Conclusion - Pros

  • Good image quality at low ISO settings
  • Exceptionally bright F2.0-2.8 lens
  • 24mm wide angle
  • Decent high ISO performance (up to ISO 1600)
  • Unique choice of aspect ratios at a consistent angle-of-view
  • Comprehensive photographic control
  • High quality construction with attractive design
  • Automatic correction of chromatic aberration
  • Feels fast and responsive
  • High resolution screen
  • Generally reliable exposure and focus
  • Effective image stabilization
  • Generally good user interface
  • Raw mode & fully-featured RAW conversion software included
  • Plenty of in-camera control over image parameters
  • Good battery life
  • Well priced (compared to its peers)
  • Easy to use

Conclusion - Cons

  • 60mm telephoto will be restricting for some
  • Noise reduction can impact on low-contrast detail
  • Underpowered flash
  • Auto flash keen on using 1/30th second shutter speed (but keeps ISO down)
  • Dissappointing white balance performance (though has a fine-tune option)
  • Occasional dynamic range problems in very contrasty scenes
  • Controls awkward for those with large fingers

Overall conclusion

The LX3 is an example of a species so endangered that we were beginning to worry it had become extinct - a compact camera that photographers can get excited about. Panasonic has included a large degree of direct control, classy styling and, more importantly, a specification that goes beyond the unthinking 'larger screen and more megapixels' trend.

It's hard to tell what we're more impressed by - the ambitious lens or the decision to sit back and spectate during this round of the megapixel race. If pixels aren't just to become clutter on your hard drive, they must contain useful information and we've seen too many compact cameras that produce images that need to be down-sized to bring them up to standard. The LX3 may not have the eye-popping resolution of some of its peers but instead it's one of the best high-ISO compact cameras we've seen.

And then there's that lens. Image stabilized, 24mm at the wide end of things and offering an F2.0-2.8 maximum aperture range that gives you the choice of shooting at lower ISOs than its competitors. It's a feature that really sets the LX3 apart, even amongst cameras aimed at keen photographers and, as DSLRs become less expensive, that's exactly what this camera needed. The only concern must be that the lens only extends as far as 60mm equivalent. This is pretty short by most measures and may limit the cameras appeal, depending on your shooting needs (it's great as a walkaround landscape camera for instance).

Beyond all the good intentions of the specifications, it's a camera that appears to directly address many of its predecessor's shortcomings. Noise performance is greatly improved and the level of noise reduction is much less destructive (and you can shoot in RAW if you're the kind of person who has a prefered noise-reduction method in post-processing).

The joystick is a nice idea that should make for an excellent user-interface but it's a bit fiddly. The user experience just isn't quite as slick as it could be if you want to regularly change settings. Panasonic's own G1 shows that it's possible to give a superior level of manual control using a similar number of external controls (perhaps we should start asking for a control dial like the G1 if there's ever an LX4). That said, you do get used to the LX3 and it isn't completely fair to compare it to a camera aimed at a different set of users - it's still arguably more pleasant to use than any of its obvious competitors.

White balance isn't the LX3's strongest point but there's a good degree of control if you're consistently finding that it's not giving the results you want (Or, again, you can shoot in RAW and process in the software that is supplied with the camera). And in most other respects the images are very good - automatic correction of chromatic aberration and sensible (if rather saturated) image processing mean a lot of time spent with the LX3 is time spent thinking - 'Oh, I'm quite pleased with that.' And that's the bottom line - it's a camera that encourages you to play, to experiment, to take photographs and one that rewards you for doing so.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.5
Image quality 8.5
Optics 9.0
Performance (speed) 8.5
Value 8.0

Highly Recommended

Recommended, just

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