Panasonic Lumix LX100ii Field Review Noise

As an owner of the previous incarnation of this camera I was really pleased when I heard a successor was going to appear. And I’m fairly pleased with the improvements they’ve made. The camera arrived last week but I’m only now getting the opportunity to test it. It will come as no surprise to hear me say that the results are ‘as expected’. Take an already excellent camera, add a bit more resolution and some additional features and there is little to complain about. That said, the omission of a tilt screen has upset a great many potential buyers. It does have a touchscreen now however (and a higher resolution LCD).

The original LX100 took its sensor from the GX7. This is a 16 megapixel 4/3 sensor. However to keep the camera small and to enable a very fast zoom lens not all of the sensor can be utilised. This resulted in a resolution of between 11 and 12.8 megapixels depending on the aspect chosen. The LX100ii has the sensor from the recent Panasonic GX9. This is a 21 megapixel sensor where just over 17 megapixels are utilised in 4:3 mode. Team this with the ‘secret sauce’ tone and colour rendering of the LX100 and the results really are lovely.

In terms of functionality Panasonic have added extra custom buttons, which I find very welcome. It also has the new 4K photo features. A particular favourite of mine is ‘post focus’ which I often use on my GX8 to create storyboards during family or pet photo shoots. Instead of having a separate charger for the battery, the new camera charges via USB. It also gains Bluetooth and some new picture styles. In usage and looks, the camera is broadly the same as its predecessor.

The combination of the glorious Leica f1.7 to f2.8 standard zoom lens, super close focusing, fast performance and feature set means there is little to differentiate this machine from its larger interchangeable lens counterparts.  If you did want interchangeable lens capability you would need to purchase one of Panasonic’s micro 4/3 cameras, such as the GX9 and team it with Panasonic’s 12-35 f2.8 lens. That is not a cheap combination by any stretch and it certainly won’t fit into a jacket pocket. Therefore the £850 price tag of the LX 100ii doesn’t look too bad.


Panasonic LX100ii Settings and Comparisons

What a lot of my readers ask for is a commentary about sensor noise. That’s always a hot topic (groan). I thought the LX100 was pretty good in that regard but its successor is of course better. How much better, you ask? I can’t do a side-by-side comparison because I sold the LX 100 to help finance the new one.

Instead, I’m going to compare it with the Canon 200D which has Canon’s latest APSC sensor. This will demonstrate how well this ‘compact camera’ holds up to the 24MP sensor used in some of the bestselling DSLR bodies.

When we do these tests we need to try and use lenses of a similar sharpness. For this reason I’m teaming the Canon 20D with the 18-55 STM (the latest one, and it’s very sharp despite being a kit lens).

Because it’s the higher ISO values which people are more interested in I’ll be working at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. Why am I not going higher? Because with the fast lens on the LX100ii I don’t need to – the chances of reaching sensitivities above that are very slim indeed.

White balance is the only parameter which I adjusted slightly on import, simply because the results were so wildly different as to be distracting. The Canon files are more saturated but I’ve left that alone. I’ve noticed that Canon also has a tendency to under expose slightly. I shot these in Av mode because that’s how I tend to work most of the time, and it’s interesting to see how different cameras expose at the same ISO value.

Due to the working conditions, shutter speeds were slow. But I’m used to that and with good technique these images are plenty sharp enough.

As in previous noise tests I’ll use the same scene – a corner of my office. As a reminder here’s the pullback view (a JPEG at ISO 1600 from the LX100ii, with no tweaking, Standard picture style with noise and sharpness turned down by -2):

LX100ii Noise Testing Output Methodology

I’m a long-term Adobe lightroom user – in fact I use the stand-alone version. Having invested in that for so many years I wasn’t impressed with Adobe axing all future upgrades to it at the beginning of this year. I didn’t want to be forced into purchasing a subscription to something I already own and have paid to upgrade over the years (I also own the standalone version of Photoshop CS6). The downside of that is that any new camera I bought after January 2018 wouldn’t be supported. This means I can’t load the RAW files from the LX100ii into lightroom. I’m quite familiar with ON1 Photo RAW so I can use that instead. However the rendering of the LX100ii RAW files in ON1 is poor to say the least. Almost all the colour is drained away and there’s no way of automatically correcting distortion or attaching a lens profile.

Don’t get me going on a rant about ON1 Photo RAW – as far as I’m concerned it’s still in beta mode. The main thing is that the comparison images are being run through the same software. Why is that important, if I’m not actually processing the images? It’s important because different software renders images a little differently both on upload and with processing. Some software for example will show more luminance noise and others (such as ON1) will show more chroma noise.

And finally, since the comparison camera has a higher resolution than the LX100ii I down sampled those files. It’s important we do this because you can’t compare the quality of photographs if one is ‘bigger’ than the other. It was the same in my film days, when I compared cameras I would always use a print of the same size (and a loupe to examine them). Note this means shooting on the same aspect ratio.

 

Panasonic Lumix LX100ii Field Review | NoisePanasonic Lumix LX100ii Field Review Noise

Panasonic Lumix LX100ii Field Review Noise Conclusions

These things can be subjective, but having done a lot of noise testing what I’m seeing here is at ISO 1600 the Canon 200D bests the LX100ii by about half a stop. That’s exactly what I would expect given that not all of the LX100ii sensor area is being used. However the gap narrows very slightly when we go up to 3200 ISO. This is the point at which the Canon sensor shows more chroma noise. If you note the slight difference in how the Canon and the LX100ii exposes, and if you were to correct for that, the noise difference between the two cameras narrows a bit.

My GX8 keeps up a little better when I do this comparison because we’re working with 20 megapixels vs 24, rather than 17 vs 24. 

ON1 Photo RAW seems to render a sharper Canon file than I might see in Lightroom. I can only wonder if the LX100ii files were better supported by ON1 whether we would see an even better result on the noise front. But either way, I think what we’re seeing today is impressive. Particularly when we compare the output to the current 1 inch sensor compacts, some of which I’ve owned but never really wanted to keep long-term. When analysing those I found they lagged behind 4/3 sensors by little over a stop on the noise front.

Here’s an out of camera JPEG crop (standard picture style -2 sharpness, -2 noise):

 

Panasonic Lumix LX100ii Field Review JPEG Noise

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