Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX-1
Panasonic’s new Lumix DMC-LX1 camera is unique in having a CCD sensor that delivers its full 8.4-megapixel resolution for shots taken with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Designed to produce shots for display on the latest ‘widescreen’ TV sets and monitors, the LX1 has a slider on the lens barrel that lets users set the capture aspect ratio to 3:2 or conventional 4:3. . . [more]
Quality rating (out of 10) Build: 8.5Ease of use: 8.5Image quality: 8.0Value for money: 8.5
Panasonic’s new Lumix DMC-LX1 camera is unique in having a CCD sensor that delivers its full 8.4-megapixel resolution for shots taken with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Designed to produce shots for display on the latest ‘widescreen’ TV sets and monitors, the LX1 has a slider on the lens barrel that lets users set the capture aspect ratio to 3:2 or conventional 4:3.
Choosing 3:2 crops the ends of the image so it fills a snapshot-sized (10 x 15cm) sheet of paper, at the same time reducing the size of the image to 7 megapixels, while the 4:3 setting produces 6.2-megapixel files. For movie clips, the 16:9 setting delivers a top resolution of 848 x 480 pixels, with selectable frame rates of 30 and 10 frames per second. This ‘wide VGA’ setting is a first in a digicam and ideal for users with wide-screen TV sets. The 4:3 setting produces video clips with normal VGA proportions at the same frame rates.
Design-wise the LX1 is an odd combination of simplicity and sophistication. It’s one of the few pocketable cameras with RAW, TIFF and JPEG shooting options but, since the RAW format suffers from the same problems as we found with the FZ30, it’s scarcely worth using. TIFF files are typically around 24MB in size, with an embedded 2MB JPEG image, which makes them rather unwieldy. High-resolution JPEGs are between 3.5 and 4.2MB.
Most of the rear panel is covered by a high resolution 2.5-inch LCD, which is used for capture and playback of shots. No viewfinder is provided. Controls are simple but comprehensive, with a mode dial, zoom control, off/on switch and stabiliser button on the top panel and ‘joystick’ plus four-way controller and buttons on the rear. Pressing and holding the joystick shortcuts to a setting menu containing the white balance, ISO, image size and compression format functions, which are selected via arrows on the four-way controller. Buttons select the AF/AE lock, display and burst/delete settings.
The camera comes with a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4x optical zoom lens that retracts into a 1.8 cm deep barrel on the front of the camera body. As well as the aspect ratio slider, this barrel carries a slider that sets the lens focus, with positions for full AF, macro AF and manual focusing. In manual focus mode, the focus distance and depth-of-field are displayed on the LCD. Selecting MF Assist in the Setup menu enlarges the centre of the field of view to make accurate focusing easier. Actual focusing is achieved with the joystick.
Like other Panasonic digicams, ‘MEGA O.I.S.’ optical image stabilisation is provided and the camera can focus down to 5cm in macro mode. The LX1 has a similar ‘extra optical zoom’ function to the FZ30, which uses part of the sensor to increase the zoom range without sacrificing picture quality. You can get 5.5x zoom with a 5.5-megapixel image in 16:9 mode (and lower resolution with other aspect ratio settings).
Since the test camera was a late pre-production unit, we are unable to report definitively on its performance. However, from our tests there is every indication that the LX1 will be a strong performer. High-resolution image files contained plenty of detail and their colour saturation was slightly lower than that of the FZ30, providing a more natural look. However, blown-out highlights were common in shots taken in bright sunlight and shadows tended to block up.
Imatest showed image resolution to be good, although not exceptional, and no lateral chromatic aberration was found. Image processing tended towards undersharpening, which further enhanced the natural look of shots. The white balance control’s performance was almost identical to that of the FZ30, although the flash was significantly weaker. ISO 400 sensitivity was required to cover an average-sized room.
Image quality deteriorated when the digital zoom was used for high magnifications and such shots showed considerable colour noise. Fortunately, noise was less visible in shots taken after dark. Even 45-second exposures at ISO 100 showed no apparent breakdown, and granularity was well controlled at ISO 400. Close-up shots were very impressive.
The test camera ‘awoke’ almost instantaneously but took roughly three seconds to shut down. Capture lag averaged 0.95 seconds, which reduced to 0.15 seconds with pre-focusing. The high-speed burst mode recorded nine shots at roughly 0.3 second intervals, while the low speed setting captured the same number of shots at half-second intervals. 
Image sensor: ‘1/1.65-inch’ (approx. 8.7 x 4.9mm) 16:9 CCD with 8.61 photosites (8.4 megapixels effective)
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 6.3-25.2mm f2.8-4.9 zoom (28-112mm equivalent in 16:9 aspect mode)
Zoom ratio: 4x optical, 4x digital at full resolution
Dimensions (wxhxd):105.7 x 55.8 x 25.6mm
Weight: 185g (without battery and card)
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2), TIFF, RAW; Movies – QuickTime Motion JPEG (VGA/QVGA at 30/10 fps)
Shutter speed range: 8-1/2000 second (to 60 sec. in manual mode)
Focus system/range: 1-, 3- or 9-point AF; range 50cm to infinity, macro 5-30cm
Exposure metering/control: Intelligent multiple/centre/spot metering; P, A, S and M settings plus 14 Scene modes in 2 banks
White balance: Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, white set 1/2
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto and slow sync (with & without red-eye reduction), forced on/off; -2 to +2 EV flash output adjustment; range 0.6-4.1m
ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400
Sequence shooting: 3fps for 9 high-resolution images
Storage Media: SD/MMC cards
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch polycrystalline TFT (207,000 pixels)
Power supply: 3.7 V lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer’s warranties.
Ph: (02) 9029 2219
Ph: 133 686
The largest speciality photographic retail chain in Australia.
CameraPro Pty Ltd
Suite 607, 180 Queen St, Brisbane 4000
Tel: 07 3333 2900
Australian owned and run company based in Brisbane.
Retailer of digital camera equipment and more.
Secure online shopping and delivery across Australia.
Ph: 1300 727 056
Ph: 1800 155 067
Digital Camera Warehouse
174 Canterbury Road 367 High Street
NSW 2193 VIC 3070
Ph: 1300 365 220
1300 801 885
Australian retailer of Vapex rechargeable batteries offering factory direct prices and fast, free shipping Australia wide.
Photographic Equipment & Supplies – Retail & Repairs. Click here for list of stores.
1800 186 895
Big range of cameras and photographic products with stores in most states and online.