Hands-on with Panasonic’s hot new camera range

The compact and versatile LX7

Not everybody wants a camera with loads of zoom; some people want to imitate a rangefinder and carry a compact camera with a little bit of zoom and a lot of control, sort of like a mini digital SLR.

Panasonic’s LX7 tries to do all of this, throwing in a 10.1 megapixel sensor, F1.4-2.3 lens, 3.8x optical zoom, and some very cool controls that make it an easy to use walk-around camera for $649 RRP.

It’s one of those cameras that you can keep on your person at most times, with a small form-factor, pop-up flash, and some control switches that remind us of a proper SLR, with manual focus, shutter control, and even change the aspect ratio of the image from regular (3:2) to wide (16:9) and even to the classic square format (1:1).

There’s a hot-shoe adapter for adding an optical viewfinder or external light source, but also an in-built flash which should provide enough light for most situations.

Meanwhile, the F1.4 lens offers more low-light control than most compact cameras this model will compete against, and the sensor can pull up to ISO 6400 natively with a boost to 12800.

A lovely little koala, shot on the Lumix LX7

The zoom isn’t massive on this camera, not like with the FZ200, going with a fairly small 3.8x optical, which translates roughly to 24-90mm.

It’s not a huge length, but should be more than enough for a lot of people, with a switch on the side for macro photography when you need to pull the lens back to its start and focus on something close.

Oh, and there’s RAW support here too, with Panasonic officials telling us (while we were shooting) that the new sensor being used here is called a “multiple aspect ratio sensor” and can capture full RAW images using the specific aspect ratio you select on the top of the camera.

That’s a setting you can change pretty quickly too, literally at the flick of a switch, allowing you to jump from the 35mm framing to something more like that seen on Instagram.

Elvis shot in the 1:1 square aspect ratio on the Lumix LX7

Functionality on this camera was controlled by buttons and directional pads – no touchscreen here – and was very easy to use, even when switched into the manual modes.

While this was a pre-production model and thus not technically final, the image quality was pretty good. You wouldn’t really have much to complain about here, even if the ten megapixel count doesn’t seem like as much with much larger numbers coming out on cameras.

All up, this was an impressive camera, and was our favourite of the bunch. We can’t wait to get our mitts on the full model, and with an availability of September 2012, we probably won’t have to wait long.

We’ve got loads more images from the pre-production cameras we played with at the gallery above, so feel free to flick through and see what these things are capable of.