White Balance

In addition to the auto white balance mode the LX3 offers five presets (daylight, cloudy, shade, flash, and tungsten). There is no preset for fluorescent lights, but there is a manual white balance mode that allows you to point the camera at a neutral target and create / save two custom settings. There is also the option to fine-tune white balance in both the Amber-Blue and Magenta-Green axes, giving a good degree of control.

Which is fortunate, because the LX3's white balance performance, both when using Auto or one of the presets, is average-to-poor. The lack of a fluorescent preset is a problem because Auto WB struggles under fluorescent lighting. The tungsten (Incandescent) preset does a better job under fluorescent lighting than Auto though, ironically, its performance under tungsten lighting is less convincing. White balance under artificial light is clearly not the LX3's strong point, so get used to creating manual presets or using the fine-tune options.

Results updated to reflect firmware version 1.1

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 2.9%, Blue -12.3%
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 5.3%, Blue -5.4%
Fluorescent - Tungsten Preset WB
Red -4.9%, Blue 0.1%
Incandescent - Tungsten Preset WB
Red 8.7%, Blue -10.3%

Flash Performance

The small flash unit does suffer from the LX2's problem of being a touch underpowered - which can become a problem if you have set the camera to its lowest ISO setting (which we'd usually do). It also inherits its predecessor's fondness for slow shutter speeds, often dropping to 1/30th of a second. The advantage of this is that it uses its lowest sensitivity setting, keeping quality high, while also allowing some ambient light in for a more natural look. There is a risk of camera shake, though.

Unlike its predecessor, the LX3 can mount an external flash, which is probably worthwhile if it's something you want to use on a regular basis. The camera is a bit tricky to hold if you mount anything larger or heavier than the DMW-FL220.

Skin tone Reasonable color and good exposure Color chart Excellent color and exposure

Macro Focus

As is usual for LX models, the LX3 offers a macro focus mode that can be selected using the slider on the side of the lens barrel. At its wide-angle setting it can focus down to just 1 cm though, as our test shot shows, the lens will tend to shadow your subject if you poke the lens that close. The 24mm equivalent lens means that, even though you're very close, you don't get very high magnification because you capture such a large area. As you zoom-in, the closest focus distance increases dramatically, reaching 30cm by the long end of the zoom.

Wide macro - 27 x 20 mm coverage
131 px/mm (3317 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: High
Equiv. focal length: 24 mm
Mid Zoom macro - 143 x 107 mm coverage
25 px/mm (647 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: Moderate
Equiv. focal length: 60 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

At first glance, the distortion results are stunningly low - a camera this small with a 24mm equivalent lens would be expected to produce significantly more distortion than the barely noticeable 0.6% we measured. We wouldn't be surprised to find that a lot of clever processing is going on in the background.

Barrel distortion - 0.6 % at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 24 mm
Pincushion distortion 0.0% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 60 mm

Specific image quality issues

The tests would appear to suggest that the LX3 has a pretty-much perfect lens with virtually unmeasurable distortion and no noticeable chromatic aberration (CA). Developing the RAW files shows that this is a bit too good to be true - the camera is processing out CA and may be tinkering with the distortion too.

It's nice to be able to announce that the LX3 appears to have put right many of the things that disappointed us about its predecessor and in general can be trusted to produce good images in most situations. Its sensor, while large for a compact camera is small when compared to DSLRs and consequently it can't quite match the dynamic range or lower noise that such cameras tend to be capable of. However, when compared to more similar cameras, it's a well-rounded effort with few unusually destructive imaging quirks.

We still have some concerns about the effects of Noise Reduction on the rendering of low-contrast detail. Even at its lowest ISO settings fine, subtle detail can appear as smudged areas if you examine the images very closely. It's not a major problem by any means.

16:9 image- 8.9MP 100% Crop - showing low-contrast smudging

Camera metering tended to be very reliable, allowing genuine point-and-shoot operation with a good degree of confidence.