Best high-end compact camera: 6 compared

The best back-ups or alternatives to your DSLR

Best high end compact camera

Panasonic LX7 - £330/AU$600/US$450

While all the other cameras in this list boast at least 12MP image resolution, the Panasonic LX7 appears to be the poor relation. Indeed, it only has the same 10.1MP resolution of Panasonic's preceding LX5 camera. However, the new model boasts a redesigned, high-sensitivity CMOS image sensor that claims better dynamic range and increased low-light performance.

Despite being cheap, the Panasonic LX7 sports some nice design flourishes. Around the front, there's direct control for aperture thanks to a retro-style aperture ring on the lens. On-lens adjustments are also available for focusing modes and image aspect ratios. Up on top, there's a fully-featured shooting mode dial that includes 'intelligent' auto, access to scene modes, the usual PASM and two custom shooting settings.

There's no built-in optical viewfinder but both optical and electronic viewfinders are available as optional extras. Direct access to most shooting parameters is quite close at hand, and the quick menu that's served up on the LCD screen works well. Even so, the Panasonic LX7 isn't quite as intuitive when it comes to advanced shooting controls.

The f/1.4-2.3 zoom lens gives an effective 24mm focal length, making it the most wide-angle of any on test. The downside is that it's only a 3.8x zoom and is lacking at the telephoto end, equivalent to just 90mm.

Autofocus is quick and accurate. Metering is consistent but a little on the bright side, especially in sunny outdoor shots. The optical stabiliser built into the Leica lens is only good for a one or two-stop advantage, lagging behind the Canon G15, Nikon P7700 and Fuji X20's performance. Considering the modest image resolution, picture quality in low lighting conditions can be quite noisy, especially at high ISO settings.

Outdoor images

Best high end compact camera

A bit overly bright, this outdoor picture lacks a little definition in the highlights, but at least shadows are detailed and colourful.

Resolution

Best high end compact camera

The Panasonic LX7 isn't helped by having a low resolution image sensor, reflected by disappointing sharpness scores.

Noise

Best high end compact camera
Noise at ISO 200

Best high end compact camera
Noise at ISO 3200

Considering its conservative image resolution, high-sensitivity images aren't very smooth. There's a lot of luminance noise in this ISO 3200 shot.

Colour error

Best high end compact camera

Marginally better than most cameras here, colour accuracy is very good but saturation can be reduced by a slight tendency towards overexposure.

Image test verdict

Resolution and image noise at high sensitivity settings are sore points for the Panasonic LX7, but it manages to deliver bright, punchy shots.

Read our full Panasonic LX7 review