Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 Review ImagePanasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 Review Image

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Introduction

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 (also known as the Panasonic LX10) is a premium compact camera which incorporates a large 20.1 megapixel 1-inch MOS sensor. The Panasonic LX15 features 4K video recording at 30/25/24fps including the ability to extract 8 megapixel images from the 4K video, plus 120fps high speed video recording, a 24-72mm f/1.4-2.8 Leica lens, a 5-axis optical image stabilizer, a 3.0-inch LCD touchscreen with 1040k-dot resolution that tilts forwards up to 180 degrees, an ISO range of 100-25600, high speed burst shooting at 10fps with the mechanical shutter and 50fps with the electronic shutter, aperture and control rings, 3cm macro shooting with Post Focus and Post Focus Stacking functions, and integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 is available now in black for £599.99 / $699.99.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 is nominally the successor to the 4-year-old DMC-LX7 camera, but it includes so many technological advances that it’s virtually unrecognisable from its prehistoric predecessor. The main change is the inclusion of a 1-inch MOS sensor, which is the same size and megapixel count as the sensors used sensors used in two of the LX15’s principal rivals, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 series and the Canon PowerShot GX7 Mark II.

It further boasts a 3x optical zoom lens, offering a focal range equivalent to 24-72mm in 35mm terms, and optically stabilized to help prevent image blur from camera shake. Best of all is the fast f/1.4 maximum aperture, which in conjunction with the 1-inch sensor makes it easier to achieve DSLR-like shallow depth of field and out-of-focus backgrounds, whilst also proving invaluable when hand-holding the camera in low-light.

The LCD screen on the rear is a bright 3-inch model with 1040k dot resolution that provides a naturalistic translation of the scene before the lens. The screen only tilts forward by 180 degrees, rather than tilting down or being fully articulating. The screen is also touch sensitive, something that is still lacking on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 series. All of the menu options can be changed via the touchscreen interface . You can also control image playback by touching the screen, with the ability to tap a thumbnail to see the full-size version, scroll through your images by dragging them from side to side, and magnifying them up to 16x.

The most immediately noticeable function is the ability to use the 1-area AF mode to focus on your main subject simply by touching it on the LCD. If the subject then moves, the DMC-LX15 cleverly follows it around the screen using the the AF tracking function. If the subject exits the frame entirely, simply recompose and tap it again to start focusing. Impressive stuff that makes focusing on off-center subjects fast and intuitive. It is a little too easy to accidentally press the screen and set the focus point to the wrong area for the current subject, but a simple tap in the middle of the LCD will center the AF point (or you can turn this feature off altogether).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15
Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15

If Multi-area AF rather than 1-area AF is enabled, then you can select a group of 6 AF points from 9 different areas, again providing some manual control over what is traditionally a rather hit and miss affair. If Face Detection is enabled, the 1-area AF point can be manually set to a person’s eye to help ensure that the most important part of a portrait is in focus. One other great benefit of the touch-screen control system is that Touch Auto Focusing is available in movie recording, enabling pro-level rack-like focusing simply by pointing at the subject on the LCD screen.

When Intelligent Auto is switched on, the DMC-G80 changes the scene mode used when you touch the subject, for example selecting portrait mode if you touch a face and macro mode if you touch a close-up flower. If you prefer to manually focus rather than use the snappy AF, you can magnify any part of the subject by 1x, 5x or 10x by simply dragging a yellow box around the screen. The final touchscreen ability from an image composition point of view is the ability to release the shutter, with a small icon on the left hand of the screen enabling this functionality, and then a single on-screen tap all that’s required to take the picture.

Focus Peaking graphically shows the peak of focus in the MF and AF+MF modes by displaying an outline around the subject. The detection level can be set to ‘High’ or ‘Low’ and a colour can be selected In ‘High’ these are light blue, yellow or green and in ‘Low’ blue, orange or white can be selected. Pinpoint AF mode is very useful for precisely focusing on a very small area, while, Manual Focus Assist automatically displays a 10x magnification to help you make sure that the subject is in focus in the MF mode.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15
Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 weighs 310g with the battery and card inserted and measures 105.5 x 60 x 42 mm. This is a camera that will slip readily into a trouser pocket. An intuitive aperture ring surrounds the lens which allows you to quickly change the aperture, with 1/3rd exposure steps available running from f/1.4 through to f/11. If you zoom to a focal length that slows down the aperture range, these physical markings obviously don’t change – so at 72mm, for example, choosing f/1.4 actually sets the aperture to the fastest available value of f/2.8. Furthermore, changing the ring from f/1.4 to, say, f/2.2 has absolutely no effect on the camera’s settings, as those apertures aren’t available at 72mm. Other than this unavoidable quirk, the aperture ring is a great addition that further adds to the photographer-friendly feel of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15.

By default the control ring that also surrounds the lens quickly accesses stepped focal range settings of 28, 28, 35, 50 and 72mm, although it can be reconfigured as a stepless zoom ring if you prefer, or to set the ISO speed, white balance or filter mode. While the zoom ring is a very welcome addition, it is a little on the narrow side, so much so that we occasionally found ourselves moving the aperture ring at the same time – an annoying consequence of the camera’s small size. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 has a fairly shallow and smooth hand-grip which doesn’t do much to aid handling, although it is better than Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 series which have no grip at all. Above the lens and to its left is an AF assist/self timer lamp.

The MOS sensor greatly increases the camera’s burst shooting options, with a fastest setting of 10fps when using the mechanical shutter or an incredible 50 full-resolution images when using the electronic shutter (although both focus and exposure are fixed at the first frame). Slower modes of 6fps and 2fps complete with AF Tracking are also available.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15
Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15

With the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 we have other Lumix family regulars making a re-appearance. Selected via the shooting mode dial on top of the camera, there’s the subject recognising and performance optimising intelligent Auto (iA) mode for point and shoot simplicity, with another option accessing an extensive range of Creative Control in-camera effects. Users also get access to six customisable Photo Style modes via the on-screen menu when the camera is in a creative mode, such as program, aperture priority, shutter priority or manual.

There’s a choice of auto and intelligent auto ISO settings, with a range that extends from ISO 80 up to ISO 25600 at full resolution, a nod to the sort of spec to be found on a semi-pro DSLR, so to be welcomed at a compact level. Also present and correct is the time saving ‘Q.Menu’ (Quick Menu) button on the backplate. Press this and a toolbar of essential shooting functions appears on screen that the user can tab through and make selections from courtesy of the cross keys and central ‘set’ button on the camera back.

A flick of the top-mounted on/off switch and the LX15 powers up in two seconds. The LCD fades into life and the lens extends from within its protective housing to maximum 24mm-equivalent wideangle setting. Generally the camera is as fast and responsive as one could wish for. On top we also get a cleverly hidden folding pop-up flash, activated by a small switch to the right, and alongside a pair of stereo microphones. Next is a dedicated shutter speed dial, which in conjunction with the aperture ring makes it a cinch to use the LX15 in full manual mode. Adjacent to this dial is the aforementioned on/off switch. The raised shutter release button is ergonomically encircled by a rocker switch for operating the zoom. As indicated the zoom glides fairly leisurely through its range, taking just over three seconds to get from maximum wideangle to extreme telephoto. Tabbing back and forth it’s possible to be reasonably accurate with your framing.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15
Top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15

Just to the right of this is the recessed ‘one touch’ video record button that very usefully allows the user to be up and shooting video in a thrice no matter what other (non video) mode they might have selected on the adjacent dial. The LX15 offers both AVCHD video capture and MP4. Interestingly, if you want to shoot the maximum 4K video, then a switch to MP4 mode is required before you can implement that setting, with the choice of 30, 25 or 24 frames per second capture speed. You can also extract a still image from a 4K sequence via the dedicated 4K button on the rear of the camera, ending up with the equivalent of an 8 megapixel photo at 30fps – impressive!

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 is an intriguing prospect for would-be videographers, providing access as it does to the same creative exposure P,A,S,M modes selectable when shooting stills. You also get access to all the Photo Style and Creative Control modes when shooting video. ISO settings, white balance and AF tracking are also all accessible when shooting movies, while the normal bugbear of exterior location shoots is also dealt with thanks to a wind cut option. Happily, the full extent of the smooth and steady optical zoom can be accessed when shooting video, its mechanical operation quiet and minimally intrusive.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 has a time lapse function in which you can set the time interval and the number of images to take, plus a multi-exposure option that lets you combine up to four exposures in a single frame, while the Stop Motion Animation mode allows you to create unique stop motion videos. LX15 has wi-fi connectivity built-in, but not NFC or GPS, which is activated by pressing the Fn1 button during image playback. You can use your smartphone to change the camera settings (focus setting, exposure compensation, ISO, WB and Photo Styles) and even fire the shutter button remotely (including interval video recordings), while the auto transfer function automatically backs up your photos onto a tablet. You can also use GPS data from your smartphone to record the shooting location onto your images.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 In-hand

Underneath the Fn1/4K button on the rear of the camera is the Fn2/Post Focus button button and self-explanatory Playback button. Post Focus is a new function that enables users to select the in-focus area after shooting simply by touching it on the LCD screen. The new Post Focus Stacking function enables users to take multiple images of the same frame with different areas in focus, then combine all or selected focus areas into one image.

Just below this is a quartet of cross keys for tabbing through and selecting menu options, or scrolling through captured images, with a central menu/set button falling under the thumb in their midst. The top key of the quartet is for setting the exposure compensation, the right key is given over as a shortcut to accessing White Balance settings on the fly, the bottom key is for the LX15’s burst shooting and self-timer options, and on the left is a button providing instant access to the AF Area settings. Beneath this again we get the final two buttons on the camera back, for the self explanatory Display – a press of which turns of the operational icons or brings up a nine-zone compositional grid – and the multi-tasking Fn3/Delete/Quick Menu button.

While that’s it for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s backplate, the right hand side of the camera – when viewed from the rear – features a terminal door covering both HDMI (cable optional) and AV/USB out ports. There are also vacant lugs on the left and right hand flanks of the camera for attaching the provided wrist strap. The base of the camera meanwhile features an off-centre screw thread for attaching a tripod, the other under-side feature being the compartment housing the battery, good for around 260 shots from a single charge, and SD/SDHC/SDXC media cards.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 Review ImagePanasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 20 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 8Mb.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 produced images of excellent quality during the review period. It produces noise-free images at ISO 80 to 1600, with limited noise starting to appear at ISO 3200. ISO 6400 exhibits quite visible noise and loss of fine detail, and the fastest settings of ISO 12800 and 25600 are even noisier but still usable for small prints and web use.

The LX15 dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The pop-up flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate exposure. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 60 seconds allowing you to capture plenty of light.

Anti-shake is a feature that sets this camera apart from its competitors and one that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is very good, allowing you to focus as close as 3cm away from the subject (although it’s difficult to get the lighting correct at such a close distance). The new Post Focus and Focus Stacking functions both worked very well. The images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting if you don’t like the default results.

The large number of Creative Controls and Photo Styles allow you to quickly and easily customise the look of the camera’s JPEG images. We struggled to see any differences between the Intelligent Resolution settings, but Intelligent D-range is an effective feature for capturing more detail in the shadows and highlights, as is the HDR mode. The clever Panorama mode allows you to take panoramic images very easily by ‘sweeping’ with the camera, with the ability to optionally apply one of the creative filters.

Noise

There are 11 ISO settings available on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting for both JPEG and RAW file formats:

JPEG RAW

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)
   

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

ISO 25600 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s 3x zoom lens offers a fairly versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples.

24mm

 

72mm

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web – Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don’t like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 has 2 different JPEG image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Fine (7.84Mb) (100% Crop)

Standard (3.92Mb) (100% Crop)

   

RAW (22.5Mb) (100% Crop)

 
 

Chromatic Aberrations

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review. There’s very slight purple fringing between areas of high contrast, but it’s only noticeable on really close inspection, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 offers a macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 3cm away from the camera when the lens is set to 24mm wide-angle. This image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card).

Macro

Flash

The flash settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off – Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On – Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off – Telephoto (72mm)

Flash On – Telephoto (72mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Neither the Forced On or Forced On/Red-eye Reduction options caused any amount of red-eye.

Forced On

 

Forced On/Red-eye Reduction

Night

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s maximum shutter speed is 60 seconds, which is great news if you’re seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 125.

Night

Image Stabilisation

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 has an antishake mechanism which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with the stabilizer turned off, the second with it turned on. As you can see, with image stabilisation turned on, the images are sharper than when it’s turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Image Stabilisation Off (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation On (100% Crop)

1/15th / 24mm
     
1/15th / 72mm

Post Focus and Focus Stacking

Post Focus is a new function that enables users to select the in-focus area after shooting simply by touching it on the LCD screen. The first three images show the effects of switching between the three memory cards.

The new Post Focus Stacking function enables users to take multiple images of the same frame with different areas in focus, then combine all or selected focus areas into one image. The fourth image below shows the effect of merging the first three images into on stacked image.

Right

 

Middle

 

Left

 

Focus Stacking

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 – Post Focus from photographyblog on Vimeo.

Intelligent Resolution

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s Intelligent Resolution feature e makes a standard image look like a higher resolution one by processing the contour areas, texture areas and smooth areas individually, with three different strengths available and an Extended setting which extends the zoom range.

Off

Low

   

Standard

High

   

Extended Off

Extended On

Intelligent Dynamic

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s Intelligent Dynamic setting adjusts the exposure setting to record more detail in the highlights and shadows, with three strengths available – low, standard and high.

Off

Low

   

Standard

High

HDR

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s HDR setting automatically akes and combines three differently exposed shots to record more detail in the highlights and shadows, with three EV strengths available.

Off

+1EV

   

+2EV

+3EV

Aspect Ratios

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 offers four different aspect ratios.

4:3

1:1

   

16:9

3:2

Multiple Exposure

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15’s Multiple Exposure mode combines two or three different pictures to create one composite image.

Multiple Exposure

Photo Styles

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 has 6 preset Photo Styles, with Standard as the default setting. The contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction can be individually set for each picture style, and there is also a Custom style so that you can create your own look.

Standard

Vivid

   

Natural

Monochrome

   

Scenery

Portrait

Filters

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX15 has an extensive range of creative Filters with 22 different options on offer.

Expressive

Retro

   

Old Days

High Key

   

Low Key

Sepia

   

Monochrome

Dynamic Monochrome

   

Rough Monochrome

Silky Monochrome

   

Impressive Art

High Dynamic

   

Cross Process

Toy Effect

   

Toy Pop

Bleach Bypass

   

Miniature Effect

Soft Focus

   

Fantasy

Star Filter

   

One Point Color

Sunshine