Sony RX 100 vs Panasonic Lumix LX7 – Battle of the Compacts II

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(Video above shot entirely with the Sony RX 100 Compact Digital Camera – courtesy of EOSHD)

The quality of compact cameras is progressing by leaps and bounds, and 2012 marked the launch of several exciting achievements in the compact division.  Witness the Panasonic Lumix LX7 and the Sony RX 100, which was just named as one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2012.

Gordon Laing of CameraLabs.com recently posted a review of the RX 100 and compared it to 2 of it’s contemporary rivals, one of which is the Panasonic Lumix LX7 – a breakout compact camera that was released just a few months ago that represents a significant step forward (technologically speaking) in the compact realm.

Here’s a video sample shot by ohsujup using the Panasonic LX7 (so you can have something to compare with the RX100 footage above). You’ll find Gordon’s comparison of the RX 100 and LX7 below the video.

Gordon Laing compares the Sony RX 100 and Panasonic Lumix LX7 Compact Cameras:
The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 is likely to be a strong competitor for the Lumix LX7 as it offers a larger sensor, and a similar level of control in a more compact format. Side-by-side the RX100′s more compact dimensions point to a key advantage – it will fit in your shirt or trouser pocket – whereas the Lumix LX7 is by comparison a coat pocket camera.

Compactness is an important factor, but not the only one. The RX100′s sensor is significantly larger than the Lumix LX7′s and it boasts a much higher 20.2 Megapixel resolution which means you can get much bigger prints from the RX100, or crop them, effectively giving the RX100 a bit of a digital zoom advantage on the LX7 with no quality loss.

The RX100′s lens has a maximum aperture of f1.8-4.9 which is two thirds of a stop darker than the LX7 at the wide angle lens setting and the gap widens as you zoom in. This allows the LX7 to use lower ISOs under the same conditions with the same shutter speed, especially when zoomed-in, which while not placing them neck-in-neck in effective noise, does narrow the gap. The closer focusing distance of the LX7 also allows you to achieve a shallower depth of field in macro shots, despite the RX100′s bigger sensor and longer actual focal length, although the RX100 claws back some of that when it comes to portraits at more typical distances. Either way, its not a runaway lead for either model in the shallow depth of field stakes.

Like the LX7, the RX100 has a lens ring, but it’s programmable and not confined to aperture adjustment. In the LX7′s favour, the its dedicated aperture ring has physical 1/3rd EV click stops which give it a more positive feel. Generally, the LX7 offers more physical control options than the RX100 which lacks its thumbwheel, AF selector, aspect ratio selector and ND/Focus lever. The RX100 also lacks a hotshoe and an accessory port so there’s no option to fit either an optical or electronic viewfinder as there is on the Lumix LX7.

Finally, the Cyber-shot RX100 is comfortably more expensive than the Lumix LX7. Essentially what you’re paying for here is the combination of a large sensor in a compact body. I don’t expect there will be any shortage of people prepared to pay the price, but if absolute compactness isn’t your main criterion, the Lumix LX7 offers a brighter lens and a hotshoe/accessory port with optional viewfinder for a lot less. And once again while the LX7′s sensor is smaller, its much brighter lens allowed it to match or outperform the RX100 in terms of delivering a shallow depth-of-field in my tests. (Read Gordon’s Full Reviews of the Sony RX 100 and the Panasonic Lumix LX7)

Editor’s Note: Gordon designated each of these cameras as “Highly Recommended,” awarding each 88% out of a possible 100%, and I can’t say that I disagree with Gordon’s assessment. These cameras are pretty much the cream of the crop within the compact camera world, and you can’t go wrong with either one (at least in this price range. After all, Sony also has the $2,800 RX1, but that’s another story…). In making your decision, it’ll probably come down to a few key criteria.

  • Quality of the camera
  • Quality of the images it produces
  • Ease of use
  • Specs
  • Price

Camera quality, ease of use and specs are pretty much a wash.  They’re both well built cameras, and although you’ll have to do a little more menu diving on the RX 100 vs the LX7, which has more on body controls, the menus are easy to navigate, and if you’re accustomed to using a smart phone or tablet device, this won’t represent a problem for you.  Spec-wise, the Sony puts a larger and more powerful sensor into a smaller body, but the Panasonic has one of the brightest and fastest lenses of any compact, and it has a hot-shoe so you can easily add an electronic viewfinder or LED lights if you’d like to.

Where the cameras differ is in image quality, where the Sony gets a slight (and I mean very slight) edge, but that wonderful lens on the Panasonic makes this a close race.  As for Price, you’ll find that the Panasonic comes in about $150 USD less than the Sony.

Who are these cameras for?…

  • If you’re looking to step up from a point and shoot, but you don’t want to fiddle with interchangeable lenses (and their cost), then these are a great option for you.
  • If you’re in the market for a camcorder AND a camera, but can’t decide which one to get, you can relax, because both of these cameras will provide you with great quality stills AND video.
  • If you have a larger, interchangeable lens system and you want a high quality, yet smaller second system to travel with or shoot video, these are also great choices.

If I had to choose between the two, I would frankly have a pretty tough time.  I’ve been seriously impressed with the results that each of these cameras produces.  Personally, I generally skew towards the better lens, but I’ve seen some incredible stills and videos shot on the RX 100.   In the end, I don’t think I would regret walking out the door with either one. – SG

What do YOU think?  Please leave a comment below…

Check out the Sony RX 100 and the Panasonic Lumix LX7 Here

Comments

gerry maulion says:

i just bought the panasonic lumix lx7, its great

Congratulations, Gerry! You got yourself a great little camera that’s going to produce some beautiful images for you. Don’t be afraid to push the red button and shoot some video too! And when in doubt, put it in iA mode (Intelligent Auto) – it can be a lifesaver.

For your enjoyment and a little inspiration, here’s a link to a page by our good friend Mark Toal. Mark is a talented photographer who also works for Panasonic, so he gets to shoot with just about every Panny camera there is. On this page, you’ll see some beautiful images taken by Mark, many of which he shot with the Lumix LX7 (all images are labeled with the camera that he used) – ENJOY!!! — SG >> http://mtoallumiximages.wordpress.com/

Daniel H says:

I got the RX100 immediately after it was released in Sweden and I use it along side with a Fujifilm X100. I really must say that its a great piece of camera and with a grip from Lensmate it will shine in all its aspects. Great image quality for both stills and video, lovely built camerabody and stable to use.

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