Rob Clymo
21/11/2011 18:42 | By Rob Clymo, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 review

This quality compact is worth closer inspection - if you can get one for a good deal.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 (© Panasonic)

What is it?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 is a well designed, nicely laid out SLR replacement compact that offers a rich array of features, albeit for a high-ish price.

What's great
The LX5 feels like a quality compact camera, with an aesthetically pleasing design, plenty of manual controls but the simplicity of use that many point-and-shoot models come armed with.

What's not
No electronic viewfinder might leave some cold. While the menus and modes are easy to use some features, such as the exposure compensation, can be susceptible to mishandling if you're not quite up to speed.

The bottom line
Despite the quirky styling, this little Panny has its work cut out to grab your attention due to its costly price tag. Nevertheless, the lens delivers quality results, while the on-board controls offer a decent compromise between sophistication and ease of use. Worth buying if you can get it for a good deal.

While the LX5 is a spruced-up successor to the LX3, there is much to discover from this compact aside from its styling (which won't be to everyone's taste). The revised model offers an improved sensor that delivers increased dynamic range, while the user experience is much better thanks to revamped controls.

In fact, this is a camera that's noticeably easier to hold and use than its predecessor, with settings that fall neatly to hand and a lens that is ideally suited to a variety of shooting scenarios. Since it's a Panasonic, the build quality is dependably sturdy thanks to a metal body that feels like it'll stand the test of time. But it's also of a sufficiently compact nature to fit in pockets. We also like the padded leather effect that's present on the handgrip.

The LX5 is reasonably nippy when being powered up and the 10-megapixels, plus a Leica 3.8x optical zoom lens that features a 24mm wide-angle capability too, can be combined to get some highly impressive picture results.

RAW capability adds additional appeal and, even when working with large files, the performance of the Panny leaves a lasting positive impression. Around the back you'll find a three-inch LCD screen is satisfyingly up to scratch while the menus found inside are clear, concise and include some fun creative modes.

Anyone who likes to shoot HD video alongside their stills will find the video mode strong, and the optical zoom adds to the overall appeal by working without intruding on the action thanks to a quiet and slick operation. You can also transfer and view content easily thanks to the HDMI connectivity.

While there are more advanced features on this compact, it's perhaps the likes of the intelligent auto mode that will appeal to people who want a decent specification, but aren't yet ready to start mastering more complex manual controls.

Indeed, there are much less daunting visible controls here than many comparable models in this particular compact class. Picture quality is good, although push the ISO to the max and you'll start to see a few flaws.

The ability to swap image aspect ratios on the go is a really handy addition to the tools on offer and this can be done with an actual switch near the barrel of the lens. With practice you can swiftly pick from standard 4:3, 3:2 or the elongated 16:9 and the stress-free nature of making it happen really enhances the user experience of the LX5.

With the curiously monikered Venus Engine FHD inside the chassis, you can also expect improved low-light performance, something that may make you feel slightly happier about the admittedly quite high price tag. The Leica lens does help secure some pretty impressive shots, although the camera does struggle when presented with less than favourable conditions.

However, if you're prepared to coax optimum performance from the LX5 then you might find that it fits the bill, even though there's no electronic viewfinder and a few other idiosyncrasies, such as finicky exposure compensation controls, that do tend to make it work hard for attention alongside other SLR replacements of this ilk.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 is rated four stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets

Essential info
Megapixels: 10.1
Sensor: 1/1.63 type CCD Sensor
LCD: 3-inch, 460,000-dots
ISO: Auto, ISO 80-12800
Video: 1280 x 720 (30fps)
Memory cards: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Weight: 271g (inc battery)
Dimensions: 110mm x 66mm x 43 mm
Price: £460