The Lumix LX100 II is the long-awaited follow-up to Panasonic’s brilliant high-end compact camera, the Lumix LX100.
With some cameras you’re looking for a single killer feature, such as resolution for commercial photographers, or speed for sports shooters, while if your interest is travel and street photography you need a more complex balance of qualities – and the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II appears to provide pretty much everything.
- 17MP multi-aspect Micro Four Thirds sensor
- 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 standard zoom lens
- 4K video capture
While most premium compacts, like the Sony RX100 VI and Panasonic’s own Lumix ZS200 / TZ200, have opted for a 1-inch sensor, the Lumix LX100 II features a larger Micro Four Thirds sensor that’s some 1.6 times larger than the 1-inch variety. That said, there are compacts with even larger APS-C sensors available, namely the Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III and Fujifilm X100F.
While both the G1 X Mark III and X100F also feature 24MP resolutions, the Lumix LX100 II features a 20MP sensor that’s carried across from the Lumix GX9. However, the multi-aspect ratio design means that to avoid narrowing the field of view, only up to 85% of the image area of the sensor is used, resulting in a maximum possible resolution of 17MP (up from 12MP on the original LX100). There’s a choice of four aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1), which can be selected with the flick of a switch.
Panasonic’s opted not to tinker with the zoom lens, with the Lumix LX100 II featuring the same 24-75mm Leica DC Vario-Summilux f/1.7-f/2.8 lens as the original camera. It may not have the broad zoom range of some compacts, but when you consider the fast variable maximum aperture available (although the f/1.7 marking on the aperture ring only applies at the widest zoom setting), it’s impressive stuff considering the size of the lens.
Panasonic has achieved this by designing the lens to feature six optical groups that can all be moved independently, and five aspherical lenses with extra dispersion properties to control chromatic aberration. The focal range is more than adequate for general shooting as well, covering everything off from wide landscapes to short telephoto shots, while the fast variable maximum aperture makes it a versatile piece of glass.
The Lumix LX100 II gets touchscreen functionality, while the electronic viewfinder offers a large 2.76-million dot resolution. It’s worth noting though that this is a sequential design, with red, green and blue elements displayed in quick succession that produce a display which you perceive as a full-color rendering. This can result in a ‘tearing’ effect if you move the camera quickly or your subject moves quickly, which is why OLED displays are preferred, as all three colors are displayed simultaneously.
The Lumix LX100 II can shoot 4K video, but be aware that this crops in on the center of the sensor, resulting in a 1.34x crop factor, so the widest focal length possible is 32mm.
You do get all of Panasonic’s clever 4K Photo shooting modes, however, including Post Focus, Sequence Composition and Focus Stacking, as well as the ability to shoot at 30fps. You’ll only get 8MP JPEG files, *in these modes* but, they can make the difference between getting a shot and not.
Elsewhere the Lumix LX100 II’s Picture Styles now include Panasonic’s latest L.Monochrome and L.Monochrome D options, and you can now charge the camera via USB from a power bank or a laptop computer, while Bluetooth connectivity has been added. This allows your smart device to stay constantly connected to the Lumix LX100 II without using up too much juice, with a Wi-Fi connection made when it’s time to transfer images.
Build and handling
- Exterior design little changed from LX100
- Plenty of external controls
- Enhanced handgrip
On the outside, the Lumix LX100 II looks very much like the original Lumix LX100, but a slight tweak to the handgrip makes it a little easier to hold securely. The Lumix LX100 II is also small enough, just about, to fit in a jacket pocket, although you’ll have to switch it off first, as the retracting lens extends some distance when the camera is switched on.
The shutter speed dial and aperture control ring both have a firm, precise action. The focus mode, aspect ratio and aperture rings on the lens are squeezed quite close together, though, so you need a certain amount of dexterity to change the aspect ratio setting.
The EVF resolution isn’t the highest, but it’s more than adequate, and the EVF performs well in bright light if the rear screen becomes hard to make out. The rear screen itself is sharp and clear, and responds very well to touch input; in fact too well at times – as is often the case with touchscreens it’s a little too easy to touch the screen with the heel of your hand while holding the camera, and then find that the focus point is way off in the corner when you go to take the next shot.
You can switch off the touch control if you want to, although it’s undeniably useful for setting the focus point position (even while using the EVF), and the touch-shutter mode is handy for macro shots, or even surreptitious street photography with the camera held away from your face.
That said, street photographers may be a little disappointed to learn that the screen is fixed, without even a tilt mechanism, so waist-level shooting isn’t an option. We’ve got so used to tilting screens on compact cameras that it’s a bit of a blow not to get one here.
The zoom action is also a touch pedestrian. You can use either the zoom lever around the shutter release button or the multi-function control ring on the lens, but both respond quite slowly. This is one area where regular ‘mechanical’ zooms have a major advantage, and it does detract from the Lumix LX100 II’s responsiveness in other areas.
This is a powerful camera that’s packed with technology; however, getting the best out of it requires somewhat intricate interaction with the touchscreen display icons and menu system, and while the Lumix LX100 II’s physical controls are first rate, the digital interactions do get a bit fiddly.
- Focusing speeds are fast
- Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology works well
- Focus tracking suited to more predictable subjects
As it borrows its sensor from the Lumix GX9, it’s no surprise to see the same 49-area focusing arrangement on the Lumix LX100 II.
The quoted focusing speed is a little slower on the LX100 II than on the GX9, at 0.1 sec compared to 0.07 sec, which is perhaps down to the built-in optics on the LX100 II. Regardless, autofocus speed is very good, as you’d hope in a camera designed for travel and street photography.
While the LX100 II doesn’t feature a more advanced hybrid focusing system, the contrast detect AF with Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology (which assesses two images with different sharpness levels to determine correct subject distance) is fast and responsive, allowing you to point and shoot in a single action without worrying if the camera’s had time to focus.
- Dependable metering and white balance
- Handy 4K Photo mode
- Pretty decent battery life
While it’s not really designed as an action camera, the Lumix LX100 II can rattle off up to 11fps (in AF-S mode), though this drops down to 5.5fps with continuous focusing. If that’s not enough, you can take advantage of the Lumix LX100 II’s various 4K Photo modes, allowing you to shoot at up to 30fps and select a 8MP JPEG file from the sequence.
The Lumix LX100 II’s exposure metering system proved reliable during our time with the camera, with the exposure compensation dial needed only a few times, and in situations where you’d expect to have to take control anyway, such as when shooting a portrait subject in bright light against a dark background. It’s worth noting as well that the Lumix LX100 II now has the option to dial in up to ±5 of exposure compensation when this function is assigned to the control ring (as opposed to using the dedicated dial that runs up to ±3). The auto white balance system on the Lumix LX100 II proved equally reliable in regular daylight.
At 340 shots (provided you stick with the 3-inch display), the Lumix LX100 II’s battery life stacks up pretty well against rivals like the 200-shot Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III and the 220-shot Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V; if you’re planning to use the EVF regularly this drops down to 270 shots.
- ISO200-25,600 (expandable to ISO100-25,600)
- No optical low-pass filter
- Pleasing color reproduction
The jump in resolution from the 12MP LX100 to the 17MP LX100 II is certainly welcome, while we found the quality of the Leica-badged lens very impressive.
The absence of an optical low-pass filter on the LX100 II’s sensor means it’s possible to capture very good levels of detail, and you’ll be hard pushed to differentiate between results from the LX100 II’s Micro Four Thirds sensor and those in larger APS-C cameras.
Image noise is also handled pretty well, with images captured at low sensitivities looking nice and clean, with only a hint of luminance (grain-like) noise visible at mid-range sensitivities if you inspect files closely.
At ISO1600 / ISO3200 luminance noise becomes a bit more of an issue, while chroma (color) noise also starts to creep into shots. At ISO6400 noise is noticeable, but detail still holds up well in raw files; we’d avoid shooting at ISOs above this.
Panasonic has made strides when it comes to color rendition recently, and the Lumix LX100 II is capable of producing natural-looking JPEG files with faithful colors. If you want to shoot mono images without having to spend too much time on editing, the new L.Monochrome photo styles are a welcome addition, with the L.Monochrome D option in particular producing rich black and white images.
It’s fair to say that the Panasonic Lumix LX100 II is more of a incremental update than a massive overhaul, hence why Panasonic probably felt it merited a ‘Mark II’ designation (a first for a Lumix camera) rather than a whole new model name (many people were expecting the Lumix LX200).
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – the original Lumix LX100 was one of our favorite compact cameras, and while it’s been a little overshadowed in recent years, it’s still a nice camera to use.
The good news then is that the Lumix LX100 II feels just like its popular predecessor: a portable, responsive premium compact camera with a fast lens and appealing external controls. The new grip makes it better to hold, and the increased resolution is welcome.
Panasonic hit something of a sweet spot with the first version of this camera, and although it’s complex and fiddly in some areas the Lumix LX100 II has lost none of the original’s appeal – and while it might not have the broadest appeal, the enthusiast photographer looking for a pocket-sized partner with plenty of tactile controls, you won’t be disappointed.
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