needs a 4-second breather between 3-shot bursts. Unlimited, true to the name, just keeps on shooting. For the first 20 shots, it snapped 1 frame per second. From shot 21 on, it slowed down to 0.8 frames per second.
Shutter to Shot Time (7.72)*
*The most critical timing statistic is shutter to shot time – the lag between when the user presses the button and when the shot goes off. A short lag is vital for action shots. The Panasonic Lumix LX2 doesn't perform well on this test, with a delay of 0.63 seconds. Again, there are plenty of compact cameras as slow as the LX2, but a delay of over half a second can be frustrating even when shooting posed pictures – the subjects see the photographer press the button, and for a moment, think the camera is broken.