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Panasonic Lumix LS2 - Digital Camera Quick Review
Review Date: 21/04/06
Rating: Recommended
Buy Now: Get the Best Price


Introduction: Announced on the 4th of January 06, the Panasonic Lumix LS2 is a new 5 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens, a 2" screen and a compact plastic body. The 3x optical zoom lens is equiv. 35-105mm on a 35mm camera. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS2 is available from around £129, this makes it very good value for money for a compact digital camera with optical image stabilisation. The camera is enclosed in a plasitc body. The LS2 records videos at 30fps and with a resolution of 320x240. The camera is quite compact - the body measures: 110.5 x 53.5 x 30.9 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs approx. 138g. The Panasonic Lumix LS2 is an updated version of the Panasonic Lumix LS1, funnily enough, it's exacly a year since I reviewed the LS1!

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"Panasonic is introducing the incoming LUMIX models 5.0-megapixel DMC-LS2, incorporating MEGA O.I.S., an Optical Image Stabilizer that compensates the handshake, and 3x optical zoom lens, that runs on two AA batteries. MEGA O.I.S. is the image stabilization system against handshake that bears no picture deterioration. Panasonic is the first company in the industry to have succeeded in incorporating MEGA O.I.S. into a compact digital camera and now its benefit is strongly approved by the users of the world, considered to be the standard of photography."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Pentax *ist DL DSLR)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, the camera has a Lumix DC Vario lens (not a Leica branded lens as seen on other Panasonic cameras). Flash, lens extended, LED.


Back / Left - USB / Video out, DC in, 2" screen, LED, Display / High Angle view button, Shooting mode / Delete button, 4-way controller, Menu / Set button.


Top: Mode dial, zoom, shutter release, Optical image stabilisation mode button, On/Off switch.


Bottom / Right: Plastic tripod mount, memory compartment, Battery compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the Pentax Optio E10.

Specifications / Features:

  • 5 Megapixels
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 4x digital zoom
  • Mega Optical Image Stabilisation
  • 2" TFT screen - 86,000 pixels
  • 4cm (roughly) macro mode
  • Shutter speed: 1/8-1/2000 sec (Starry Sky Mode: 15,30,60 sec)
  • 320x240 / 30fps Movie recording with sound
  • ISO:Auto / 80 / 100 / 200 / 400
  • 14 Scene modes
  • 14mb Internal memory

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • 2 AA Oxyride batteries
  • Basic Printed Manual
  • Full Manual on CDROM

Average box contents - There is no memory card provided with the camera - instead there is only 14mb of memory built in. Some kind of case would have been nice, as would a full printed manual.

Battery usage: 250 pictures according to CIPA standards. Battery life seemed good, using the provided OXYRIDE batteries, I managed to take over 200 photos before 'replace batteries' appeared on screen. With high powered rechargable batteries, battery life should be much better. OXYRIDE batteries are like Alkaline batteries, in that they can't be re-charged when they have run out of power - OXYRIDE batteries, developed by Panasonic, provide better battery life than Alkaline batteries, but not as good battery life as high powered rechargable batteries.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the top dial. This allows the choice of: Video mode, Macro, Economy, Photo mode, Playback, Easy mode, Scene 1, Scene 2.

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown above, right) The screen resolution with 86,000 pixels is slightly below average, however the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. The colours on the screen appear accurate and well saturated. The high angle mode allows you to view the screen while holding the camera above your head and is surprisingly effective. The camera displays a live histogram.

Optical / Electronic Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Scenes: Portrait, Soft skin, Scenery, Sports, Night portrait, Night scenery, Food, Party, Candle light, Fireworks, Starry sky, Snow, Baby1, and Baby2.

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is a bit sluggish / slow. The zoom is very quick, up to 16x. There were numerous different playback views: Normal - with the option of additinal info, histogram, thumbs - showing 9, 16, or 25 thumbnails.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and will fit the following number of images in the 14mb memory provided:

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
Ratio
Fine
Standard
3.5mp
16:9
6
14
2mp
12
24
4.5mp
3:2
5
11
2.5mp
9
18
5mp
4:3
5
10
3mp
8
16
2mp
13
27
1mp
20
39
VGA
67
110

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size or use higher compression options to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, and aspect ratios.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix LS2:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £9.11, 512mb: £19.93, 1gb (1000mb): £29.99, 2gb (2000mb): £54.49
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in under two seconds. Focusing seemed fairly quick (around 0.4 - 0.5 seconds). The playback mode is a bit sluggish, with photos taking a second before displaying when going from photo to photo - however the zoom is very quick. The camera shutter response seemed very quick when pre-focused, with a response time of around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time was average, with a delay of around 2 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time was a bit slower with shot to shot time slower than without the flash, taking around 4 seconds between shots. The cameras menus seemed quick. On the High Speed continuous shooting mode, shot time is quite good, at roughly 2fps, for upto 3 shots at the highest resolution. On the normal continuous shooting mode, shot time is slightly slower at roughly 1fps, you can take continuous shots until the memory is full.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use in any mode, the easy mode and the scene modes help beginners. The controls on the back of the camera are straightforward and very well labelled - the menus are responsive and easy to read and navigate, and the options are big enough. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple, mainly thanks to the clearly labelled mode dial. The economy mode helps you get better battery life.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There aren't too many buttons on the camera, which should make it simpler to master the cameras basic functions. The buttons feel good, they aren't too small, and the buttons are well spaced which makes it easier to press the correct buttons. The shutter release is good.  The 4-way controller is labelled well, and provides quick access to the most commonly used functions. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, with protruding parts at the front and back providing extra grip, although these weren't the most comfortable to hold. The mode dial, the shutter release and zoom are quite well positioned, although the mode dial is too far away from where the thumb naturally rests for single handed operation. The camera feels like a solid, robust and well built camera, despite the plastic construction.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Panasonic Lumix LS2 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Group photo (ISO100)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo, although there is some in other group photos. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos, and on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept fairly low in these photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light. Colour is richly saturated. The optical image stabilisation helps you take indoor photos without using the flash, this gives more natural colour and lighting, examples of this can be seen in the gallery.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 5 megapixel Kodak Easyshare V570.

ISO Noise Test Photo - Flash off unless otherwise stated. Panasonic Lumix LS2 on the left, Kodak Easyshare V570 on the right. The colour difference is due to automatic white balance.

Panasonic Lumix LS2 Kodak Easyshare V570
ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO64 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels

Both cameras have quite high noise, although the Panasonic Lumix LS2 shows slightly more detail and more sharpness. The Panasonic Lumix LS2 seems to use more noise reduction at ISO200, with the noise appearing blurred, and at ISO400 the saturation seems to dip, and noise is more visible. Overall, noise seems higher than average, but under ISO200 images are sharp and detailed, at ISO200 and above images loose some detail as noise reduction kicks in. Hopefully using the built in image stabilisation you should be able to stick to the lower ISO settings.

Outside:

Liverpool Shops (ISO80) Sefton Park Trees (ISO80)

Outside, the camera has rich accurate colour, with good saturation and contrast. There was good detail and images seemed quite sharp straight from the camera. Noise seemed low for ISO80 photos. I turned up the quality to maximum to avoid jpeg artefacts. Exposure seemed very good with detail visible in the bright and dark areas.

Zoom: The Lumix 3x optical zoom lens provides a normal zoom range - there is also a 4x digital zoom available. Digital zoom simply degrades image quality and better results can often be obtained using software. I've included examples to show what is possible.

Wide-angle 3x optical zoom Full optical and digital zoom

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems very good, despite the grey weather, with the dark areas of the photo not too dark, and only some blown highlights in the birght clouds.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens noise is average - although nothing to worry about. There are around 17 steps between wide angle and telephoto! This gives very good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing is low - purple fringing can be seen in some extreme test cases near the edges of the photos and on the clock tower photos, however this was only seen when looking closely at the images, and was not seen in most normal photos.

Macro:

Macro Timex Watch Actual Pixels (ISO80)

The macro mode is very good with very good colour and detail - the camera allows you to be roughly 4cm away from the subject - this allows you to get very good, close-up, detailed macro photos. Custom white balance helps acheive better colour as well.

Video mode: The camera features a 320x240 video mode at 30fps without sound. This is slightly below average as most digital camera, even some budget digital cameras, feature sound on videos, and normally a higher resolution. Optical image stabilisation is available when recording videos.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good, the images have very good colour, with high saturation, contrast and detail. Outdoors images have low noise, but indoors noise is higher than average, especially at the higher ISO settings. Images were sharper than normal straight from the camera compared to other cameras. Purple fringing was quite low, although red-eye was visible in shome shots. The camera did a good job focusing the majority of the time, even in low light. I did not notice vignetting in photos, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a very good range of image sizes, and a good choice of compression options. Auto white balance, metering, and exposure seemed to be good to very good. The camera gives good control over image quality - with the choice of colour effects (cool, warm, etc), and picture adjustments giving you the choice of natural, standard or vivid. The built in optical image stabilisation gives you sharp photos in low light or without the flash in situations when other cameras would struggle. (8/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera's 2" screen was good despite it's low resolution of 86,000 pixels, it appeared to have very good dynamic range in both photo mode and playback mode - the screen was clear, bright, with saturated and accurate colours. The camera features a "High Angle" button that helps you view the image on the screen if you are holding the camera above you, this works surprisingly well. The camera is pocketable and fairly compact, but not ultra-compact. The camera is quite stylish with a silver plastic body. The camera feels well built, and is fairly comfortable to hold. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. The camera speed is generally good, with a good switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, good flash recharge time, slightly sluggish / slow playback mode, quick menus, and average continuous shooting. The camera has a lot of features such as numerous scene modes, economy mode, custom white balance, histogram, orientation sensor etc. Battery life is good, using AA batteries - some people may prefer to use AA batteries, especially if travelling. The cameras video mode features image stabilisation, but the resolution and lack of sound is fairly poor compared to other digital cameras. (7/10)

Value for Money: The Panasonic Lumix LS2 at around £128, is very good value for money and offers a lot of features and controls. The Panasonic Lumix LS2 is probably one of the cheapest digital cameras available with optical image stabilisation. Budget 5 megapixel digital cameras from other manufacturers worth considering include the Sony Cybershot S600 (6mp), Canon Powershot A530, Olympus FE115 or FE130, Kodak Easyshare C360, Nikon Coolpix L3, Fujifilm FinePix A500, (9/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Panasonic Lumix LS2 is a budget digital camera from Panasonic, but it is very difficult to see where they have "compromised" in any way to reduce the price - the only missing features appear to be the lack of sound on videos and the smaller than average 2" screen. Despite the budget price, Panasonic produce a very good camera, providing optical image stabilisation, an orientation sensor, custom white balance, features rarely seen on budget models. The camera also produces excellent image quality, with good dynamic range, detail and sharpness, along with very good, accurate, life-like colours with high saturation. The camera is very easy to use with a normal / auto mode, numerous scene modes and a "Simple" mode. If you want a camera with manual controls then this isn't it, but if you want a budget point and shoot camera that's full of features, and capable of taking great photos, then the Panasonic Lumix LS2 is recommended!

Panasonic Lumix LS2 Rating: Recommended! (8/10)
Available for £90 or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Very good colour (saturated, accurate)
  • Great image quality
  • Image stabilisation makes it possible to get great shots in low light
  • Very good exposure / metering
  • Very good macro mode
  • Easy to use, lots of scene modes, auto mode
  • Excellent value for money
  • Built in orientation sensor
  • Custom White Balance
  • Low purple fringing
  • Good battery life

What I don't like:

  • Tripod mount positioned at the far left
  • No sound is recorded with videos
  • Low resolution screen
  • High noise

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS2 Sample Photo Gallery.

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