The Panasonic LF1 occupies the same space as a number of other premium compact cameras already on the market, and while it looks good, it's not really offering anything that the others already out there don't do in terms of image quality. What it does have, however, is an electronic viewfinder, which really makes it stand out from the crowd.
We're a little disappointed to see that Panasonic has stuck with the relatively small 1/1.7-inch sensor instead of opting for something larger, such as the 1-inch device found in the Sony RX100, which is still king of the current premium compacts.
That said, there are a few worthwhile points that make up for the compromise that is a smaller sensor. First of all the physical size of the overall camera can be kept smaller, making it a much sleeker pocket snapper.
Secondly, it's easier - or perhaps we should say cheaper - to produce a lens with a more extensive zoom range to pair with a smaller sensor. So, while the RX100 has a relatively short 3.6x optical zoom, the Panasonic LF1 manages to house a 7.1x zoom optic, making this the more flexible option overall.
In terms of its specs, the Panasonic LF1 compares reasonably closely with the Olympus XZ-2, which is considerably more bulky (although it does also have a tilting screen), making it impressive that it houses similar specifications in a much smaller body.
Images produced by the Panasonic LF1 are good, but they're not amazing. While colours are bright and punchy, and detail is good at lower sensitivities, there's more noise and loss of detail than we'd ideally like to see at mid-range ISO sensitivities, so you'll be wanting to avoid those if possible.
That said, if you're intending to use the camera mainly in good light (such as for travelling) then you'll likely be very happy with the quality.
One of the big bonuses of this camera is its inbuilt Wi-Fi capability. Made all the better if you have an NFC-enabled device (bad luck Apple users), it's pretty neat to be able to control the camera via your smartphone, along with saving images from the camera onto your device for sharing to social networks.
It's unfortunate that Panasonic's direct upload system is much clunkier, because this really lets it down compared with the likes of Samsung's much easier methods on its range of smart cameras, such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera.
With a stylish and sleek exterior, this is an ideal pocket camera for those looking for something that still gives them full manual control. Traditional photographers will no doubt also appreciate a viewfinder, while the fact that it's a high resolution electronic device makes it much more useful than the very basic optical device found on the Canon G15.
There's a little too much noise at higher sensitivities, so it's best to avoid using this camera for too much low-light work if you can avoid it.
What camera should I buy? Your options explained
Although Panasonic has undoubtedly created a very likeable and capable camera in the Panasonic LF1, we can't help but be a little underwhelmed by it overall. Aside from the electronic viewfinder, it doesn't offer anything too different from those that are already on the market.
That said, if you're looking for a compact camera to use as an everyday backup to your main, heavier, camera, then it is a very good option with very good image quality and some fun features, such as digital filters and panoramic mode. We'd have liked to have seen a touchscreen, though.