Panasonic LX100 II Review & Sample Photos

 

The Panasonic LX100 II is a pocketable compact 17 megapixel micro four thirds camera with a 24-75mm f1.7 to f2.8 variable zoom lens. It shoots 4k video at 100Mbps and features a toggle aspect ratio switch to change the area used on the sensor. 

The LX100 II sensor is a 21 megapixel micro four thirds sensor, but the camera only utilizes a maximum crop of 17 megapixels at any time to allow for different aspect ratios for different situations.

 

So what’s new with the LX100 II? 

There is that old expression, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It seems Panasonic stuck with this motto for the LX100 II.

In four years since the LX100, Panasonic really changed little except updating a new sensor and processor for improved resolution and focusing capabilities.

Is that good, is that bad? A lot has changed in the last four years in the industry and that’s what I’ll go over in this review along with some really cool features that I like, don’t like or features that are missing.

 

Panasonic LX100 II Specs

Sensor: Cropped 21MP Four Thirds MOS Sensor to 17MP
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Summilux f/1.7-2.8 Lens
Focal Length: 24-75mm (35mm Equivalent)
EVF: 2760k-dot
LCD: 3″ 1240k-dot TFT Touchscreen
Video: MP4 – 4K 30p, 4K 24p, 4K 25p, 100Mbps.
Connectivity: Built-In Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Includes a small hot shoe flash

 

Order Links

Panasonic LX100 IIAmazon / Adorama / BHphoto

Panasonic LX100 II Must Have Accessories

 

 

Panasonic LX100 II | First Impressions

 

 

For this review I went into full tourist mode, a road trip across Southern Japan. This is how I’ll mostly be using this camera and I think how most people will be using this camera, so I wanted to test it in the random, uncontrollable environments that you get while traveling.

Results: This camera is a ton of fun!

 

 

I’ve never owned a micro four thirds cameras. I’ve rented many, tested many and I always thought they were very cool since you can get outstanding image quality while still keeping the cameras very small. I don’t feel like you can do nearly as much with 1″ sensors.

When running photography review website like this one, you get to meet a lot of cool people. I’ve some how attracted a lot of micro four thirds shooters and they’re always telling me to make the jump, just try it. Since I’m a huge fan of APS-C crop sensor cameras, the LX100 II just made sense. Why not go smaller, so I decided to try the LX100 II as my first micro four thirds camera since I don’t really want to buy new lenses yet.

Did I make a mistake?

Absolutely not, this camera is awesome. I like it, it’s exactly what I was looking for as a light weight pocket street and travel camera. There are some things missing, somethings I don’t like.

With the LX100 II dynamic range is pretty good and I can recover about 4 stops maybe 5 stops if I push it. Low light is pretty good, detail and resolution is all pretty good.

To sum it up. Micro four thirds cameras are great travel adventure cameras for someone looking to really up their quality and capabilities from a smart phone, but you will start to see the limitations in low light when dealing with a sensor with this much resolution.

 

 

When I first got this camera I was a little surprised at how minimalistic it is. I’ve been shooting a lot with Fujifilm lately and have really come to fall in love with all their little settings. Color Chrome, film simulators, in camera JPG tonal adjustments, etc. At first I thought Panasonic cameras didn’t have any cool features like that and it took me awhile to really dissect the thee menus to find everything. Some things are not intuitive with this camera and some features almost feel as they are hidden.

The Panasonic colors by default look decent. You don’t really get any crazy weird shifts no weird yellows or reds, the profiles all around look pretty nice. I prefer shooting in RAW so I can use my own looks, but the JPG images are definitely not bad if you use the right profile in the right situation.

When your shooting JPG you have a few cool features called i.Resolution and i.Dynamic

i.Resolution – intelligently adjusts the resolution, or sharpness of your images depending on what’s going on in the scene. If you’re shooting JPG you’ll appreciate this and probably want to leave it on low or standard.

i.Dynamic – this works by intelligently recovering your shadows and highlights in the JPG images. A lot of people say don’t shoot JPG because you don’t get the full dynamic range of the sensor. This setting makes sure you get as much dynamic range as possible.

You can also use diffraction compensation with i.Resolution to make sure your images at high apertures still come out crisp and sharp.

 

 

LX100 II Review | Cool Features

 

I haven’t used all of the features yet, since I mostly just bought this camera for photos, but there are a lot of little tools you can use with this camera that might make it very useful for filmmakers.

 

Time Lapse Shot / Stop Motion Animation

Because of the size and weight of this camera, it’s a great little b-camera to grab some time lapse if you do a lot of video or want to create a story to share on Instagram or something.

You can either program the intervalometer with the Time Lapse Shot function or use the Stop Motion tool.

 

Time Lapse Shot

You don’t have a ton of options here and will have to use some math to figure out what you want, but you can make it work. 

How it works,

You set Image Count 1 to 9,999 

Then you set Shooting Intervals by minutes or seconds. It’s really all you need but I do kind of like what GoPro is doing with its hyperlapse and wish some of those features would make their way into this camera.

 

Stop Motion

If you want to just set it and forget it, you can use the Stop Motion Animation function. It’s basically an intervalometer with no time limit. This function will create a video clip in the end once you tell it to stop.

 

4K PHOTO

 

4K photos allows you to shoot a stream of 4k video and pull 8MP JPGs from it. You do get a pretty massive crop of 1.34x, so you’ll have to adjust your composition when using this feature.

4K Photo has a ton of new features that I never really bother with since they are for the most part – gimmicks. Using these features is complicated and the menus are buried in the playback mode. You would really have to practice to understand how everything works before you’ll be able to produce usable results. The LX100 II is not intuitive with this at all.

Post Focus: allows you to adjust the focus very slightly after the picture was taken.

Focus Stacking: Allows you to shoot through a different range of focus points to get a stacked focus shot.

Sequence Composition: You can take a sequence of images and compose them into one.

Light Composition: This features takes just the brightest pixels to create an image from.

Auto Marking: The camera will pick and mark the frames that are most unique from the rest of the sequence.

Bulk Saving: Save a chunk of video or up to 150 frames. 

 

Multi Aspect Ratio

 

 

While the LX100 II technically use a micro four thirds sensor, you can never actually use the full sensor. Instead you’re using only a cropped portion based on what aspect ratio you’ve selected.

The sensor in the camera is a 21MP micro four thirds sensor, but the most resolution you’re ever getting at any one time is 17MP.

Each aspect ratio uses a diffraction section of the sensor to reduce the loss of megapixels that you usually get from doing a traditional crop. There is a switch directly on the lens to let you toggle between these modes.

You will start to see the limitations of the lens in some of the crop modes.

At 16:9, the left and right edges do start to show some softness and at 4:3, you’ll get some corner softness. This is still one of the coolest features with the LX100 II and I find myself using 16:9, 4:3 and 3:2 quite often.

 

 

Megapixels For Each Drop Mode

4:3: 17M

1:1: 12.5M

16:9: 15M

3:2: 16M

 

I personally like the 4:3 look for most things and it’s a really nice format for website presentation, but sometimes it’s nice to shoot 3:2 or 16:9. You’ll see me using these different aspect ratios interchangeably throughout this review.

 

LX100 II Macro Photography

About a week after owning the LX100 II I discovered the power of the little flower on the focusing switch on the side of the lens. This flower focusing switch toggles the LX100 II macro focusing abilities. I didn’t know the camera could do macro photography when I ordered it since it’s not listed on any if the big retailers product pages as a selling feature or even an ability.

The macro is really only useful on the wide end of the lens, so you’ll need to be at 24mm to get the best results and the closest focusing possible.

You can get about an inch away from your subject when at 24mm with the lens. I tried it on the longer end, but it just doesn’t work the same.

While I don’t think it’s a true 1:1 macro lens that you would traditionally use for macro photography, it’s still very fun to play around with and you can get some really cool results with incredible detail.

 

 

100% Crop

When you crop into 100% the detail is pretty insane. 

 

 

Panasonic LX100 II | Image Quality

 

 

When talking about image quality, obviously you can do more with APS-C cameras, and full frame does more than APS-C and medium format does more than full frame and it never ends. For the size, micro four thirds is a great place to be. You can go very compact with lenses and the sensor, or you can make bigger bodies with better processing and heat dissipation with some really amazing performance.

 

 

ISO Chart

 

I was not expecting this camera to have really usable low light performance, but it’s actually pretty good. Even lifting the shadows is very forgiving.

ISO is surprisingly good at 6400. I’m not seeing any serious issues with color shifts or amp glow. By ISO 12800 things get a little too noisy.

 

 

Dynamic Range

 

Dynamic is just decent. When I under expose 4 stops and then lift to correct, I see some colors shift. My blacks turn green and overall saturation suffers. You won’t want to recover your shadows much more than 4 to 5 stops.

 

 

 

LX100 II | Lens Review

 

 

I could easily write 4,000 words talking about all the features and qualities of the lens, but, since you can’t change lenses I’m going to keep it short. Sort of.

The lens is decent. Not amazing, but not bad either.

 

Lens Specs

Focal Length: 24-75mm
Aperture Blade: 9-Blades
Aperture: f1.7 – f16
Elements: 11 elements in 8 groups | 5 Aspherical, 2 ED
Minimum Focus Distance: – 75mm 19.69″ – 24mm Macro 1.18″
Focus: Auto
CPU Contacts: No
Filter Threads: 43mm

 

It has a variable aperture starting at f1.7. Here is how the apertures stop down as you zoom.

24mm f1.7

28mm f2

35mm f2.3

50mm f2.7

70mm f2.8

 

 

The corners of the lens are just decent, and the sharpness is just decent, but there is some nice character to the lens since it’s not over corrected. 

The sun stars are really cool and the flaring does produce some interesting results while still maintaining contrast. 

My biggest complaint about this lens is actually the slow zoom, but since I’ve very use to only using primes, I find this tolerable since I usually just set my focal length and run with that for as long as possible, only zooming when I really need to.

 

Here is how the lens looks at the maximum zoom settings of 24mm and 75mm.

 

 

Sharpness

 

 

When looking at lens sharpness, I took a sample of the middle of the lens at 50mm. Center is very nice, but the problem with this camera isn’t the lens sharpness, the lens is plenty sharp in the center. The problem is diffraction lower the quality and you see it by f4. This means if you want maximum sharpness, you pretty much should try to shoot at around f2 to f2.8.

 

 

When shooting wide open to get the sharpest center possible, you end up getting not so sharp corners. At f2.7 the corners are fairly soft but recover by f4.

 

 

If you want the best image possible with little compromises, you’ll need to shoot around f4.

By f4, diffraction only lowers sharpness a little bit, but at f4, you also get the best corners.

If you want the sharpest center possible, you’ll want to shoot under f2.8.

Since corners and edges are a little soft on this lens, you will have to consider that when you’re shooting in different aspect ratios. When shooting 16:9 the left and right edges will be softer. Where as shooting at 4:3 the left and right edges are nicer, but the tops and bottoms as well as the corners become soft.

The biggest problem with micro four thirds cameras is not bokeh, it’s not dynamic range or low light performance, it’s diffraction.

The LX100 II has a 21 megapixel sensor and to get that amount of resolution in such a small space you must have a very tight pixel pitch which causes a lot of diffraction at higher apertures.

 

 

Vignetting

 

I’m not seeing any vignetting at any apertures. Even at 16:9 the edges look good. It’s possible there is vingetting and the camera is automatically correcting it, but I am unable to remove any baked lens profile corrections from Panasonic cameras.

 

Distortion

 

I’m only really seeing some barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. By 50mm it’s very minor and I don’t see any at 75mm.

 

Flaring / Sun Stars

 

Flaring is decently controlled. If you point directly into the sun you will get some crazy shapes but it still holds some nice contrast. For the most part the lenses resistant to ghosting and flaring is pretty good but not great.

Sun stars patters are really cool with very distinct beams when stopped down. Keep in mind when you do stop down to f16 for the best sun stars, you will have to deal with some pretty significant diffraction.

 

 

Image Stabilization

 

The lens has some pretty impressive IS. It allows me to get super sloppy with how I take my pictures. I can still pull off some nice shots while walking and moving around. 

 

 

The Lens | Art And Character

 

 

Bokeh

 

This camera is by no means a bokeh beast, but as long as you keep your subject fairly close to the lens and shoot at the fastest aperture possible, you can get some nice out of focus backgrounds.

There is a 9 bladed aperture which maintains some nice roundness even when stopped down.

 

 

Contrast / Micro Contrast

 

Contrast is just decent with this lens. I do find myself adding a little bit of contrast on every shot.

Micro-contrast also known as 3d pop is a little low with this lens. I’m thinking this is because I’ve been shooting a lot at around f4 and f5.6, and diffraction does kill some of the pop you’ll get from a really nice lens. This is pretty standard for just about every zoom lens out there, but I do notice an improvement when using the lower apertures where there is a bit more pop.

I think you’ll really want to keep this lens under f4 as much as possible. You can even see it in my review samples here, all my photos at around f5.6, tend to look a little dull while the photos taken at f1.7 and f2.8 have a more punchy quality to them.

 

 

Color Rendering

 

 

Colors are nice with the LX100 II when shooting RAW or JPG. Some cameras have great looking JPGs but ugly RAWs ( like DJI, maybe Sony ) while some have nice RAWs but ugly JPG ( like Canon ). – My opinion of course

I’ve always felt Panasonic cameras had nice raws and decent looking JPG profiles. The colors are a little more neutral which gives you more room to add your own style.

When shooting JPG with the LX100 II, you have a lot of image customization features to change the look of the color profile. You can adjust the tonal curves and all the different contrast, saturation and sharpness setting. This is one of the few cameras that I would recommend shooting JPG on, unless you plan on going into Lightroom regularly to tune your own look. The JPGs coming out of the LX100 II are really nice and don’t need much work. There is a lot of cool tech and features to give you the beset image possible right out of camera with JPG.

 

Straight Out Of Camera RAW

 

Straight Out Of Camera JPG

 

Video Features

 

The video features of the LX100 II are a little limited. This is an area I wish they would have improved on more since the original LX100, four years ago.

 

Panasonic LX100 II Video Specs

Record Formats: MP4 / AVCHD

Record Quality MP4: 4k 100M 30P, 4K 100M 24P, FHD 28M, 60P, FHD 20M 30p, HD 10M 30p

There is no high-speed shooting or any fun stuff like that.

 

 

Auto Focus

While some people like to really get into autofocus capabilities when reviewing or comparing cameras, I take a more real world approach. Is autofocus reliable or is it not.

 

Point Focus and Tracking

When using point focus, it’s really good. I’ve shot thousands of photos with this camera and I don’t think I’ve had to many that missed focus. At least I didn’t have any shots where I really loved the shot but focus missed. Maybe one, but it might have actually been just from my daughter moving out of focus after it was acquired.

There is really cool focus tracking technology. Only a few cameras have this. My Canon EOS R has it and it’s very useful especially with the touch screen. On the LX100 II, this works really good.

 

Face and Eye Autofocus

Face and Eye detection is just decent. It struggles to find the eyes sometimes and it doesn’t default to a focus point like Sony and Fujifilm cameras do when it can’t find a face or the eyes unless manually press on the screen to set a default box.

Face and eye tracking does work well on babies. A lot of cameras have a hard time finding baby faces and eyes.

 

 

User Interface / Ergonomics 

 

The Screen

 

A lot of people are complaining about the lack of a flip screen but I’m one of the purists that actually prefers no flip screen. Especially for a camera this small. You kind of don’t need it here. 

This would be a different story if the camera had better video features and in that case I would want some sort of a flip screen.

The LCD screen is fine with 1240k-dots of resolution. This is pretty standard for a 3″ screen. Some higher end cameras are doing better than that now, but I don’t think any compacts are yet.

 

 

The EVF is fine but could be better and the tech in it is a little dated at this point. It has a 2760k-dot display that is a little low by todays standards. An OLED would have been nice as well. But again, this camera is small, I’m not sure if there are limitations of technology when dealing with a pocketable system like this. Also remember that most compact cameras don’t even have an EVF, so it’s nice to at least get something here for shooting in bright conditions. 

 

Buttons Dials

 

 

Button layout is all really good and I found I could very quickly get use to the controls. You can even customize them for your own style of shooting. The defaults are fine for how I’m using the camera where I use the touch screen to handle a lot of my settings.

One thing I really like is how easy the camera is to control with just one hand. You can do pretty much everything you need with your thumb even adjusting the focus point.

 

Battery Life

 

Because of recent online trends, people now think they need unlimited battery life. You won’t find that with this camera. I find the battery life is just decent. Not great, but not poor either. When shooting a full day you’ll definitely burn through one battery, so a second battery is very useful when you’re shooting a lot.

 

Durability

 

The LX100 II is a little tank. It feels really good in the hands, even the lens doesn’t feel too flimsy when it’s fully zoomed out. 

My concern is, the LX100 lens use to suck in a lot of dust which would find its way onto the sensor and there was no way to clean it off. I’m really hoping Panasonic solved the dust issue with the LX100 II, but just to be careful you should always make sure the lens has no dust or dirt on it before retracting it back into the camera. 

 

 

Panasonic LX100 II | Bottom Line

 

 

The Panasonic LX100 II is very nice camera with pretty good image quality, especially considering the size. I don’t love shooting photos with my iPhone since I have very little control over the settings, so the LX100 II gives me the versatility and image quality that is very close to my bigger interchangeable lens cameras.

Although 4k video quality is just decent, the time lapse and stop motion features makes it a great B-Cam for producing unique footage pump up video projects.

It seems like there are a lot of no brainer features Panasonic could have included in this camera to upgrade it from being just a really good pocketable compact camera, to an mind blowing awesome must buy camera. A mic jack, weather sealing, improved 4k video and a flip screen would have made the LX100 II THE compact camera to buy.

Since the original Panasonic LX100 did so well among the street and travel photographers, it would seem Panasonic preferred to not change much.

The LX100 II is still a great camera and I bought it over all the other compacts because I wanted the ability to take advantage of the larger micro four thirds sensors which allows me to switch around aspect ratios without having to crop my image.

 

LX100 II Pros – Large sensor for a compact camera, nice image quality, tons of features, good ergonomics and menus.

LX100 II Cons – Not weather sealed, no built-in ND filter, no mic jack, mediocre 4k video quality, no flip screen.

 

 

Tips For Shooting With The LX100 II

 

The Sweet Spot

If you decide to buy the LX100 II, remember you’ll get the best image quality when you keep the aperture under f4. The sweet spot is about f2.8 with this particular lens and sensor. You’ll see me shooting at lot at f5.6, because that’s a habit I’ve been in from shooting with larger sensor cameras that have a higher diffraction limit. After doing all my tests, f2.8 and lower is where you want to be.

I recommend never shooting above f4, unless you want those cool sun stars.

 

Keep Shutter Type On Auto

On the LX100 II, you have the option to switch the shutter to a mechanical shutter or an electronic shutter. Mechanical shutters are almost always better to use, however, this LX100 II has a mechanical shutter speed limit of 1/2000. This means on bright and sunny days, if you want to use fast apertures and a mechanical shutter, you’ll have to use ND filters.

The best alternative is to set the shutter type to Auto. When the shutter type is on auto and the exposure calls for a faster shutter than 1/2000, the camera will automatically switch over the electronic shutter. 

While on some cameras the electronic shutters are pretty bad due to slow sensor readout speeds which causes rolling shutter or jello effect, I found the LX100 II to have very little rolling shutter.

I do wish the LX100 II would have included a built-in ND filter and a leaf shutter. Such a missed opportunity.

 

Finding The Best Accessories

I’m updating my old guide to the best accessories for the LX100 II here. 

Panasonic LX100 IIAmazon / Adorama / BHphoto

I’ll also have a guide to memory cards up very soon.

 

 

Panasonic LX100 II Sample Photos