Nauticam has given me the opportunity to test the housing for the Panasonic LX100 priced at $1,200 or £922 in UK.
As anticipated some time ago this housing features the new N50 mini port system for compact.
The housing comes with the rectangular port as a standard, as the LX100 has a 24mm equivalent lens and the lens extends quite a lot between the shortest and longest focal length it is not possible to use an M67 long port or there will be vignetting.
In order to install the camera you need to set the aperture to f/16 and the aspect ratio to 4:3 with focus mode in normal and lift the zoom lever. Likewise to take the camera out of the housing.
Unfortunately as mentioned several times on this blog pincushion distortion severely affects the image at focal lengths shorter than 35mm equivalent as our in water test shot demonstrated. If you zoom in the corners you can see also extensive blur and chromatic aberrations.
Furthermore the lack of an M67 port means you now need the Nautical flip diopter for rectangular port that costs $220 or £170.
When you eventually get to put a diopter on the lack of zoom means that magnification with traditional lenses is quite limited.
The frame width is 62mm with a single Inon UCl-165 and goes to 5cm when we stack another UCL-330.
Image quality is ok except some blue fringing at the borders.
A single UCL-100 gives a frame width of 42mm.
Apparently the Nauticam CMC ($320 or £240) gives 32mm frame width that is adequate for macro.
So if you are into macro you need to invest $1,200+$220+$320=$1,740 to have some decent magnification.
If you possess many clamps and cold shoe ball mounts you can buy an Inon M67 lens arm and use the lenses you have saving some $$$ but the magnification is limited unless you get the CMC.
For semi-wide angle a mini dome port is available at $280 or £216.
This restores the field of view in air however you can only zoom to 40mm before the camera can’t focus anymore. I have even tried with dry diopters on the camera there is no improvement.
Optical quality is great.
Probably the most useful port is the N50 short port that has an m67 thread and allows to use wet wide angle lenses.
I went to Swanage but got the tide wrong visibility was shocking still gives an idea of the image quality of the LX100 with the Nauticam WWL-1 wet lens.
If you have a Nauticam wet mate you can also use it with the short port and achieve the same or better sharpness than the minidome thought with some residual chromatic aberration.
The big benefit is that if you find that your wet wide angle lens is too wide for what you are shooting you can change lens without changing the port.
For what concerns the ergonomics of the LX100 they are quite intuitive on land.
One of the characteristics is the lack of a mode dial.
You have an auto position for shutter speed and aperture and if you leave them as such the camera shoots in program mode.
Once you move the aperture the camera goes in aperture priority mode. Probably the worst situation is the shutter dial that once touched has to come down all the way from 1/4000 to whatever you need it to be.
Also you don’t have thirds of exposure for the shutter dial and for example to get 1/50 you need to go to 1/60 and then use the rear dial.
I found the ergonomics of the camera in water particularly annoying as I was shooting with gloves. I did like the nauticam trigger system for the shutter however the amount of hardware of the nauticam tray and its weight are not really an option for me.
The Panasonic LX100 is a very interesting camera on land but in water ends up quite uncomfortable and expensive. The housing with the 3 ports comes at $1,200+$180+$280 if you add the Nauticam CMC and the WWL-1 you end with a whopping $3,195 the camera costs another $800. Total investment $4,000.
This is a lot of money in my opinion considering that with another $300 you can get a Panasonic GX7 with GX7 housing, an Olympus 60mm with 65 macro port and a Panasonic 8mm fisheye with 4.33″ dome. The LX100 and GX7 share the same sensor but there is no doubt that the macro performance of a dedicated lens as well as the fisheye of the 8mm lens have no comparison.
In conclusion the Panasonic LX100 with NA-LX100 is a bit of a flop for stills the only use that I can think of is wide angle 4K video with the short port and a wet lens but other than that I don’t see how Nauticam is going to sell many of those units.