Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 £1500

1st Nov 2005 | 00:00

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1

The camera is the latest gadget to go widescreen

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

As long as you can get over the high price tag and cope with the slightly awkward body shape, you'll be rewarded with superb images, great anti-shake performance and a lens that's simply out of this world. The L1 probably won't sell by the ton but this is a statement of intent by Panasonic. We're already looking forward to follow-up.

Like:

<p>High-quality CCD sensor</p><p>SDHC-compatible</p><p>Seperate shutter speed dials</p>

Dislike:

<p>No tilting screen</p><p>It's expensive</p><p>Slightly awkward to hold</p>

Digital camera makers badly need unique selling points in a crowded and madly competitive market, and Panasonic's latest wheeze is to put a 16:9 sensor in a compact camera - enabling it to take shots in widescreen.

The Lumix captures 8.3-megapixel images as elongated 3,840x2,160-pixel files, so the camera needs fancy optics to make the most of this. Panasonic has therefore included a Leica 4x zoom lens with a wide angle equivalent to 28mm. This means you can take panoramic landscape shots without having to stitch bits of the panorama together, and the results are pretty impressive.

Colours are vivid and realistic, exposure is spot-on, and the widescreen functionality means you really can capture the full majestic sweep of a beach or range of hills. It's annoying, therefore, that you are stuck with a 4:3 aspect ratio on the rear LCD, with irritating black bars bordering your widescreen photos when you review them.

Another problem is noise - that ugly digital grain and speckle you get as the camera struggles to capture fine detail in fading light. This is a very 'noisy' camera considering the cost, and it's the price you pay for that higher-resolution sensor and widescreen features.

If you don't mind removing noise with photo-editing software, and are more concerned about getting good panoramas, the Panasonic is a very good buy. If you're more worried about capturing finer detail in varied light conditions, and want to experiment with ISO settings over 100, the speckling and graininess will soon get very annoying indeed.

Other virtues include a good choice of manual controls for exposure bracketing, TIFF/RAW capture, burst modes and more. Another big selling point is builtin image stabilisation. While we'd still recommend using a tripod for tricky landscape panoramas on a windy day, the image stabilisation definitely helps to reduce camera shake. Geoff Harris

Digital camerasSoftwarePanasonicLumix
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