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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1

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      12.08.2006 18:29
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      Advantages

      • Reliability
      • Reliability

      Disadvantages

      Great features for advanced users, top notch optics and ease of use, poor image noise at high ISOs

      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.

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