Some of the new features of the Lumix LX5 are more useful than others. Let's start with ergonomics.
While it's cool to be able to adjust aspect ratio via a slider on the lens body, the slider is quite loose, and you have to be very careful that you don't accidentally change from standard 4:3 to 3:2 format when taking the camera out of your pocket or bag (it happened to us several times).
Having to worry about checking this can slow down your shooting. And while the buttons round the back make it easy to adjust focus points, ISO or metering modes, it'll take newcomers to Lumix a while to work out how to adjust exposure compensation (you click in the control dial).
Such a fundamental exposure control really should be more clearly flagged. Intrusive menu options make it a bit of performance to play back video until you get used to it , too.
Otherwise, the LX5 is very easy to use. Although you don't get an electronic viewfinder as standard, the three-inch rear screen is bright and crisp. No problem there, but sadly, the LCD is fixed. This is a surprising omission considering the G11's flexible screen, and certainly limits your composition options. As for the menus, while not as slick as Canon or Nikon's, they are very straightforward to navigate too.
The LX5 is also impressively fast to start up, and the lens extends with the minimum of delay.
Images are saved to card with the minimum of fuss too, even when shooting in RAW. The burst mode of 2.4 frames per second (full-resolution image) is OK, but can't hope to keep up with a speedy hybrid like the Sony NEX-5 or a D-SLR.
The Lumix DMC-LX5 features an impressive 24-90mm equivalent lens, with a maximum aperture of f/2. So the lens offers the benefits of 'fast', wide aperture glass – it lets in lost of light and makes it easy to get a shallow depth of field, for instance – while still giving you some zoom flexibility.
Image stabilisation has been brought into line with other models in the Lumix range too, and as with the FZ45, gives three options, Auto, Mode 1 and Mode 2.