Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC1
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 18, 2004
May 18, 2004
a camera could be deemed worthy on looks alone, the Panasonic
Lumix DMC-LC1 gets a perfect score from this review. Its
body reminds you of the great Leica film cameras of old. The
old design has been brought into the digital age, and old favorites
like manual focus, zoom, and aperture rings have come along for
the ride. You also get an F2.0-2.4, 3.2X Leica zoom lens, a 5
Megapixel CCD, manual
controls, a hot shoe, and more.
of this comes at a price -- $1599 -- making the LC1 a bit of
a "boutique camera". It gets worse, though. There's
a Leica equivalent (reviewed at DP
Review) that costs even more -- a whopping $1799!
that you can buy a 5MP camera with similar features for about
1/3 the price of the LC1, it had better be darn good to be worth
the extra cash. Is it? Find out in our review!
in the Box?
DMC-LC1 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
5.0 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-LC1 camera
Secure Digital card
adapter / battery charger
featuring ArcSoft Camera Suite and USB drivers
page manual (printed)
otherwise super-excellent bundle is ruined a bit by Panasonic's
inclusion of a 16MB SD card with the camera. This card won't
hold many 5 Megapixel photos, so consider a larger card a must-buy.
I'd recommend 256MB as a good place to start. The camera can
use both SD and MMC memory cards, though the former is recommended
for capacity and performance reasons.
LC1 uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery to provide power.
The included CGA-S602A battery has a very impressive 10 Wh of
energy, which translates to 180 minutes of photo-taking with
the LCD (about 360 photos) or 340 minutes of image playback.
Using the electronic viewfinder will lengthen the battery life
by about 20%.
of a proprietary battery include the cost ($40 a pop), and the
fact that you can't just pop in a set of AAs when you're low
on juice. I recommend buying a spare battery -- you never know
when you'll need it.
it's time to recharge, just put the battery in the included external
charger, and wait 110 minutes. This charger uses a power cable,
rather than plugging directly into the wall.
can also use the charger as an AC adapter to power your camera
without using batteries -- something that usually costs extra
on most cameras.
DMC-LC1 includes a rather unusual lens cap that didn't seem to
fit very well. It also lacks a retaining strap, which I recommend
buying unless you want to lose it.
you can see, this camera is almost the size of a brick.
LC1 takes the cake for most bundled accessories. In the photo
above you can see three pretty useful toys they throw in the
box. The first is an MC protector, a filter that you screw onto
the lens. This protects your lens from being scratched (it does
not affect photos). Toy number two is a lens hood, which is useful
when you're shooting outdoors. The final accessory is a very
cool one that most cameras don't even offer as an option, and
that's a remote shutter release cable. Just plug it in, and you
can take pictures of things like fireworks or wildlife without
setting a finger on the camera.
Optional wide-angle lens (image courtesy
are more accessories available for the LC1, but this time you'll
have to pay for them. The first accessory of note is the DMW-LW69
0.82X wide-angle conversion lens. This will bring the wide end
of your LC1 down to a very nice 23 mm -- great for indoor shooting.
There's also a close-up lens available (model# DMW-LC69), but
I don't have any more details. Fans of filters will also appreciate
the FMW-LND69 neutral density filter. Since the camera has 69
mm threads, you can add any filter you'd like.
the built-in flash just doesn't do it for you, the consider an
external flash. Panasonic, of course, is more than happy to sell
you one -- theirs is the DMW-FL28 ($150). Much to my surprise,
they also endorse other flashes, even saying that they integrate
with the LC1. These are the Metz 54MZ-3, 44MZ-2, and 70MZ-5,
as well as the Leica SF-20 and SF-24D. More on this subject later.
includes a whole bunch of ArcSoft software with the LC1. This
includes PhotoImpression (for editing photos), PhotoBase (for
organizing photos), PanoramaMaker (for creating panoramic images),
and PhotoPrinter (for printing photos). All of these programs
are Mac OS X native -- and Windows compatible too, of course.
In addition to the ArcSoft software, USB drivers and an SD Viewer
(both Windows-only) are also included.
know the manual that came with your VCR? You know, the VCR that
still blinks "12:00" all day? The manual included with
the camera is just like that. It's complete, but poorly laid
out, with lots of fine print.
LC1 is the definition of a solid camera. It looks and feels like
a brick. But that's what makes it so nice -- it just feels like
a real camera, and not the plastic toys that I'm used to reviewing.
With a metal frame and rubberized grip, I'm confident that the
LC1 can take whatever you throw at it. The important controls
are easy to reach (and you'll find more of them than you're used
to), and the camera is easy to hold (though I must confess, a
larger right hand grip would be nice).
hard to find cameras to compare the LC1 against, and I've chosen
the Nikon Coolpix 5400 and Olympus C-5060WZ due to their wide-angle
lenses. You should also throw the Canon G5 into the pile, but
do note that its focal range starts at 35 mm. Here's how the
LC1 compares to those in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 2.9 x 2.8 in.
x 2.9 x 2.7 in.
x 3.4 x 2.6 in.
x 3.2 x 4.0 in.
you see where that "brick" comment came from. This
isn't the most comfortable camera to carry around your neck all
day. But it's so fun to use that I'll let it slide.
all the boring stuff out of the way, we can begin our tour of
DMC-LC1 has a beautiful Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens, with the
rather unusual zoom power of 3.2X. The focal range is 7 - 22.5
mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 90 mm. The maximum aperture is
F2.0 - F2.4, which is very fast. The lens is threaded for 69
mm accessories, which I mentioned in the previous section.
the upper-right of the lens you'll find the external AF sensor.
This helps speed up focusing in good lighting. I'm not so sure
that it helps in low light, however. An AF-assist lamp does help
in this area, but the LC1 does not have one.
the upper-left of the lens you'll find the white balance sensor
and self-timer lamp.
LC1 has a really cool pop-up flash of a type that I have not
seen before on a digital camera. Let's take a closer look:
you can see from the above pictures, it's actually a two-position
flash. The first position points upward at a 65° angle, giving
the LC1 bounce-flash capability. I don't think I've seen a camera
that can do this before. The second position is your standard "point-at-the-subject" mode.
flash has a working range of 0.5 - 4.8 m at wide-angle, and 0.5
- 4.0 m at telephoto. You can attach an external flash to this
camera, and I'll explain how in a second.
find buttons, dials, and a whole lot more on the back of the
biggest thing here is the 2.5" LCD display. Unlike some
other big LCDs, this one has a high resolution to match its large
size, with 210,000 pixels. The screen is bright, sharp, and motion
is fluid. The screen brightness is adjustable in the setup menu.
the upper-left of the LCD is the electronic viewfinder, or EVF.
This is basically a small LCD that you view as if it were a real
optical viewfinder. Unfortunately, it's not -- even the best
EVF isn't as sharp as the real thing. The one here is pretty
good though, with 235,000 pixels, and it's just as nice as the
main LCD. A diopter correction knob on the side of the camera
focuses the image on the EVF. One area in which neither the LCD
or EVF are so hot is in low light -- you just can't see anything.
Some cameras amplify the image on the screen in such situations,
but the LC1 is not one of those.
the right of the EVF are four buttons, which have the following
- switches between the two
- toggles what is shown on EVF/LCD
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) + auto bracketing
(see below) + flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV
auto bracketing feature will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each
with a different exposure value. You can choose from exposure
intervals of ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, or ±1EV. Bracketing
is a good way to ensure that your photos are properly exposed,
though it takes up a lot of space on your memory card.
the right of the LCD are three buttons, plus the four-way controller
(with a dial around it). The three buttons are for function,
menu, and delete photo.
function button opens up a customizable menu, which can hold
your favorite menu items. So if you change certain settings frequently,
here's an easier way to get to them. Above you can see the items
that are there by default.
four-way controller is used for menu navigation, turning on the
self-timer, and entering playback mode quickly. The command dial
around it is used for choosing manual settings, the "zoom
and scroll" feature, and more.
final item on the back of the camera is the power switch, which
is located at the top-right.
top of the LC1 is where you'll see its true beauty. Draw your
attention to the three rings around the lens: zoom, focus,
and aperture. Only the zoom ring is mechanical -- the others
electronically tell the camera what to do.
zoom ring has markings in 35mm terms -- from 28 to 90 mm. Since
you control the zoom manually, you control the speed of the zooming.
You can quickly move from one end to the other, or be very precise.
All-in-all, this is a well-designed zoom ring that feels very
focus ring is what you'll use to manually adjust the focus, or
to enter macro mode. As you turn the wheel, the center of the
frame is enlarged on the LCD or EVF, so you can make sure your
subject is sharp. You can choose (in the setup menu) to enlarge
the whole frame, as well. More on macro mode later in the review.
aperture ring lets you choose from a range of F2.0 - F11, or
just let the camera decide.
the lower-left of the above picture is the LC1's hot shoe. I
already mentioned some of the flashes that are compatible back
in the first section of this review. You can also use other third
party flashes, but expect to set them manually.
the opposite side is yet another way to control the camera's
exposure. This time it's a shutter speed dial. As with the aperture
ring, you can either manually select a shutter speed, or just
let the camera decide. Choose from 8 - 1/2000 sec. A program
shift mode is available when the camera is in Program mode (both
the shutter and aperture dials are set to "A"). This
lets you scroll through sets of shutter speed / aperture combinations,
which comes in handy when you want more depth-of-field, or a
faster shutter speed to stop action.
the shutter speed dial is a switch that moves between single-shot,
continuous shooting, and playback modes. In continuous shooting
mode, you can take up to 3 frames at 2.7 frames/second at the
highest quality setting (you can take more photos at lower resolutions).
A slower 1 frame/second burst mode is also available.
above-right from all that is the shutter release button, which
has a dial beneath it as well. This one changes the metering
mode, with multiple, center-weighted, and spot metering as options.
final item up here is the flash button, which moves between the
following: auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced on, forced on
w/redeye reduction, slow sync, and slow sync w/redeye reduction.
this side of the LC1, you can get another look at those fabulous
rings around the lens! The two-stage flash can also be seen.
the only things worth mentioning here are the I/O ports, which
are kept behind a sturdy door. The ports include:
2.0 high speed (don't worry, it'll work fine on your old computer
out + remote control
(for included AC adapter)
the other side of the camera you'll find the SD/MMC card slot,
which is also under a strong door.
can also see the included 16MB SD card, which is inexcusably
small for a camera with a price this big.
tour ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll
find a metal tripod mount (inline with the lens) and the battery
compartment. The battery compartment has a reinforced door as
well (with a lock) -- Panasonic hasn't cheaped out here.
included CGR-S602 battery is shown at right.
the Panasonic DMC-LC1
no lens to extend, it's not surprising that the DMC-LC1 starts
up in just 1.3 seconds.
mode now features a histogram
speeds were quite average, with a delay of around 0.6 seconds
before focus is locked in most situations. If the camera has
to hunt a bit, expect waits of a second or longer. The camera
did an okay job of focusing in low light, but it could've been
a lot better with the addition of an AF-assist lamp. The main
problem I had in low light was seeing the subject on the LCD
lag was very low, even at slower shutter speeds where it can
be a problem.
speed is excellent, with a one second delay between shots (assuming
the post-shot review feature is off). The one exception to this
is if you're shooting in RAW mode. There you'll have a nearly
six second period where the camera is locked up -- and that's
with my speedy "Extreme" SD card too.
cannot delete a shot as it's being recorded to the memory card,
but you can enter review mode (using the four-way controller)
to do so.
here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the LC1:
Images on 16MB card
LC1 has a RAW image mode -- problem is, Panasonic doesn't give
you any way to process it into a more usable format! They recommend
using Photoshop CS, which is what I used. The main benefit of
the RAW format is that you can adjust various properties of an
image that you just can't do with regular JPEGs. These properties
include white balance, exposure, sharpness, and more. The downside
is that they take up 3 times as much memory as the highest quality
JPEG, and that you must post-process every image to get them
into JPEG or TIFF format.
HDTV option is an interesting one -- it's actually shoved to
the back of the list in the menus. You'll essentially get a "widescreen" photo
in this mode -- perfect for display on a 16:9 TV!
are named Pxxxyyyy.JPG, where x = 100 - 999 and y = 0001 - 9999.
The numbering is maintained as you erase and swap memory cards.
move on to menus now.
not the most attractive camera menu ever, the LC1's menus are
easy to navigate. Here are the options found in the record menu:
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, flash, monochrome,
white set) - the last one there is manual WB; shoot a white
or gray card for perfect color in any lighting; why monochrome
is here is beyond me; and where's the usual fluorescent option?
adjust (-5 to +5, increments of 1) - lets you fine-tune the
white balance in the red or blue redirection
size (see chart)
AF (on/off) - focus on the center of the frame
sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
rate (Low, high) - low shoots at 1 fps, high at 2.7 fps
recording (on/off) - record a 5 second voice clip with each
zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will reduce photo
sync (1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain) - when the flash fires in slow
(High, standard, low)
(High, standard, low)
(High, standard, low)
image - movie mode, described later
animation - see below
animation" feature is rarely seen, except on some Sony cameras.
It allows you to make stop-motion animation using your camera.
First, you take up to 100 pictures, moving your subject a little
bit each time. When you're ready to put them together, you use
the "create motion image" option, choose a frame rate
(5 or 10 frames/sec), and away you go. The stills are then assembled
into a 320 x 240 QuickTime movie.
is also a setup menu on the LC1, which is another "tab" in
the record and playback menus. The setup options are:
brightness (-3 to +3) - adjusts the brightness on both screens
review (Off, 1, 3 sec, zoom) - see below
(Off, low, high)
sound (1, 2, 3)
save (Off, 2, 5, 10 min)
assist (Off, MF1, MF2) - MF1 enlarges just the center of the
frame; MF2 enlarges the whole frame
set - choose the items for the function shortcut menu
number reset (on/off)
mode (Mass Storage, PTP) - the latter is used for PictBridge
(English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese)
on LCD (on/off) - always use the LCD in playback or review
out (NTSC, PAL)
The "zoom" option
for auto review is a little bizarre. After you take a picture,
it's shown normally on the LCD for about a second. But then it
automatically enlarges by a power of four, and that is shown
for another second. I suppose this is a way to check the focus.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
LC1 produced a very "smooth" reproduction of our famous
macro subject. Colors are accurate, though there's not a lot
of detail captured.
camera isn't going to win any awards for its macro performance.
The closest you can get to your subject is 30 cm from the end
of the lens, which pales in comparison to most other cameras.
Buying the close-up lens will bring this number down to 16 cm,
which still is not great.
LC1 took a very nice, sharp picture of the SF skyline. It's a
tad on the noisy side, but I can live with that. Purple fringing
levels are fairly low.
to the manual shutter speed control, you can take long exposures
just like this. A bulb mode would've been a nice extra, especially
since the camera includes a remote shutter release cable.
give you an idea about the relationship between ISO sensitivity
and noise, here's the same night shot taken at each of the available
400 really isn't that bad, though it looks a bit like a watercolor
the joys of the bounce flash. The first shot was taken with the
flash in the normal, forward-facing position. As you can see,
there's a lot of redeye. But, since the flash can also be aimed
upward, I took another shot, and voila -- no redeye. So this
is a good way to get rid of that annoyance on the LC1. Another
option is to use an external flash
distortion test shows very mild barrel distortion at the wide
end of the lens, and no vignetting (dark corners).
the image quality on the DMC-LC1 was very good, though on the
noisy side. I think the noise comes from the camera's sharpening
algorithm, which produces tack sharp images at the expense of
some grain in the photos. I saw a few "jaggies" on
edges, as well. The camera did a nice job with both color accuracy
and exposure, as well. Purple fringing was not an issue.
always, don't just take my word for it -- please view the photo
gallery and see if the LC1's photos meet your expectations.
in the record menu, you'll find an option for "motion images",
better known as movie mode! You can record 320 x 240 movies at
30 or 10 frames/second until the memory card is full. Sound is
recorded as well.
included 16MB card can hold 26 seconds of 30 frames/sec video,
or 83 seconds at 10 frames/sec. A 512MB card can hold 1027 and
2989 seconds, respectively.
can use the zoom during filming, but the noise it makes may be
picked up by the microphone.
are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec.
an unexciting sample movie for you, taken at the 30 fps setting:
Click to play movie (4.2MB, QuickTime format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
LC1 has a pretty nice playback mode. Panasonic covers all the
basic features, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail
mode, image protection, voice captions, and zoom and scroll.
The camera is PictBridge-enabled, as well.
zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom 2, 4, 8, or 16 times into
your photo, and then scroll around. I do wish that the scrolling
are a few advanced playback features as well, including image
rotation, resizing and trimming (cropping). In both cases, you
can choose to save or delete the original photo.
photos is a snap: just use the button on the back of the camera.
You can delete one, multiple, or all photos. I appreciate the
ability to delete a group of photos -- this is a rare feature.
first glance, the LC1 doesn't show you much about your photos.
But press the "display" button and you'll get some
exposure information, including a histogram.
camera seemed a bit slow while browsing photos, with a delay
of less than two seconds between each image.
Does it Compare
a whole lot to like about the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC1. It could
be the stunning, retro design that's reminiscent of Leica cameras
of old. Or perhaps it's the manual shutter speed, aperture, and
focus rings, which make adjusting settings super-easy. The photo
quality is very nice, too, but a bit on the noisy side. What's
the catch? The price. With a list price of $1599, you could buy
a Nikon D70 kit plus an extra lens, and you'll have better photos,
performance, and expandability. You're paying a lot for nostalgia
the LC1 (and its Leica equivalent) are very cool. The body is
big and bulky, and it really is built like a tank. I love the
zoom, focus, and aperture rings around the lens. The camera isn't
going to win any awards for performance -- it's pretty average
in all areas, except for startup speed. The LC1 has a full suite
of manual controls, including the ability to fine-tune white
balance. The camera has a large, high resolution LCD and electronic
viewfinder, but both become useless in low light situations.
The camera did a fair job of focusing in low light, but an AF-assist
lamp would've been helpful.
LC1 has a pretty average movie mode -- with unlimited recording
at 320 x 240, 30 frames/second. You can actually use the zoom
during filming, but the sound will be picked up by the camera's
microphone. Something that's not-so-hot is the LC1's macro mode,
which keeps you 30 cm away from your subject. A few other things
I like about the camera are the hot shoe, support for conversion
lenses, two-stage flash, and nice bundle (battery, remote shutter
release, MC protector). Something left out of that bundle is
any kind of RAW conversion software, though.
do like the LC1, but it's way too expensive. If you've got money
to burn, then I recommend it. But you could buy three Olympus
C-5060WZ's for the same price!
retro design; built like a tank (and heavy as one)
focus, and aperture rings around lens; Shutter speed dial on
top of camera
good photo quality, though noisy
in both record and playback modes
conversion lenses and filters
in the box: remote shutter release, MC protector, lens hood
frames/sec movie mode (though still 320 x 240)
I didn't care for:
on the noisy side
when flash is used directly (use bounce instead)
unusable in low light
RAW conversion software included
cameras worth considering include the Canon
PowerShot G5, Casio
Exilim EX-P600, Fuji
FinePix S7000, Konica
Minolta DiMAGE A1, Nikon
Coolpix 5400, Olympus
C-5060 Wide Zoom, and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-V1. Don't write off the lower-end digital
always, I recommend a trip down to your local retailer to try
out the DMC-LC1 and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample
photos in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
Feedback & Discussion
you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.
discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.