Panasonic Lumix LX10 review: Lumix LX10, the middle child of enthusiast compacts

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The Good Excellent photo quality for the money, a good lens and a broad feature set highlight the Panasonic Lumix LX10/LX15's strengths.

The Bad Mediocre battery life, a slippery grip and hard-to-feel record button may annoy some people.

The Bottom Line While it doesn't stand out in any particular aspect, the Panasonic Lumix LX10/LX15 is a fine camera to consider for everyday photography with advanced controls.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

No matter how much I try to come up with a recommendation about the Lumix LX10, I keep circling back to this enthusiast compact as a process-of-elimination choice. The LX10 is the camera to consider: If you don't want the pocketability of Sony's RX100 series; don't want to pay more for the better performance of the higher-end Sony RX100 models; don't need the long zoom lens of the Lumix ZS100; don't care about the better photo quality of the larger-sensor Lumix LX100; and don't care about the better battery life and viewfinder that most of them have. That's a lot of don'ts.

Panasonic's entry between the more consumer-targeted Lumix ZS100 (aka TZ100, TZ110) and the similarly priced Lumix LX100 just fails to stand out even among its Panasonic siblings. It combines the popular-size 20.1-megapixel 1-inch sensor of the ZS100 with a fast but short-zoom lens like the LX100; the latter has a larger but lower-resolution 12-megapixel Four Thirds-size sensor. But the LX100 still delivers the best photo quality in its price range and the ZS100 has the general-purpose-friendly (relatively) big zoom lens, making them easy choices. The LX10 does provide equal-or-better photo quality overall than competing 1-inch compacts from Sony and Canon. However, its not as fast at many operations as some other cameras, and though the battery life is terrible in a lot of enthusiast compacts, the LX10's seems shorter than I typically experience.

The LX10 costs $700 and AU$1,000; in the UK it goes by LX15 and runs £600.

Pretty pictures, zippy focus

Overall, photos look excellent for a 1-inch sensor compact -- they're better than the ZS100's and competitors, in part because of the LX10's better lens.

Low-light JPEG photos look good through ISO 1600; at ISO 3200 there's some color noise but still sharp detail in the areas of focus, and beyond that the photos get progressively noisier and muddier as you'd expect. Still, Even at its highest sensitivity level, the LX10's photos are reasonably good at small sizes, with a surprising among of detail.

On its default color-profile settings (Standard Photo Style) the camera tends to boost contrast, which makes blacks too dense, but shooting raw lets you recover some of the detail, and between about ISO 1600 and ISO 6400 you can get more detail and less smeariness if you're willing to accept some "grain." One of the nice aspects of the camera is that it doesn't look like it's doing a lot of distortion or fringing correction solely for the JPEGs -- it might be doing it before it writes the raw files, or there might not be much to correct -- which makes editing the raws a lot easier.

My biggest nitpick here is with the white balance, which looks too blue to me in daylight, and the auto white balance had some trouble with the light color of our test LED panels, rendering with a purplish cast; that's not unusual, but there are cameras which handle it properly.

The video is also very good. In very low light there's some noise, it clips highlights and shadows in the default photo Style and blows out areas in bright light like most cameras with the 1-inch sensor. There's a Natural option that's lower contrast and you can customize, but the LX10 doesn't have any of the advanced tonal options for video of the Sony RX100 IV and V.

Analysis samples

At low ISO sensitivities, JPEGs look very clean with sharp detail.

Lori Grunin/CNET

In good light, you'll start to see a little softening by ISO 1600, and at ISO 3200 and higher JPEGs lose detail progressively.

Lori Grunin/CNET

At its highest ISO sensitivities, the LX10 still retains some distinguishable detail, but there's significant color noise and smearing from noise reduction.

Lori Grunin.CNET

Under our test lights, the LX10's automatic white balance produced a notably purple cast; in actual daylight it was a little blue. This isn't unusual.

Lori Grunin/CNET

In daylight, the LX10 renders very pleasing colors, though the default Photo Style pushes the saturation a little too much for my taste.

Lori Grunin/CNET

The lens produces nice, round out-of-focus highlights and reasonably smooth defocused areas.

Lori Grunin/CNET

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