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Customer Review

541 of 553 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real gem of a camera ... but don't expect image quality miracles, September 27, 2008
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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)
In the last 6 years I've used a couple of compacts which I've since got rid of after upgrading to DSLRs (Canon XT and then 40D). For a while I was waiting for a compact that I could carry with me anywhere I want, and particularly to parties and other social occasions where bringing a DSLR is really not an option.
When this camera was announced it really looked like a dream compact for me. Fast, wide and optically stabilized lens is ideal for low-light indoor shots. The design is stylish and beautiful, the camera is quite compact and it has all the controls an advanced amateur would need.
Further the sensor is essentially as big as they get in compact cameras and with almost reasonable 10mp (still about 5mp too many but not as bad as 12-15mp you would get in any other compact with a comparable sensor).
I've had the camera for a couple of weeks now (and shame on Amazon for not having it in stock a month after it appeared in some other big stores). I like it a lot and the camera delivers on most of Panny's promises. Here are some of the experiences.
1. The image quality is certainly and noticeably better than the ulracompact cameras (like Panny's own FX series). It is however still a compact camera ... meaning there is visible noise even at ISO 80 and lots of noise at ISO 400. However noise reduction algorithms seem to be doing quite a good job and ISO 80 pics look very nice ... sometimes almost like a DSLR. And even at ISO 400 most shots are good enough to keep. In general the output from this camera is comparable to my 40D at 8 times the ISO (that is 80 on LX3 is about 640 on 40D and 400 LX3 is a bit better than 3200 on 40D). Fortunately, with fast lens and image stabilization I almost never need to use ISO above 400.
2. The camera is very responsive and the autofocus is fast and seems accurate.
3. Changing ISO through the menus is a bit of a pain but a variety of useful ISO regimes are provided. In general controlling all the options is not very easy ... but I guess that's the compromise you get with such a small camera with a large LCD.
Update: it is possible to simplify ISO changing by reassigning a button for this purpose. The drawback of this is that now reviewing pictures becomes more cumbersome.
4. Aspect ratio switch on the lens is more useful than I thought ... saves quite a lot of cropping.
5. Shooting in RAW+jpeg is fast enough to be usable.
6. The camera is quite a bit bulkier than it might seem (and the given dimensions are misleading since they do not include the lens and other protrusions from the main part of the body). It is not shirt-pocketable both because of its size and weight ... but fits fine in a jacket pocket or purse.
7. The macro capability of the camera is really excellent.
8. Having user customizable preset regimes on the dial is very useful and quite a luxury not present even on Canon XSi DSLR (shame on Canon!)

Overall it's a great compact camera: in my opinion certainly the best on the market by a margin (I've studied the market very thoroughly). It is in the same league as Canon G-series (which I owned back when they were the best and liked a lot) but fits my current needs much more than a Canon Gx. I also think it's a real bargain at around $400.
But it is still a compact camera with a sensor 1/8 area of most DSLRs and 1/20 of full frame (mostly pro) DSLR. So those expecting miracles like close-to-DSLR quality or usable ISO 800+ might be disappointed.
A quick update in response to a comment:
1. At widest setting of the zoom there is quite significant distortion especially noticeable in 16:9 regime. There is also noticeable loss of sharpness in the corners. This might not look good in some shots (like if a straight like or someones face is close to the border) but nothing too bad for most of the shots.
2. HD video is very good for a compact. There is no zooming, no auto focus and sometimes exposure adjustments are not very smooth. So I'd not recommend to treat it as a camcorder. But overall it gives detailed and reasonably smooth video (well not quite 30fps smooth). I've just made a quick comparison with Canon HF10 dedicated compact camcorder (which is as good as they get these days). In bright light LX3 cannot quite match the 1080p detail of Canon. But in relatively dim light it is about as good. Also LX3 has a huge advantage in wide angle. All dedicated consumer camcorders have widest angle around 40mm which is much worse than 24mm of LX3.

Another impression which I have with LX3 and certainly did not have with other compacts is that it is a tool worth learning and investing some time and experimentation. My pics with this camera keep improving even the first ones were already decent.

For anyone interested in sharpness and noise level comparisons with some cameras you can check out

Update Dec 17: Finally Photoshop and Lightroom started to recognize LX3 raws. The quality of my pictures is now even higher: colors much more pleasing and noise reduction less "blotchy". Overall this camera gives results well beyond what I thought to be possible for a compact camera. So it still has my highest recommendation.

Update Jan 27, 2009.
The single most annoying thing about this camera is its lens cap. Having to remove it slows you down. Attaching via a string leaves it dangling ... which detracts from the aesthetics of the camera and can add a bit of extra shake. Without the string it's likely to get lost ... and I have not seen any replacements on sale. Anyway, fortunately, creative peoples found out that Ricoh LC-1 lens adapter can be easily modified to be used on this camera. I've did this and it works much better than the original cap. I've uploaded some pictures of the result to the product images. Use google to find the modification instructions.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 2, 2008 1:03:52 PM PDT
AlkazB says:
thanks so much. your review explained the exact points i was looking to find out about.

Posted on Oct 2, 2008 4:21:27 PM PDT
Phaduman says:
Thanks again for posting a review quickly. Greatly appreciate it. If you could also add a little bit on the 'video quality' and 'barrel distortion at 20mm-wide angle', that would be wonderful.

best regards

Posted on Oct 7, 2008 12:30:55 PM PDT
BetsyR says:
Thank you for your link and the comparison of the LX3 and the G9. I hope there will be a G10 comparison available as well! I would also be very interested in seeing results with a Canon SX10.

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 8:26:22 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 21, 2008 8:27:44 AM PDT
Your review is spot on for the most part, but I think you went a little overboard when comparing the ISO image quality to the Canon 40D when you said: "that is 80 on LX3 is about 640 on 40D and 400 LX3 is a bit better than 3200 on 40D". This hasn't been my experience at all. True that really the upper ISO setting you would want to use on the LX3 is 800, it does NOT compare with 3200 on the 40D. Granted you said it's a little better than that, but I would put it closer to 1600 than 3200.

Also ISO 80 on the LX3 is more like 400 on the 40D...noise wise.

Detailed review with samples:

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 24, 2008 11:48:33 AM PDT
I've looked at both my pics and several reviews (take a look at the link I give at the end of my review). I think x8 ISO with 40D might be a bit off but i certainly not by much. I would certainly prefer 40D ISO 400 to LX3 ISO 80. One thing that might be misleading you is quite aggressive but reasonably good noise reduction that you get in LX3 out-of-camera jpegs. If you compare unprocessed images you'll see that LX3 is much noisier than it might seem.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2008 8:17:51 PM PDT
OldAmazonian says:
Here's a good mess of pix taken with LX3:

Posted on Nov 6, 2008 7:41:27 AM PST
I'm wondering how other users may be tweaking their white balance (in P mode) to get better results...wondering how you may have tweaked for good flash, lowlight, fluorescent and incadescent light situations. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2008 10:35:54 AM PST
P. Mooter says:
Pseudorandom Person, thanks so much for the review. I have been struggling for years trying to find a point and shoot that gives me something like the SLR's but has the compactness of a point and shoot. Sounds like this might be the one. My only concern is that both my wife and I are very active outdoorsey people and I'm hoping that this is rugged enough to handle this. Comments?

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 2:41:37 PM PST
K. KE says:
Thank you so much for the review. I have a concern about the 2.5x wide-angle MEGA Optical zoom lens. Compared to the other cameras, 2.5x seems a little bit low. I'll be grateful for your opinion.

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 3:12:45 PM PST
K. Snyder says:
How is the sound in HD movie mode. Past offerings have been terrible. Excellent review!
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