That’s right: Panasonic has, for the first time in its history, named one of its Lumix cameras a “Mark II” model. Therefore you’re not looking at the LX200, or some other obscure number of naming mechanism, rather the LX100 M2.
The sequel to 2014’s high-end compact, the LX100 Mark 2 takes the original model’s form, adds a grip, a touchscreen, some additional modes and controls (such as 4K Photo/video) and, well, that’s about it.
Of course, being the LX model, the M2 features a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is massive by almost any compact camera sensor’s standards. And as this sensor is the very same as found in the Lumix GX9, expect the utmost quality from this pairing with the fixed 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 lens.
Ahead of its official unveiling we got to spend an afternoon in London to test out the new camera. Is it the high-end compact to beat all others?
- New: USB charging
- New: Chunkier front grip
- New: Touchscreen control
- New: Bluetooth & Wi-Fi connectivity
- New: Effects, Monochrome, 4K Photo/Video
- New: Starlight autofocus, up to 30mins exposure
Any LX100 owner will take one look at the LX100-2 and notice that they’re rather similar. The footprint is the same, as is the lens and general layout, with only the front grip being a prominent new addition.
There is a lot more going on behind the scenes though. The most prominent of which is the addition of a touchscreen for touch-based controls, which we felt was missing from the original model. Sadly there’s no vari-angle screen bracket, though, which is a real shame.
Elsewhere there’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity to bring the camera up to date for rapid sharing between devices. New effects, filters, 4K Photo (which you can read about here), monochrome and low-light/starlight autofocus also feature.
The battery is also charged via USB, which is a potentially good idea with a bit of a flaw: as no charging cradle is included for mains charging, there’s no way to easily charge up a reserve battery, and USB-based charging is currently too slow in all cameras that we’ve seen.
Features & Performance
- 24-75mm f/1.7-2.8 equivalent lens (not interchangeable)
- High-speed burst shooting to 11fps (5.5 fps in continuous AF)
- 3-inch LCD screen, 1240k-dot resolution, touchscreen controls
- 0.38-inch LCD viewfinder, 2760k-dot resolution, 0.7x equivalent magnification
- Full range of physical controls: shutter speed dial, aperture dial, exposure compensation dial
- Fast autofocus: Up to 0.10 sec; multiple AF area modes (including Pinpoint, 1 Area, Zones and 49 point max)
That’s the new stuff done and dusted, so just what is the LX100 Mark II like in use?
Well, it’s crammed out with plenty of top-spec features. Its style is very much all hands on deck, like a lot of current Fujifilm cameras, by including physical aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation dials. There’s no ISO dial, which is instead controlled from within the menu settings. And if you want the camera to do everything, then selecting the little red ‘A’ on each dial will set things to automatic (or aperture/shutter/ISO priority as you please).
As we said of the original LX100, the Mark 2 has a great lens on board. It’s a 24-75mm equivalent, with a lens control ring for focus or zoom. The toggle around the shutter button can also be used to zoom, although we find it rather slow to progress from wide-angle to maximum tele. The position of the aspect ratio switch – which can toggle between 3:2, 16:9, 1:1 and 4:3 – is still too tight to the camera’s body, though, which feels like a lost opportunity (we feel the Mark II should have a few more design nips and tucks overall).
The built-in viewfinder and screen are solid implementions of their type, too, although don’t receive the boldest of upgrades. There is touchscreen control, which makes it ultra simple to adjust focus points and make feature selections, but the screen lacks a vari-angle bracket. The viewfinder, meanwhile, is a large 0.38in (0.7x equiv. magnification here) LCD panel, which adds eye-level AF for rapid activation with autofocus ready to go.
Speaking of autofocus, the LX100 M2 is every bit a Panasonic: i.e. it’s fast, there’s a bundle of focus points, and lots of customisation available. From the full 49 points, to zones, 1 Area AF, or even Pinpoint (crosshair focus which zooms in to 100 per cent scale for precision focus), all bases are covered – just as if this camera were a Lumix G-series interchangeable.
- 17-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor (no low-pass filter)
- Multi-aspect ratio (3:2, 16:9, 1:1, 4:3 options)
- Macro: to 3cm from lens (at 24mm equiv.)
Having wandered the streets of east London to snap away at various opportunities, we’ve been able to explore the LX100-2’s multi-aspect sensor. This is a rarity for Panasonic: the company introed a multi-aspect sensor in the Lumix G2, which then disappeared for its follow-up, while the LX100 brought back this much-admired feature. The idea is simple: the sensor is oversized, able to deliver a constant diagonal field of view at all its aspect ratios, without the auto cropping that you often see in other cameras (especially with 4K video mode in most competitors).
The real sell from this sensor is, we feel, its overall size. It might be ‘oversized’ depending on the aspect ratio that you pick, but relative to its lens there’s always good sharpness, while the base being the same as found in the Lumix GX9 brings results right up to speed for a 2018 market.
The majority of our shots were taken at the minimum ISO 200 (still no ISO 100!), presenting natural colours, ample detail, and well-considered exposures throughout. A major part of a camera such as this is the aperture control: with f/1.7 selected (it won’t remain active beyond 24mm, though, and the camera will only warn you this by displaying settings in red, but it won’t stop shooting, instead stopping down automatically) there’s a huge amount of background blur at your fingertips. That’s the great thing about a larger aperture (which, incidentally, is constructed of nine blades for softer, more rounded bokeh) and a large sensor.
Beyond the lower ISO sensitivities, the LX100 Mark II continues to cope well. Shooting ISO 800 through a tunnel, we were able to capture colourful graffiti on brickwork. Upping the settings to ISO 1600, where we shot a diving helmet through a shop window, and the results is still clear, despite some slight image noise visible in certain darker tonal areas.
While some large sensor compact cameras have terrible close-up focus possibilities, the Lumix LX100-2 copes incredible well, offering up to 3cm-from-lens focus (when shooting at the wide-angle 24mm setting). There’s a specific Macro AF switch to the side of the lens which allows this focusing to occur without issue, meaning we could capture the detail of a garlic clove or orange peel extremely close, presenting each with ample detail. Keeping the aperture a little stopped down ought to help yet more with the detail.
Another major new feature (well, new for this camera anyway, not Lumix in general) is the addition of 4K Photo. This mode can capture 4K resolution at 30 frames per second in a variety of ways: press-and-hold for capture; press to start/stop capture; or select pre-burst which captures a two second capture before you’ve even pressed the shutter (to not miss a moment). There are some fun features in 4K Photo, like compositing multiple exposures, layering frames for post focus adjustment (for shots on a tripod/from a fixed camera), or single frame selection and extraction.
Despite 4K’s benefits, however, it’s not a visible mode on the camera itself (by default it’s on the Fn button). Once activated it’s far too easy to forget it’s on, which is irksome. And the more advanced adjustments it offers are a little too deeply buried within the menus to be of immediate and therefore obvious use. In short: for a camera like the LX100-2, 4K Photo’s implementation means it feels too buried to be as big a feature as billed.
The Panasonic Lumix LX100 Mark II is a tale of two halves: it’s a soft update to what is a belting high-end compact camera. By which we mean we love it, but its improvements are fairly subtle, especially considering the four year turnaround period since the original model.
Yes, we’ve got added toucshcreen, which is great. But where’s the tilt-angle LCD screen or viewfinder? Is USB charging a true step forward? Are some additional shooting modes and filters all enough? Ultimately, existing LX100 users may not see a heap of reasons to upgrade their current camera to the newer generation.
Newcomers, however, can rest assured that the LX100 Mk2 represents one of the finest high-end compact cameras money can buy. The sensor is massive, the lens is excellent, the performance is brill, and the price is right against its competition too. At £849 it’s not back-pocket change by any means, but that certainly sets the LX100-2 in good stead against the Sony RX100 and Canon G1 X MkIII.