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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review

November 2008 | By Richard Butler

Camera based on a production LX3 with V1.0 firmware
(White balance section updated to reflect V1.1 performance)

Panasonic's LX series has always been home to the company's most ambitious compacts, offering a range of photographer-friendly features in a small, stylish and solid body festooned with external controls. It's been two years since the launch of the LX2 and the market has changed a lot in that time - the level of features offered even on inexpensive models has grown and the cost of all cameras, particularly DSLRs, has fallen drastically. Both of these trends risk reducing the potential market for premium compacts if their features are available on cheaper compacts, and much better photographic tools (in terms of flexibility of purpose and image quality) are available for only a little more money. So the LX3, more than its predecessors, has to play to its strengths - it needs to offer some of the best compact camera image quality, a good degree of user control and a body that is more convenient and pocketable than DSLRs can be.

And Panasonic seems fully aware of these challenges. When announcing the camera, the company pointed out that more pixels on the same sized sensor does not always result in better image quality and described its approach with the LX3 as: "boldly reversing the industry trend of pushing toward ever-higher pixel counts." It's an admirable position (though one that would be easier to acclaim if the company hadn't, on the same day, released one of the most pixel-dense cameras we've ever seen), and one that seems promising - the benefits of newer sensor and processing technology without those advances being strangled by the downsides of smaller pixels. (And we believe that if you offer more pixels with the hard drive clutter and slower camera operation they bring, then those pixels must be good at the pixel level, otherwise, what benefits do those additional pixels bring?)

Headline features

  • 24mm wide 2.5x optical LEICA DC 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
  • Up to ISO 3200 sensitivity
  • Up to 1280x720 (30 fps) pixel movie capture
  • Manual exposure and focus options
  • 1/2000th to 60 sec shutter speeds
  • Available in black or silver

LX3 vs LX2: main differences

Although the outward appearance hasn't changed that dramatically, the LX2 and LX3 are very different creatures. The the easiest thing to miss about the LX3 is its lens - a part of the specification sheet that is sometimes easy to overlook as a string of numbers. With the LX3 it's really worth spending a moment thinking about it: starting at 24mm equivalent is pretty unusual in a compact camera. Offering an aperture range of F2.0-2.8 is extraordinary. But to combine the two and include Image Stabilization is simply astonishing - this is not an everyday lens and it's something that defines how the camera behaves and what it can be used for.

To put that aperture range in perspective, this means it's one 'stop' faster (brighter) at the wide end and over 1.5 brighter at the long end than the F2.8-4.9 lens fitted to its predecessor. And this means that you can get the same exposure using the same shutter speed but using a lower ISO setting than with the older camera.

Beyond that, there the new, higher-resolution rear screen that conforms to the more traditional 3:2 aspect ratio, rather than its forebear's 16:9 unit.

The other differences are:

  • Similar pixel count sensor (10.1 vs 10.0 MP)
  • Venus Engine IV (vs Venus Engine III)
  • 3:2 aspect ratio 3-inch screen (was 2.8-inch 16:9)
  • Flash hot-shoe
  • Threaded lens barrel for adding optional conversion lenses or filters
  • USB 2.0 Hi Speed interface (at last!)
  • More internal memory (50 MB)
  • 720p HD movie mode now at 30fps
  • Closer minimum focusing distance: 1cm, rather than 5cm
  • Faster continuous shooting (2.5fps for 8 frames, cf. 2fps for 5 frames)
  • Separate component video out (for HD playback)
  • Improved battery life
  • Minor control and interface changes

Multi-aspect ratio

Roll your mouse over the tabs to see the way the difference aspect ratios are taken from the sensor or click on the diagram to download the overlaid versions.

4:3 3:2 16:9

The LX3 does away with its predecessor's unusual 16:9 aspect ratio sensor, instead using a more conventional 3:2 sensor but then using only a crop from it, depending on aspect ratio. The key thing is that the LX3 even uses a crop from the sensor at 4:3 ratio, rather than using the entire sensor. Although this may seem perverse, the result is that the lens offers the same diagonal angle of view regardless of selected aspect ratio, making it much easier to get a feel for the behaviour of the lens. It also means you make the most of the sensor's area, getting similar pixel counts in all modes.

The image on the left shows the result of shooting the same scene at the same zoom setting using the LX3's different aspect ratios. Unlike any other camera we can think of, all three shots end up with the same angle of view.

DMC-LX3 specifications

List price (EU) • UK £399.99
• US $499.95
Sensor • 1/1.63" sensor
• 11.3 million total pixels CCD
• 10.1 million effective pixels
• Primary Color Filter
Image stabilization • Lens-shift
• MEGA O.I.S. (Auto/Mode1/ Mode2)
Image sizes

4:3 Aspect Ratio:
• 3648x 2736 pixels
• 3072 x 2304 pixels
• 2560 x 1920 pixels
• 2048 x 1536 pixels
• 1600 x 1200 pixels
• 640 x 480 pixels

• 3:2 Aspect Ratio:
• 3776 x 2520 pixels
• 3168 x 2112 pixels
• 2656 x 1768 pixels
• 2112 x 1408pixels
• 2048 x 1360 pixels

• 16:9 Aspect Ratio:
• 3968 x 2232 pixels
• 3328 x 1872 pixels
• 2784 x 1568 pixels
• 2208 x 1248 pixels
• 1920 x 1080

Movie mode • QuickTime Motion JPEG
• 4:3 Aspect Ratio: 640 x 480 pixels 30 fps or
• 320 x 240 pixels 30 fps/10 fps
• 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 848 x 480 pixels 30 fps
• HD(16:9 Aspect Ratio): 1280x720 pixels 24fps"
Output formats • JPEG ( Exif 2.21 standard)
• RAW
Image processor Venus Engine IV
Lens • 2.5x zoom
• f=5.1-12.8mm (35mm Equiv.: 24-60mm)
• F2.0 - F2.8
• LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON
• 8 elements in 6 groups
• 4 Aspherical Lenses / 4 Aspherical surfaces)
Focus modes • Normal
• Macro
• Quick AF
• Continuous AF
• Manual Focus (Joystick)
• One Shot AF
• AF Area Select
• AF Tracking
AF assist lamp Yes
Shooting modes • Intelligent AUTO
• P(Program) mode
• A(AperturePriority) mode
• S(Shutter Priority) mode
• M(Manual) mode
• Motion Picture
• Custom1
• Custom2
• Scene mode
Scene modes • Portrait
• Soft Skin
• Self-Portrait
• Scenery
• Sports
• Night Portrait
• Night Scenery
• Food, Party
• Candle Light
• Baby1
• Baby2
• Pet
• Sunset
• High sensitivity
• Starry Sky
• Fireworks
• Beach
• Snow
• Aerial photo
• Hi-Speed Burst
• Flash-Burst
• Film Grain
• Pin Hole
Metering • Intelligent Multiple
• Center Weighted
• Spot
AE Bracketing +/- 0.3/0.5 EV
Exposure compen.

• +/-2 EV
• 0.3 EV increments

Sensitivity

• Auto
• 80
• 100
• 200
• 400
• 800
• 1600
• 3200
• High Sensitivity Mode : Auto(1600 - 6400)

Shutter speed

• P: 1-1/2000sec (Selectable minimum shutter speed)
• A/S: 8-1/2000sec
• M: 60-1/2000sec
• Starry Sky Mode : 15, 30, 60sec.

Aperture values • Wide: F2.0 - F8.0 Tele: F2.8 - F8
White balance • Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Shade
• Flash
• Halogen
• Color Temperature
• White Set 1
• White Set 2
• White Balance Adjustment
Drive modes

• Single
• Continuous

Burst speed • 2.5 frames/sec Max. 8 images (Standard), Max 4 images (Fine), Max 3images (RAW)
• High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 6 frames/sec (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9)
Self-timer 10 sec. / 2 sec.
LCD monitor • 3.0", 3:2 Polycrystalline TFT LCD Display
• 460K dots
• Field of View : approx. 100%
• AUTO Power LCD mode
Viewfinder Optional
Flash • Auto
• Auto/Red-eye Reduction
• Forced On
• Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction
• Forced Off
• Flash Synchro 1st / 2nd
• Flash output Adjustment (1/3EV step, -2 - +2 EV)
• Hotshoe
FLash coverage 0.8 - 8.3m (Wide/Macro/ISO Auto), 0.3 - 5.9m (Tele/ISO Auto)
Connectivity

• DC Input
• AV Output (NTSC/PAL)
• HD AV Output (Component)
• USB2.0 High speed

Storage • SD Memory Card
• SDHC Memory Card
• MultiMediaCard (Still image only)
• Internal Memory (approx. 50 MB)
Power • Li-ion Battery Pack (3.7V, 1150mAh)
• Battery life: 380 pictures (CIPA standard)
• AC Adaptor (Input: 110-240V AC) (Optional)
Dimensions 108.7 x 59.5 x 27.1 mm
Weight (with battery) Approx. 265 g


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

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DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2008 Richard Butler/ dpreview.com and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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Comments

Total comments: 2
alvaro gonzalez novoa

tengo una duda , se pueden realizar fotos con esta cámara con e ldisplay apagado ?? I have a question, you can take pictures with this camera and ldisplay off?? Gracias/ thanks

0 upvotes
soyo

Si, se puede. Yes, you can.

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Total comments: 2