I have received my test camera body of the Panasonic LX7 last week and with DxO launching DxO Optics Pro 8, Phase One unveiling Capture One Pro 7, I barely had a chance to play hard with this very attractive enthusiast photographers camera. So, ahead of my full review, here are some comparison images of what to expect with the LX7, from ISO 100 to ISO 6,400. The Lumix DLC-MX7 is one of the very first prosumer camera equipped with the new 1/1.7″ sensor, a newly designed sensor that now offers CMOS backside illuminated technology whereas the past years 1/1.7″ sensors where very basic CCD. So, testing the LX7 sensor is quite interesting as this will be quite meaninful for other cameras’ image quality : it shares the same ssensor with the Canon Powershot G15 and Powershot S110, the Nikon Coolpix P7700, the Olymus XZ-2 and the Samsung EX2F. Of course, the Panasonic LX7 is the exact same camera as the Leica D-LUX 6. On this small market, note that Nikon did not upgrade its Coolpix P300/P310 with this new CMOS BSI sensor yet.
So here us a 1:1 crop of an image of our loyal HKD100 bank note in 575 x 250 pixels. Of course, we are doing a litle session of pixel peeping here as we are looking at a portion of an image displayed at 100% which is not what you will see on your images once printed but this method offers the advantage of magnifying the defects which makes their detection much easier and allows me to write a decent judgement on the image quality of the camera.
So, what do we see here ? Well, first of all, we see that the Lumix LX7 offers a very high and stable image quality from ISO 100-400 which means that we will be able to tweak the ISO setting of the camera between ISO 100 and ISO 400 without fearing any damage on image quality. yet, you will havve to consider that the sensor’s color depth and dynamic range also depends on the sensibility setting and increase as you lower the ISO number.
We only see the first image quality loss at ISO 800, and the image looks a little more damaged at ISO 1,600 with some mottling and color deviation which are also tending to fade away. But, considering the small size of the sensor, this is still pretty good. We reach a limit at ISO 3,200 and then ISO 6,400, two ISO settings which will have to be kept for extreme cases when you are working under low light and still need a high shutter speed to freeze the action. Remember that the LX7’s lens maximul aperture is pretty generous (f/1.4 in wide-angle and f/2.3 at telephoto) which makes the use of high ISO sensibilities very occasional. Alos, the lens offers optical image stabilization so….
Really, the Panasonic LX7 did pretty well and, without spoiling the LX7 full review, I can say that this high image quality adds up with its pleasure of use and could lead to one of the most precious compact camera. BUt it is not the only one on this small market and competition is tough, they all share the same sensor now which means that they should all deliver the same level of image quality and will have to differentiate themselves from competing cameras with other assets like the fast lens for the Panasonic LX7 and Olympus XZ-2, user interface for the Canon Powershot G15, Wi-Fi for the Canon Powershot S110 and the Samsung EX2F, zoom range for the Nikon Coolpix P770.