Preliminary LX3 review with images...

Started Aug 24, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Ming Thein
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Preliminary LX3 review with images...
Aug 24, 2008

Hi everybody,

Some of you regulars might remember me from about a year ago when the initial rush of interest peaked with the TZ3...I must admit, since then there haven't been that many interesting compacts. But recently I had the chance to shoot with an LX3 against the GRDII, GX200 and DP1 (though sequentially, so there won't be any comparison photos), and I thought my initial impressions might be appreciated here.

I'll cut to the chase:

Image quality: I'm inclined to agree with Panasonic's claims - the LX3 does have the best image quality I've seen in a compact under identical given conditions (the Sigma DP1 suffers from bad chroma noise; the lens is two stops slower and it lacks IS, which means that net net, the LX3 will give you more pixels with roughly the same noise, a little less acuity and only slightly worse dynamic range). It has the best dynamic range of any compact I've used so far (except of course the DP1). I've also tested four samples; none exhibited the soft left side problem. The one I selected for my personal use (from a shop; it's actually better than the demo unit Panasonic lent our magazine) is sharp edge to edge, corner to corner, even from wide open. It's an astonishingly good lens.

Noise: No, it's not noise free. But venus IV doesn't make a mess of the files, either. I'm shooting raw, batch convert to 16 bit TIFF in silkypix with the only setting change being lowest contrast, then do my usual workflow via CS3. Noise reduction is set to off in the raw converter. I find 400 is pretty darn good, and 800 useable. Higher isn't much good (nor do you have to go higher with a lens and IS system that good). Background: I'm shooting a D3 normally, so my tolerance for noise is pretty low.

Metering and auto white balance are much improved from the previous Lumixes. I feel the AWB goes to a lower kelvin temperature - comes much closer to true white under tough tungsten situations. And the matrix metering option makes sensible choices.

Handling and build: build is fantastic as always. And the handling keeps getting better and better - I didn't like the change to a playback switch, but at least the fn button can be set to review. Better yet that auto review zooms into the AF point used to check focus - an inspired decision. Also love the way the joystick can be used to jump between images when zoomed in to check sharpness, like my Nikon DSLRs. The new LCD is nice but doesn't seem to have that many more pixels than the one on the TZ3. Still, no complaints here. I should also add that the weather of late here has been thoroughly lousy and wet - light dismally absent, and the LX3 actually survived a downpour this evening with seemingly no ill effects (though I wouldn't recommend this, as the camera doesn't have any sealing).

Battery life - Long. I'm only on my first full charge, and the battery is still showing full after several hundred raw files. The first time I got the camera, the indicator showed me 1/3; I took 170 shots, and it still showed me 1/3. I guess the spare battery I got was kinda pointless.

Video - I've used it once to test it out, but I was seriously impressed. Very smooth and sharp, even though you can't zoom or focus once started.

But you know what the best thing about the LX3 is? I think it's the fact that it can write raw files and not choke - you can keep shooting and the camera won't lock up between shots. I'm using a Sandisk 4GB Ducati class 6 SDHC, and I can keep hitting the shutter button without it locking up. I got to 20 shots and gave up trying to make it choke. Finally - a compact where raw is useable! Now if only Adobe would hurry up and support the LX3, silkypix is painfully slow and unfriendly...

Overall: two thumbs up. I really, really like this camera. More so than the TZ3, which has now been retired to my brother in law.

Anyway, enough words. Time for some pictures. I won't be posting any full size images, but I think the following should suffice. If the basic image quality isn't there, they won't stand up to the kind of post processing I do - typically single frame HDR off a 14 bit D3 raw file, pushed to around 13 stops of dynamic range.

Hope somebody found this useful!

Cheers
Ming

Exif info should be intact.

More to come on my flickr page as I continue to shoot...

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Ming Thein's Photographic Dictionary, D2H Noise Reduction curves and galleries at
http://www.ming-group.com and http://www.flickr.com/photos/mingthein

 Ming Thein's gear list:Ming Thein's gear list
Ricoh GR Digital III Leica D-LUX 5 Nikon D700 Nikon D3X Leica S2 +20 more
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