"A serious photographer's camera in a small package," Imaging-Resource.com calls the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. Its retro, rangefinder-style body isn't just a pretty face: It delivers terrific photos and videos, with full manual controls for hard-core photographers and a terrific auto mode for beginners. Then again, so does the Canon PowerShot G15 (*Est. $460) -- plus a longer zoom (5x versus 3.8x), more megapixels (12 versus 10) and an optical viewfinder you won't find on the Panasonic. Overall, critics say the Best Reviewed Canon G15 is the better pick.
Pocketable, with great controls -- but no viewfinder. Slightly shorter and thicker than the Canon G15, the Panasonic LX7 will "fit into a biggish pocket," says Shawn Barnett at Imaging-Resource.com. Testers appreciate its nice-sized, rubberized grip.
There's plenty of room for real buttons and dials. You can twist the lens ring to set aperture -- the intuitive method you'll find on pro-style digital SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras. Two "User" modes let you save your own favorite settings right to the mode dial on top for quick access. Full manual controls (just like the Canon G15) have pro reviewers salivating.
Beginners are covered, too. "If you're a 'set it and forget it' kind of person, then look no further than Panasonic's great Intelligent Auto mode," say the experts at DPReview.com. "It literally takes care of everything for you, whether it's picking a scene mode, avoiding blur, handling back-lit situations, or intelligently sharpening an image."
Unlike the Canon, there's no optical viewfinder (you can buy an add-on electronic viewfinder for an extra $225). You'll be framing your shots on the 3-inch LCD screen. Luckily, it's "gorgeous," Barnett says, and other experts agree -- high-res, with terrific contrast and color. But Mark Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com says "you will still find yourself squinting and cupping a hand around it in bright sunlight, so the optional DMW-LVF2 viewfinder is a wise investment."
Terrific photos and video mode. It may boast fewer megapixels and a shorter zoom than the top-rated Canon, but critics like the Panasonic LX7's image quality almost as well. "Excellent photos," DPReview.com says: sharp, well-exposed, with nice colors, although the built-in flash causes redeye. Goldstein gets "dreamy out-of-focus backgrounds" in his test at PhotographyBlog.com, and the LX7 quells hand shake like a champ when Barnett cranes around spectators to shoot a U.S. Open tennis match for Imaging-Resource.com.
Low light is no problem; the LX7 cranks out a nice 8-by-10-inch print even at ISO 1,600, Barnett says. Thank the sensible 10-megapixel count and the very bright lens (the maximum wide-angle f/1.4 aperture lets in a lot of light).
The LX7 reacts snappily in almost every way -- autofocus, shutter lag, burst shooting (11 frames per second) -- except for zoom, DPReview.com says. "The lens moves at a snail's pace," which "can be very annoying."
Video mode is terrific, though. Full 1080p HD video looks great -- better than most rivals, one prominent source says -- and unlike the autopilot-only Canon G15, you get lots of manual control over your video (to adjust things like ISO and white balance to your liking). You can tweak the look of your video with Creative Control effects, too (discussed in Features).
Battery life is rated at 330 shots per charge, which is good for the class, DPReview.com says.
Metal body is mostly sturdy. Reviewers like the Panasonic LX7's mostly metal build. Although it's not judged quite as rock-solid as the Canon G15, the Panasonic draws few durability complaints. "Build quality is good in most respects," except for the "flimsy door over the battery/memory card compartment," say the experts at DPReview.com. One Amazon.com owner says, "The camera feels dense and sturdy overall, expect for some of the top buttons which I'm afraid could be bumped off." A customer at BHPhotoVideo.com says, "Construction, as with its predecessor, is excellent. I have already had a serious bump and scrape against pavement with the LX7, which resulted in a scrape on top of the camera, but no function problems."
Extras include a hot shoe and in-camera panorama. The Panasonic LX7 has a hot shoe for an external flash (plus a pop-up flash), but no optical viewfinder. Zoom is 3.8x, a little anemic for this class. On the other hand, the LX7 can shoot very wide angle (24 mm versus 28 mm for most rivals), so you can capture more of the scene. Like its rivals, the LX7 can shoot both JPEG and RAW files, giving you maximum editing control.
Extra features abound. You get the usual ones -- High Dynamic Range and Handheld Night Scene (both of which combine multiple exposures to create a single great shot), plus 16 Creative Control effects (to make your shot look Retro, Sepia, Miniature, etc.).
The Panasonic also adds 3D shooting and in-camera panorama, both features the Canon lacks. The panorama feature "will let you 'sweep' the camera from side-to-side, with an automatically stitched panorama arriving a few seconds later," says Jeff Keller at DPReview.com. "Unfortunately, all of my panoramas had vertical banding in them, which I hope Panasonic can fix via firmware update."
Like others in its class, the Panasonic LX7 has a USB port to hook up to a computer, and an HDMI port to attach to an HDTV.
Review Credibility: Excellent DPReview.com puts the Panasonic LX7 through its usual exhaustive testing process and bestows its Silver Award. It's "a first-rate camera that I can highly recommend," Jeff Keller says, but a few flaws keep it behind the Gold Award-winning Canon PowerShot G15.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Review, Jeff Keller and editors of DPReview.com, September 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good After a full test, Mark Goldstein tags the Panasonic LX7 "Highly Recommended." With snappy performance and great photo quality, it would have been the site's top pick among premium compact cameras, he says -- if not for the new Sony Cyber-shot RX100, which is even better.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Review, Mark Goldstein, Aug. 13, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Imaging-Resource.com mostly reviews DSLRs, but they do subject some smaller cameras to the same painstaking tests. The Panasonic LX7 passes easily, stacking up nicely against rivals from Canon, Nikon and Sony in side-by-side shooting tests.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins and Zig Weidelich, Nov. 6, 2012
Review Credibility: Good ConsumerReports.org's camera reviews aren't as detailed as the dedicated photo sites'. Write-ups are brief, and you won't find any sample photos here. Still, testers do evaluate the major features -- photo and video quality, flash photos, LCD quality and ease of use -- and ConsumerReports.org doesn't take any freebies or advertising to keep its judgments as bias-free as possible.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Review Credibility: Fair The Panasonic LX7 gets excellent reviews from owners here. With about 100 reviews posted, almost all give it at least 3 stars -- and the vast majority gives it 4 or a perfect 5 stars. Some of the reviews are lengthy, with detailed lists of pros and cons.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7K 10.1 MP Digital Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of February 2013
Review Credibility: Fair About 90 owners have reviewed the Panasonic LX7 here, awarding it about 4.6 out of 5 stars overall. It earns praise for its pocketable size, comfortable controls and excellent photo and video quality.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 Digital Camera (Black), Contributors to BHPhotoVideo.com, As of February 2013