DCRP

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Review

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

Record Mode

You'll wait for roughly 1.6 seconds while the LX5 extends its lens and prepares for shooting. That's about average.


A live histogram is available in record mode

Autofocus speeds were very good. At the wide end of the lens, you'll wait about 0.2 - 0.4 seconds for the camera to lock focus. Focus speeds at the telephoto position are about twice as long. You can help reduce these further by using the Pre AF feature that I'll discuss below, and keeping the focus mode switch set to regular AF (instead of AF macro) probably helps, too. Low light focusing was very good, with the LX5 locking focus accurately in around a second.

I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slow shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot delays are very brief. For JPEGs, you'll be able to take another picture after about one second without the flash, and three seconds with it. For RAW+JPEG, the delay was three seconds, though the camera can take the second shot a bit faster than that.

There is no quick way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.

Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the LX5. Since there are three different aspect ratios available, it's a very long list (though I've tried to simplify things a bit).

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality # images on 40MB onboard memory # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
4:3 10M
3648 x 2736
RAW + Fine JPEG 1 115
RAW + Standard JPEG 2 125
RAW 2 155
Fine 9 450
Standard 15 680
7M
3072 x 2304
Fine 12 560
Standard 20 900
5M
2560 x 1920
Fine 14 660
Standard 26 1180
3M
2048 x 1536
Fine 18 820
Standard 36 1610

2M
1600 x 1200

Fine 46 1980
Standard 88 3840
0.3M
640 x 480
Fine 230 10240
Standard 400 15360
3:2 9.5M
3776 x 2520
RAW + Fine JPEG 2 120
RAW + Standard JPEG 2 135
RAW 3 165
Fine 10 460
Standard 15 690
6.5M
3168 x 2112
Fine 12 560
Standard 20 910
4.5M
2656 x 1768
Fine 14 660
Standard 26 1180
3M
2112 x 1408
Fine 18 810
Standard 36 1570
2.5M
2048 x 1360
Fine 19 850
Standard 37 1660
0.3M
640 x 424
Fine 250 10240
Standard 400 15360
16:9 9M
3968 x 2232
RAW + Fine JPEG 2 130
RAW + Standard JPEG 2 145
RAW 3 180
Fine 10 470
Standard 15 710
6M
3328 x 1872
Fine 12 550
Standard 21 930
4.5M
2784 x 1440
Fine 14 640
Standard 26 1180
2.5M
2208 x 1248
Fine 18 800
Standard 35 1570
2M
1920 x 1080
Fine 42 1860
Standard 83 3610
0.2M
640 x 360
Fine 310 12290
Standard 470 20480
1:1 7.5M
2736 x 2736
RAW + Fine JPEG 2 150
RAW + Normal JPEG 3 170
RAW 4 200
Fine 12 580
Standard 20 900
5.5M
2304 x 2304
Fine 15 680
Standard 26 1180
3.5M
1920 x 1920
Fine 18 820
Standard 35 1570
2.5M
1536 x 1536
Fine 37 1660
Standard 74 3230
0.2M
480 x 480
Fine 310 12290
Standard 470 20480

That's quite a list, and I trimmed it down, too! You can take a RAW image along with a JPEG of any size, not just the largest size, as shown in the table. I explained the benefits of the RAW format earlier in the review. The 1:1 aspect ratio is a new addition to the LX5, allowing for cool "square" photos. I should add that not all of the image sizes listed in the table are available in the automatic shooting modes.

The Lumix DMC-LX5 has two ways of giving you extra zoom power without reducing the quality of your image (or in the case of one of the methods, not by much). The first way you can do it isn't new: it's called Extra Optical Zoom. By lowering the image size, you can get extra zoom power, with no loss in image quality. For example, by dropping down to 3 Megapixel -- which is still more than enough for most situations -- you then have a total of 6.7X zoom at your disposal.

The other method for extra zoom is called Intelligent Zoom, and it's new to the LX5. This is related to the Intelligent Resolution feature that I'll tell you about later, and it gives you a bit more zoom power with "no noticeable deterioration" in image quality, according to Panasonic. When Intelligent Zoom is on, you get a total zoom of 5X, at the full 10 Megapixel resolution. Here's an example:

Max optical zoom (3.8X)
View Full Size Image
Max optical zoom + Intelligent Zoom (5X)
View Full Size Image

If you're "pixel peeping" on your computer, it's hard to buy Panasonic's claim that there's no noticeable drop in image quality when using Intelligent Zoom. If you look closely at the trees, you'll see that there's more detail smudging when Intelligent Zoom is used. That said, if you're printing the photos or downsizing them for the Web, I seriously doubt that anyone will notice.

In case you're wondering, you can combine Expanded Optical Zoom and Intelligent Zoom, for a grand total of 26.8X zoom at the 3 Megapixel setting.

The Lumix LX5's menu system has been given a very subtle face lift, but it should still feel instantly familiar to those who have used other Panasonic cameras. It's fairly attractive and easy to navigate, though help screens for the various options would be nice. When you're taking pictures, the menu is divided into three tabs, covering recording, motion picture (movie), and setup options. Keeping in mind that not all of these options will be visible in every shooting mode, here's the full list:

Record Menu
  • Film mode (Standard, dynamic, nature, smooth, vibrant, nostalgic, standard black & white, dynamic black & white, smooth black & white, My Film 1/2, Multi Film) - see below
  • Picture size (see above chart)
  • Quality (see above chart)
  • Sensitivity (Auto, Intelligent ISO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800) - see below
  • ISO limit set (Auto, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) - you can set the maximum ISO that the camera will use in the Auto ISO modes
  • ISO increments (1/3EV, 1EV) - allows more precision when adjusting the sensitivity
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, shade, flash, incandescent, preset 1/2, color temperature) - see below
  • Face recognition (On, off, memory, set) - see below for these next three
  • AF mode (Face detection, AF tracking, 23-area, 1-area)
  • Pre-AF (Off, Quick AF, continuous AF)
  • AF/AE lock (AF only, AE only, AF/AE)
  • Metering mode (Multiple, center-weighted, spot)
  • Intelligent Exposure (Off, low, standard, high) - see below
  • Multiple exposure - combine up to three exposures into a single image; gain can be adjusted automatically or manually
  • Minimum shutter speed (Auto, 1/250 - 1 sec) - set the slowest shutter speed the camera will use before it increases the sensitivity
  • Burst (on/off) - see below
  • Intelligent Resolution (Off, low, standard, high) - see below
  • Intelligent zoom (on/off) - described above
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - this type of zoom reduces image quality and is best avoided
  • Step zoom (on/off) - when on, the zoom controller moves the lens in "steps", through common focal lengths (24, 28, 35, etc.)
  • Stabilizer (Off, auto, mode 1, mode 2) - see below
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
  • Flash synchro (1st, 2nd curtain)
  • Flash adjust (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
  • Redeye removal (on/off) - digital tool attempts to get rid of this annoyance as a photo is taken
  • Optical viewfinder (on/off)
  • Conversion lens (on/off)
  • Auto bracket (±1/3EV to ±3EV) - camera takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure
  • Aspect bracket (on/off) - used for an earlier example, this feature produces a photo at each aspect ratio with a single press of the shutter release
  • Clock set

Motion Picture Menu - showing the unique items only

  • REC mode (AVCHD Lite, Motion JPEG)
  • Rec quality
    • For AVCHD Lite (Super high, high, low)
    • For Motion JPEG mode (HD, WVGA, VGA, QVGA)
  • Continuous AF (on/off)
  • Wind cut (on/off) - useful for shooting outdoors

Setup Menu

  • Clock set
  • World time (Destination, home)
  • Travel date - the day and location of your trip get stored in the photo metadata
    • Travel setup (Off, set) - set the departure and return dates for your trip
    • Location (Off, set) - store your destination name
  • Beep
    • Beep level (Off, low, high)
    • Beep tone (1, 2, 3)
    • Shutter volume (Off, low, high)
    • Shutter tone (1, 2, 3)
  • Volume (0-6)
  • Custom setting memory - store up to four sets of camera settings into the two spots on the mode dial; the first spot holds one set, the second holds three
  • Custom setting memory (C1, C2-1, C2-2, C2-3) - you can save up to four sets of camera settings to the two dedicated spots on the mode dial
  • Function button set (Film mode, quality, metering, white balance, AF mode, Intelligent Exposure, guide lines, movie rec. area, remaining display, flash, auto bracket, aspect bracket) - what the "down" button on the four-way controller does
  • LCD mode (Off, Auto Power LCD, Power LCD) - Power LCD is great for shooting outdoors; the auto mode turns it on when needed
  • Display size (Standard, large) - size of the type in the menus
  • Guide lines - put a composition grid on the LCD
    • Rec info (on/off)
    • Pattern (3 x 3, complex, custom) - you can place your own guide lines!
  • Histogram (on/off) - live histogram for record mode
  • Movie rec. area (on/off) - whether a frame showing the video recording area is superimposed on the LCD
  • Remaining display (Photos, recording time) - which of these are shown on the LCD
  • Highlight (on/off) - whether overexposed areas of a photo are shown in post-shot review and playback mode
  • Lens resume
    • Zoom resume (on/off) - whether the lens returns to the last position used when the camera is powered on
    • MF resume (on/off) - whether the camera remembers the last manual focus position used
  • MF assist (Off, MF1, MF2) - configure the manual focus frame enlargement feature
  • Economy
    • Sleep mode (Off, 2, 5, 10 mins)
    • Auto LCD off (Off, 15, 30 secs)
  • Play on LCD (on/off) - when using the optional EVF, whether image playback is always on the main LCD
  • Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 2 sec, hold)
  • Start mode (Record, playback) - which mode the camera starts up in; you can also start up in playback mode without the lens extending by holding down the playback button while you hit the power switch
  • File number reset
  • Camera reset
  • USB mode (Select on connection, PictBridge/PTP, PC)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect (16:9, 4:3)
  • HDMI mode (Auto, 1080i, 720p, 576p/480p)
  • Viera Link (on/off) - whether you can control your camera using your TV remote when connected to a compatible HDTV
  • m/ft (Meters, feet) - for the manual focus distance guide
  • Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you turn the mode dial to the scene mode position
  • Menu resume (on/off) - whether camera returns to the last menu item used
  • User's name recorded (Off, on, set) - you can store the camera user's name in the metadata of a photo
  • Version display - shows current firmware version
  • Format
  • Language
  • Demo mode


Adjusting a film mode

Lots to talk about here, and I'll start with the Film Mode feature. Film Modes are preset groups of color and sharpness settings, which can be tweaked further, if you wish. Here's what's available on the LX5:

Film mode Description
Standard Default setting
Dynamic Increased saturation and contrast
Nature Brighter reds, greens, and blues
Smooth Lower contrast
Vibrant Dynamic on steroids
Nostalgic Low saturation and contrast, like a faded print
Standard B&W Default black and white setting
Dynamic B&W Increased contrast
Smooth B&W "Smooths the picture without losing skin texture"
My Film 1/2 Your own settings
Multi Film Bracket for up to three Film Modes

For each of the film modes, you can adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction. The memory option you see above lets you save the current film mode to one of those two My Film spots. The Multi Film option lets you bracket for up to three Film Modes with a single press of the shutter release.

I want to quickly mention the Intelligent ISO feature, which is always on in Intelligent Auto mode, and optional in the other shooting modes. The camera will take a look at what's going on in the frame, and adjust the sensitivity accordingly. If there's nothing happening, it will only boost the ISO enough to produce a sharp photo. However, if the subject is in motion, it'll boost it even higher, in order to "freeze" their motion. You can select the maximum ISO the camera will use (in some shooting modes), and I'd keep it at ISO 400 for best results.

Setting the color temperature Fine-tuning and bracketing white balance -- at the same time

The LX5 has pretty extensive white balance controls. The usual presets are all available, though Panasonic seems to have an aversion to putting a fluorescent option on their cameras. There are two slots for storing a custom WB setting, which is obtained by using a white or gray card. You can also set the color temperature manually, with a range of 2500K to 10000K. Need more control? Each of the WB settings can be fine tuned in the amber/blue and green/magenta direction. If that's still not enough, you can also bracket for white balance, with the camera taking three photos, each with a different WB setting. Want to fine-tune and bracket at the same time? No problem!

The four focus point sizes (and also notice that I've moved the focus point a little to the left) The LX5 locked onto five of the six faces here

Let's talk about autofocus modes now. The LX5 has several to choose from, including 23-point, 1-point, face detection, and AF tracking. In 1-point mode, you can position the focus point anywhere in the frame, and select one of four possible sizes. In face detection mode, the camera will find up to 15 faces in the frame, making sure they're properly focused and exposed. And, using the face recognition feature, the LX5 can "learn" who people are, giving them priority when multiple faces are present. You can attach the name and age of the person to their "profile", which is then saved into the metadata of photos in which they appear. I found that the face detection system worked very well, with the camera detecting five or six (out of six) faces in our test scene. The AF tracking feature allows you to point the camera at a subject, press a button, and then the camera will follow them as they move around the frame.

Two other AF-related items can be found in the Pre-AF menu option. When continuous AF (C-AF) is selected, the camera will be focusing at all times. Quick AF (Q-AF) only starts the focusing when the "jitter" of the camera is reduced, like when you're composing a photo. Both of these modes will reduce focus delays, though they will put an extra strain on your battery.

The Intelligent Exposure feature automatically brightens the shadow areas of your photos. There are three levels to choose from on the LX5, or you can turn it off entirely (which is the default in most shooting modes). In most situations, the IE feature doesn't do a whole lot. However, put it in a "torture test" situation like the one below, and you'll get some results.

Off
View Full Size Image
Low IE
View Full Size Image
Medium IE
View Full Size Image
High IE
View Full Size Image

There's a very obvious bump in shadow brightness when you go from "off" to "low". There's an additional improvement when you go to "medium", but above that, I don't see a major difference. Do note that noise levels may increase when using this feature. On an unrelated note, there's some pretty strong purple fringing in the upper-left of the photo, regardless of the Intelligent Exposure setting.

Now it's time to talk about the LX5's burst mode. There's just one speed on this camera: regular. Here's what kind of performance you can expect:

Quality setting Performance
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 3 shots @ 2.5 fps
RAW
Large/Fine JPEG
Large/Normal JPEG 5 shots @ 2.5 fps
Tested with a SanDisk Class 6 SDHC card

The burst mode was nothing to write home about on the LX3, and nothing's changed on the LX5. The burst rate isn't bad, but the buffer fills up very quickly, as you can see. When the buffer is full, the camera doesn't keep shooting at a slower rate -- it just stops. I noticed that it took around 9 seconds before you could take more photos when shooting RAW+JPEG -- the other modes were faster. There are quicker burst modes on the camera (in the scene menu) but, as I mentioned, there are many compromises.

That brings us to Intelligent Resolution, one of the other new features on the LX5. In layman's terms, IR is intelligent image sharpening. The camera looks for three parts of an image: edges, textures, and soft gradation areas, and sharpens each differently. There are three levels of Intelligent Resolution to choose from (plus "off"), and the default setting is "low". Below is an example, but you're going to want to view the full size images to really see what's going on.

Intelligent Resolution Off
View Full Size Image
Low Intelligent Resolution
View Full Size Image
Standard Intelligent Resolution
View Full Size Image
High Intelligent Resolution
View Full Size Image

The word "subtle" is quite appropriate here. There is a increase in sharpness in the trees and hillside, but you have to look pretty closely to see it. In the full size image, you'll find that the edge sharpening is more obvious (look at the top of the hill).

There are three image stabilization modes to choose from on the DMC-LX5. Mode 1 activates OIS as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release button, so you can compose the shot without any camera shake. For more effective stabilization, you'll want to use mode 2. It doesn't activate OIS until the photo is actually taken, which does a better job at reducing shake. There's also an auto mode, which picks the best mode based on the situation. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if the camera is on a tripod.

Alright, enough about menus, let's talk about photo quality now, shall we?

The Lumix DMC-LX5 did a nice job with our standard macro test subject. There's a slight "warm" color cast here, and if it's enough to bother you, the camera's numerous white balance tuning tools should correct it. The subject is nice and sharp, with plenty of detail. I don't see any noise here, nor would I expect to.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 1 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto. Unlike most cameras, there's no dedicated macro button on the camera -- you have to flip the AF mode switch on the side of the lens to turn it on.

Our night test scene turned out fairly well, though it's quite a bit wider than you're probably used to, since even with its more powerful lens, the telephoto end of the focal range is only 90 mm. With manual shutter speed controls, the camera can bring in enough light for a proper exposure. The LX5's night scene mode is smart enough to detect when you're using a tripod, and will use slower shutter speeds when it does so. There's not much to complain about here: highlight clipping is low, there's not much noise, and the only fringing of the cyan variety, and very minor.

Now, let's use the same night scene to see how the LX5 performs at higher ISOs. Unfortunately some of the higher ISO shots came out a bit dark, and was unable to reshoot them (we've had a rather foggy summer). I didn't bother including the ISO 6400 and 12800 shots here because, well, they're awful.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Not surprisingly, there's very little difference between the ISO 80 and 100 photos. At ISO 200, noise becomes more noticeable, though it won't hold you back. The ISO 400 isn't much worse, and is still quite usable for small and midsize prints. Unfortunately my ISO 800 photos came out dark, but you can see that there's quite a bit of detail loss visible, so this is probably a good stopping point -- and definitely shoot RAW for best results. The detail smudging continues to worsen at ISO 1600 and 3200, so I'd pass on these -- even shooting RAW didn't help that much.

Instead of doing a RAW vs JPEG comparison using the above night scene, I'm going to show you another photo I took with the LX5, taken at ISO 400.

ISO 400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.2) + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

This shot, of San Francisco's beautiful City Hall, shows you the pretty substantial advantage of shooting RAW at higher sensitivities. Significant amounts of detail are restored, and colors are much more pleasing (compare the gold adornments for one example). The sky isn't mottled in the RAW conversion, though it shows a bit of noise instead (which I think most people would prefer).

I'll do another ISO comparison in a moment.

Panasonic's cameras have struggled with our redeye test recently, but not the LX5, which passed with flying colors. The camera can use both a pre-flash to shrink your subject's pupils as well as digital removal after the shot is taken to get rid of this annoyance. And that it did!

There are mild-to-moderate levels of barrel distortion at the wide end of the LX5's 24 - 90 mm lens (see the building on the right in this photo for an example). Panasonic uses software correction to reduce distortion in JPEGs, so it will likely be worse in RAW images. The test chart shows no vignetting (dark corners). I did notice some mild corner blurring (see top-left here and bottom-left here), which is a bit surprising to see on a high-end Panasonic camera.

Now let's do our studio ISO test. Since this one is taken under the same conditions every time, you can compare it with other cameras I've reviewed over the years. In fact, I'll do that in just a moment. Remember that the crops below only show a small portion of the test scene, so be sure to give them a click to see the full size versions!


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

The first three crops are very clean, with just a slight amount of noise at ISO 200. At ISO 400 the image gets a bit softer, and noise reduction artifacting is a bit more noticeable, but still, very nice. Even with additional noise reduction artifacting and a small drop in color saturation at ISO 800, the photo is still usable for midsize and probably even large prints. When you hit ISO 1600, details start to go south, so I'd stop here, and save it for small prints. ISO 3200 has quite a bit of detail loss, so I'd pass on that one, unless you're using RAW (see below). And let's be honest, the two low resolution (3 Megapixel) ISO 6400 and 12800 settings are only there to sound good in the press release. And for the record, I would say that the LX5's JPEGs look a lot better than those taken with the LX3, wouldn't you?

Before I compare the LX5 against the Canon PowerShot S95, I want to see what kind of gains can be had by shooting RAW in this test. Can that ISO 3200 shot be saved? Let's find out:

ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.2)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.2)


RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

The photos really illustrate two important points. First, there is much to be gained by shooting RAW -- you gain back a lot of detail, and the color is a lot more pleasing. Heck, even the ISO 3200 photo is now usable for small prints. Second, it shows that LX5's JPEGs don't show the true potential of the camera (which is an issue on most prosumer cameras). Panasonic applies quite a bit of noise reduction at high ISOs, and while you can turn it down, the RAW images will almost certainly look better.

You're probably tired of looking at photos of hot sauce, but I'm going to show you them a few more times. In the examples below, I'm comparing the JPEG quality of the LX5 and its arch rival, the Canon PowerShot S95, at ISO 800, 1600, and 3200. Some of you are probably saying "wait, why aren't you comparing the RAW images?", and the reason is that I don't have one program that can convert the files from both cameras, so the playing field would still be uneven.

I will admit that I did look at the RAW conversions of the ISO 1600 images using Photoshop for the LX5 and Digital Photography Professional for the S95, and it's a real toss-up. Since I'm feeling generous, I've provided the original RAW files for your downloading pleasure, so you can play around with them at your leisure. Here we go:

ISO 800

Canon PowerShot S95
Download RAW file

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Download RAW file
 
ISO 1600

Canon PowerShot S95
Download RAW file

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Download RAW file
 
ISO 3200

Canon PowerShot S95
Download RAW file

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Download RAW file

The thing that jumps out the most to me in in this comparison is the difference in color saturation. To my eyes, the Canon photos are more saturated and pleasing. In terms of noise, it's really a close call. I think the PowerShot S95 retains a tiny bit more detail than the LX5, but I think that by shooting RAW and post-processing you could probably close the gap entirely.

Overall, the LX5's image quality impressed me quite a bit. It definitely produces some of the best photos of any compact camera on the market right now. That's not to say it's perfect, of course. Exposure was generally spot on, though the LX5 will clip highlights at times. Colors look great -- everything is nice and saturated. I should mention that in iAuto mode you can turn on "happy mode", which further saturates things. While image sharpness was generally very nice, I did find that the camera was a bit too aggressive with noise reduction on low contrast subjects (this example really stands out to me). There were a few other occasions where some items in a photo were noticeable softer than everything else (example), for no apparent reason. In general, though, noise levels were very low all the way through ISO 800 and, as I illustrated earlier, shooting RAW and doing some simply post-processing can squeeze more detail and better color (especially in artificial light) out of the LX5's photos. Purple fringing did pop up here and there, but really only in extreme circumstances.

Now, I invite you to hop over to our extensive LX5 photo gallery. View the full size images, print a few if you'd like, and then hopefully you'll be able to decide if the LX5's image quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The movie mode has been enhanced considerably on the DMC-LX5. While the old LX3 could record 720p video, the frame rate was 24 fps, and recording stopped after just ten minutes. The LX5 uses the AVCHD Lite codec, which allows for much longer recording times. Well, except in Europe, where recording stops one second before you hit the 30 minute mark. The camera records video at 1280 x 720 at 60 interlaced frames per second (though the sensor is only outputting 30 fps) with Dolby Digital (monaural) sound. You have three bit rates to choose from: 9, 13, and 17 Mbps, which allows you to control the file size and thus, the amount of video you can fit on your memory card. At the highest quality setting, 30 minutes of video will fill up a 4GB memory card. Panasonic recommends using a Class 6 or higher SDHC card when recording HD video.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, AVCHD Lite video is more difficult to edit on your PC than other video codecs. If you want to use something that's easier to edit and share, then you can always switch over to the Motion-JPEG codec. The downside is that the file size is limited to 2GB, which you'll hit in just 8 minutes. You can drop the resolution, however, to 848 x 480, 640 x 480, or 320 x 240, allowing for smaller files and thus longer recording times. The frame rate is 30 fps for all of the available resolutions.

There have been some other big changes compared to the LX3. They include:

  • Full use of the optical zoom while recording: the lens moves slowly and quietly.
  • Manual controls: when in "creative motion picture mode", you can adjust the aperture (F2.0 - F18, depending on the focal length), shutter speed (1/30 - 1/20000 sec), or both.
  • Dedicated recording button: you can be in any shooting mode to take a video -- just press the red button on the top of the camera
  • Wind Cut filter: reduces noise when shooting outdoors (I'm pretty sure the LX3 didn't have this).
  • Intelligent Auto: the camera can select a scene mode, detect faces, brighten shadows, and more
  • My Colors and Film modes available: for creative movie recording.

One thing that hasn't changed is that the optical image stabilizer can be used during movie recording. I showed you an example of its effectiveness way back in the tour section of this review.

I have two sample movies for you in this review. The first was taken with the AVCHD Lite codec and converted with Handbrake. I found that the color is more saturated in the original version of the video (at least in VLC), which you can download below. Movie number two was recorded using the M-JPEG codec and shows some vertical streaking toward the end of the clip. Be warned, these are big downloads!


Click to play movie (18.8 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, converted to QuickTime/H.264 format)
Download original MTS file (34.7 MB)


Click to play movie (39.3 MB, 1280 x 720, 30 fps, QuickTime/M-JPEG format)

Playback Mode

Playback mode Category play

The DMC-LX5's playback menu is split up into two parts. First up is the playback mode menu, which lets you select from normal, sequential image playback, slideshows (with transitions and music), mode play (stills, AVCHD Lite movies, or M-JPEG movies), and category play. This last option sorts images by the scene mode in which they were taken, or if there were faces recognized. When viewing photos you can zoom in up to 8X, and then scroll around the enlarged image. You can use the control dial to move from photo-to-photo while retaining the same zoom and location setting. Naturally, a thumbnail view of your photos is also available.

Playback menu Calendar view

In the more traditional menu, you'll find a calendar view of your photos (above right), plus old standards like DPOF print marking, "favorite" tagging, and image protection. Editing features include resizing, cropping, and leveling (and boy, do I need that one sometimes). There's no way to remove redeye in playback mode, so make sure you have that feature turned on in the record menu! The LX5 has a rather elaborate text stamp feature, allowing you to print a name, location, travel date, and title, in addition to the date and time that the photo was taken.

Tools for movies include a new video divide feature, which lets you trim unwanted footage from a clip. You can also grab a frame from a video by pausing it during playback, and then pressing the Menu/Set button.

The camera lets you delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all -- a feature I always appreciate. Lastly, as you'd expect, you can copy images between the internal memory and a memory card.

By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. However, you can press the display button and see a bit more info, including a histogram.

The LX5 moves from photo-to-photo without delay.

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