Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC5
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Saturday, May 18, 2002
Saturday, August 10, 2002
digital cameras have never been a favorite of mine. They've always
been an "also ran" in digital imaging, with their SuperDisk
and Secure Digital cameras being very mediocre.
I saw that Panasonic and Leica Camera (of Germany) had teamed up,
I was excited. Had Panasonic finally gotten their act together?
At first glance, the Lumix
DMC-LC5 (the Leica
Digilux 1 is very similar if not identical) looks great (not
to mention like a PowerShot
G2). Priced at $799, it's a full featured 4 Megapixel camera
with lots of bells and whistles, and a Leica Vario-Summicron lens.
is the LC5 competitive with the best cameras in its class, like
the G2? Well, you'll have to read the review, I'm not going to tell
in the Box?
Lumix LC5 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.9 (effective) Mpixel Panasonic DMC-LC5 camera
Secure Digital card
rechargeable Li-ion battery
adapter / battery charger
featuring Arcsoft PhotoSuite and USB drivers
page manual (printed)
probably wondering what the metal plate is, so I'll get it out of
the way first. It's a small quarter-sized metal piece which is used
for attaching the shoulder strap to the camera, as well as screwing
in the monitor hood.
the monitor hood? This is a handy hood (similar to what you see
on television cameras at sporting events) to help you see the LCD
when you're outdoors. I can't think of any other manufacturers that
include, let alone offer such an accessory!
with the good news: Panasonic includes a 32MB Secure Digital (SD)
memory card with the LC5, which is much larger than the cards usually
included with cameras. SD cards are interchangeable with MultiMediaCards
(MMC), as well.
LC5 includes a battery pack that looks an awful lot like the one
included with the Canon PowerShot G1/G2. I don't think it's the
same one, though. The battery has a ton of power -- it's 7.2V, 1400
mAh, which works out to 10.1 Watt/hours. Panasonic estimates that
the battery will last 150 minutes with mixed LCD use, which is pretty
LC5 also includes an AC adapter, which can power the camera, and
recharge the battery inside it. The battery takes two hours to recharge.
bad part about a proprietary battery like the one included with
the LC5 is that they are expensive, and you cannot get out of a
bind by using alkalines, like you can with a AA-base camera.
Lumix LC5 has a number of accessories available, ranging from conversion
lenses to an external flash.
Lumix cameras include Arcsoft PhotoImpression, which is good software
for fixing up your photos. The camera is compatible with Mac OS
X, iPhoto, and Windows XP.
manual is typical of that from big consumer electronics companies:
Lumix LC5 is a good-sized camera, about as big as a PowerShot G2.
You can see that Leica had a hand in the design when you look at
it. The metal body is sturdy and attractive. The camera is fairly
easy to hold, though I wish the rubber grip was larger.
official dimensions of the camera are 5.0 x 3.2 x 2.5 inches (WxHxD),
and it weighs 360 grams empty. For those of you playing along at
home, the PowerShot G2 is 4.8 x 3.0 x 2.5 and 425 grams.
like Sony labels their high-end lens a "Carl Zeiss" lens,
Panasonic uses a Leica "DC Vario-Summicron" lens. There
has been speculation about whether these are really Zeiss and Leica
lenses, but I won't get into that here.
the LC5's lens is a fast F2.0, 7 - 21 mm one. That's equivalent
to 33 - 100 mm. The lens is threaded for add-on lenses, though you'll
need the conversion lens adapter to use one.
you can't see it here, there's a manual focus ring around the lens
barrel. This isn't a true mechanical focus -- rather, it's a "fly-by-wire"
system that electronically tells the lens to focus.
switch just to the right of the lens controls the focus mode. You
can choose from macro, autofocus, or manual focus.
that switch is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range
of 0.1 - 4.5 m (wide-angle) and 0.2 - 3.5 m (telephoto). You can
also add an external flash to this camera -- more on that in a bit.
DMC-LC5 uses an infrared (I assume) sensor to help out with focusing.
there is no AF illuminator lamp for low-light focusing, though.
Digicams review notes focus problems with portrait photography
that I did not encounter.)
I first saw the back of this camera, I was amazed at that huge LCD!
The 2.5" LCD is gigantic compared to the 1.8" LCD's found
on most digicams. Also like most LCDs, it's hard to see outdoors,
but Panasonic includes that hood to help out. The LCD is bright
and fluid otherwise.
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which covers 82% of the
field. There is a diopter correction knob, for those with less than
perfect vision. There are also cross hairs to help you compose your
are four buttons to the right of the LCD, most of which you should
already be familiar with:
(toggles LCD and info on it on/off)
switch - for menus
(Shows last picture taken) / Set (for menus)
above those buttons, you'll find the metering button. Pressing that
cycles through the three metering modes: multiple (matrix), center-weighted,
the left of that, there's a button that covers many functions. As
you press it, it cycles through them. The functions include:
compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/4EV increments)
bracketing - choose an interval (1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1 EV) and the
number of shots (3/5) and the camera will take the shots sequentially,
each with a different exposure compensation value
bracketing - this is similar to the above, except that the camera
uses a different depth of focus setting each time
output (-2EV to +2EV, 1/4EV increments)
final two items of note on the back of the LC5 include the power
switch (top right) and speaker (lower right).
our tour now with the top of the camera.
on the left, you'll see the LCD info display. It shows all kinds
of things, like resolution, ISO, metering mode, flash setting, battery
status, and shots remaining. My only wish is that it was backlit.
the center of the screen is the hot shoe. Panasonic sells a flash
(DMW-FL28), but it doesn't say anywhere that third-party flashes
northeast of the hot shoe is the microphone.
the right of that is the mode wheel, which has another dial below
that. The mode wheel has the following choices:
record - camera controls just about everything
mode - camera controls shutter speed/aperture, you can control
priority mode - you set aperture, camera chooses shutter speed
priority mode - you set shutter speed, camera chooses aperture
mode - you choose both shutter speed and aperture
aperture values available fall between F2.0 and F8.0. The shutter
speed range is 8 - 1/1000 sec.
choices on that subdial are single-shot, continuous shooting, and
playback mode. Why they didn't put these on the mode wheel is beyond
LC5 has an impressive continuous shooting mode, known as MegaBurst.
You can record up to 8 frames at 4 frames/second at the standard
quality setting. At the fine quality setting, you can record 4 frames
at that speed.
the right of the mode wheel, there are two more buttons: flash and
self-timer. Above that is the shutter release button, with the zoom
control around it. The zoom mechanism is smooth, quiet, and precise.
one side of the Lumix DMC-LC5, with the sturdy plastic door opened.
Here you'll find ports for USB, A/V, and DC in (for the included
AC adapter). You can also get a better look at that manual focus
the other side of the camera, with the included 32MB SD card shown.
here's the bottom of the camera. The battery compartment at left can
be locked. There's also a metal tripod mount.
the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC5
DMC-LC5 is very quick to start up, especially for a camera with
a zoom lens. After 2 seconds have gone by, the LCD is already on
and you can shoot just moments later. The LC5 generally locks focus
in a second (when the shutter release is pressed halfway), but it
can take longer in tough focusing situations. Shutter lag is minimal.
speed is pretty good, with about a 3 second delay between shots.
The exception, of course, is when you're using TIFF mode. The LC5
will be locked up for 20 seconds while this large file is written
to the memory card. Compared to other digital cameras, that's actually
not a long time to wait.
aren't too many choices for resolution and quality on the LC5. Here
photos on 32MB card (included)
640 x 480
talk menus! The Lumix's menus aren't going to win any design awards,
but they work just fine. Here's what you'll find in them:
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, fluorescent, flash,
white set [manual])
sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
AF (on/off) - smaller focus area that normal
recording (on/off) - add 5 second audio clips to photos
Size (see chart)
zoom (on/off) - remember, digital zoom reduces image quality
slow sync (1st, 2nd-curtain) - these decide when the flash fires
in low light situations
flash (preset, manual) - for using an external flash
(Low, standard, high)
(Low, standard, high)
(Low, standard, high)
is, of course, the usual setup menu with basics like date/time,
power saving, beep, etc.
that's enough of that! Let's talk about photo quality now.
DMC-LC5's undoing is its photo quality. It's a real shame, because
the camera is very nice otherwise. I'm sort of at a loss for exactly
why the photo quality is bad, but my guess is some overaggressive
processing algorithms in the camera. Images end up looking like
they were run through the "impressionist" or "pointillism"
filter in Photoshop. I prefer to let Photoshop do that, and not
the camera. If you look at the various samples below, you can see
what I mean.
you say "Jeff, you must have a bad camera", let me point
you to another
photo gallery over at Steves Digicams. Both of our cameras were
new and fresh out of the box. If this problem is due to the camera
overprocessing the images, there is a chance that Panasonic can
do a firmware update at some point... but we can only wait and see.
Brochure, cat, denim
Look at his hat, the rock, his hand
of those are crops of images in the gallery.
think these night shots speak for themselves. They're so over-processed
that they look blurry (or like watercolors?). Why is the sky different
colors? That I can explain -- I used different white balance settings
in each photo.
be a nice shot without this problem. The macro range on the LC5
is 6 - 50 cm.
red-eye test serves two purposes in this review. The first is to
show you that the red-eye on this camera is not that bad, when you
turn on the reduction feature (it was more noticeable without it).
The second reason I'm showing you this is to illustrate the photo
quality problem that I described. Do note that I blew this crop
up 200% so you can see the detail.
a look at the full gallery to see more
Lumix DMC-LC5 can record QuickTime movies, with sound. Movies are
recorded at 320 x 240, like on most cameras.
like most cameras, you cannot use the optical zoom during filming.
You must get it where you want it before you begin.
nice thing about the movie feature is that clips can be recorded
until the memory card fills up. In the case of the 32MB card that
is included, that's 160 seconds.
to play movie (QuickTime format, 2.1 MB)
view it? Download QuickTime.
Lumix also has a very nice playback mode. The usual basic features
like slide shows, image protection, DPOF print marking, and thumbnail
mode are all here.
bonus features include the ability to resize photos, add audio clips,
and delete a group of photos.
is also the "zoom & scroll" feature, which lets you
zoom either 4X or 8X into your photo, and then zoom around in it.
The scrolling portion was too slow for my taste, though.
you press the Display button, the LC5 will give you some additional
information about your photo. No histogram, though. The camera moves
through photos fairly quickly -- about a second between high res
Does it Compare?
really wanted to like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC5. It has a nice
design, lots of manual features, robust performance, and good movie
and playback modes. But ultimately, none of this matters if the
camera takes bad pictures, and unfortunately, the LC5 has some of
the worst photo quality I've seen on a higher-end camera. My guess
is that the camera is over-processing the images, which gives them
that "impressionist" look that I've shown above. As you
might image, the image quality problem prevents me from recommending
hope is that Panasonic either provides some kind of firmware upgrade
to fix this, but I'm not optimistic. If they don't, let's hope the
next version of the LC5 is better -- they've got the basics down,
but the photos need a lot of work!
8/10/02: Some people have pointed out that the photos look fine
when downsized or printed. I am of the belief that you should have
acceptable photo quality right out of the camera. The LC5's photos
do look decent at 4 x 6 inches, but the flaws are noticeable are
larger print sizes.)
designed body, nice fast lens
of manuals controls
movie, playback modes
LCD hood a nice touch
focus bracketing feature
for lens, flash accessories
I didn't care for:
(this is the deal breaker for me)
- "Scrolling" in playback zoom & scroll feature
is too slow
4 and 5 Megapixel cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot
FinePix S602 Zoom, Minolta DiMAGE
7i and S404,
Coolpix 5000, Olympus C-4040Z
and the Sony DSC-S85
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the Lumix LC5 and it's competitors before you buy!
out the photo gallery to see the LC5's
a second opinion?
case you don't believe me, read Steves
Digicams review to get another viewpoint.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests
for personal camera recommendations.