The pocket camera is dead, right? Well, not exactly. If you’re talking about cheap, basic cameras that take pictures, then sure, you could argue that point. But camera makers are introducing new features that make them stand out from smartphones (not to mention more exciting), and in Panasonic’s new Lumix DMC-LX100, it’s about putting in a big sensor and 4K-video capture into a high-end compact camera.
An evolution of the LX7 (which remains in the lineup as a lower-end camera), the LX100 has the heart of a much larger camera. A sleek compact with retro styling cues, it uses a 12.8-megapixel Micro Four Thirds MOS sensor found in Panasonic’s MFT interchangeable lens cameras, which is larger than even the 1-inch sensors found in some high-end compacts (the sensor is the same as the one used in the GX7, and the LX100 is the first point-and-shoot to use an MFT sensor) and 6.4x bigger than small 1/2.3-inch sensors found in low-end point-and-shoots and smartphones (although not as large as APS sensors found in DSLRs, mirroless cameras, and some compacts). The LX100 can shoot in multiple aspect ratios, and Panasonic says the camera maintains the same focal length in each ratio, so nothing is trimmed out when you switch it up.
The camera also uses a newer Venus Engine image processor with improved noise reduction for higher-quality images. Continuous shooting is rated at 11 frames per second. Besides a 3-inch, 921k-dot LCD, the LX100 borrows the same 2,764-dot, wide Live View Finder from the GX7. The contract-detect autofocus system is also faster than the LX7 by 0.14 seconds, and can handle AF tracking at 6.5 fps. It uses Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology inherited from the GH4, to help shorten the autofocusing time (the system “calculates the direction and the amount to move the focus lens at a single movement by predicting it with two images that have different depth of field,” which is similar in concept to phase detection; check out this video here).
The LX100 has a new Leica DC Vario-Summilux lens with a 24-75mm zoom (equivalent to a 3.1x zoom). The lens comes with optical image stabilization and has a fast f/1.7-2.8 aperture, with a nine-blade diaphragm to help create a nice, more natural-looking bokeh effect. Panasonic says it had to use new technology to downsize the lens in order to fit it inside the compact body, without sacrificing image quality. There are control dials on the top (there’s no mode dial, since you enter a particular mode based on the settings you pick), and a ring around the lens controls aperture.
Of course, one of the more impressive features is the ability to record 4K (QFHD 4K in MP4, which is 3,840 x 2,160 at 30 fps), since it uses the same engine as the GH4. No, it’s not cinematic 4K and there aren’t any advanced audio features to make this a cinematic camera (there’s no mic input), but if you happen to own a 4K display, the LX100 lets you create home movies for it. An intriguing component of 4K video is the ability to extract 4K photos from it. Because the resolution is far great than Full HD, you can pause a video and take an 8-megapixel still image from it. This allows users to take photos in a new way by simply recording video, which means you never have to worry about missing a moment. Don’t worry if you don’t have a 4K TV; the LX100 shoots Full HD 1080 as well, at 60 fps. Note that the camera will record 15 minutes in 4K before stopping.
The camera has Wi-Fi with NFC to pair with smartphones and tablets (iOS or Android), and includes advanced features like focus peaking, level gauge, white balance bracket, highlight and shadow control, and in-camera RAW-to-JPEG conversion, as well as some easy-to-use shooting modes.
The LX100 comes bundled with an external flash, as there’s not one built in. This little powerful compact, available in black, will hit stores in November for $899. Note that the silver version shown in the images will not be available in the U.S. at launch (or ever).