UPDATED FEB 19 with CORRECTIONS
I was heading to a motorcycle show and wanted a small high quality camera to use, that would not involve me taking anything that would not fit in a pocket. I expected to be on and off bikes all day and wanted nothing swinging on a strap or requiring a bag. Bryan Weiss, of Daytripper Photo, knows the high end point and shoot space better than I, so I asked his advice. His first reaction matched mine, which was to reach for a Sony RX-100 Mark IV. Then he asked if I was willing to try something new and thus began my working day with the Lumix LX10.
Bryan deals with clientele every day on these kinds of questions, so I was confident in his recommendation. I packed it up, and took it home to charge the battery and format a card. I then sat down to go through the menus and the documentation so I would be functional with the camera the next day, and not wasting time fiddling around.
I would rate the usability index of the LX10 very highly. The menu system is very usable and the layout is quite straightforward. I find the buttons to be a bit small for my fingers and I never got a sense of tactile confidence, although the LCD is nice and bright and you know right away. The LCD is vertically tiltable, which I used a lot like an old waist finder so I didn't have to kneel for every bike shot. Sadly there is no swing so the advantage is lost on any vertical shots. The screen does flip up all the way for selfies, which I suppose is very important to some buyers, although in my case, I can guarantee that it would never be used this way.
There is a toggle zoom control around the shutter release and a popup flash that looks like a malnourished Transformer. As a little fill in a convention hall, it worked very well when the distances were short. The big missing for me was the lack of an EVF. I am not enthused by shooting from an LCD in general and much prefer EVFs. Given that my subjects were mostly below waist level at the bike show, and mostly horizontal, I was well served by the tippy screen. In more traditional use, the lack of an EVF would definitely be a mark against the LX10.
I did like the presence of an aperture ring on the lens. This is so handy, I cannot imagine why all makers don't do this. I also liked that there is a zoom ring on the lens in addition to the toggle around the shutter release. Sadly, much of the joy in the controls is diminished by the lack of an EVF. Grrrr
The sensor is a nice 1 inch size and you can definitely tell this in the image quality immediately. I shot in RAW only, because that's the way I shoot. The camera is fast and positive in the shooting. The AF is near instant and you get to choose your focus mode, and the focus method. I like this level of control very much. The camera has built in 5 axis optical image stabilization and by the end of the day when my caffeine count was very high, I was grateful for it.
There are both Panasonic's Intelligent Auto and Intelligent Auto+ They do a very good job, similar to Sony's Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto. There are the expected stack of scene modes which look very comprehensive, but I didn't use any of them. I shot the camera in Program because it's a small fast point and shoot and it still gave me override capability. I also shot in aperture preferred. You can also choose from Shutter Preferred and Full Manual.
My reason for shooting in Av is the lens. It is a Leica DC VARIO-SUMMILUX lens, offering coverage equivalent to a 24-72 on a full frame camera. So effectively a 3x zoom. There is a digital zoom capability of course, but again, I did not go there because that's just in camera cropping and I wanted good quality. If push comes to shove, I will always crop in post rather than digitally in camera. What makes this lens so cool is that the aperture range is from f/1.4 to f/2.8 maximum through the zoom range. This is a fabulous lens! Maximum shutter speed is 1/16000 in the electronic shutter mode. More than fast enough to shoot in bright sun with the lens wide open. Sony does 1/32000 max in electronic shutter mode, which is one stop faster, although I confess I am at a loss as to why it would matter to me.
I shot the entire show at or near wide open, because I could and because even at f/1.4 at the widest setting, the one inch sensor still provides impressive depth of field. I used the pop up for fill flash for every image, making over 250 images and still had plenty of battery left at the end of the show day. That is extremely impressive for a small point and shoot with a big sensor.
The LX10 shoots 4K video and you can pull 4K photos from the video that you shoot. I don't want to sound hostile, but the jury is in on shooting video on still cameras. The percentage of buyers who do is infinitesimal and the downsides are significant in terms of flexibility, file size and recording time. If I need to shoot good looking 4K video, I will use a 4K video camera. The LX10 does do decent looking 4K if you are part of the 1% of buyers who will ever go there.
20MP is pushing resolution on a one inch sensor and in some production shots, I shot at higher ISOs just for yucks. It's decent at ISO 800, ok at 1600 and optimistic at anything higher. Shooting at ISO 100 in a convention hall in Program mode and with fill flash at f/1.4 looks absolutely great. You'll see that in the sample images and can judge for yourself.
Panasonic trumps the camera as being mobile USB charging ready which is mcmarketing for you can only charge the battery in the camera. There is no separate charger. While I realize that some reviewers love in body charging over USB, it makes me want to hit the decision maker with something long and made from aluminum because a camera that requires that camera be tied down to charge the battery is, in my opinion, a really frakking stupid idea. I feared that only Sony had this kind of brain damage, I am saddened to see Panasonic follow suit. Both should include an external charger as well as in camera charging. Since they don't, in addition to buying a spare battery or two, also be certain to get a third party external charger so you can be charging one battery while shooting with the other. Doh!
Panasonic refers to the camera as having macro capability. What it actually has is very close focus capability, 3cm at the widest focal length. Which is really quite useful if not really macro.
The LX10 also incorporates "post focus". The idea is that if you don't like what is in focus on the LCD after making a shot, you can tap elsewhere and that will come into focus. I initially misunderstood how this worked, but Bryan Weiss stepped in to correct me and I appreciate that very much. What the camera does, in this mode, is shoot a video clip changing focus as it does from nearest to farthest. Then you select which point that you want the focus to be on, after the fact, and the camera hands you that one. I suppose that this may be a real asset to some buyers, but to me, it sounds more like the shooter had no idea of why he or she was pressing the shutter and were hoping to pick something later. Moreover, these are stills from video, and while 8MP is not terrible, why would I be buying a 20MP compact only to have to manually select a 4K JPEG? Since I shoot RAW by choice, this feature while technically interesting would be of no value add to me.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10 is a very fine camera. It is small, very fast and literally was in and out of a jeans pocket all day. Startup is very fast and while the mini flash looks awkward, it did a great job as a fill. The LX10 has a street price of $1099.99 but can be found on sale at $999.99 from time to time. The direct competitor, in my opinion, is the Sony RX100 Mark IV which streets at $1149.99. For the $50 more, you get a popup EVF that is beautiful, but is a bit awkward to deploy and put away, as well as a fully tilting (up and down) LCD. The Panasonic does have a larger battery, and the lack of the EVF will give you more shots on the charge.
I don't have to pick one or the other at this point, although if I were and knowing my normal use cases, I would spend the extra $50 for the Sony to get the EVF, however kludgy it is and for the more usable tilting back. I think that once you are in Program, semi auto or manual the image quality is indistinguishable and I will give points to Panasonic on their fill flash implementation. If I were forced to choose between Panasonic's Intelligent Auto+ and Sony's Superior Auto, I would choose the Sony solution because I think it does a better job, but it's a moot point because fully automatic everything is not on my use case list. If it is for you, perhaps make your own comparison in store.
These sample images are from RAWs shot on the LX10. I have restrained myself to four beauties from Italy. I own and ride Harley Davidsons and I really think it's time to embrace the beautiful products of Italy. Ducati, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, Monica Bellucci... Ok my chances at the last one are zero, but you must admit that the Italian designers are brilliant.
All images were imported to Lightroom and had my most basic workflow applied which did not include trying to fix the white balance from the atrocious convention hall lighting combined with the fill flash. Less than 30 seconds per image.
Specifications (courtesy Panasonic)
- 20 MP Digital Camera
- 1-inch Sensor
- 4K Ultra HD Video
- 4k Photo
- 3X 24-72mm F/1.4-2.8 LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMILUX Lens
- Tiltable LCD
- Lens Control Ring
- Large 1", 20 Megapixel sensor delivers brighter, more colorful photos with fewer image artifacts.
- 3x (24-72mm) F/1.4-2.8 LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMILUX optical zoom lens performance, with super bright F/1.4-2.8 aperture for impressive background defocus effects.
- 4K Ultra HD video recording plus exclusive LUMIX 4K PHOTO and 4K Post Focus and internal Focus Stacking modes.
- Premium lens-mounted control ring brings DSLR-like exposure control to a compact point-and-shoot camera body.
- Large 3.0-inch touch monitor (approx.1040k-dot) tilts upward 180 degree for easy selfi photos.
- USB Mobile Charging Friendly
- The Heart of 4K:
- Inside the LUMIX LX10 beats the heart of a photographic enthusiast. And with a 1-in, 20 MP 4K sensor, LEICA lens and more, you'll feel it in every image.
- 1-inch 4K Picture Quality:
- The 1-inch 20.1-megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor records 4K and high-quality photos in super-sharp detail. Combined with the Venus Engine, ISO12800 / Extended ISO25600 recording with stunning picture quality is possible.
- F1.4-2.8 LEICA DC Lens:
- Photo creativity is based on light, and it all begins with the lens. With the LUMIX LX10 a crystal-clear F1.4-2.8 24-72mm LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMILUX lens provides a decisive edge even in low light, and adds a beautiful bokeh effect.
- Macro Photography:
- With a minimum focusing distance of 3cm (wide) and 30cm (tele), capturing spectacular close-up details, even handheld, is possible thanks to a proven POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer).
- Ultra High Speed Focusing:
- Fast-action focusing is never a problem thanks to the DFD (Depth From Defocus) that instantly calculates the distance to the subject and quickly establishes a focus lock for 6 fps burst AFC or 10 fps burst AFS.
- 4K Video:
- 4K delivers a far more intense viewing experience. Its native resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels is four times larger than Full HD for a much higher level of detail.
- Unmissable Moments With 4k Photo:
- With the LX10 photography from 4K technology is easy. The camera's 4K PHOTO mode taps into 4K video recorded at a blistering 30 frames per second, to let you select the single best image after shooting, for unmissable moments.
- Shoot Now, Focus Later:
- Now even after you've taken the photo you can refocus it with Post Focus. Just review the image on the camera's screen and touch the part of the photo you want to be pinpoint sharp. It's that simple.
- Built-in Focus Stacking:
- Focus Stacking mode enables you to adjust in-focus areas after shooting by easily combining multiple images in the LUMIX LX10. A great benefit when shooting macro images.
- Tilting Selfie Display:
- The large 3.0-inch (approx. 1040k-dot) touch-screen monitor tilts upward to selfies and ground level photography easy. When flipped up 180 degrees, selfie settings are automatically set.
- The Control You Want:
- A lens-mounted aperture ring adds precise control of the bright LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMILUX lens (F/1.4-2.8). Plus, dual control of the lens ring and rear dial adds manual control of shutter, zoom and focus.
- Bracketing Focus And Aperture:
- Focus Bracket and Aperture Bracketing provide additional creative options. Select the mode that matches the situation or conditions, then choose the best photo after shooting.
- Light Composition:
- The Light Composition function builds an image from video by choosing and saving bright pixels to produce a dramatic image of situations like fireworks or night scenery
- Full HD High Speed Video:
- Record high-speed videos at 120 fps in FHD quality for scenes that can't be seen with the naked eye, and play them back in dramatic slow motion.
- 4K Live Cropping:
- With 4K Live Cropping only the recording frame moves while the camera maintains a fixed position, allowing for stable panning.