Getting ready to travel to Barcelona last week I had to decide which camera I was going to take. I had a choice of four. There were three interchangeable lens cameras and one fixed lens compact. I took the compact. It was the Panasonic Lumix LX100M2.
And I didn’t regret my choice.
Carrying the Lumix LX100M2
The Lumix LX100M2 is compact, but not super compact. Pocketable, at a stretch, but it leaves quite the lump. With the lens cap in place, it’s a touch over 61mm thick over much of the body. But at the back the eyepiece protrudes by almost another 10mm. It’s 115mm wide, not counting the lugs for the strap, and nearly 67mm tall. It weighs a touch under 410 grams.
Still, all that’s a lot smaller and lighter than any interchangeable lens camera. That makes it an attractive proposition as a travel camera. But only if the picture quality and usability are up to snuff.
Sensor and lens
At this point I should mention the suggested retail price: $1,399. That’s not the usual pricing for a compact camera and suggests something a little special.
Let’s start with the sensor. In general, and within reason, the bigger the sensor the better. A typical compact camera, say the new Lumix DC-TZ95 on which we reported recently, has a 1/2.3 inch sensor. The Lumix LX100M2 has a 4/3 inch sensor, the same size (although clearly not the same model) as used in Panasonic Micro Four Thirds format cameras.
If you’re like me, comparing fractions doesn’t come naturally, so let’s turn those into millimetres. The DC-TZ95 has a sensor measuring 11mm. The Lumix LX100M2 has a sensor measuring nearly 34mm. That makes for higher native sensitivity for the panel, lower noise and easier-to-achieve shallow depth-of-field effects.
Even the similarly priced, and much lumpier Lumix DC-FZ1000 II, sports only a 1-inch, or 25.4mm, sensor.
Panasonic says the sensor has 17 megapixels of resolution. The maximum is in 4:3 aspect and is 4,736 by 3,552, which works out close to 16.8 megapixels.
In front of that sensor Panasonic has used a Leica-branded DC Vario-Summilux lens. It has traded off a huge zoom range for other virtues. The zoom is 3.1x, from 24mm to 75mm in 35mm-equivalent terms. That takes it from a smart-phone-like wide angle to a modest telephoto but is nothing like the 30x optical zoom of some options.
The offsetting virtue is speed. The lens has a maximum aperture, depending on the focal length, from f/1.7 to f/2.8. That further improves low light performance. And the iris features 9 diaphragm blades, making for a rounder hole and, consequently, a more pleasing bokeh.
There’s a proper viewfinder with 2.7 megapixels of resolution. It includes dioptre adjustment, so most people should be able to have a sharp view through it. Like an interchangeable lens camera, it will sense proximity to switch between this and the rear monitor, but you can also choose to fix the image to one or the other.
The rear monitor has 1.2 megapixels of resolution and is touch sensitive, so you can do things like tap a spot for focus. It also supports pinching and swiping when you’re displaying photos or selecting from a set of images captured using 4K shooting mode.
(The 4K mode captures 8.3 megapixel images at 30 frames per second. You can use 4K Pre-burst, so that you can select frames from up to a second before you press the shutter release.)
However, one relative weakness of the Lumix LX100M2 is that the rear monitor is fixed. It doesn’t tilt at all, so the camera isn’t quite as usable when shooting overhead or from down low.