As the Panasonic LX3 approached the two-year mark since it became available in August 2008, Panasonic aficionados had ample cause to wonder when the replacement, assumed to be the LX4, would see the light of day. Two years might not be an unusual wait for a DSLR follow-up, but compacts generally turn over more quickly. Panasonic announced the LX3 successor in July for a late August availability, but the new camera enters the arena not as the LX4, but rather the LX5. What happened to the LX4? Don't know.
Panasonic reports the LX5 is "fully re-designed in the lens, the CCD and the image processing engine together with other improvements and upgrades." The camera retains a fast f/2 Leica zoom that starts out at 24mm like the LX3, but the zoom ratio is now 3.8x and covers the 24 to 90mm focal range. Resolution remains at 10.1 megapixels on a 1/1.63 inch sensor, but with a new Venus Engine FHD processor with triple CPUs that reportedly speed up processing while producing "exceptional noise reduction performance."
HD video is now available in AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG formats. There is a strong resemblance between the two cameras, with a slightly different control layout on the back of the LX5. ISO sensitivity goes up to 12800 (from 6400 in the LX3).
When DCR reviewed the LX3 in October 2008, we found that "...the only time we produced consistently accurate colors with the LX3 was with the camera set to Nostalgic mode." There were also concerns about auto focus being a bit slow in some regimes, and lengthy shutter lag.
After an initial outing (and with the above concerns in mind) it looks like Panasonic has addressed these issues. Standard color seems accurate and true, and the other color options of the palette seem to perform as they should. AF has been prompt in all modes; the LX5 may not be the fastest camera to AF, but speeds seem competitive and not overly slow. Shutter lag likewise seems competitive with the better cameras in the class. Here are a few shots of gulls on the wing at the beach. The LX5 AF tracking mode and shutter release were certainly up to the task of capturing moving subjects consistently.
And here are a few other shots to illustrate image quality that looks pretty darn good so far.
It's early in the process, but the LX5 has been impressive so far - good build quality, good image and color quality, and AF and shutter times that look to be improved over the LX3. It's been a very pleasant camera to shoot up to this point. The answer to the "What happened to the LX4?" question originally was "don't know." If the LX5 finishes as strongly as it started, the answer to that question will be "don't care."