In the last six to 12 months the entry-level camera market has really been heating up. Cameras are finally at a point where you can get a high resolution sensor (7 megapixels or greater) and a good array of features for under $300, so even those users on a budget can enjoy high quality pictures. Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LS80 is the cheapest model in the company's new range and it falls firmly into this category offering great value for money.
- Low price, sharp images, lots of features considering cost
- Some noise issues, a little haloing, slow start-up time
Users looking for an entry-level digital camera are spoiled for choice at the moment and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS80 is one of the better options, providing good quality pictures and a ton of features at a very affordable price.
Price$ 219.00 (AUD)
It sports an 8-megapixel sensor and despite its low price tag it captures some pretty good images. They weren't quite as crisp as those produced by some competing 8-megapixel units but they performed well in our Imatest tests where our shots were crisp enough for small- and medium-sized prints.
There was quite a bit of haloing evident however, particularly in high contrast areas. It was most noticeable in our indoor test shots, with our outdoor shots strangely not exhibiting much purple fringing; a common trait in entry-level compact cameras.
Colour balance, while not as good as some of Panasonic's other recent units such as the Lumix DMC-FX36, was perfectly adequate. Despite the market position of the LS80, it comes equipped with a custom white balance mode which had a noticeable impact on our shots. Most primary colours were accurately rendered with a fairly soft, natural saturation level. Warm colours came out a little darker than usual but the overall balance was pleasing.
Unfortunately as with most Panasonic cameras in the past , noise was still a concern. It isn't that it increases sharply at low sensitivities, in fact the LS80's performance at ISO 400 and ISO 800 is fairly good, but even at ISO 100 and ISO 200 there is a fairly hefty grain visible, which will put off some users.
In our speed tests this unit was a mixed bag. It was very sluggish to start-up, sometimes making us wait up to four seconds till first shot and the shutter speed was a little slow at 0.12 seconds. However, its shot-to-shot time was speedy at 1.7 seconds and the burst mode was pretty quick, capturing four frames in 1.2 seconds on the fastest mode. Users should note this option is capped at just four frames, so if you need any more you'll have to use the slower mode which operates at about 2.5 frames per second.
Despite the low price tag this model has most of the features of its more expensive brethren. Panasonic's excellent optical image stabilisation is included, which helps eliminate handshake and keep your shots crisp. All the intelligent modes (intelligent ISO and intelligent auto) also make a welcome return and offer novice users a great way to take well configured pictures without all the hassle of changing settings manually. While they don't massively outperform standard automatic modes on other cameras, they definitely do a great job of taking balanced shots.
Design is really the only area that betrays the LS80's cost. Constructed from plain silver plastic, it looks uninspiring but is quite functional. The controls are intuitive, although the buttons could be a little larger. It uses AA batteries too, which is quite common in entry-level models. While that does mean you'll never really be stuck without power, it does add a little cost in the long run, so keep that in mind.
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