Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review [Part.I]

a new legend is born from a legacy

"a new legend is born from a legacy"
This is one statement that I came up with, to honor the unrivaled compact camera of the year.
Since 2005, Fujifilm showed the world FinePix F30 and shortly in 2006, FinePix F31fd. Till this very day, many photography enthusiasts owned this and no others. However, a new compact point-and-shoot camera has inherited this throne. This compact camera is one that will join the league of the revered Fujifilm FinePix F30/31fd, as a "Legend" that will be written in a new chapter in the history of compact cameras. This camera is born from a "Legacy", bearing the mark of a long family history of compact cameras. Another mark of its "Legacy" is of the highest grade of professional photographic optics by Leica.
This day on, there will be one name that you will be hearing a lot, it will be one look that will capture the attention.


Panasonic Lumix-LX3
Model No: DMC-LX3
(RRP S$799)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

This remarkeable piece of photographic marvel is definitely worth reviewing it with dedication and in-depth tests. Hence, the review is split into two-parts. This first [Part.I] will be an introduction to the legendary Lumix-LX3, while the second [Part.II] will be home-studio tests of its capabilities and more sample pictures.


The release of the Lumix-LX3 might seem like an untimely move by Panasonic, since it places itself in a pit for the 'throne' against industry giants' flagship prosumers, Canon PowerShot G10 and Nikon Coolpix P6000. When I first reviewed the Canon PowerShot G9, I have called it a "pseudo-DSLR" and "compact camera with the power of a DSLR". The PowerShot G9 was later succeeded by the PowerShot G10. At a glance of the specification sheet, the Lumix-LX3 might shy in comparison to the powerhouse PowerShot G10 which sports a whopping 14.7MP sensor, 5x optical zoom with IS and the ergonomics of an EOS DSLR. Even the PowerShot G9 sports a 12MP sensor, 6x optical zoom with IS and the same good ergonomics. The Coolpix P6000 with its 13.9MP sensor and 4x optical zoom with VR puts its competitors at bay with its built-in GPS receiver. Panasonic Lumix-LX3 sports a humble 10MP sensor and an inferior optical zoom range of only 2.5x. Nevertheless, beyond these un-enticing specifications, Panasonic managed to convince photographers with every reason to keep the specifications humble. The good people at Panasonic also made the Lumix-LX3 an undoubtedly "Legendary" point-&-shoot compact camera.

Packaging & Contents
Panasonic has always been shipping their cameras in a sleek looking black box.
Lumix-LX3 is no different.

Standard accessories include: CGA-S005E Battery Pack, DE-A42A Battery Charger, AC Cables (2 & 3 pins), K1HA08CD0019 USB Connection Cable, K1HA08CD0020 AV Cable, CD-ROMs (Operatiing Instructions & Software), VFC4324 Lumix Shoulder Strap, VYQ3509 Battery Carrying Case, VYF3198 Lens Cap, VFC4366 Lens Cap String. Also included are: Lumix-LX3 camera, documentations.

The CGA-S005E (1150mAh) battery is good for up to 380 pictures (CIPA standard).

CD-ROM include: Operating Instructions (PDF).
Software CD-ROM include: POTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- 2.1E, ArcSoft (MediaImpression / Panorama Maker), SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.0SE (for RAW processing), QuickTime, USB Driver

Documentations and optional accessories catalogues.

Bundled Accessories
What makes the best deal in town is the accessories that is given.
P.S. I will never buy from I.T. shows at RRP.

The bundled accessories include:
Lexar Platinum II 4GB SDHC card, Lumix camera case, OEM SDHC, card reader, DiViPower PA-S005 3rd party battery (2500mAh).

The original Lumix case is made of synthetic leather lined with cushion on the inside. The case is a two-part detacheable case. One is the holder that is mounted to the tripod receptacle of the LX3. The bottom of this holder has its own tripod receptacle for mounting to the tripod head. The other part is the huge flap that swings from behind (protecting the LCD screen), over the top and over the lens in front. This flap is secured by two detacheable rivet buttons at the bottom.


Panasonic Lumix-LX3 Camera
Retro and Vintage is the new cool! Lumix-LX3 sports the outlook of a classic rangefinder camera.

Imaging CCD Sensor
Instead of hopping onto the bandwagon of "mega-pixels bumps" with more pixels crammed into the sensor, Panasonic keeps the pixel count to 10.1 effective megapixels in a similar sized sensor, meaning that each pixel is physically bigger than those in other cameras. This is not at all a disadvantage, as doing so, the sensor allows more details and a more dynamic range to be captured. Along with the "Venus Engine IV" processor, the Lumix-LX3 allows speedy processing and also allows capturing in RAW format (or RAW+JPEG), like DSLR and other high-end compact cameras. Capturing in RAW format allows maximum details to be captured, which is perfect for post-processing work. People might still remember how reviews complained of Panasonic cameras being plagued by noisy images at low ISO settings. However, this is already history with arrival of the Lumix-LX3. Many camera review websites had proven that Lumix-LX3 produces cleaner images than Canon PowerShot G10 at base (low) ISO setting. It is even better than Fujifilm FinePix F100fd at high ISO settings producing useable pictures even at ISO 800.

Physical Details
Take a closer examination on the physical appearance of the Lumix-LX3.

[Left] Hot-Shoe accessory allows compatible Panasonic and Olympus external flash units to be used. Non-compatible flash can be fired but in manual mode only.
[Right] The Mode dial allows quick access to P, A, S, M exposure modes, C1, C2 custom modes, video recording mode, scene mode and intelligent AUTO. The Zoom lever surrounds the huge Shutter button. The Focus button allows custom selection of focus area (to be used inconjunction with joystick). The Power switch, unlike buttons, will not be accidentally triggered.

[Left] The rear of the camera is the REC/PLAYBACK selector switch. The small multi-directional Joystick is very useful for making selections such as setting the aperture/shutter speed. Pressing down and holding the button slightly brings up the quick menu in REC mode. AF/AE Lock button can be customized to be used to lock AF, AE or AF & AE during REC mode. The Cursor buttons are used to trigger: Self-timer, Function button ([REVIEW]/[FILM MODE]/[SENSITIVITY]/[WHITE BALANCE]/[METERING MODE]/
[AF MODE]/[I.EXPOSURE]), Flash setting button and Level 1: Exposure compensation/Level 2: Auto bracket/ Level 3: Multi aspect (P52)/ Level 4: Flash output adjustment. MENU/SET button sits in the midde of the four cursor buttons. The Display button toggles different levels of displaying the REC screen. The Delete/Burst button toggles the single or burst shooting option in REC mode.
[Right] The Terminal door hides the COMPONENT OUT socket, AV OUT/DIGITAL socket and DC IN socket.

The Flash open button releases the cleverly hidden flash. The flash can be fired in AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Forced flash, Forced flash with Red-eye reduction, Slow-sync., Slow-sync. with Red-eye reduction modes. The flash can also be syncronized with 1st/2nd curtain modes and adjusted at 1/3EV step (-2 to +2 EV).

[Left] The Aspect Ratio selector switch toggles between 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9. Beside the selector is the self-timer/AF-assist lamp. Sitting on the top of the lens barrel is a detacheable Lens Ring front that covers the adaptor mount.
[Right] The Focus selector switch toggles between full-time AF, AF with MACRO, MF mode. The mark of "Legendary" and "Legacy" can be seen here.

[Left] A rubberized grip distinctly separates the appearance of the LX3 and the Leica D-Lux4. The bottom of the camera is card/battery door and the door release lever.
[Right] A metal tripod receptacle is off-centered to allow the card/battery door to be opened when mounted on a tripod head.

[Left] The card/battery door swings open to reveal the card and battery compartment.
[Right] Leica DC VARIO-SUMMICRON f/2.0-2.8 5.1mm-12.8mm ASPHERICAL zoom lens extends to its maximum distance when at 5.1mm (24mm @35mm equivalent).

An amateur would spit at short zoom range of just 2.5x. But for a photography ethusiast and professional, the lens is what makes this camera a "Legend"! Like other Lumix cameras, Lumix-LX3 is equipped with a lens from optics specialists, Leica. However, the Lumix-LX3 is unique as it is armed with a Leica DC VARIO-SUMMICRON instead of a Leica DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens. Futhermore, this DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens begins at a widest 24mm which not many compact camera has. Photographers know that wide angle lenses give endless creativity in perspectives instead of just capturing more things. We have yet touched on the paramount feature of the DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens, which is the 'speed' of this lens! This lens offers an aperture range of f/2.0-2.8, which is an extraordinary feature for a compact camera. To put it in lay man context, a fast aperture of f/2.0 allows users to (1) use a faster shutter speed, (2) use a lower ISO, (3) freeze action, (4) better subject isolation and (5) shoot in low light. At f/2.0, this lens is 'one stop' faster than the competitors that start at f/2.8. Professionals will usually need to fork out a few hundreds to thousands to acquire a lens of this 'speed' for their DSLR, while the Lumix-LX3 is built to perform the task at a small fraction of the price of those professional lenses. To sweeten the deal, this DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens is equipped with a lens-shift image stabilization in conjunction with Panasonic's trademark "MEGA O.I.S". This is like a 'weapon bestowed by god to smite all the competitors', there simply is no second!
So if you do the math, fast lens + Mega O.I.S. + clean high ISO images = shoot handheld without tripod in a room or on the streets at night!


In Operation
The lens cap must be removed before operation. The smart camera prevents accidents from happening when powered up without removing the lens cap. The lens detects the presence of the lens cap and prompts the user to remove it before pressing the cursor to extend the lens. There is no way the lens will collide with an attached lens cap.

The lens automatically extends a 31mm at 5.1mm (24mm @35mm equivalent) when powered up. When zoomed to 12.8 (60mm @35mm equivalent), lens retracts close to the lens ring front.

The Lumix-LX3 measures 109mm (L) x 62mm (H) x 69mm (D) in operation with fully extended lens.

Panasonic considers the Lumix-LX3 as a prosumer-class compact camera. Hence, it is capable of aperture-priority (A), shutter-priority (S) and manual (M) exposure. It is also friendly towards amateurs with "iA" intelligent AUTO mode, program auto exposure (P) and a huge library of 23 scene modes (SCN) to choose mode. Interestingly, in P-mode, Lumix-LX3 allows the user to manually-override the exposure setting while maintaing its exposure lock. Some interesting scene modes are "Pin-Hole" and "Film Grain". Lumix-LX3 also has a variety of "Film Modes" that captures the image in many creative styles such as "Dynamic", "Dynamic Black-&-White" as well as "Nostalgic". Each individual "Film Mode" can be fine-tuned in contrast, saturation, sharpness and noise reduction levels. The Lumix-LX3 also allows customization of camera settings and store them for easy access via the mode dial. Up to four settings can be stored in C1, C2.1, C2.2 and C2.3. The white balance (WB) can be customized in two banks and each preset WB setting can be fine-tuned in the most precise manner. The Lumix-LX3 even records dynamic HD (high-definition) motion pictures in 1280 x 720p at a smooth 24 fps, in addition to WVGA (848 x 480) and normal VGA (640 x 480). The camera also allows output onto HD-Ready or Full-HD televisions via its component output terminal.


The Leica DC VARIO-SUMMICRON focuses down to a minimum focusing distance of 1cm in MACRO mode. The lens utilizes an AF-assist lamp to aid focusing in low-light. It has an accurate auto-focusing (AF) mode as well as a reliable AF-tracking mode. The face-detection technology is not as advanced as that Fujifilm's Face Detection 3.0, nor as fast as that of the Canon PowerShot G10. The Lumix-LX3 only recognizes a straight-on face. Manual focusing is possible by switching the AF lever and controlling focusing distance using the joystick. Instead of letting the camera decide the AF areas, user can define the position of the AF-area on anywhere using the joystick

Size Does Matters
Size does matters to everyone who wants a 'compact' camera, not a bulky and non-'pocket-friendly' compact camera. The Lumix-LX3 is not much bigger than my LG-KS20 PDA phone, standard card, Sony PSP Slim-&-Lite and Canon IXUS40.

The Lumix-LX3 with REVOLTECH and 12-inch action figure.

FAST Lenses meet!
Leica VARIO-SUMMICRON f/2.0-2.8 meets NIKKOR lenses AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR and NIKKOR AF 50mm f/1.8D.

The Lumix-LX3 is a system camera with expandability options. The optional accessories from Panasonic are the: DMW-LW46 Wide Conversion Lens, DMW-LND46 ND Filter, DMW-LPL46 PL Filter, DMW-LA4 Conversion Lens Adaptor, DMW-VF1 External Optical Viewfinder. The conversion lenses will require an adaptor to be fixed over the barrel of the camera. Step-up rings can then expand the horizon of options. The external optical viewfinder is a chic accessory to add onto the hot-shoe of the Lumix-LX3. For more creativity with flash photography, an external hot-shoe flash can be added. The Lumix-LX3 can be used with Panasonic DMW-FL220 flash unit or Olympus flash units, with TTL support. It can also trigger most speedlights from other systems (such as Nikon & Canon), but without TTL.


Lumix-LX3 charms the user and his/her friends with its huge 3-inch 3:2 brilliant LCD with 460,000-dot High Resolution. While cameras of the similar range take on a bulky-built, Panasonic Lumix-LX3 takes on the classic, vintage range-finder appearance in a black or silver metallic body. Not a coincidence, but the Panasonic Lumix-LX3 bears a close resembrance to the more expensive (~S$1000) Leica D-Lux4. In fact, they are actually the same camera from inside out, except Leica is a damn cool brand to own (if you know your photography history)!

In the Hands
A compact camera must be compact in the hands.
Doesn't the classic rangefinder look just looks cool in the hands!


Features at a Glance
  • 24mm wide 2.5x optical LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens
  • F2.0-2.8 maximum aperture range
  • MEGA O.I.S.(Optical Image Stabilizer)
  • Venus Engine IV
  • Joystick-operated manual control
  • Large 3.0” 460k dot LCD monitor
  • Raw and JPEG recording modes
  • Maximum ISO 3200 sensitivity
  • 1280x720 pixel HD movie capture
  • Manual exposure (Av/Tv/M) and focus options
  • 1/2000th to 60 sec shutter speeds
  • 1-cm close distance MACRO mode

Sample Images
Here are some quick snapshots from the Panasonic Lumix-LX3. Handholding and shooting at night and producing useable images is a dream-come-true with LX3! All images are shot handheld with Mega O.I.S. on auto with auto ISO (maxed at ISO 800).

The next three night shots have been digitally challenged to squeeze the details out from the dark shadows. Chroma noise will be most prominent when doing so, but these images are perfectly useable!

The wide angle at 24mm captures so much more!

The next four shots on a bright day captures unbelievably sharp images with details perfectly preserved!
Don't you just love the way it captures the greens?


Concluding Paragraph
The specification sheets can brag the capability and professional reviews can tell a wonderful story. However, nothing beats the users' reviews from not one but hundreds, even thousands around the globe. Run a search on any photography forums, when compared to a similar class of prosumer compact cameras (such as Canon PowerShot G10 and Nikon Coolpix P6000), there is NOT ONE single negative comment that challenges the quality of pictures from the Panasonic Lumix-LX3! Amateurs or professionals swear by the remarkeable quality and performance of the Lumix-LX3, in particular the outstanding 24mm wide and f/2.0 aperture of the Leica DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens. But of course there is no perfect camera, its misses are the short zoom range and lesser mega-pixels count (is that all!?). The Lumix-LX3 might not be the perfect camera for someone who wants to travel only with it or someone who owns only one camera, because of its range limitations. In fact, I will not recommend the Lumix-LX3 to anyone who just wants one camera. However, this is a perfect 2nd camera companion for someone who shoots seriously with his DSLR. The Lumix-LX3 is the perfect companion to my Nikon D200 DSLR and its arsenal of optics. Otherwise, 99% of the comments on this camera are praises. The rest of the talking are done by the pictures shared on the web and in particular the Lumix-LX3 devout flickr group. These intoxicating poison made me go for the kill without regrets! The Lumix-LX3 is the real deal! If lugging a spanking new DSLR with a huge tripod to shoot in the streets in the day or at night, is cool. Shooting with a compact classic-looking Panasonic Lumix-LX3 at night without a tripod is the COOLEST! These are what makes the Panasonic Lumix-LX3 a "Legendary" compact camera!


Photography & Editing by William Tan
Text & Review by William Tan

All Rights Reserved
©William Tan 2008

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ber said...

another sponsored review??

looks good... features n pics..
how much is it selling?

Travis said...

> a perfect 2nd camera companion for someone who shoots seriously with his DSLR

This is exactly what I felt and the LX3 has been a perfect companion to my Sony DSLR. The size, the rich features, the convenience, and especially the image quality all make it worthwhile to carry with me at all times. I put it in a case with my iPod touch so that along with occasional wifi I have just about all the portable gadgets I need. The LX3 is a LOVELY camera!


Travis said...
This is exactly what I felt and the LX3 has been a perfect companion to my Sony DSLR. The size, the rich features, the convenience, and especially the image quality all make it worthwhile to carry with me at all times. I put it in a case with my iPod touch so that along with occasional wifi I have just about all the portable gadgets I need. The LX3 is a LOVELY camera!

kudos to another photographer who appreciates good cameras! well done!


ber said...
another sponsored review??

looks good... features n pics..
how much is it selling?

nope i sponsored myself :p

RRP S$799, S$699 is about the best street price.

Laurens said...

lich lich lich!!!
so dats wat my bro had been 'investing' in...lol

the wide angle rox
i like the retro cam pouch & flash popup


Laurens said...
lich lich lich!!!
so dats wat my bro had been 'investing' in...lol

the wide angle rox
i like the retro cam pouch & flash popup

no lah its not considered expensive for this hobby lah.
furthermore, its well worth it!

Anonymous said...

Does the lumix case comes in brown colour? I think it looks nicer with the camera in it. Haha


Nope it only comes in black.
agree brown will be more retro!

Anonymous said...

Where to get the lumix case?


You can try camera shops like Cathay Photo, Alan Photo or MS Color.

Ric said...

Waa.. where you got that bundled deal from and how much in total har?

Good review..

Anonymous said...

I second what ric said, where do you get the bundled deal and how much in total?

Since I am a serious buyer.. btw, awesome review!! pictures looking fantastic..


I do not advertise for camera shops,
but I can tell you that it is one of the 3 most reliable camera dealers in Singapore:
Cathay Photo, John 3:16, MS Color.

Michelle said...

Thanks for the review. Its really comprehensive. Have been looking for the ideal compact camera and apart from LX3's inability to incorporate underwater capability, I think this is my ideal camera.

Time to move up from my Olympus mju mini (5 yrs back)

mar said...

hi!courts is selling LX3 at 799l. is it reliable to buy at courts or other cheaper retails?


799 is RRP. If Courts is selling this camera with free gifts, those free gifts better be worth more than $100 more than what I got at smaller shops.

chloe said...

This review is great! I am looking for a detailed review with realistic pictures taken by the camera and I found this.
I am hunting for a good camera and is deciding between another DSLR and this.. Well, I can say your review gave me my decision.
Will be hunting for this camera with good bargain asap. I accidentally found a super macro lens that should go very well with this camera and I am excited!!
Thanks! =)