Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5: Performance

October 20, 2010 by Jim Keenan Reads (11,007)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 6
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.75
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

When this site reviewed the LX3 back in October 2008, there were concerns about color fidelity and multipoint autofocus acquisition and shutter lag times that were positioned toward the slower end of the spectrum. A brief shoot conducted to provide material for the “First Look” article on the LX5 suggested that Panasonic may have improved performance in these areas. Has our first impression been borne out by subsequent events?

Shooting Performance
The answer to the above question is “pretty much.” The LX5 sets no speed records powering up – it takes about 2.25 to 2.5 seconds for a focus point to appear after flipping the “on/off” switch, with a first shot coming at about 2.8 seconds. Single shot-to-shot times ran about 1.4 seconds with a class 10 SDHC card. AF acquisition time was 0.40 seconds and shutter lag came in at 0.01 seconds, eclipsing the figures for the LX3 quite handily.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 0.01
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 0.01
Canon PowerShot S95 0.02

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.19
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 0.28
Canon PowerShot S95 0.36
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 0.40

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 3 3.3 fps
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 4 1.9 fps
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 4 1.6 fps
Canon PowerShot S95 0.9 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Continuous shooting rates are advertised at 2.5 frames per second (fps) at full resolution and fine quality, but our review model bettered that with a 3.3 fps rate. The catch is you only get three shots at fine quality before the buffer cries uncle – that number jumps to five shots with standard quality. There is a high-speed burst mode in the scene menu that offers 6 fps with image quality priority and 10 fps with speed priority, but at 3 megapixel or less resolution depending on image aspect ratio.

Flash range is given as up to about 23.5 feet at wide angle, and 14.4 feet at telephoto, both at auto ISO. Shooting at the best quality 80 or 100 ISO settings will lower these distances. Here’s a shot of Garfunkel from about 8 feet at ISO 100 – the LX5 just didn’t quite have the power to achieve a good exposure from that distance. However, a quick post process of the shot utilizing a curve adjustment produced a more pleasing result.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
After curve adjustment

While range may be limited shooting at low ISO sensitivities, the flash did an admirable job of not overpowering the subject when used in close proximity. Here are backlit roses from about a foot away, and again with flash on.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
No flash
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Fill flash

Flash recycle times with a fresh battery ran as low as about 2 seconds in auto shooting modes in moderate light, and still came in under 5 seconds with full discharges in aperture priority and dark conditions.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image

Battery life is listed as 400 shots using a CIPA standard that is generally reliable.

Lens Performance
The LX5’s Leica DC Vario-Summicron zoom lens is built by Panasonic to Leica standards and while it retains the fast f/2 maximum aperture at the 24mm wide angle end of the focal range, it has slowed to f/3.3 at the telephoto end (versus f/2.8 in the LX3). The trade off is the LX5 expands the focal range from 24 to 90mm compared to 24 to 60mm in the LX3.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image

Slower or not, Leica lenses generally acquit themselves fairly well, and the LX5 didn’t disappoint in this regard. There is a bit of barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom and edges and corners are slightly soft. There was some chromic aberration (purple fringing) in some high contrast boundary areas at wide angle, but the effect really became objectionable with enlargement to the 200-300% range. The telephoto end of the zoom was quite good – no geometric distortion was noted and edges and corners were fairly sharp. Purple fringing was very slight when it existed at all.

The lens can focus as close as about 0.4 inches in macro mode.

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