Customer Review

67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Panasonic LX3, September 30, 2009
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This review is from: Panasonic DMC-LX3 10.1MP Digital Camera with 24mm Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Black) (Electronics)
Panasonic LX3

It's not a world-shaking camera, but it's a good one. I give it 4 stars.

I've been taking pictures for pleasure since the 70s. I've owned a Nikon rangefinder, a Yashicamat 124G, a Pentax 67, and a variety of Nikon SLRs since back in the ancient days of film. Most of my cameras have been fully manual: set the focus by hand, set the zoom by hand (if there is a zoom), set the aperture and shutter speed by hand. All those cameras have separate lens caps, too.

I've also owned several all-automatic point & shoots, and I now own a Nikon D-70, which is my main camera these days. I got my LX3 a couple of weeks ago, and I've devoted a good bit of time to reading the manual and putting the instructions to use on the LX3.

My understanding of most items is that they're all the product of compromises. Some of the compromises work for me, some I can live with, and some are deal breakers. The LX3 has its compromises: the zoom is 2.5X; when you take a video, the camera locks the zoom and focus when the recording begins. I'm more aggravated by this latter compromise - I'd prefer to be able to zoom in and out while making a video, but it's not a deal breaker for me.

The small things I like are the slides and dial for some controls instead of buttons or menus. A sliding switch to turn it on means I don't accidentally hit the power button when I meant to press the shutter release. The slide for the flash means I really have to mean to raise the flash -- it doesn't pop up accidentally because my fingers were in the wrong place. A slide fastener for the battery/SD access means (I hope) a more secure fastening of that door. There's a slide switch to select picture mode or view mode. I also like the rotating dial for modes. I can turn the camera on with it set to video, even though I last used it for still photos. No drilling down through menus as the event passes me by. I use the dial to determine exposure mode (P, A, S, manual, and custom) before I turn the camera on or while it's coming on. In the dark and without my reading glasses, I can see my mode in the LCD; if I change it, it shows me an animation of the dial selecting the modes. I like this, since I can't always read the icons on the dial.

The major selling point for me, though, is the ability to think about what I'm going to do and to do that. This is a camera that rewards thoughtful photography. Do I want to show the slide on a regular TV, a computer, or on Hi-Def TV? I can choose the aspect ratio accordingly by using a slide switch right on the lens. Is the background a distraction so that I want to blur it out? I can choose my aperture and let the camera set the shutter speed. Do I want to take a snapshot of someone? I can choose to have the camera find the face and set focus and exposure on that. Is someone in bright light? I can set the flash to -1 or -2 EV and soften the shadows without overpowering the sun. Is someone backlit? I can choose spot metering and use the focus function and joystick to put the spot to be metered right on the subjects eyes and get a good exposure.

I have set up a couple of specific setting combinations and saved them as custom modes. I can select them using the mode dial (one is selected without further ado; the others require a quick selection from a menu that pops up - slows me down, but not too much).

With my Nikon FM2, all settings are totally manual, and the camera is set up to make it easy: aperture is a ring on the lens and shutter speed is a dial on the body. Twist another ring to focus on the screen through the eyepiece. On the LX3, things are different, so it takes some getting used to. Shutter speed and aperture are manually set using the joystick, so it's not an immediate result. Focus is also done using the joystick and looking at the LCD, and I'm not happy with that yet. Maybe I will be. So far, though, I'm happier setting the focus using the focus button and the joystick to put the focus dot on what I where I want the focus to be and letting the camera handle it. It's slower than my FM2 but faster than using the joystick to manually focus. (And more accurate so far.)

User interfaces are personal. If you don't like the interface on the LX3, you won't like the camera. I like it fine. I'd prefer to have the menu drop me back in to the last-used selection, but it starts at the top every time. I'd prefer to be able to press the menu/set button and have it scroll to the next menu item, but I have to use the select buttons instead. Overall, I give the user interface high marks; there's a quick menu accessible from the joystick which gives you quick access to often-used items.

Some observations: it's a light camera, but it's not small. The dimensions are for the body of the camera, but the lens, even when the camera is shut off, extends from the body almost another inch. My wife has a Canon G9, and the volume of the two cameras is identical if you take the LX3's lens into account. It won't fit in your shirt pocket. I've used lens caps for so long, it's a non-issue for me. I have no problems with the removable lens cap. The Hi-Def videos are excellent. I shoot in RAW all the time; conversion to JPEGs is not much more burdensome than shooting in JPEG, and having all the photo information available to play around with rewards any extra time it takes. Your mileage will vary, but all the options I have available on the LX3 makes using RAW a good decision for me.

Another observation is the barrel distortion at 5.1mm. I've photographed quadrille paper at 5.1mm and 12.8mm at all three aspect ratios. At 5.1mm, barrel distortion in the graph paper is quite obvious. However, in the real world I never notice the distortion in my wide-angle photos or videos. I'm sure other people will notice and be put off by it. The distortion can be corrected by some photo editing applications if it bothers you.

Further, the LX3 has a distinctive lens flare pattern: if you shoot into some specular lights, you get a vertical line up and down the entire photo for each light.

If you use your point and shoot for snapshots, I'm not sure the LX3 is worth the big bucks. Leaving it on automatic and JPEGs doesn't seem to me to be worth $500. If you want to make photographs instead of taking snaps, I think this camera is worth comparing with others of its ilk (the Canon G9, for example [or better, the G11 when it comes out]). The LX3 does not make photos equal in quality to DSLRs, but it's much more carriable - and having it on hand when you want to make a photograph means you actually get the photo. For me, the value in the camera lies in having all the choices I get to make in 35mm photography (and DSLR) without having to lug the big iron around all day. It won't replace my D-70 anymore than my other P&S cameras did, but it's a very worthy adjunct. I would have preferred a much smaller camera, but I'm willing to compromise on the size to get the capabilities of the LX3.

JUNE 2011 - I broke the battery door off. I called Panasonic to get an estimate, and I learned that there is a flat-rate cost for all repairs of $275, regardless of the problem. $275 to replace the battery door, and as far as Panasonic is concerned there's no way around it. My local professional camera store says they're prohibited by their vendor contract with Panasonic from doing repairs. I have to send the camera to the authorized repair center for the flat-rate cost.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 22, 2010 9:37:52 AM PDT
MysticJaguar says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2010 9:47:13 AM PDT
P. Stripling says:
I'm surprised you found this high-browed, but thank you.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 12:44:48 PM PDT
David Devine says:
I like this review style Stripling.
It's a nice contrast from the normal reviews here, which go something like this:

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2010 2:17:11 PM PDT
P. Stripling says:
Lord Kill, your post wouldn't be so funny if it weren't so true! And thank you for your kind words.

Posted on Jul 29, 2013 5:23:10 PM PDT
Peter says:
The way to cure the buyer problems was to get one of the warranties tied to most of the camera pages. Well worth the money as I've used them and they are good. Panasonic is AWFUL in support so if you buy one and I do recommend Panasonic get a warranty and don't fool with the Panasonic people.
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