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I've used the DMC-LX1 as my primary camera since October 2005, and it has been excellent, delivering high quality images in often difficult conditions. I tend to shoot pictures in unusual situations, iike the underground/subway, or at night, and it has served me well- it's pocketable (although not as pocketable as my previous Panasonic FX-7), turns on very fast, and has the range of control options (Auto, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and full manual control) which I want. The OIS (optical Image Stabilisation) works well, and is worth a couple of stops handheld in dark conditions.
The exxcellent joystick control gives immediate access to key settings, like ISO speed and file type (JPEG low compression, JPEG high compression, TIFF and RAW- both of the latter a first for a point and shoot- see below), so it's very fast to use. The menus are well laid out and easy to use.
The Leica lens is outstanding, and the 28mm wide angle combined with the 16:9 image ratio gives opportunities for unusual shots. The zoom is reasonably fast to change. The manual lens setting switch is useful, not so much for the manual focusing, which is good only for static shots where you want to ensure that you have chosen the right spot to focus on, but for locking the focus- if you know you'll be shooting a series of shots at the same focus setting- (for example in a sports situation) use the auto tools to get the right focus, then flip the lens mounted focus switch to manual, and it's locked where you focused, eliminating focus lag. There is a focus lock button on the back of the camera too, but the lens mounted switch is easier to use.
The main drawback of the LX1 is image noise, especially at ISO 400, where it's almost visible playing back on the camera viewfinder screen. Noise is worst in low light situations, and where there are areas of blue in the image. You can deal with the noise by using Photoshop tools like Noise Ninja which do a good job of cleaning it up, but it's a limitation if you're not familaiar with using tools like Photoshop.
The RAW file option mentioned above gives more processing options for the advanced user- you can load them straight into programs like Aperture or Adobe Lightroom, and process them there. Each RAW file takes about 3 seconds to download into the SD card, so you can't shoot quickly in that mode. If you do shoot RAW files, use the 'Clean Up' command in the Playback menu regularly to minimize that lag.
It makes good home movies, with 30 and 10fps options, and takes up to 2Gb SD cards
The build is excellent- I've seen reviews describing it as 'flimsy' and I couldn't believe they were talking about the LX1. The body is metal and beatifully made- the metal access covers for the custom sized miniature USB cable connection, and battery/SD access both snap open and shut nicely. Battery life is good- about 300 3Mb JPEGs . The whole feel of the camera is solid and well built. Leica sell exactly the same camera badged as the D-LUX-2, and they wouldn't associate the name Leica with poor build quality.
So it's overall a good camera. And Panasonic have just (August 2006) announced the DMC-LX2, which seems to deal with the noise issue, and has some cool new features. That will be available in October if Panasonic's normal announcement-release cycle is followed. My credit card is ready.
The DMC-LX1 features a 4x optical zoom with a 28 to 112mm wide-angle capability (35mm equivalent). This and a 1/1.65" diagonal CCD with 8.4 million effective pixels give you superb image quality over a wide shooting range. The Extended Optical Zoom, which minimizes the image degradation that normally occurs with digital zooming, gives you up to 5x zooming power. Plus, the 4x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom can be used together to produce a maximum of 16x zooming power.
The DMC-LX1 features a 2.5" diagonal high-resolution LCD monitor - surprisingly large for such a compact camera. This high-quality, 207, 000-pixel display makes it easy to see your subject. For easier viewing when shooting outdoors on a sunny day, press the Power LCD button to boost the backlighting by about 40%.
Jitter from shaky hands is one of the main reasons why cameras produce blurry images. Not everyone has hands of stone when taking pictures - that's why Lumix cameras help solve the problem of unsteady hands with advanced MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer technology. The DMC-LX1 has a built-in gyrosensor that detects any hand movement and relays a signal to a tiny microcomputer inside the camera, which instantly calculates the compensation needed. A linear motor then shifts the Optical Image Stabilizer lens as necessary to guide incoming light from the image straight to the CCD. You won't even notice it working - all you'll see are the outstanding results!
In addition to displaying the settings in large, easy-to-understand text, the large, 2.5" diagonal screen with 230, 000-pixel resolution lets you show up to 25 thumbnail images at once. This makes it easier to search for, and organize, the photos you take.
A switch at the top of the lens barrel lets you choose an aspect ratio of normal 4:3, wide 16:9, or the 3:2 used in film cameras. A 16:9 image is obtained using the wide-angle lens and large CCD, instead of the conventional method of cropping the top and bottom of a 4:3 image.
A switch on the side of the lens lets you match the focusing operation to your shot. Choose from 1-point AF (normal or high-speed), 3-point high-speed AF, 9-point AF, Spot AF, AF macro to focus from as close as 0.16feet (5cm) from the subject, or manual focus using the joystick. Focusing is also made easier by the Manual Focus Assist function, which lets you enlarge the center of the LCD image to check the focus, and the AF Assist Lamp for focusing in dimly lit places.
Thanks to the Venus Engine II's release time lag of around 0.008 second and shutter interval of around 0.4 second, the DMC-LX1 is super-fast. You can snap off consecutive shots at 3 frames per second with full resolution. And with Unlimited Consecutive Shooting, you can keep shooting until the memory card is full.