Comparison of Panasonic LX7 and Nikon S9300
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Old 09-27-2012   #1
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Default Comparison of Panasonic LX7 and Nikon S9300

I've wanted to compare these two very different types of camera for a long time, to illustrate some of the differences between long zoom, pixel ratios, sensor size, lens design, and optimization for wide angle -vs- long zoom image quality. This video is somewhat long-winded, but expresses some ideas that don't make it into professional reviews on any sites I've visited.

Panasonic LX7 and Nikon S9100 Compact Pocket Digital Camera comparison review by Dale - YouTube

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Old 09-29-2012   #2
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Default Panasonic LX7 full text review

The Panasonic LX7 is often described as a photographer's compact camera because of the sophisticated and professional controls it has. Manual aperture and shutter, manual focus, aperture priority, shutter priority, neutral density filters, same-perspective image formats, etc. The look and feel of the LX7 doesn't hurt either. I have the white version, which is a metal body that has what looks like a semi-glossy enamel-type coating. The camera has a raised rubberized grip on the front, but it doesn't feel natural to me because of the small size of the camera, so I hold it like any small camera, with thumbs underneath, forefingers on top, and a wrist strap (not supplied) on my wrist.

The LX7 is a beautiful camera with a high quality build, and feels very dense. No doubt the large lens contributes to the 10.5 ounce weight, and also to the 2.2 inch thickness. Both of those factors disqualify the LX7 as a shirt-pocket camera, and in my opinion as a pants-pocket camera too unless you have some kind of safari pants with large heavy-duty pockets. Note that Panasonic warns that the LX7 is not dust-proof, so if you do carry it in a pocket, you should do so in a sealed or zippered carry case to prevent dust getting into the mechanism. I will be using the Leica D-Lux 6 carry case when it's available - in the meantime I'm using the 18709 case from the Leica X1. Panasonic's carry case is the old-fashioned "journalist-photographer" case, which might be OK for some uses, but doesn't look good at most social events.

The lens is a Leica 'Summilux' design with 135-effective focal lengths ranging from 24 to 90 mm. Most importantly, the widest aperture is f1.4 at 24 mm, and f2.3 at the 90 mm focal length. Much mention is made these days about improved sensors for low-light shooting, but there's no substitute for good glass, and the LX7's lens is probably the best available in a camera this size. Zooming is available the normal way with a stepless (smooth) action, and using a camera setting you can step from 24 to 28, 35, 50, 70, and 90 mm. The lens cap is a separate piece and comes with a lens-cap "string" that can attach it to the camera body so it doesn't get lost. I've seen complaints about this lens cap design, but I like it and don't find it particularly inconvenient.

One of the great features of the LX7 is the aspect selector switch on top of the lens barrel. What's important here is that the LX7 doesn't just chop off the top and bottom of the image when changing from the 4x3 to 3x2 format - it maintains the same angle of view. The LX7 uses 10 megapixels (mp) with 4x3 aspect and slightly less in 3x2 and 16x9, but the wider aspects also use more pixels on the wider dimension since the sensor captures nearly 13 mp total. Almost needless to say, this requires a visual chart to explain - just google the words LX7 Aspect Ratio. On the side of the lens barrel is the selector for manual, auto, and macro focus. Macro focus goes down to one(1) centimeter, but when getting that close to a subject, the large lens is blocking much of the direct light, which might require a wider aperture resulting in a shallow depth of field (DOF). It may be necessary in such a case to put additional light on a macro subject, or shoot from a tripod.

The LX7 has a video button on the top panel at the right side, which I've seen described as redundant since there's a video (motion picture) selection on the mode dial. It's not redundant. Until those separate buttons became common on digital cameras, I lost important beginning seconds in many video opportunities because the mode dial was set (usually) to Program mode. The monitor screen on the rear is typical of small cameras - it's clear and detailed and bright enough for nearly any shooting conditions. I've seen many commments about holding small digital cameras at arm's length to see the screen, presumably because older people don't focus close enough to hold the camera close. Being nearsighted, I mostly view the screen from 8 to 9 inches distance, but 3 to 4 inches is OK when I need to see smaller details. Since people who are not nearsighted typically use reading glasses for print, perhaps those would work with digicams as well.

Many of the consumer digicams don't have good AF/AE (auto-focus/auto-exposure) selections, but the LX7 does. Other features such as minimum auto shutter speed and maximum auto ISO are becoming more common now, and are very handy for me, particularly the maximum auto ISO which I keep set at 400. Shooting some indoor scenes today with good outdoor light streaming in from a window, the camera chose 160 and 200 ISO for some of those images. I then set the ISO to 80 fixed and reshot some of the images, and the differences in noise can be clearly seen on the camera's monitor screen. The selectable built-in neutral density (ND) filters provide much greater flexibility in setting apertures and shutter speeds, but those really are professional options and most casual users will probably not use them. The LX7's built-in flash is good, as built-in flash units go, but nearly everything shot with flash looks better with external flash units, or white reflectors at the very least.

I've read complaints about the tripod socket being on the end instead of more centered, but the obvious advantage is that it leaves the battery and memory compartment free so the tripod attachment doesn't have to be unscrewed when there's a need to change the battery. Since the LX7 is slightly heavy for its size, if the tripod attachment has a small enough surface, it might not be perfectly stable that way, and a better solution would be to find a tripod attachment with a larger surface under the 1/4 inch screw mount. Leica warns about attempting to use a tripod mount with a screw that's 5.5 mm or greater in length. Checking my own tripod, monopod, and ZipShot mini-tripod, none of those exceed 4.5 mm in length, so 5.5 mm screw mounts must be relatively rare or occur on specialized equipment.

Camera forums are rife with complaints about the price of replacement batteries, and I always recommend carrying at least a second battery so shooting can continue if the first battery runs down. Contrary to what many people suggest - saving money with third-party batteries, I consider the price difference and if it's huge, I need to know why. Before I could even consider a very cheap battery, I would need several independent reviews that affirm the quality of that particular battery as well as the reliability of the manufacturer of that battery. On top of that, I would need to know that if their battery damaged my camera, they would pay to replace my camera promptly. Lithium-ion batteries can be very dangerous. If the price difference were less than my expenses in replacing a defective battery (packaging, shipping, time wasted, loss of battery for a period of time), I would certainly get the camera manufacturer's battery.

Last but not least is the image quality. I will be placing images on my website (google my name) as time goes on, and my images there are average to worst case JPEG's processed in Paint Shop Pro v6 (ca.1999) rather than highly tuned RAW images processed in Lightroom or Photoshop. There are other websites that have or will have the optimized images, so mine will provide a good comparison as to what can be done with JPEG's and minimal (rotate, crop, lighten/darken) post-processing (PP). My experience so far says I can get good images up to ISO 800 in good indoor light at various public events, if I reduce the camera's internal noise processing and process the noise externally using Noiseware, DeNoise etc. software programs. Using the camera with defaults and no PP noise reduction, I'd say don't go higher than ISO 400 indoors or in flat lighting unless you're OK with the noise level.

Many experienced users will learn the complex settings until they become second nature, and thus get better images as a result. Other users will stick with full automatic ('iA' on the mode dial). I work in between those, using 'P' (Program) on the mode dial, which sets the aperture and shutter automatically, but uses the settings I've configured in the camera's menus. Where I deviate from 'P' is when I choose 'S' for shutter priority - photographing surfers I typically set the shutter to 1/250 second or higher. I may use the 'A' setting also, for example if shooting a macro from very close up, to increase DOF so the entire object is in focus.


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