LUMIX LX100 DEVELOPER'S INTERVIEW
The Story Behind LUMIX LX100 Development
Relaying the passion of the people behind the LUMIX LX100 development.
An Easy-to-Carry Camera with High Image Quality
Please describe the development concept.
"An easy-to-carry camera with a large image sensor and large-diameter, high-performance lens" is the unchanged concept of the LX Series. Our target body size was that of the LX7, but since we used a larger image sensor, it was necessary to increase the lens size accordingly in order to attain the levels of brightness and performance we wanted. For example, if we tried to achieve the LX7's lens performance in a camera equipped with a 4/3-inch sensor, the lens size would increase by about 2.3 times. We tackled this issue first. We scrutinized all kinds of compact camera lenses and interchangeable lenses, but we could not achieve the target size if we used conventional lens construction. So, it was essential to develop a completely new lens construction.
A Small Lens Boasting the Excellent Resolution of the LUMIX G Series
Please explain about the new lens construction.
For the size reduction, we adopted a six-group zoom lens component in the LX100 based on an ingenious approach completely different from conventional ideas. As a result, we were able to reduce the lens diameter and the overall lens thickness.
Furthermore, by utilizing the thin lens barrel design technology cultivated through the development of our compact digital cameras, we achieved an advanced lens construction while keeping the lens barrel size as small as that of the LX7.
Two of the five aspherical lenses used in the LX100 are ED lenses. Aspherical ED lenses are difficult to mold and also demand very high shape accuracy.
We drew on our in-house lens development and production capabilities to perform high-precision processing to create the lenses for the LX100.
We also incorporated a new idea into the alignment technology. When the image sensor is large and the lens is bright, the focal depth becomes short. This makes it difficult to maintain high-resolution performance due to factors such as the lens position and lens shape deviation. To achieve superior image quality, we aligned the lens position carefully while taking into consideration even the minutest shape deviations of the high-precision lenses, thus achieving high resolution.
What was your image quality target?
We set a high target for the LX100, and selected the lens of the LUMIX G series as a benchmark. The use of the most advanced optical design and significantly improved manufacturing accuracy and alignment technology has resulted in superb image quality. It's something you have to see with your own eyes.
A Large Lens Diameter That Maintains Almost the Same Size as the Lens Barrel Diameter
On top of that, the LX100 has a large-diameter F1.7-2.8 lens.
We wanted to make sure that the LX100 takes high-quality pictures under all situations, including night scenes and people in dimly lit rooms, so we did not compromise the lens brightness. A typically known bright zoom lens is an interchangeable lens with F2.8 brightness across its entire range. We worked hard to achieve higher brightness and smaller size than this kind of zoom lens, while reducing the F value and increasing the focal length at the tele-end as much as possible. The result was an F1.7-2.8 / 24-75mm lens.
In the early stages of development, the front lens element was relatively large. However, by employing a new lens construction, we were ultimately able to achieve our target size. If you compare the LX100 and LX7 side-by-side, you'll clearly see that the lens barrel diameters are almost the same but the LX100's lens diameter is larger.
Pursuit of an Exquisite Bokeh Shape
I understand that you persistently pursued a beautiful bokeh effect.
A large image sensor and bright lens are important factors for achieving a beautiful bokeh expression. For the LX100, we took an extra step and pursued an exquisite bokeh shape.
First, we concentrated on ensuring a smooth bokeh effect with invisible edge lines. Edge lines are caused by aberrations. We designed the lenses of ordinary LUMIX models in accordance with Leica's stringent aberration standards, but we conducted an even more detailed examination to achieve a smoother bokeh effect with the LX100.
We also improved the accuracy of dies used for manufacturing aspherical lenses in order to eliminate the appearance of “onion rings” in the bokeh portion. Onion rings are caused by the transfer of machining marks on the dies to the lenses during production.
What's more, the LX100 features nine diaphragm blades for the first time in a LUMIX compact digital camera in order to make "round" bokeh appear as round as possible.
An Optimum Layout for Fast Shutter Speeds
The LX100 offers high shutter speeds even though it uses a large-diameter lens.
When the lens diameter increases, the shutter speed of the lens shutter system commonly used in compact digital cameras becomes slower. We optimized the layout of parts inside the lens barrel to solve that problem.
First, an increase of the shutter speed requires a large powerful motor. So, we created as much space as possible in the lens barrel for the arrangement of the shutter mechanism. At the same time, we installed the aperture diaphragm at a location different from the conventional position in order to reduce the aperture diameter as much as possible.
Consequently, we have achieved a maximum 1/4000-second shutter speed.
A Versatile Focal Length and Excellent Macro Performance for Greater Shooting Fun
How would you like people to use the LX100's 24-75mm zoom range?
Since the LX100 is small and easy to carry around, we'd like users to enjoy shooting in various situations, ranging from snapshots to travel pictures. The F1.7/24mm on the wide-end is convenient for taking pictures of expansive scenery at travel sites and wedding pictures in dark indoor situations. The F2.8/75mm on the tele-end is suitable for taking portraits with an effective background bokeh. The LX100 lets you record 4K video, so you can select the best picture from continually recorded images of children, pets, etc., in action.
And because the LX100 is a lens-integrated digital camera, it offers excellent macro performance. You can take a picture from a distance of 3 cm on the wide-end or 30 cm on the tele-end.
Relentless Pursuit of a "Compact Size" and "High Performance"
What kind of digital camera do you want to develop in the future?
I'd like to create a digital camera that's small and very easy to carry around so it can be taken out instantly for quick snapping of pictures. I believe it's important for users to be able to take out the camera quickly and take beautiful pictures at a moment's notice. To that end, I persistently pursue a "compact size" and "high performance." They're the key words in my development goals.
The LX100 combines Leica's renowned optical technology and Panasonic's acclaimed digital technology to offer the best of both worlds. I knew how small the camera was from the data, but when I saw the actual product, I was surprised at its compact size. I'd like to see people carrying the LX100 at all times and taking pictures whenever the chance appears.
• The product in some images is under development and may be changed without notice.