Panasonic LX100 II review: An adept compact shooter with a lighter touch
It’s difficult to talk about photography these days without also talking about smartphones.
After all, most of the photos most people take these days are taken using the latter. Smartphones and social media have made photo sharing both ubiquitous and infectious. And if you’re already taking most of your photos using a smartphone, why spend $1000 on a camera?
As smartphone cameras have taken become the default and de-facto option, compact cameras like the Panasonic LX100 II have been left in a lurch. They’re the option for those want a dedicated camera but don’t want the physical and financial burden associated with a larger, interchangeable lens setup. And while demand for that particular cocktail of specs and features isn’t as much of a mainstream staple as it used to be, it’s far from niche.
All modern cameras have a specific user in mind. And if you are that user, the Panasonic LX100 II makes a strong case for itself - even if it’s unlikely to sway me from my Mate 20 Pro anytime soon.
What are the specs of the Panasonic LX100 II
The spec sheet for the Panasonic LX100 II is as follows:
Max resolution: 17-megapixels
Effective pixels: 12.8 Megapixels
Sensor type: Micro Four Thirds HS MOS
Autofocus system: 49-area AF
ISO: 200-25600, 100-25600 (Extended)
Stabilization: POWER O.I.S.
Optical Zoom: 3.1x
Intelligent Zoom: 6.2x
Interchangeable lenses: No
Lens: 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 lens
Screen: 3-inch TFT Screen LCD Display with 921k dots
Viewfinder: 0.38-inch LVF, 2764k-dot equivalent
Battery: Panasonic BLG10E
VIdeo Formats: 4K, HD, STD
Storage options: 1x SD Card slot
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth
Ports: MicroUSB, Mini HDMI,
Weight: 351 g
Dimensions: 114.8 x 66.2 x 55.0 mm
What’s good about the Panasonic LX100 II?
Though there’s still some bulk (courtesy of the lens-setup), the LX100 II manages to hold its own when it comes to the convenience of its form-factor.
Obviously, it can’t compete with smartphones on thinness. However, it does a serviceable job nevertheless. You can’t really fit it into your pocket but you can get away with tossing it into a bag without too much hassle.
This compact quality is nicely accentuated by the time and effort Panasonic have put into nailing the material design and feel-factor of the LX100 II. Placed alongside pricier and more-powerful fare like the G9 and GH5, it fits right in. More fundamentally, the LX100 feels like a physically-smaller take on the same design ethics found in the larger, more-expensive LUMIX offerings.
Nevertheless, all it takes is for you to pick up the LX100 II and the pieces fall into place. There’s a stellar sense of ergonomics to the layout and feel-factor here. Right from the get-go, the button layout on the LX100 is charmingly intuitive. Everything is where it ought to be, and sometimes a step more convenient. Changing the ISO, white balance, aspect ratio or focal length was never more than a flick or twist away. That said, controlling the device’s mechanical zoom did feel a little loose and unresponsive at times.
Finally, in terms of what you can actually do with this camera, I found the Panasonic LX100 was awesome for getting crisp outdoor shots where the zoom on my smartphone camera just wouldn’t cut it and snapping quick shots in situations where carrying a heavy DSLR or mirrorless kit around would be too much hassle.
Grabbing the LX100 II out of my bag only took a second and both the hardware and software did a great job of being ready at a moment’s notice. It sounds super obvious but the ability of the LX100 II to simply deliver on the balance of picture quality and portability is its strongest asset. Again, this is a camera that offers a bit more punch than your smartphone and a bit more portability than heavier duty options. If that’s what you’re after, it hits those marks.
Even as someone who loves pushing their smartphone cameras to their limits, it was refreshing to not have to worry about app lag, notifications, and iffy autofocus. It’s not as powerful as something like the G9, but the LX100 II is still powerful in a way that photography and engineering nerds will appreciate.
Two key features worth highlighting here are the support for changing the focus in a shot after the fact - a feature available in some smartphones - and a 4K photo mode that synthesizing multiple images into a single hi-res shot. The ability to change aspect ratios with a single swipe along the LX100’s notched-toggle offers additional versatility still.
What’s not so good about the Panasonic LX100 II?
As noted above, there’s plenty of things I liked about the Panasonic LX100 II. Unfortunately, many of these strengths have to come saddled with the inherent cost and risk that come with buying a secondary camera.
Owning a secondary camera means having another thing you need to carry around. Another thing that can be damaged, broken, lost or stolen. These aren’t specific faults of the LX100 II per say, but if they are part of the picture nevertheless. If you already don’t want to deal with them, the LX100 isn’t going to make life easier.
Then the other side of the coin is that, even if you do have space for a dedicated camera in your life, you might not necessarily be satisfied with the limited level of customizability and power here. There’s a certain subset of users who demand more, and the LX100 II won’t be able to meet those expectations.
Simply put, the biggest caveats I encountered during my time with the Panasonic LX100 II are that it isn’t a camera that’ll suit all needs and, since it lacks support for interchangeable lenses, there’s no real way to circumvent that. If this camera isn’t for you, it isn’t for you.
Who is the Panasonic LX100 II for? Should you buy the Panasonic LX100 II?
These days, buying a camera has to make sense in a way that it didn’t in the past for it to be really be worth it.
If you’re already spent $1500 on the latest Samsung Galaxy Note or Apple iPhone, spending another $1000 on the Panasonic LX100 II isn’t going to make a huge amount of sense. If you’re the person who really wants or needs the extra power afforded to modern mirrorless offerings, the Panasonic LX100 II won’t suit either.
However, if you’re the kind of person who likes their phone to be a phone and their camera to be a camera, I can see the case for the new LX100 being that camera here.
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