Image Quality, Performance and Conclusion
Image Quality and Performance
In terms of resolution the LF1 scored slightly below the LX7, though we can't say for sure if this is a result of squeezing more pixels into the sensor. The LF1 scores 2000LPH both vertically and horizontally in our resolution test, compared to the LX7's 2000 x 2200LPH (horizontal and vertical). As with almost every modern digital compact, image noise is kept under control through the camera’s noise reduction software. Fortunately the LF1’s approach isn’t too aggressive, with details being retained until you hit ISO 800. Even then, it’s only apparent when you zoom in 100%.
The LF1 has a longer focal length of 28-200mm (in 35mm equivalent), which gives it much more reach than the LX7's 24-90mm. The LX7 has a faster lens however, with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 at the wide end and f/2.3 at its longest. The LF1, in comparison, can shoot at f/2 at the wide end and f/5.9 at the longest. That's still pretty fast at the 35mm equivalent of 200mm, when you consider that a standard 18-55mm DSLR kit lens' aperture maxes out at f/5.6 at the longest range of 55mm.
Rated battery life is at the lower end of the spectrum, with many other advanced compacts able to get 300 or more shots before running out of juice, while the Panasonic LF1's battery life is rated at 250 shots. Throw in some Wi-Fi use and we expect the numbers to drop further. For comparisons, the slightly larger and heavier LX7 has a larger battery pack rated for 330 shots.
Below are sample photographs shot with the Panasonic Lumix LF1. The photos have not been post-processed and are copyright to SPH Magazines. They are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for the full-resolution images.
The Panasonic Lumix LF1 is able to shoot at f/2.0 at its widest end, but that's not all that unique today, considering that many other advanced compacts can shoot at f/1.8 and even f/1.4. What it does better is that it has a longer reach, at 200mm compared to its peers. That gives is an optical zoom of ratio of up to 7.1x, which is much more than its LX7 sibling that only offers 3.8x. To put things in perspective, the Canon PowerShot S110 racks out to 120mm, while the Panasonic Lumix LX7 stops at 90mm. Shooting at f/5.9 at its longest end may seem unimpressive, but you have to remember that the LF1 provides far more reach than other advanced compacts (as compared in our LX7 review). And don't forget the LF1 also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and smart sharing options that may not be present in all of its competitors.
In terms of sensor size the LF1 is pretty standard with the majority of its peers sporting the same sensor size (but it's still bigger than that of entry-level compact cameras). Of course you can always opt for the Sony RX100's 1-inch sensor, though that comes at a higher asking price (approximately an additional S$250 with its new SRP at S$849). And while the LF1's electronic viewfinder may entice some potential buyers, its small size (0.2-inch) and low resolution (200k-dot) pales in comparison to the Fujifilm X20's optical viewfinder. Thus, we wouldn't recommend buying the LF1 just because of the EVF alone, as a day of shooting with the small viewfinder will prove to be a tiring affair. In our field use, the EVF is handy only when the bright sunlight makes it difficult to discern the camera's rear screen.
It's inevitable that most will be comparing the LF1 to the Canon S110 since they're the closest in terms of specifications and price. The Panasonic LF1 costs S$100 more at S$599, but you get a much longer zoom (which reaches further than any of the advanced compacts on the market right now) and the ability to shoot at f/5.9 with the lens racked out as compared to the Canon S110's f/8.0. And while the Panasonic LF1's 250-shot rated battery life may be lower than most, it is still better than Canon S110's 200-shot battery life.
Back when it was announced a few months ago, we thought it was weird for Panasonic to release the LF1 considering it has the LX7 in its line-up. However, after spending more time with the LF1 as we did for this review, it became apparent that both cameras are aimed at different crowds. The LX7 (and the rest of the more expensive advanced compacts) will appeal to the photography enthusiast who likes to shoot with wider apertures and manual controls. The trade-off is that these cameras all come in larger bodies and have limited focal ranges.
We feel that the Panasonic LF1 will appeal to someone who wants to experiment with manual shooting modes, but places more importance on optical zoom capability rather than the ability to shoot at wider apertures. The fact that the LF1 is smaller in size than the rest doesn't hurt either. Thus the Panasonic LF1 is a more versatile camera which is suitable for the casual shutterbug due to its longer zoom range and smaller size while retaining good imaging quality.
If zoom is the most important factor in your decision, you could always spring for a superzoom compact seeing that they are around the same price range as the LF1 - such as the just reviewed Sony Cyber-shot HX50 or the Panasonic Lumix TZ40. However, do take note that the Panasonic Lumix LF1 being an advanced compact and sporting a larger sensor size, images captures are certainly sharper, especially when viewed at larger resolutions (check this full-sized photo from the HX50 vs. the LF1) and it has the ability to shoot at a relatively wide aperture of f/2.0 for better low light photography (again check the HX50 vs. the LF1).
All things considered, the Panasonic Lumix LF1 seems to offer a pretty decent package and would appeal to those who need pocketable camera with better imaging capabilities than a basic compact camera while offering a decent zoom level in a slim build. As such, the LF1 sits in a niche that's right in-between a traditional compact camera and that of mirrorless and DSLR cameras. In fact, we reckon the LF1 might be a decent companion pocket camera to those who've invested in the bigger lens system based cameras.