posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 12th Mar 2007 02:12 UTC
IconHi-Mobile.net sent us in a review unit of Panasonic's flagship point-n-shoot camera, the LX2. This camera kept the first place among other similar products in the past year with its two unique features: HD video recording and wide-angle for landscape shooting.

In the box we found the camera, a 1150mAh battery, a US battery charger, a composite A/V cable, a USB cable, a lens cap and its strap, and a wrist-wrap. The user manual is in an Asian language (Hi-Mobile's products ship from Hong Kong usually), but Hi-Mobile has printed the english manual of the camera and strapped it together.

The LX2 is a 10.4 MP camera (4224x2376) with a 16:9 aspect CCD. It uses a LEICA lens and it has an optical image stabilizer. You can configure the lense to shoot in 16:9, 4:3 and 3:2 resolutions. It comes with a glorious 2.8" widescreen LCD and supports both JPEG and RAW shooting. It also supports manual exposure and has plenty of focus options with 1/2000th to 60 sec shutter speeds. It supports SD cards, it is PictBridge-compliant and it has 4x optical zoom and a flash.

The first positive point about the camera is its small size. When I first saw pictures of the camera online I thought that it would be huge, but it is in fact slimmer and lighter than my Canon A700. The buttons are placed out in good positions too, easy to find and click. The LCD is the second best part of the camera, it is very bright and it has a great viewing angle. The user interface is easy to use but it might take a bit to get used to because depending in which mode your camera is, some options are not visible (we were trying to find how we can change the video recording resolution only to discover that this is available only via changing first the aspect ratio of the lens!).

Being a real point-n-shoot camera there are a lot of niceties and conveniences in the camera, like the many scene modes: Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Self-portrait, Food, Party, Candle, Fireworks, Starry Sky, Beach, Aerial photo, Snow, High Sensitivity, Baby 1 and Baby 2. But also being a real "hacking" camera many manual options and configurations can be applied to it. Think of it as the Ubuntu of the operating systems. Easier to use than most pro cameras, but with the right options for those who want convenience.

The camera has no serious shutter lag. The depth-of-field indicator in manual focus is a welcome feature. Picture quality is pretty good considering the price and overall features of the LX2. Our favorite feature, HD video recording is pleasant. The camera can record 30fps at the EDTV 480p resolution (848x480) and 15fps at the HDTV 720p resolution (1280x720). One interesting feature is that when you click the "shoot" button quickly while video is being recorded, the camera also saves down a picture at the current video resolution.

Please note that the camera's native photoJpeg-based video format in the .mov container works great with Quicktime, but VLC has problems. Sometimes it will play a video right, sometimes it will miss one of the RGB colors, and some other times it might just stop playing back after a second or two. Additionally, the camera's native video format makes it an excellent choice as an input format for use with a video editor, but if you are only interested in independent clips we recommend you re-encode your videos to a Mpeg-4 format of your choice as the resulted file can have for up to 10 times smaller size.

Please "save link-as", do not click directly for the videos.

Low light, inside our home

Outdoors

However, we bumped into shutter speed limits (1/1000s max between f/2.8 and f/3.6), which isn't fast enough to shoot in full daylight and forces to stop down more, which causes quite some diffraction. The lens is too slow, especially at the long end. f/4.9 is equivalent to f/22 on 35mm. Even wide open at the short end, diffraction means that image quality won't be able to compete with a good DSLR picture. Also, the aperture is so small that it's almost impossible to get some serious background blur and to isolate the subject.

Battery life is pretty good, enough for at least 100 shots. We shot most of our test pictures during our vacation in Sierra Nevada's Lake Tahoe and Mt Rose near Reno NV, which had snow and a cold weather at the time (cold weather is known to reduce battery life), and yet the camera performed admirably.

Please "save link-as", do not click directly for the video.

Re-encoded as MP4 at 1mbps. This is my messy office.

In conclusion, such a wide-angle is rare in a point-and-shoot. The wide aspect ratio makes it even more desirable. Overall, this a very good point-and-shoot camera for landscapes and for some hobby HD video recording. Further reading: DPReview, DCResource review, 720p video sample.

Buy at Hi-Mobile.net

Pros:
* Great for landscapes
* HD video recording
* Small and portable

Cons:
* Grainy above ISO 100
* No viewfinder
* Lens too slow

Rating: 9/10

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