Panasonic takes the wraps off six new cameras today and we got our hands on three of them - the advanced fixed-lens LX7, the G5 system camera and the FZ200 ultrazoom. See how these cameras fared on and off the Raceway in Sonoma.
First, we shot the LX7 for a few portraits and some shots of a couple of sporty cars. I very much liked the LX7's new aperture ring - it's located around the lens. Neighboring this ring is a switch toggling between still image aspect ratio, a setting that's usually buried under layers of camera menus. Switching into Macro Mode is as easy as flipping another switch.
I was impressed with how well the LX7 contended with the bright highlights and harsh shadows of the sun at high noon. Highlights are maintained where other cameras, especially small-sensor compacts, might lose them. Not so with the LX7. I did, however, need the electronic viewfinder accessory. The LCD was no match for bright sun, and shooting without the viewfinder was about as easy as playing pick up sticks with your eyes closed.
Panasonic Lumix LX7 Sample Images
The Lumix G5 got some low light testing in the basement of a California winery. Take a look at the series of ISO shots from 400-3200. I'd have no problem shooting at 3200 with G5 based on these results. The images were all handheld and the camera's auto white balance seems to warble a bit between warm and cool, but the shots are a good indicator of the noise level you could expect to see from a full production-level G5 unit.
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 3200, 100% crop
ISO 12800, the camera's extreme top end, doesn't look good. That's to be expected. The control interface received some light updates - a cleaned up mode dial and a rotary jog dial on the back are welcome improvements. The lever on the top deck was a nice alternative to the 14-42mm's own zoom switch.
I found the new grip to be a nice improvement too. It felt easier to grab hold of the camera and keep it steady. The G5 also brings back the eye sensor at the EVF, making switching between LCD mode and EVF a simple task. And as always, the articulated LCD is a big help in framing those shots at pavement level.
Panasonic Lumix G5 Sample Shots
We did shoot with the Lumix FZ200, but the unit on hand was not a full production model. Since that's the case, the images published here do not reflect final image quality of the FZ200. Still, it's safe to say that the FZ200 will appeal to a particular customer based on specs alone.
Panasonic FZ200 Sample Images
Maintaining a maximum aperture of f/2.8 through a 24x optical zoom range is an impressive feat. Staying close to the cars on the Sonoma track wasn't too difficult a task. The viewfinder was crucial in trying to capture fast-moving vehicles on the track. Flexibility is the FZ200's biggest weapon, and the ability to maintain faster shutter speeds at telephoto sure won't hurt.
All told, these three cameras turned in some impressive results. We're not at the finish line though, and we can't make serious judgements until we post full reviews. Stay tuned.
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