Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II is a medium size digital camera with a protruding lens barrel and high number of external controls. The camera is comfortable to hold thanks to a small rubberized hand-grip. Since the fixed portion of the lens barrel is surrounded by the aperture ring, control-ring and two sliding switches, the LX100 II absolutely requires two-handed operation. This gives the camera extra stability. Further stability is achieved by using it at eye-level.
The lens barrel extends roughly 1" from the front plate and, when powered on, extends 1½ - 2½" further, according to the focal-length. When powered off, the lens can be protected by a removable lens cap, possibly tethered to one of the camera-strap eyelets. There are eyelets on both sides of the camera for the supplied neck-strap. Given its small size, the LX100 II can be easily used with a wrist-strap instead.
The aperture-ring is marked with A plus full-stop apertures from F/1.7 to F/16, although there are points for each 1/3 EV step. There is a firm detent between A and F/1.7 but those between aperture steps are slightly soft. There are tabs on opposite sides of the ring to provide a good grip on the otherwise smooth surface. Setting the aperture-ring to A lets the camera automatically choose aperture. Any other choice sets the aperture manually except that widest apertures are ignored when zoomed-in.
A ribbed control-ring is found immediately behind the aperture-ring. This one turns smoothly without steps all too easily. Even with care, turning it accidentally is a regular occurence. This is a fly-by-wire ring that is used for focusing manually. When AF is engaged though, it can control the zoom, Exposure Compensation, ISO, WB, AF Mode, Drive Mode, Photo Style, Filter Effect, Highlight & Shadow, iDynamic, iResolution, Flash Mode, Flash Compensation or it can be left unused. Those are considerably more options than on the predecessor. At least, when set to zoom, it is immediately noticeable when the control-ring is turned inadvertently.
Still on the lens barrel, just behind the control-ring, there are two switches. The top one selects the aspect ratio of images captured by the LX100 II. There are four options: 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 which correspond to a square image, the aspect-ratio of fixed-lens camerasNearly all fixed-lens cameras capture 4:3 images natively. Exceptions are ones with large sensors such as the Fuji Finepix X100 and the Sigma DP-series., the standard aspect-ratio of ILCsAll DSLRs and mirrorless except those by Olympus and Panasonic use the same 3:2 aspect ratio. and the aspect-ratio of typical wide-screen HD televisions, respectively. The slider encourages changing aspect-ratios to fit a scene. It has very firm detents, so it requires a good push which nearly always causes the control-ring to unintentionally turn at the same time. Resolution changes slightly with the aspect-ratio, delivering a minimum of 15 MP for square images and maximum of 17 MP for 3:2 amd 4:3 ones.
On the side of the lens barrel is a 3-way switch to choose between Normal AF, Macro AF and Manual Focus. This one also has strong detents which unfortunately makes it too easy to accidentally turn the control-ring. When set to MF, the control-ring sets the focus-distance which optionally triggers MF-Assist or Focus-Peaking.
The top plate of the LX100 II is split into two levels. The higher left side houses the 2.8 megapixels EVF, a standard hot-shoe and stereo microphone. There is no built-in flash. Instead, Panasonic supplies a small add-on one which is powered by the camera. The lower right side has a shutter-speed dial above the power-switch, a shutter-release surrounded by a rotating zoom controller, a direct Eexposure Compensation dial and two small buttons.
The shutter-speed dial is marked in full-stops from 1/4000 to 1s. It has good detents which are effective at preventing accidental changes. More shutter-speeds are accessible via the rear control-dial, described further down in this review page.
There is an A position which lets the camera select a shutter-speed automatically. Together with the aperture-ring, this provides all standard PASM exposure-modes. The T positions is now simply Bulb mode, whereas on the original LX100 it was for timed exposures. Simply press the shutter-release to start an exposure and press again to stop. When T is selected and the aperture-ring is set to A, a 60 second exposure is made.
The two-way power-switch below the shutter-speed dial has a nice positive action. Next to it, the small button labelled iA toggles fully automatic mode. This makes the camera ignore the aperture-ring and the shutter-speed dial. Exposure-Compensation is still possible though. There is the option to hold the button down for a few seconds in order to avoid accidental changes in the shooting mode.
A standard two-stage shutter-release is mounted flat on top of the camera. While easy to reach, the strap eyelet on the grip-side of the camera digs into the base of the index finger. The release itself has short travel and a soft halfway-point, so expect some accidental shots.
The Exposure-Compensation dial is marked in ±3 EV in 1/3 stops. Like the aperture-ring detents, neither can be changed to ½ stops, which is common for cameras with dedicated mechanical controls. The real issue is that EC dial detents are quite soft which often causes accidental changes. One has to constantly check the EC dial to avoid ruining exposures. New to the LX100 II are two ways to ignore the EC dial. One is too use the control-ring instead which is even more prone to unintended changes, so not a good choice. The second is to dedicate a function button to toggling EC mode. When in EC mode, the rear control-dial set the amount of compensation. This is a reasonable option which makes it possible to enable Exposure Compensation Reset. This tells the camera to reset EC to zero each time the camera is powered off.
The last button on the top plate is now customizable. Previously, it was set to Special Effects which did not get positive feedback from customers. Instead, it can now be assigned one of a whopping 54 functions! Many of those functions are extremely useful, including Metering Mode, Bracket, Highlight & Shadow, HDR, Histogram, Peaking, AF-On and DOF Preview. In fact, DOF Preview cannot be accessed without mapping it to one of 5 function buttons.
The back of the Panasonic LX100 II is extremely busy. At the upper-left corner, there is a protruding 2.8 megapixels 0.38" EVF with an Eye-Start sensor. The view is shown at 0.7X magnification with the native 16:9 aspect-ratio. This is somewhat reduced at 3:2, then a little more at 4:3 and 1:1. The EVF is just a little too small to confirm focus without MF-Assist, yet is reasonable for framing.
There is a large 3" Touchscreen LCD with 1.2 megapixels on the back. Like the EVF, it shows 100% coverage except with a 3:2 aspect-ratio. This provides the largest viewing area for what is probably the most common aspect-ratio in photography. The display has a nice anti-reflective coating which works well outdoors. The LCD is highly customizable and can be calibrated in terms of Tint along 2 axis in 21 fine steps. Brightness, Contrast and Saturation are adjustable separately in 13 steps. A touchscreen function has been added yet is not really necesary and can thankfully be disabled to avoid even more inadvertent changes.
The rear EVF and LCD show a bright view of the subject until the shutter-release is pressed halfway when it becomes Exposure-Priority temporarily. When the Live-Histogram is shown, it is calculated from the display brightness, making it useless until the shutter-release is pressed halfway. While it would be preferable to always have an Exposure-Priority display, the histogram should only be shown when correct. Instead, it simply turns an orange color while occluding part of the frame, making it worse than useless. At least it can be turned off completely.
MF Assist, available on both the EVF and LCD, is very well implemented. It zooms in quickly and shows virtually no lag. The high magnification makes it easy to know which part of the image is in focus. Focus Peaking can optionally be added with 3 choices of color and 2 levels of sensitivity.
Four buttons are found directly above the LCD. The left-most two are customizable to one of a the same 54 functions as Fn1 on the top plate. Fn5 defaults to cycling between the EVF, LCD or Automatic Eye-Start Sensor switching. Fn4 defaults to invoking the WiFi menu. There is a dedicated Video Record button, marked by the universal red got. Note that there are no modes at all on the LX100 II, so this button is needed for video. The last control above the LCD is the combined AE-L/AF-L button.
A small rubber thumb-rest helps hold the camera. Just below, another customizable button appears. Fn2 defaults to bringing up the highly customizable Q.Menu, which was the fixed function of this button on the original LX100. A standard Playback button works just as usual, entering and exiting Playback mode. The LX100 II is Shooting-Priority and a quick tap of the shutter-release returns to Capture mode. There is no Review Only mode though, so the camera will not power-on using the Playback button.
Further down, there is 4-way controller with central Menu button, surrounded by a thin control-dial. The controller is used to navigate menus and activate important functions:
- Up: Selects the ISO. There are two automatic options, one depending on light levels and the other, called Intelligent ISO, depending on light and subject movement.
- Right: Selects White-Balance, including Kelvin temperature and two Custom WB memories. Both WB Fine-Tuning and Bracketing are accessible from there.
- Down: Selects the Drive mode, including Single-Shot, Continuous Shooting with three sub-options, 4K Burst, Post-Focus, Self-Timer and Sweep Panorama. There is one 2s Self-Timer and two 10s ones, one that takes a single shot and the other that takes three.
- Left: Selects the AF mode. There are 6 to choose from: Face/Eye Detect, Tracking, 49-Area, Custom Multi-Area, 1-Area and Pinpoint. After selecting a mode, pressing down enters a screen to move and resize the AF area, when applicable.
The rear control-dial is used mostly to refine the shutter-speed. Since the upper dial is marked in full-stops, the rear dial can adjust shutter-speeds ±2/3 stops. It can also select additional shutter-speeds at both ends of the range. When the upper dial is set to 1/4000s, the rear dial can choose speeds up to 1/16000s. With the upper one at 1s, it can select exposures up to 60s. Note that, when using the mechanical shutter, speed is limited to 1/2000s at apertures wider than F/4 and 1/4000s otherwise.
There are two below the 4-way controller: Fn3 and Disp. The former is used to delete images in Playback mode, while the other cycles between display modes. In Capture mode, Fn3 can be customized to access one of the same 54 functions as the other function buttons described above.
The bottom of the LX100 II has a rather poorly placed tripod mount and a flimsy door covering the combined battery and SDXC card compartment. The remainder of the camera is actually well-built and feels solid though.
Panasonic DC-LX100 II Highlights
Sensor-Size: 17 x 13mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|17 Megapixels Fixed Lens||ISO 100-25600|
|3.1X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/16000-60s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.38" Built-in EVF 2.8 Megapixels (0.70X)||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Spot-Metering|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Hot-Shoe|
|11 FPS Drive, 33 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3840x2160 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|3" LCD 1.2 Megapixels|
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