The new Panasonic LX100 II – large sensor 3x zoom compact camera

Written by Gary on August 22nd, 2018

Most manufacturers have largely given up on the digital compact camera scene given that smartphones have essentially replaced their utility, while enthusiast photographers generally will go for an interchangeable lens mirrorless or dSLR camera for more versatility.

Today, Panasonic has announced a version II upgrade of their 2014 original model LX 100 compact camera.

Why would you consider buying it?

Well there are some very good reasons indeed!

Smartphones are great because you always have them with you and they provide adequate image quality for many purposes, but they are quite restricted in many aspects and the image quality and burst rates, and flash capabilities are not going to come close to what a large sensor digital camera like the LX 100 II can achieve.

My Apple iPhone 6 only gives a field of view range of 30mm-150mm in full frame terms – so it never gets that wide, and the quality when you zoom it is debatable, not to mention it is slow to focus, and terrible image quality in low light.

You could get most of the LX 100 II’s capability and image quality and burst rates with a Micro Four Thirds camera such as a entry level Olympus OM-D EM-10 or a Panasonic G80/85 or GX80/85 but although these cameras have many advantages over the LX100 II such as ability to change lenses, they are larger, heavier, and depending upon the lens, more expensive.

The LX 100 II has a few extra tricks up its sleeve to make it a great travel camera.

The advantages of the LX 100 II:

  1. much more compact, lighter kit than any interchangeable lens kit with the same lens capabilities at only 392g and measuring only 115 x 66 x 64 mm (4.53 x 2.6 x 2.52″) – the G80/85 and GX80/85 cameras weigh in at around 450g for body only then you have to add in the weight of a comparable lens – of which none exist with those specs.
  2. the sensor is multi-aspect 17mp output no matter which aspect ratio you choose, so for Instagrammers, just choose 1:1 and you don’t end up having to crop almost half your image off like you have to do with a Canon, Nikon or Sony camera with its 3:2 sensor ratio. On the other hand, if you are shooting portraits then you can enjoy the fatter image style of 4:3 Micro Four Thirds, or if you are shooting landscapes you can go for a wider 16:9 aspect ratio.
  3. the leaf shutter is within the lens – this is great for strobists as you can shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/4000th sec without having to resort to high speed sync modes and this gives you a better chance of being able to over power the sun when using powerful flashes – great for shooting creatively outdoors as well as indoors, and of course it has a hot shoe so you can attach a radio wireless remote flash transceiver and fire off remote flashes at will.
  4. despite it’s small size, the 24-75mm eq. lens has a incredibly wide aperture for such a lens – f/1.7 at 24mm to f/2.8 at 75mm – for comparison, the extremely popular Micro Four Thirds “pro” zoom lenses cover this range but only at f/2.8 throughout the range. Oh, but it doesn’t zoom as much as my smartphone – well if you use digital zoom you will still get better image quality than the smartphone.
  5. extremely fast, accurate autofocus with 0.1sec response time and also ability to AF on stars – the 24mm wide aperture at f/1.7 in theory will mean this camera could be used for Milky Way astroscapes at ISO 1600, but we will have to wait and see how good this lens renders stars.
  6. Bluetooth LE for faster image transfer to your smartphone and thus faster internet uploads.
  7. USB charging – you don’t need to carry a bulky battery charger on your travels.
  8. Retro style functionality you can see the aperture (aperture ring is on the lens), shutter speed and exposure compensation by looking down on the camera without it being turned on.
  9. Power zoom lever next to shutter button for one handed zoom and shoot.
  10. Makes a great 2nd camera for those with a Micro Four Thirds camera fitted with a longer zoom or a portrait lens.
  11. Much more discrete for use in more risky areas where a larger camera could make you a target for theft or a bashing or both.
  12. Silent electronic shutter mode to 1/16,000th sec.
  13. Great macro functionality – close focus to 3cm, focus stacking mode – albeit in 4K 8mp Photo Mode.
  14. 11fps rapid burst mode – 11 frames per sec at up to 33 RAW images in a burst (5.5 fps with continuous AF and presumably 40fps in electronic shutter mode with fixed focus)
  15. EVF is mounted to far left allowing one to view EVF with right eye while left eye can view the scene for situational awareness, composition support and timing aid.

But, it’s not for everyone!

There are compromises of course.

It’s a really small camera and not as well suited to big hands.

You can’t change lenses, so you can’t replace the lens with a lovely portrait lens to really blur the background, nor can you zoom in on wildlife (unless you use digital zoom).

If you want to really blur the background out (as with your smartphone), this is not the camera for you (although it will for close up macro shots, and for portraits it will blur the background a lot more than your smartphone).

The video mode uses a 1.34x crop so you can’t get as wide angle as you may like but instead it effectively becomes a 32-100mm eq lens, much more like your smartphone. There is no mic or headphone port.

The EVF is not an OLED one but uses field sequential technology which can cause a colour smearing effect at times.

The touch screen is fixed and not tilting nor swiveling – so not so good for selfies.

Not weathersealed, nor “tough”, no image stabilisation and USB port is only a slow USB 2.0.

It is not cheap – RRP $US999 (although the much heavier and larger Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens is around $US799 and the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 OIS lens is $US899 and you still need to buy a camera) and it is expected to be available in Oct 2018.

That said, many people will find this camera invaluable for their travels or perhaps even as a strobist camera.

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