Sony RX100 or Panasonic Lumix LX7?
October 29, 2013 9:55 AM   Subscribe

After being disappointed in yet another set of vacation photos because I didn't want to lug my dSLR around and ended up relying on my phone's mediocre camera, I've decided it's time for a high-end point-and-shoot. I've spent a couple weeks researching and have narrowed it down to two: the Sony RX100 and the Panasonic Lumix LX7. But I'm having a hard time deciding between the two! Do you have experience with either/both that can help me decide? I don't mind spending the extra money on the RX100 if it's worth it, but is it?

So the RX100 seems the obvious choice because of the huge sensor and smaller size, but the LX7's a little faster and a little wider. Many of the reviews I've read say that it produces great bright pictures, which is appealing to me because one of my complaints with past point-and-shoots is that my photos always turn out too dark and flat (and I can and do fix them later, but I'd still like the best possible image straight from the camera). The LX7 is also supposed to be easier and "more fun" to use, with regard to interface and controls, and the RX100's interface seems a little more complicated. BUT: ohmygosh that lovely sensor. And it's so sleek! And for the most part the photos I've seen taken with it look higher quality than the photos I've seen taken with the LX7, though everyone does so much post-processing these days it's hard to really tell.

Relevant details: I plan to use this for everyday photography, vacation photos, and party photos, and expect to shoot both indoors and outdoors. I take a lot of portrait-type photos and close-up shots. I'm an intermediate photographer and know my way around my dSLR, but I don't want to have to fiddle with a bunch of menu settings every time I want to take a quick photo. But I also like the flexibility of being able to go fully manual when I want to.
posted by rhiannonstone to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's going to be such a subjective choice that your best bet will be to buy both from a local retailer with a decent return policy and figure out which one you want to keep. Personally, I'm a Lumix gal who really appreciates the thought put into the user interface, and if Sony had paired that amazing sensor with great ergonomics, the RX100 would be the superior camera.
posted by evoque at 10:13 AM on October 29, 2013

I sure like my LX5. I can't compare it to the Sony, but it wipes the floor with my iPhone camera. I suspect that even if the Sony is better in absolute terms, it won't be better in a bang-for-the-buck sense.
posted by jon1270 at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2013

Here's my two cents--both are very comparable cameras and, as you said, the large sensor on the RX100 and the fast lens on the LX7 are both very appealing. However, the price difference between the two is pretty big (LX 7 is around 400 vs RX100 II is around 700). It really depends on how much you value the marginally better pocket-ability and the larger sensor of the RX100 over the faster lens of the LX7.

I personally have an LX7 (an upgrade from the LX3) and I've been very satisfied with it. I take lots of travel photos, landscapes (the 20mm equiv. wide angle comes in handy here) and close up nature shots (f 1.4 gives close-ups with a nice background blur and comes in handy for handheld low-light shots).

I typically shoot in aperture priority mode with JPEG+RAW and for shots that I want to nail, I use the auto-bracket mode to make sure I have a shot with the optimal exposure. The cool thing about the LX7 is has a very fast burst mode even for the JPEG+RAW so shots are pretty fast even in the auto-bracket mode.
posted by scalespace at 10:25 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: Wirecutter thinks the RX100 is definitely better, but whether it's better enough to justify the price difference seems entirely subjective.
posted by juv3nal at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: I asked a similar question a few months ago and I thought the RX100 was better after trying both of them out at the store.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2013

Response by poster: Better in terms of image quality or ergonomics, Elementary penguin?
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:31 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: I haven't used the LX7, but I found the RX100 (version 1) extremely impressive for the size, and didn't have an issue with the interface.
posted by Magnakai at 11:33 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: Ergonomics, mostly.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:40 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: I've used the RX100 briefly, but decided to buy an LX7. I really didn't like the RX100.

The two biggest differences -

1) RX100 sensor and thus image quality is markedly superior to the LX7 - it's 2.7 times larger I think. From gut feeling, eyeballing an ISO200 picture on the LX7 seems to have equivalent or worse noise to an ISO400 picture on the RX100, more than negating the speed advantage on the lens, so the "fast lens" on the LX7 is a non-advantage.

2) Ergonomics of the LX7 is markedly superior to the RX100. The textured handle grip on the right hand side is just perfect, while the RX100 just feels terrible to handle - there's no grip at all, it's just smooth plastic. This is a big factor in taking self-shots, say like this shot of me and my parents which is a self shot with an LX7 - the grip works well in reverse too.


Any other differences are just minor. Going to link a few sample shots from the LX7 to make a few points...

How much image quality do we need? I think the LX7 doesn't really have enough image quality to go much beyond desktop size (1920x1080) which is just 2 megapixels, but then again, does it matter? This is a shot of the Docklands and if you zoom in you can definitely see the limits of what the small sensor on the LX7 can capture, but looking at it zoomed out it's "just fine". The RX100 would have captured a smoother, less noisy picture that looks better zoomed in. This was basically what made me decide - the quality of the LX7 is "just about good enough" and it has superior ergonomics.

Colours - no objective way to really measure this but Leica have a bit of a reputation for having "better colors", here's a shot of some autumn leaves.

On the topic of your phone... when I went on a Kilimanjaro trek recently, I brought my LX7 and my Nexus 4 phone... and a couple of other people brought DSLRs... as it turns out my phone was probably the best camera of them all. Say this shot of the campsite. Or an oasis in the dry season, or a view from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. First time I saw these pictures after taking them was a WTF moment. This came from a phone? The sharpness and color reproduction is astounding, and they captured much "more" than what a normal camera could. Definitely my favourite pictures from the trip came from the phone, not the pro-sumer compact or DSLR.

So yeah, don't discount phones, and when I go on trips I consider my phone as essential as the camera I'm bringing along.
posted by xdvesper at 5:56 PM on October 29, 2013

I have an LX7 and love it. Take it everywhere, very happy with its auto settings and its low-light shots and its ergonomics (grip). If you get it, you may also want to get the auto-opening three-flap lens cap, because it is way cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:35 PM on October 29, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful feedback! After reading this plus spending hours with Flickr's Camera Finder comparing photos (tags searched: unedited, party, food, coffee, Christmas, San Francisco, kittens, bunnies, family, bikes, concerts, camping), I ended up going with the RX100, despite the fact I really wanted to talk myself into the LX7 due to the lower cost, better UI, and my affection for Leica.

But: the LX7 turns out to not be enough of an improvement over the point-and-shoot I'm upgrading from, and while they both produce breathtaking photos in natural light, I just really liked the indoor/party/food photos from the RX100 a lot more. The adjustable flash and pocketability (as well as the availability of a cheap aftermarket grip to help with the grip isses xdvesper mentioned) were also selling points.

Going to mark this resolved!
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:49 AM on October 31, 2013

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