Leaked by Panasonic on its own Web site a week earlier than planned--man, is that getting old--the Lumix DMC-LX5 provides a long-awaited update to its relatively old enthusiast compact camera, the LX3. Because the LX5's specs are so similar to the LX3, a justifiable first response would be "meh."
But Panasonic's made some important changes to the camera that I think will make it a lot stronger and more competitive than its predecessor. These include a new sensor, larger zoom range, improved noise reduction and a better video codec.
Here's a rundown of those specs and how they compare with a few competitors.
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD||13.5-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel CCD|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 80 - ISO 3,200||ISO 80 - ISO 3,200||ISO 64 - ISO 6,400||ISO 80 - ISO 3,200||ISO 80 - ISO 3,200|
|Closest focus (inches)||0.4||2.0||0.8||0.4||0.4|
4 JPEG/3 raw
|Viewfinder||Optical||None||Optical||Optional OVF||Optional OVF or EVF|
|Shutter||15-1/4,000 sec||15-1/1,600 sec||30-1/2,000 sec||60-1/2,000 sec||60-1/4,000 sec|
|Video (best quality)||30fps VGA H.264 QuickTime MOV||30fps VGA|
H.264 QuickTime MOV
|720/30p MJPEG QuickTime||720/30p AVCHD Lite|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||390 shots||220 shots||260 shots||380 shots||400 shots|
|Dimensions (WHD, inches)||4.4 x 3.0 x 2.0||4.0 x 2.3 x 1.2||4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7||4.3 x 2.3 x 1.1||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.7|
|Weight (ounces)||14.5||7||8.5 (est)||9.1||9.8 (est)|
|Availability||October 2009||October 2009||September 2008||August 2008||August 2010|
Like the rest of the large-sensor compacts, Panasonic sticks with a CCD rather than a CMOS. Though the resolution hasn't changed, Panasonic's latest sensor has slightly larger microlenses arranged to better converge the light and prevent reflections and leakages, plus a larger-volume photodiode which should (theoretically) improve highlight capture and allow for better response in low light. (See the illustration on the left.)
More important, though, the new image-processing chip, the Venus Engine FHD, supposedly improves the noise reduction, which I've always though was one of Panasonic's weakest areas vis-à-vis photo quality. As far as I can tell, Panasonic has finally figured out it's necessary to do luminance and chrominance noise reduction separately. (There may be some subtlety I'm missing here about the way Panasonic traditionally does it, however.)
When it moved from the LX2 to the LX3, Panasonic cut the range of the lens, and now it's starting to grow back. The company claims improved resolvability and less chromatic aberration in the new lens as well.
Pansonic says the camera will have improved autofocus and start-up performance--branded "Sonic Speed AF"--derived from running more operations in parallel (fixing aperture and checking focus). The LX series has always lagged in this area as well, so I hope it helps.
While the LX5 offers 720p video like the LX3, it's now 30fps compared to 24fps, and uses a real video codec rather than Motion JPEG. You can also zoom in movie mode now, and use manual exposure modes.
Finally, the LX5 can take the same optional electronic viewfinder as the
All of these changes are essential to staying relevant in an admittedly niche market of enthusiasts who aren't so enthusiastic about the new camera darlings, the more expensive interchangeable-lens models. While its not as tiny as the exceptionally popular Canon PowerShot S90, some complain that the S90 is too small, and the LX5 promises advantages like closer macro shooting and (perhaps) better performance.
The Lumix DMC-LX5 will be available in black or white--I guess silver's fallen out of favor--in August.