Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (1,463)
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

Video Quality
Video quality was generally good in the LX5, and zoom is available during video capture.

Generally good? Video seems to have a chink in its image quality armor – our LX5 did not like bright scenes where the brightness came directly into the lens. Reflections off a car, bright sunlight on water, brighter portions of clouds on an overcast day all caused colored banding, and this effect was present in both AVCHD Lite and Motion JPEG shooting formats. On a pan of the ocean on a broken overcast day, the dark portion of the pan was fine, but as we got to a brighter area due to broken/thinner cloud cover, a fuchsia tint and vertical streaks were captured. The problem was limited to video – the LX5 did fine with still images under the same conditions. Here’s a shot of the first frame of a Motion JPEG video illustrating the banding, and a still under the type of lighting conditions that impacted the video.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Motion JPEG Frame

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Still image

On the video clip below I began the shot at wide angle on the kite boarder and with bright sky in the frame the banding was present. As I zoomed in on the rider and the bright sky went out of the frame, the banding disappeared. Panasonic was gracious enough to overnight a second LX5 to me, but unfortunately the problem persisted with this camera as well.

Panasonic also reviewed the film clips we provided and their analysis was that the banding was “typical vertical flair that occurs when you aim a camera at a very bright light.” I did have another review camera (Canon G12) shooting both stills and video under the same conditions that did not have the problem I experienced with the LX5. The G12 displayed some minor lens flare when panned across the brighter portions of scenes, but nothing like the LX5’s problem. Now the G12 has a 28mm wide angle versus 24mm in the LX5, so perhaps the wider lens on the LX5 had something to do with the vertical flare – but my pans with both cameras took in about the same amount of bright sky so I can’t definitively point to lens width as a contributing factor.

Suffice it to say the LX5 video has been the most flare-prone I’ve encountered in a compact digital and potential buyers would be well advised to examine this aspect of the camera’s performance should video capture figure into their shooting plans.

Audio is recorded in monaural and the microphone is susceptible to wind noise. There is a “wind cut” setting.

Image Quality
OK, on to happier subjects. Still image quality in the LX5 is very good at default settings and there are contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction settings available in manual exposure modes if the defaults don’t meet your expectations.

The “standard” setting on the film mode color palette produced accurate colors, but there are dynamic, nature, soft, vibrant, nostalgic, standard B&W, dynamic B&W, smooth B&W, my film 1 and 2 and multi film options. Here are the standard, dynamic, nature, smooth, vibrant and standard B&W film modes:

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Standard
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Dynamic
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Nature
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Smooth
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Vibrant
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Standard Black & White

Auto white balance did a good job under a variety of conditions including our studio 5500K fluorescents, but shot warm under incandescent light. There are daylight, cloudy, shade, flash and incandescent presets, plus 2 custom settings and a color temperature option.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Multiple metering was used for exposure purposes and worked well in most cases. The LX5 could lose highlights in some high contrast situations, but such a performance is not uncommon in compacts. There are center-weighted and spot metering options available, and in case you’re wondering, neither solved the LX5 video banding problem.

ISO noise performance, as expected, was a bit better than compacts with smaller physically-sized sensors. The LX5 has a nominal ISO range of 80 to 3200; 6400 and 12800 are available at drastically reduced resolutions.

ISO 80 and 100 are essentially identical and clean; 200 shows a tiny bit of noise and some fine detail loss, but is really quite close to 100. ISO 400 is a bit noisier than 200 with some more fine detail loss, but is certainly usable for large prints.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 80
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 80, 100% crop
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 100
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 200
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 400
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 800
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

ISO 800 shows the greatest change so far, in both noise and loss of detail, though it would be very usable for smaller images. Bumping up to ISO 1600 shows an even bigger drop off than the 400-800 jump, with fine details becoming smudged. ISO 3200 is dramatically worse; noise jumps markedly and fine details are a distant memory.

We didn’t shoot the low resolution, high ISO sensitivities in the studio, but here’s 1600 through 12800 on an admittedly noise friendly light-colored subject.

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
ISO 12800

Overall, use anything over 400 ISO on a large print at your own peril.

Additional Sample Images

Panasonic LX5 Sample Image Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image Panasonic LX5 Sample Image
Panasonic LX5 Sample Image Panasonic LX5 Sample Image


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