As I was packing for our recent trip to Florida I looked at my camera bag with my Canon 5D MKII, lenses, battery, filters, and assorted gadgets and thought “man I really don’t want to haul that stuff when I’m really not going to have an opportunity to use it for more than casual pictures”. So I talked with a couple of friends, @mkrigsman and @mfauscette who are my goto guys for the latest in camera gear.
I have a pretty good camera in my Samsung S4 so I didn’t want a point-and-shoot that was little more than the Samsung S4 without the smartphone pieces. but at the same time I didn’t want to spring for a super high end compact camera like the Fuji X100S or the Sony RX1R. I did want a compact camera that came with a high quality lens, not a prime, and was fast enough to perform well in low light while offering the convenience of point-and-shoot. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 and Sony RX100 were on the short list. I chose the Lumix primarily because it was about $200 less expensive than the Sony while offering pretty much the same specs.
The family vacation in south Florida went off well and I have continued to use the camera in a few other instances over the last few weeks. Overall I really like it but given the choice I would spring the extra $ and get the Sony if I were to do it again.
The Leica lens on the Lumix is impressive and pixel for pixel probably equal to the Zeiss glass in the Sony. I really like the aperture control ring on the lens itself, which is very handy but am wondering how useful the aspect ratio selector is. The low light performance of this camera is exactly why I bought it, and the noise that comes with cranking up the ISO is not actually that severe.
The controls are easy, love the knurled dial on top and like the video button that does not require me to switch modes before using. The on/off switch is easy to deal with on the fly and zooming is fast. Once you get used to the multi-function buttons on the back of the camera you can work these easily enough, but getting used to them is the key.
The LCD display is sharp and bright but the ability to use it outdoors depends a lot on where and how you are using it. This is something that I found really frustrating and just wanted an integrated viewfinder I could look through. there is an attachment from Panasonic for this but it is an additional $160 and increases the bulk of the camera significantly.
The most surprising thing to me about this camera is the thing I found really annoying. the lens cap! The Sony has an integrated lens cover, the Lumix has a traditional cap that you need to remove before use and if you turn the camera on without removing the cap you have to press a button, any button, for the camera to activate. Little things always prove to be the undoing of otherwise great products.
In retrospect I would have sprung for the Sony but not because it is that much of a better camera. Purely on the basis of performance it is probably about equal with the Lumix but a couple of design aspects overcome weak spots with the Lumix.
The integrated lens cover is a big plus in my opinion but the overall form factor of the Sony is quite a bit more compact than the Lumix and that makes a difference for a walking around camera. The lens quality is comparable and while I like the manual adjustment rings on the Lumix I have to say that the pancake style lens on the Sony is pretty appealing.
Both companies offer included software but I did not have the opportunity to use the Panasonic supplied software because they ship it, along with the full manual, on a DVD drive and I do not have a single computer in my house with a DVD unit. I contacted Panasonic support and they do not offer the software as a download. This is a significant failing on their part and I hope they start offering downloads.
You won’t go wrong with either camera and in the future I will be leaving my 5D at home more than I ever thought I would have as a result of what these high performance compact cameras bring to the table.
PS- I have some great action shots from this camera but in each one my children are featured. I generally don’t post pictures of my family in my blog posts so you will have to take my word for it that when it comes to action shots the Lumix handles the task with ease.