Clarkson Station

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For a while I’ve been looking for a good carry-around P&S digital camera for quick snapshots when I don’t want to lug the D70s around. So after doing a lot of research, I ended up getting a second-hand Panasonic Lumix LX2, and have been having a good time playing with it. The LX2 is a 2006 model and has received its fair share of criticism, most notably about the sensor noise. Here is a mini-review based on my own experience with the LX2 to date:

  • The LX2 does indeed have a lot of sensor noise, but it has a big sensor relative to other P&S digital cameras. (I’d hate to see what a camera with an even smaller sensor would provide.) In any case, even at ISO 100, the image quality is noticeably inferior to my Nikon D70s at ISO 800 or 1600.
  • What you lose in image quality, you gain in convenience. The LX2 is small and easily fits in my briefcase.
  • Optical image stabilization (OIS) is great and does better than I’d expect. The image above had something like a 1/4 sec shutter speed (it’s not pixel-sharp by any means, but is more than usable).
  • Manual over-rides are great. This camera has a P-M-A-S control dial that would be instantly familiar to any Nikon or Canon SLR user, and using it in aperture-priority or manual mode is easy.
  • The lens quality is quite good — it is Leica, after all — and the 28mm wide end is indispensable. I am a big wide-angle fan, so this feature was essential to me. Panasonic has the market almost completely cornered on wide-angle P&S digital cameras (very few other manufacturers sell P&S models with a 28mm-equivalent lens).
  • RAW mode is very handy and the image quality it gives is superior to what the in-camera JPEG engine provides. That said, using RAW mode is slow. Come to think of it, the camera’s entire operation (start-up, reviewing pictures, etc.) is very slow relative to the Nikon D70s.
  • It consumes power like crazy. The D70s battery will last several days of busy shooting on a single charge, while the LX2 seems to need a near-daily top-up, even when snapshooting. The live preview can be blamed for that.

Jim Radcliffe has a great gallery of images taken with the LX2 (actually the Leica D-Lux 3, which is the identical camera with a Leica brand, red dot and $200 price premium) that really shows its capabilities. All in all, I like the LX2 and am glad I bought it, though I wouldn’t abandon my D70s for it, nor would I likely have been willing to buy it at full (new retail) price either. I’m looking forward to taking it out for some full-sun, ISO 100, RAW-mode shooting very soon, and will also be interested to see whether Panasonic’s successor — the “LX3” that is often speculated-on but has not yet been announced — can improve on some of its limitations.

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