This week, Panasonic announced a new camera in its enthusiast line of compacts: the LX10 (or LX15 for some markets). It’s a successor to the LX7 and the numerous other LX cameras that preceded that one, and pairs a fast zoom lens with a bevy of manual controls. This time, Panasonic stepped up the sensor to a larger 1-inch chip, putting the LX10 head to head with Sony’s popular RX100 line.
I’m sure the LX10 is a good camera and will give Sony a challenge in this enthusiast compact space. But after a few minutes using the camera, I’m left perplexed as to why it exists. See, two years ago, Panasonic launched the LX100, another compact enthusiast camera with a bright lens and lots of manual controls. The LX100 has an even bigger Micro Four Thirds sensor and comes with a viewfinder, which the LX10 lacks. Panasonic still considers the LX100 a current camera and you can still buy it today.
Maybe you could argue that the LX10’s slightly smaller size is its raison d’être, but while it is slightly shorter and more compact than the LX100, it certainly isn’t fitting in your pants’ pockets. Or perhaps the LX10’s roughly $700 price is why it exists, but in the two years since the LX100 launched, its price has fallen to right around where the LX10 is debuting at.
The LX10 does have a higher-resolution sensor than the LX100 — 20 megapixels vs. 12 megapixels — but I’d rather have the latter’s larger sensor for better low-light performance over more resolution any day of the week. I expect the customer that’s interested in these cameras — the enthusiast that is willing to spend nearly a thousand dollars on a camera that doesn’t have a phone attached to it — feels similarly. Same for the LX100’s viewfinder: since the LX10 isn’t going to fit in my pockets anyways, I might as well opt for something that’s only slightly larger and gives me a better shooting experience.
If I’m going to commit to carrying a camera that doesn’t fit in my pocket, I want a little more
Granted, I am making assumptions based on only a few minutes with the LX10 in a crowded trade show environment. Maybe the new sensor is just as good as the LX100’s two-year-old chip in low light, despite its smaller size and higher pixel density. Maybe LX camera buyers do want something that’s exactly like what Sony’s been selling for years, but with a Panasonic logo on it. I don’t know. But I can say, as a camera enthusiast that loves compact cameras with big sensors and lots of manual controls, the LX10 is a little underwhelming.