Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 (Black)
Typical Price: $339.00
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: Sharp, bright lens; compact but comfortable design; broad manual shooting feature set.
The bad: Relatively nonresponsive Quick Menu button; proprietary connectors; artifacts under certain conditions; optical viewfinder is optional.
The bottom line: Although the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 has its share of passionate fans, we think the JPEG quality should be more consistent for the price.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
With its compact, elegant design and enthusiast-friendly feature set, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 certainly qualifies as the camera you want to carry when you need something more discreet than a dSLR. The replacement for the LX2, the LX3 has an almost identical body design, same-to-better performance, and improved photo quality. Still, to me it comes up a bit short overall compared with its main competitor, the Canon PowerShot G10.
At 9.1 ounces, with dimensions of 4.3 inches wide by 2.5 inches high by 2 inches deep (with lens retracted), the relatively compact LX3 fits comfortably in a jacket pocket. There's a slightly pronounced grip up front and a small, bumpy thumb rest on the back, but neither seems quite enough. I frequently felt as if the camera was going to slip out of my hand; a firmer grip required covering all the buttons below with my thumb. The LX3 can retain its slim design because it lacks an optical viewfinder. Instead, Panasonic offers an external model, the DMW-VF1, which is quite pricey.
On top of the camera sits a hot shoe, a welcome addition that the LX2 lacked, power switch, pop-up flash, focus point selector button, zoom switch, and mode dial. In addition to the PASM, movie capture, and scene modes that were available in its predecessor, plus the update from Auto to Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode, the dial includes two slots for custom settings. Though there are only two slots, the camera can store four groups of settings; one set gets slotted in C1, while C2 stores three. This is an interesting approach that leaves one preset instantly accessible, while switching among the others requires a trip into the menus.
You can manually toggle among aspect ratios via a switch atop the lens, while the switch for the AF, AF macro, and MF modes lives on the left side of the lens. Unfortunately, the manual switch for the aspect ratio makes choosing the HD movie capture mode (up to 1,280x720 at 30fps) a bit cumbersome: when the switch is set to 4:3, HD movies aren't an option. And since the non-4:3 aspect modes are all crops below full resolution, I really don't suggest using them unless you know you'll never need the parts of the photo you're throwing away.
The rest of the controls sit adjacent to the bright, saturated wide-aspect 3-inch LCD on the camera back. Though small, the buttons, switches, and joystick are easy to feel and manipulate unless you have really big fingers. Panasonic added an AF/AE lock button over the LX2, but otherwise the layout (though not the feel) is identical. In addition, there's a capture/playback switch, Quick Menu button/joystick, display, and burst shooting buttons. I really like the joystick, but as a button it's not responsive enough; it requires multiple presses to register and pull up the menu. The four-button navigation pad that surrounds the Menu button has dedicated buttons for the self-timer, flash, and exposure compensation. The fourth button is a user-programmable function button, which you can set to quick review, film mode, ISO sensitivity, white balance, metering, AF mode, or intelligent exposure. Film mode provides a variety of preset combinations of contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction settings, and you can save two custom sets. There's also a Multi Film mode, which saves three variations of a single photo with the three user-selected film settings.
Some other notable capabilities of the LX3 include Pre AF, which locks focus when it senses the camera's at its steadiest, and selectable grouped AF points. The camera offers all the essentials, including optical image stabilization, as well. Normally I'd refer you to a downloadable manual at this point, but Panasonic doesn't have the LX3 documentation posted on its Web site. (And the printed docs don't have an index, a personal pet peeve.)
I don't understand why products in this class remain so slow; even landscapes can change if it takes long enough. Plus, the LX3 has fewer pixels to process than the G10, so I'd expect it to be faster than it is. It wakes up and shoots in just under 2 seconds, which is reasonable. But 0.6 second to focus and shoot under optimal conditions is less so, and 1.1 seconds for low-contrast scenes is a bit too high for the price. Its 1.9 seconds shot-to-shot performance is better than the G10's, but most snapshot cameras do better than both. With flash it slows to about 2.5 seconds between shots, which is typical, if not terrific. For burst shooting it manages about 1.9fps.
One of the biggest changes between the LX2 and the LX3 is the lens, which goes from a slowish 4X 28-112mm-equivalent to a faster and wider, but shorter, 2.5X f2.0-2.8 24-60mm-equivalent. Whether you want to sacrifice the flexibility of the longer lens for the brighter and sharper, but shorter one, depends on your shooting style.
One of the main complaints with the LX2 was the high noise level of its 10-megapixel sensor. According to the company, the new sensor has larger photodiodes, which boost sensitivity by almost 40 percent--maximum ISO jumps a stop to ISO 3,200 from ISO 1,600--and the sensor has increased saturation by 35 percent. In conjunction with moving to the latest version of its Venus Engine imaging processor, which Panasonic claims provides better noise reduction, Panasonic claims we should see better photo quality from the LX3. And we do. In general, its photos are sharp and saturated. There are some artifacts in CNET Labs' indoor test shots (click through the slide show for examples) that appear in the JPEG, but not raw versions of the photos, which could be by-products of the noise-reduction algorithms.
While the camera supports up to ISO 3,200, you really don't want to shoot at anything beyond ISO 800; for best results, stick to ISO 400 and below. The camera generally underexposes, which you can compensate for, and while the color is good, outdoor white balance tends to be overly cool. Movie quality is OK. Optical zoom doesn't function in movie capture, and--like many others--the camera could use a wind filter for the microphone.
While the Canon PowerShot G10 seems clunky in comparison and the lens isn't quite as nice, overall I think it delivers better photo quality and the lens provides a more flexible range. But like its predecessor, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is a solid camera for the peripatetic photo enthusiast once you become accustomed to its quirks.
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Product Description||Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3K - Digital camera|
|Product Type||Digital camera - Compact|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||4.3 in x 1.1 in x 2.4 in|
|Flash Memory||50 MB|
|Supported Flash Memory||SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, SD Memory Card|
|Integrated Memory||50 MB|
|Sensor Resolution||10.1 megapixels|
|Shooting Modes||Frame movie mode|
|Focus Adjustment||Manual, Automatic|
|Min Focus Range||19.7 in|
|Focal Length||5.1 mm - 12.8 mm|
|Image Stabilizer||Optical (MEGA O.I.S.)|
|Red Eye Reduction||Yes|
|Microphone||Microphone - Built-in - Electret condenser - Mono|
|Viewfinder||- Color, None|
|Display||LCD display - TFT active matrix - 3 in - Color|
|Supported Battery||1 x Li-ion rechargeable battery - 1150 mAh ( Included )|
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 12
4 Star: 0
3 Star: 1
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
A True Successor to a Heritage
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on January 20, 2009
10 out of 10 users found this review helpful
Pros: Ultrawide angle zoom. Gorgeous lens. Responsive camera
Cons: High ISO speed problematic for some
Not a great movie taking camera
Summary: As a photojournalist Leica cameras were the workhorses of my profession and my favorite camera Leica was the compact CL that was produced for only a few years in the 1970s. It was my standard carry-around camera. With its 40mm Summicron and a 28mm Elmarit it fit into a small camera case and was easy and unobtrusive to use.
For me the LX3 is the descendant of the Leica CL. Yes the zoom range is limited, only 24-60mm (35mm equivalent), but that's more then I had with the CL and two lenses.
And the Vario-Summicron is worth the price of the camera alone. In fact you can't buy a used summicron for the cost of this camera.
And the lens makes the difference. Thruly the tonality, sharpness and color fidelity of this lens (this tiny, tiny lens) puts the lenses on many dSLRs to shame. When I first got the LX3 I took some test shots and made large prints. Hanging them next to similar sized photos from my dSLR I was surprised at how muc smoother and sharper the LX3 prints were.
But this is not a camera for everyone. If you want a long telephoto range, to shoot party snaps in low light and if you are not making big prints you'd probably do better with another point and shoot something like the Panasonic TZ5.
This is a great camera for street photography, interior work and oddly enough for landscapes. The supersharp 24mm lens takes in great expanses and makes great, big prints.
I'd recommend it to anyone who has begun to take photography seriously and wants a camera to match their vision.
Third time is a charm...
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on November 26, 2008
9 out of 9 users found this review helpful
Pros: 24-mm wide angle, FAST Leica lens, raw mode, great OIS, great manual controls for serious photographers w/o sacrificing "point and shoot" simplicity, VASTLY improved high ISO response compared to predecessors, versatile movie modes, 16:9 capable.
Cons: Slight aberrations off-axis at widest FOV (but very good for cameras in this price range), rumors of underpowered flash are true, rumors of poor white balance are true but (I believe) overstated.
Summary: I've owned the LX-1, LX-2 and now the LX-3, and it's been interesting to see how Panasonic updates a compact camera series targeted toward serious photographers. The LX-1 was great out of the the starting gate, but a bit noisy (within reasonable limits for the imaging sensor used). The LX-2 added a lot of irrelevant features, and INCREASED the pixel count (8 to 10 Mp) and ISO specification, further degrading the noise problem. The LX-2, in my opinion, was a step backward from the LX-1
I'm happy to see that Panasonic has listened to it's users. While holding the pixel count constant at 10 Mp, increasing the lens speed and improving an already impressive optical image stabilization system, the LX-3 overcomes the flaws of the LX-2. All the other great features of the LX series: great lens, manual controls, raw shooing, flexible movie modes, and fast shutter speeds, remain. Unless someone prefers longer telephoto capabilities, serious photographers will find this the compact camera of choice.
Personally I would like to see an intervalometer capability, like some Nikon & Canon compacts, but this is niggling over what is, in balance, a fantastic camera.
Amazing so far... (1 week of use)
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 24, 2008
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: wide angle lens, low light shooting, burst shooting, lcd screen, functions/features, durability
Cons: lack of telephoto (but i understand why), some graininess in low light situations
Summary: after shooting with this camera for about a week while on vacation in l.a., i feel like this is one of the better investments i've made this year.
the picture quality is tip top for most situations, especially for gorgeous wide angle landscapes.
i also got some decent shots in very low light situations at the kings of leon concert out in l.a., but they were a stretch. graininess did appear in about 75% of those shots, but i managed to get a few really crisp shots as well (the unlimited burst most worked wonders.)
and just to address the difference between the leica d-lux and the panasonic lx3 series, i found that the leica d-lux3 was slightly over exposed in most outdoor situations when compared to the lx3 (my friend had the lx3, and I shot with it as well.) however, i don't know if they've tweaked anything in the d-lux4...
anyhow, i'll have to tinker around with this new toy over this coming weekend to better understand what the camera does. there is an ample amount of manual and semi-manual adjustments to make this lx3 far better than any point and shoot.
in the mean time please refer to this blog, which i found incredibly helpful when deciding to purchase the lx3: http://www.lawrenceripsher.com/blog/2008/08/panasonic-lx3-review.html
Updated on Oct 24, 2008
In love with my camera
Rating: 5 / 5
on November 8, 2009
2 out of 2 users found this review helpful
Pros: fast, wideangle, obtically superb lens. good noise performance up to ISO400 (800 is ok but pushing it), beautiful style and construction, manual controls
Cons: wish the noise performance was better, short zoom
Summary: I've used this camera for 6 months now and I absolutely love it! i find the balance of size and image quality a good compromise, specially because i'm a street photographer at heart and my style is annonimity. of course you need to know your way around cameras if you're willing to buy a larger-than-your-average-compact, short zoomed, and without the highest pixel count (it matters to most more than it should) but if you do you'll be very pleased with the results. or if you're a newbie and one happens to be in your hands, put it on auto mode and be amazed. I dont think cnet's review on this camera does it justice.
Great small camera
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on May 19, 2009
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Fast lens
Effective image stabilization
Smaller sized than competition
Good low light performance
Good macro performance
Good image quality
Great street and landscape camera
Cons: Silkypix RAW software
Battery life could be better
No optical viewfinder
Camera resets manual focus when it falls asleep
Blooming with spectral highlights in HD video
If telephoto matters to you, not the camera for you.
Summary: Excellent small, serious photo tool. 24mm f2.0 is fantastic. It has good image quality. I would recommend ditching the RAW software and using Adobe's conversion tool.
And BTW, for the editor who wrote the review, the different format modes are not crops- you'll note on the LCDwhen you flick between the modes that the coverage in the frame actually changes (ie 4:3 mode actually ADDS some height while taking away width from 3:2 mode, and 16:9 mode is wider than any of the others). It's different than an in-camera crop- if you shoot in 4:3 mode (which has the most megapixels) you will never be able to crop that picture to look like what the 16:9 would have looked like.