Panasonic pulled back the curtain on an advanced Lumix compact camera at Photokina 2014. The Lumix LX100 is the first point-and-shoot with a 1.33-inch Micro Four Thirds image sensor and borrows many features from Panasonic’s high-end head turner, the GH4, including 4K video recording at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second (fps).
Beyond 4K video recording, the LX100 looks to be fast too, with a burst mode of 11fps. It uses the same contrast AF sensor that’s found in the GH4 which, along with the company’s Depth from Defocus technology, gives the LX100 the ability to lock AF in .14 seconds and track AF during 5fps burst shooting. Native ISO ranges from 200-25,600 and can be pushed down to 100.
The LX100 sports a bright f/1.7 lens with a focal range of 24-75mm. According to Panasonic, the lens has been so precisely engineered that they guarantee the lens elements are centered to within 3 micro-meters. There’s a 3-inch tilting LCD and a 2,764-dot live viewfinder, plus Wi-Fi and NFC for wirelessly pairing with mobile devices. Panasonic’s arsenal of creative effects can now be applied to images when shooting in A/S/M mode as well.
4K Photo Mode
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the new camera is its 4K Photo Mode. The mode lets you isolate an 8-megapixel still image during 4K recording by hitting the function button. When set to 4K Photo Mode, the LX100 sets picture quality and brightness settings that are ideal for still images and users can choose the aspect ratio they want to record in (4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1). The images are saved as JPEGs with complete EXIF data for each file. The new mode can be used in conjunction with a 4K loop record function that saves the last five 2-minute video clips so you can let the camera roll as you wait for the perfect photo op without devouring all your memory card space.
Panasonic is pitching the feature to portrait photographers in particular as a means of finding the perfect pose for a squirming subject, using still frames plucked from video instead of burst mode to stay on top of the action.
4K Photo Mode will also be available on the GH4 thanks to a firmware upgrade that Panasonic will roll out in October. The new firmware will also give the GH4 the ability to shoot tethered via USB and allow for more control over ISO during video recording.
Back to the LX100. Using the larger sensor, Panasonic was able to implement its Multi Aspect Ratio technology which lets you use various crops of the sensor as you adjust aspect ratio. So while the LX100’s sensor is significantly larger than the 1-inch sensor found on advanced compact cameras from Sony and others, the effective area depends on the aspect ratio you choose and is, at its largest, about 1.5 times larger than a 1-inch sensor (which is still a nice size for a camera this svelte).
We had the opportunity to get a brief hands-on with the camera and were impressed above all with its depth of field capabilities. The combination of the f/1.7 lens (which has nine aperture blades too) with the large sensor produces a very shallow depth of field for a compact camera. While we didn’t have a chance to dim the lights and crank the ISO, we suspect it will hold up very well in low light environments as well.
Speaking of light, Panasonic decided to skip the pop-up flash on the LX100 but will bundle an accessory flash with the camera. There’s an aperture ring on the lens but no mode dial (you can pop into iAuto using a dedicated button on top of the camera and choose from Panasonic’s effects via a dedicated filter button, also atop the body). The construction is magnesium alloy, giving this advanced compact some reassuring heft when you hold it. There are dials on the top of the camera for setting shutter speed and exposure compensation.
The LX100 ships in November for $899.
Panasonic also announced the Lumix DMC-GM5 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera at Photokina.
The 16-megapixel GM5 sports a live viewfinder with 100 percent color reproduction and 100 percent field of view with a resolution of 1,166k dots. A new Face/Eye Detection autofocus mode will debut on the GM5 and other AF modes, such as Pinpoint, Low Light and One-Shot, are also available for your focusing pleasure. Touch focus is available using the 3-inch touch screen display.
The GM5 can burst at up to 5.8fps with AF tracking engaged to an unlimited number of JPEGs or seven RAW image files. The maximum shutter speed is 1/16,000 and the ISO reaches 25600.
You won’t find 4K on the GM5 but it will deliver 1080/60p HD recording in either AVCHD progressive or MP4 formats with AF tracking available during movie recording. Manual exposure control is available during movie mode as well. Panasonic is rolling out a new “Snap Movie Mode” in the GM5 that lets you record short clips of between 2 and 8 seconds that can be stitched in camera with a number of creative effects and transitions to create longer video montages.
It will include Wi-Fi but no NFC. Like the LX100, the GM5 won’t feature a pop-up flash but Panasonic will bundle an accessory flash in the camera’s box.
Look for the GM5 in November for $899.
Panasonic also launched a new lens, the G 14m f/2.5 ASPH is a Micro Four Thirds lens with a 28mm equivalent fixed focal length.
Due in November, the lens uses a stepping motor for quiet autofocus and a seven bladed diaphragm. It will cost $399.