Introduction Panasonic has a rich tradition of advanced compact cameras, and the LX series (branded and styled by Leica as the D-LUX series) is their flagship line designed for "serious" use. The new Panasonic LX5 replaces the two-year old LX3 (D-LUX4), a camera which changed the market in several ways: Adopted a significantly faster lens than its mainstream (Canon, Nikon) competition* Did not increase megapixel count of its predecessor Wider angle lens with a more limited zoom range (2.5X, 24-60mm equivalent) than the competition* Used software correction to correct marked barrel distortion, allowing for faster lens (f/2-2.8) in smaller form while keeping costs down *Ricoh GX100 preceded the LX3 with similar qualities though slower at telephoto It's easy to see the influence of LX3 success on the market when looking at the recent offerings from Canon, Nikon, and Samsung. One feature of the LX3 which has not yet been implemented by the competition is the multi-aspect ratio sensor, which allows the LX3 to maintain the same diagonal angle of view in 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9 aspect ratios. For more on that, see here. It has been my impression that in the two years since its introduction, the LX3 has been the single most popular choice of compact camera amongst "serious" photographers. Naturally, the follow up to the LX3 has been the subject of great interest. The headline improvements included in the LX5 are the new 3.75X (24-90mm equivalent) f/2-3.3 zoom lens and improved sensor. Form and Function Lets take a look at some of the external differences between the LX3 and the LX5, beginning with the front: The grip has grown in size and now provides a more comfortable and secure hold. For some, the LX5 grip will be a reason to choose this camera over the Leica-branded D-LUX5: Looking at the rear of the LX3 (left) and LX5 (right), there are two key differences. The first is that there is now a connector which allows the use of an optional electronic viewfinder (EVF) which is mounted on the hot shoe. Second, the joystick toggle has been replaced by a thumb dial which controls aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation (press the dial in to toggle between settings). I find that this wheel control is more intuitive and easier to use than the joystick. The Quick Menu has been moved to a dedicated button on the bottom right, and the Record/Play switch has been removed and a dedicated "Play" button added. Overall, the LX5 buttons, dial, and switches have a more secure feel (firmer movement with no wiggle) than the controls on the LX3. The LCD has also been coated for better visibility in direct sun. I didn't compare the two to evaluate the effectiveness of the coating, but I did find the LX5 LCD usable in bright, sunny conditions. On the top panel, the "Focus" button has been replaced with a video recording button (the Focus button has been moved to the top button of the four way control on the rear). Meanwhile, the 1:1 aspect ratio setting has been added to the lens barrel. From my standpoint, having physical switches for AF mode and aspect ratio on the lens barrel is a great feature of the LX series design. The downside is that these switches are sometimes toggled accidentally in the process of pocketing (and unpocketing) these cameras. Speaking of pocketing, the LX5 is not nearly as pocketable as one of its competitors, the Canon S95: On the other hand, it is noticeably smaller and less heavy than the Canon G series or Samsung EX1. Here is the LX5 shown next to the EX1. The difference in heft is more than it looks: A few notes on performance: Autofocus speed is excellent. I've been primarily using mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras lately (Micro 4/3, Sony NEX, Samsung NX), and the LX5 autofocus speed was in step with these systems. Shutter lag after focusing is, for my purposes, negligible. Being able to switch from autofocus to manual focus with a switch on the lens barrel allows one to set zone focus by autofocusing and then quickly lock that setting by switching to manual focus mode. The Focus button also allows temporary use of autofocus to set the focus while in manual focus mode, while in autofocus mode, this button allows one to choose the location of single autofocus point within the frame. Speed of zooming is slow. On the positive side, a step zoom function is now available (can zoom in steps, eg 28-35-50 mm equivalent). Image stabilization is excellent. With prior LX series cameras, I always felt that the image stabilization was less effective than the Canon equivalent. The LX5 image stabilization seems as effective as any that I have tried in a fixed lens compact. Shot to shot time in RAW is very good, similar to the LX3. Battery life not formally tested but seems above average. Lens Performance As noted above, the 24-90mm equivalent f/2-3.3 Leica lens is the headline feature of the LX5. How does it deliver? The short answer for non-pixel peepers is that, as expected, it is an excellent lens. The extra reach is a welcome addition, and f/3.3 is about a stop faster than the competition at 90mm equivalent. As was the case with the LX3 lens, the LX5 lens has strong barrel distortion at wide angle without software correction: The good news is that this distortion is automatically addressed by in-camera JPEG processing, and we can expect most of the popular RAW processing applications to correct this as well. Color fringing due to lateral chromatic aberration is a common problem with this class of cameras, and this too is automatically corrected. That said, the lateral CA is modest (relative to the competition) even in uncorrected LX5 files. Here is an example of the same LX5 RAW files (24mm equivalent f2) processed in Adobe Lightroom 3.2 (left, automatically corrects color fringing and distortion) and Raw Developer 1.8.6 (right, no corrections applied). Both are 100% crops of the extreme upper left corner.