Panasonic Lumix LX100 (Leica D-Lux Typ 109)
Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Purchase Recap
If you read my “Budapest 2017(2) – Leica vs Lumix” blog post you will know that I just bought myself a new Panasonic Lumix LX100 digital compact camera.
If you didn’t read it as a very quick recap I misplaced my Leica M 240 battery charger when in Budapest on a model photography trip so bought myself a replacement / backup camera. Here is an extract from the aforementioned post –
.. “My mind then started to wander away from Leica cameras and onto other alternative camera options. I thought aha I could buy a small but capable camera to finish my model photography in Budapest and then use it as a vlog camera or camera to use for making Instagram videos / photos and also as a digital backup camera for travel. I wanted a camera with full manual controls, a hoteshoe and 4K video in a compact package. I will write a separate full review but I looked at a Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) camera and that lead me to buying a Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera with an equivalent 24-75mm f1.7-f2.8 fixed zoom lens”.
and as part of the summary at the end of the trip I wrote –
“Day 2 saw me using the new Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera. I was learning on the shoot so there were more blurry photos than when I use a Leica due to the auto focus and lag. That said the photos will look different to the Leica M 240 so I am excited to see and hope the photo quality is up to my needs. As I am used to Leica lenses and Leica sensors and also the 36MP Nikon D800 and my digital Hasselblad I guess my expectations and ‘needs’ are quite high in terms of image quality, resolution, sharpness and clarity. The little Panasonic Lumix LX100 has a lot to compete with. One fact that gives me some confidence is that the Lumix LX100 is pretty much identical to the Leica D-Lux Typ 109 (inside) and I know Leica will not put their name on a bad camera. That said the Lumix LX100 has a smaller 13MP micro four thirds CMOS sensor so it would be unfair to compare directly to my full frame digital camera sensors. I used the LX100 in manual mode for shutter, ISO and aperture but I didn’t discover how to manually focus until after the day’s photo shoots so the auto focus caused for a few miss shots. I also noticed my composition was much worse using the LX100 verses a Leica (so far)”.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – First Impressions
After using the Lumix LX100 for a day including model photography with agency models and freelance models here are my thoughts so far. I tried to summarise into two simple lists, pros and cons (for me and my taste only)*
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Pros
- Macro photography – amazing! Can focus at 3cm distance to give a very shallow DOF
- 1/2000 flash sync speed! – at f1.7-f2.8 and 1/4000 speed at f4-f16 (leaf shutter lens)
- Hotshoe – a must for my strobist work
- Small form factor – perfect travel camera
- EVF option – good to use in bright light conditions instead of LCD
- Aperture ring – great to see on a compact (makes it feel like a proper camera)
- Full manual controls – a must for me
- 4K video – same as the larger Lumix GH4 camera
- 24-75mm fixed zoom lens – 24mm is perfect for wider shots and 75mm for portraits
- f1.7-f2.8 lens aperture – f1.7 at 24mm to f2.8 for 75mm. f1.7 perfect in low light
- Wifi connectivity – great to transfer photos directly to my iPhone for Instagram
- ISO 100-25,600 – Impressive low light ability and good results at ISO1600
- 13MP micro four thirds CMOS sensor – Sufficient resolution for A4 prints (for me)
- Weight 393g – perfect lightweight camera to carry everywhere
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Cons
- EVF lag – a Leica OVF is much better than the EVF for me. EVF too slow
- Startup lag – slow compared to a Leica but useable
- Battery capacity / life – said to take up to 350 photos per battery if using the LCD
- Position of the video record button – awkward (for me)
- No tilt and swivel LCD – so not great for selfies/ videoing handheld such as vlogging
- No external mic jack (input) for microphone such as a Rode Video Mic or Zoom H1
- Doesn’t use full size of micro four thirds sensor – crop options 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
- RAW files are affected by in camera settings such as crop selection and filters
Note. Panasonic Lumix LX100 vs. Leica D-Lux Typ 109
The Panasonic Lumix LX100 is near identical to it’s Leica twin camera, the Leica D-Lux Typ 109. Inside the cameras are extremely similar but with the Leica D-Lux using Leica software. On the exterior the Leica D-Lux has a much cleaner more sophisticated high end typical Leica look than the Lumix but the Lumix has a more practical and user friendly hand grip. For a lower cost I was more than happy to not consider the Leica D-Lux yet have knowledge that the LX100 uses the same Leica Summilux lens.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – For Me
I have only covered a small percentage of the Lumix LX100 features that are important to me. There are many other settings the camera has which may interest you more such as frames per second rate or the details of the video setting options. The LX100 is not a new camera, released in 2014, so all of the above has already been documented many times before if you want more details after seeing this post. I just covered the basics of my experience and thoughts so far and with a Leica M camera background as a comparison.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Image Quality
After having time to review some of the Lumix LX100 photos from Budapest I can say that the photos were perhaps as good as can be expected. The LX100 image quality was sub-Leica M standard (because of the smaller sensor as an obvious reason) in terms of sharpness, resolution and clarity but the images are far from being offense to my eye. From the RAW images captured so far I would say as a sweeping statement, that the highlight detail is lost much easier, the images are rendered softer and the lens has more flare. The JPEG images look very good and have nice colour but the RAW files colours are less impressive when trying to recover in post. I took photos up to ISO 1600 so far and the results were useable/ good enough (even though there was less information to work with in post (without introducing too much grain).
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Ergonomics and Handling
I love the small form factor of the Lumix LX100 camera. The LX100 is smaller and lighter than a Leica M film camera and is more similar in size to my Olympus Pen-F half frame analogue camera. As a Leica photographer I find the LX100 camera has far more buttons than necessary and it feels a little cluttered but that said I was very thankful to see the aperture control ring and shutter dial. I think an ISO control dial instead of the exposure compensation dial would have suited me far better as a manual settings photographer. I really don’t like the position of the video record button and I found it very it extremely awkward but maybe I will get used to it in time. The camera is larger than a generic compact camera so wont fit into a small suit or trouser pocket but will easily pack into a larger jacket pocket or small camera bag.
As a rangefinder camera photographer I rely 100% on an optical viewfinder to focus and compose my photos. I have never been a big fan of an electronic viewfinder (“EVF”) so I was never tempted to get the Leica EVF for my Leica M240. The Panasonic Lumix LX100 EVF is better than a few I have had experience with but I struggled with the lag between photos. You really can’t appreciate how amazing an OVF is until you have used and EVF. With an OVF you can see everything all the time. I am reasonably particular when composing with a Leica camera but I noticed after seeing the Lumix photos on the computer that my composition (at the edges especially) was worse and less considered. I found with the LX100 that I started off using the EVF but later moved to using the LCD to focus instead. I guess I am now using the LCD to focus as if the camera was my iPhone rather than a ‘real’ camera. I found the LCD focusing approach more enjoyable than the EVF even if still a little foreign to me. It is early days with the LX100 camera so my preference may change.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Macro Photography
I used to love macro photography prior to specializing in portraiture and before I moved to Leica cameras. I miss macro work. Even my iPhone never lets me focus as close as I would like. The macro ability of the Lumix LX100 to me is perhaps it’s strongest feature focusing as close as 3cm at 24mm and giving beautifully shallow depth of field and bokeh that you might expect from a DSLR camera rather than a compact camera. Very impressed.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Flash Sync Speed
The LX100 camera with its leaf shutter lens boosts an amazing 1/2000 flash sync speed for apertures from f1.7 to f2.8 and 1/4000 flash sync speed for apertures f4-f16. I have yet to use this feature but it excites me a great deal. My Leica M 240 maximum flash sync speed is only 1/180 and even my digital Hasselblad is only 1/800. As a photographer that enjoys using off camera flash this is exciting stuff!
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Fills the Void
As I have quite a few cameras already, all of which are arguably ‘better’ and higher spec’d than the little Lumix LX100 how will it fit in. The Leica M240 is my main camera for everything, whether portrait sessions, fashion photography or Leica wedding photography. My other digital cameras are used from time to time, the Leica M8 at Leica weddings for example, the digital Hasselblad on bright days using strobes when size and weight is no issue and the Nikon D800 as a general backup camera. With a love for film cameras rather than digital I tend to use the Leica M240 to do a test shot and then often take the important photos with a film camera.
So the LX100. What can it bring to the table. Surprisingly a great deal for my needs. It might be clearer to list the uses I have in mind for my new Lumix.
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Uses for Me
More specifically detail photos of cameras and equipment for blogging and Instagram
Can take better photos than an iPhone and upload to social media without a computer
Test photos before shooting film
The LX100 is better than a light meter and smaller and lighter than a digital Leica
Behind the scenes photos/ videos
I can operate the LX100 camera with my iPhone to capture BTS footage
I enjoy teaching photography so will use the camera to capture more short videos
Whether of a model or otherwise it adds an extra dimension to my work
Small size so carry everywhere
I am more likely to carry this camera with me than any other because of the size
Great for my overseas trips where size and weight matters
Perfect for spontaneous and fun family photos that can be shared via Wifi
I will now use this as a digital backup camera for overseas model photography trips
A Leica camera is a serious piece of equipment whereas the Lumix is more a fun camera
The LX100 photos are to me good enough to use for my model photography shoots
The LX100 camera will now join me for wedding photography assignments too
Panasonic Lumix LX100 – Summary
As you can see I am quite impressed with the Panasonic Lumix LX100. Yes it is not Leica M quality but then it is not Leica M cost either. Every camera has their strengths and weaknesses and I look forward to using the Lumix LX100 for when the Leica M camera is less suited. I will write a follow up review once I have spent more time with the LX100 camera but exciting times ahead and I think new and different work coming soon to my Instagram feed (@MrLeicaCom).
Non-model Test Photos (Lightroom Exports)
Film vs. Digital
Using the micro four thirds sensor Lumix LX100 camera really lets me appreciate my film cameras. The resolution of even a classic grain film stock such as Kodak Eastman Double-X 5222 still exceeds the resolution of the digital camera sensor at this level (from my own personal experience*). Don’t underestimate film if you have never used it! 🙂
Lumix – Full Circle
My first serious camera was the interchangeable lens Panasonic Lumix G1. I taught myself the basics of photography using the Lumix G1. I later bought a used Lumix G3 to try for a short period. Now onto the Lumix LX100!