There are four primary factors when looking for a digital camera nowadays:
1. What is the lense?
-is it well-known glass or is it an in-house branded glass?
2. What are the features?
-is there image stabilizer (the preferable optical or digital)?
-is there simple shooting modes?
-is there manual functions?
-is the camera easy to use?
-what kind of memory does it use? (SD/XD/Memory Stick)
3. How many mega pixels does the camera have?
4.Does the camera look good?
Many people go in the opposite order when looking at a camera to purchase, if they even consider a lense at all. After working in a camera store for a while, I learned that customers often don't look at lenses unless they just say "What's a good camera." Often, that meant I'd steer them towards a Cannon, Sony or a Panasonic (sometimes a Nikon or Olympus too). Before working for that store I'd never have considered a Panasonic and would have likely just gotten a Cannon when I looked to upgrade my Casio (which was/is a decent pocket camera).Panasonic has a major advantage going for them. They partnered with Germany's Leica to provide stellar lenses on their cameras (and in return Leica often has similar cameras branded in their name). The lense is the most important part of ANY camera. If you have a cute camera but a bad lense you will be unhappy with the results. Even with a 10 or 12 mega pixel camera you can get craptastic pictures (the smaller the camera, the smaller the processing ability of the camera (thus noisy pictures). Therefore 7-8 Mega pixels is all you really need in a camera.
Panasonic also has a dual mode optical image stabilizer. A feature found in every Panasonic digital camera, the "Mega O.I.S." (as they call it) helps an unsteady hand deliver a good picture, often even in the harshest of conditions. For those that don't know, the difference between Optical and Digital stabilizer is that Optical is in the lense (I.E. optics) while the digital stabilizer is completely computerized. Most of Panasonic's camera lenses also start at 28mm wide with a larger than average 3.6 times zoom to give more at low and higher zooms. Panasonic also has an intuitive menu, scene modes and on some of the higher priced cameras, complete manual controls including manual focus.
My new camera is the DMC-LX2. While there is a 10 mega pixel sensor inside the LX2, this is not your average pocketable camera. The camera uses that 10 mega pixel sensor to shoot 16:9 widescreen pictures. It's a unique feature not found in any other camera as the standard shot. The camera also features on it's lense a toggle switch for the aspect ratio. if you want to take more traditional 4:3 pictures (full screen in TV mode) then you have a 7.3 mega pixel camera. So, it's only a 10 mega pixel camera for the panoramic widescreen shots. And how do the panoramic shots look? Quite honestly, they're very stunning. Also at parties, indoor and outdoor, the camera is able to squeeze in big groups of people without the people having to squish together to 'make it work.' That's a big plus for me as my family is quite large and still celebrates ALL holidays and birthdays together.
As for other features the LX2 offers way more than the standard camera. Here is the attention grabbing features:
10.4 Mega pixel 16:9 aspect CCD
28mm wide 4x optical LEICA DC lens
MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer)
Venus Engine III
Joystick-operated manual control
Large 2.8 16:9 aspect ratio LCD monitor (207k pixels)
Raw and JPEG recording modes
Up to ISO 3200 sensitivity
Up to 1280x720 (15fps) pixel movie capture
Manual exposure and focus options
1/2000th to 60 sec shutter speeds
SDHC Card compatible (800 16:9 wide pictures-highest quality- or 1060 4:3 pictures on a 4gb SDHC card)
Available in black or silver
Like I said above, It's not the average camera and is basically, a year after being on sale, still the only camera of its kind on the market. That 2.8" 16:9 LCD monitor is great. It allows for the widescreen images to not be cropped at all. When shooting regular 4:3 pictures, the sides are cropped off, much like a widescreen HDTV. The Raw feature is a nice option for those who like even more control over their pictures (it's an uncompressed, unprocessed picture). While not used too much, I like that I can use it if I want. When taking pictures I generally use Program AE, Aperture Priority or Auto modes. There is also Shutter Priority (which I use to make cool night shots on streets) and complete manual control. These are functions that, with practice and patience, even the most novice user can learn to love too. A "prosumer" camera, the LX2 also offers up the Panasonic "scene modes" which are of great help when one doesn't know which setting or f stop to put a camera in (so is auto).
The image quality is very good. While sometimes there are some pictures with noise, I don't mind that so much as I'm really looking to get a shot not to get a perfect image at all times. I never use the digital zoom or high ISO sensitivity (the higher the ISO the more noise you get with compact cameras) so in general I get great pictures. So much so that my family and friends are amazed at the pictures I take. While there may be a good photographer in me, if I didn't have the LX2, I'd be a bit worse off. I use the LX2 all the time and take pictures virtually everywhere. I love taking macro pictures with the camera and like the aspect ratio selector; there is a macro/manual/auto focus selector on the side of the lense. The lense doesn't have an automatically closing lense cap but while initially thinking it'd be an issue for me, I found the removable lense cap to be a much better, sturdier option for the camera.
There simply isn't much of any kind of issue from me with the LX2 and while it's higher priced than most compact cameras, you do get the nice Rangefinder style looks (especially when you choose the black paint as I did) along with a bigger, better lense, manual and raw abilities and easy-to-use menu options. Panasonic has moved very far in a short time. While the LX2 won't be for everyone, those of you out there looking for a pocket sized camera that has some prosumer functions certainly cannot go wrong with the LX2. Like all compact cameras it's not perfect but to me it's quite near it.
feel free to visit www.flickr.com/photos/sanbon to see some of my LX2 pictures taken while here in Korea.
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Amount Paid (US$): 330
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts