Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Initial impressions of the Panasonic LX3

I have been in search of a compact camera that offers some of the creative control and low light performance of my digital SLR. DP Review recently reviewed a bunch of cameras in this category and gave high marks to the Panasonic LX3. I got one yesterday and took it for a spin in a typical situation where usually only an SLR will do the trick: an indoor holiday party in a house.

What first strikes you about the camera is that it looks like an old Leica rangefinder. it has more heft and a more traditional design then a Canon digital elph. it also has a hot shoe, which seems a waste of space. If I am going to put an external flash on the camera then I will just carry the SLR.

Indoors, shooting with available light you need a low noise sensor and a fast lens. The LX3 has one of those; the f2.0 lens is fast enough that you can often shoot at ISO 400 and below, where the noise is manageable. But you pretty much need to stay at wide angle (24mm equivalent) to avoid having to use ISO800 indoors. The lens slows down to f2.8 when zoomed. At f2.8, typical home lighting requires ISO 800 or higher, something my digital SLR handles just fine but the LX3, not so much. The LX3 is supposedly less noisy than most of its competitors at ISO800 but compared to a digital SLR like the Canon 5D or 40D, there is a ton of noise.

Where does that leave me? I like the camera. It fits very nicely between the Canon 880IS that I carry when skiing and the digital SLR that I take out when image quality is my number one concern. I see myself using it when hiking, when going to indoor parties and other casual events. I do wish the camera had a lower noise sensor, which means that I wish it had a physically larger sensor with a lower pixel density. But for some reason, manufacturers don’t want to build a compact point and shoot around the sensor found in the Canon 40D. In the interim, this camera is probably the closest thing to my dream camera.

The Canon 880IS is still my choice when i want to carry a camera that will disappear entirely when not using it. The LX3 certainly won’t fit in your pocket. They know that. It has a full strap like an SLR. The Canon 880IS has just a wrist strap.

Oh yeah, the camera takes video too. performance in 4×3 aspect ratio mode, where it shoots 30 FPS, is excellent. Performance at 720p, 16×9 ratio, 24 FPS (the other option) is not quite as good. there seems to be some stuttering and motion does not seem quite as smooth. There are more artifacts in the video at 720p too to my eye. Both modes produce motion JPEGS in a quicktime container, a pretty dense format with lots of wasted space, but Phanfare’s video conversion takes care of that for me.

You can’t zoom while shooting video, pretty typical for the genre. But I don’t find that a big problem.

My biggest complaint about the camera so far is that i can’t change the ISO without going into the menus, but I read that I might be able to re-assign a button to do that.

  • shantanu sarkar

    wow it’s really cool.For more log onto

  • jefferson graham

    I was carrying the LX3 around with me at CES–I was shocked by how poor the image quality was at high ISO levels. I did some natural light pictures at a party, at 1600 ISO and could see some human beings there under the dots. Better at 800, much better at 400, and decent in great light. But if that's the case, why get a camera with a 2.0 lens if it can't perform in low light?

  • erlichson

    my experience is similar to yours; iso 400 the highest place you want to be. but, i find that having an f2.0 lens helps me use lower iso speeds and hence the camera is more versatile in low light situations. i think it is the lens and manual controls, not the sensor, that is the story with this camera.

  • kitesurf

    I have used Lx3 for five months and found it very irritating.

  • erlichson

    can you tell me more?

  • kitesurf

    There is so much to say, one thing that I didn't like the most was the sound clarity!

  • lake tahoe ski resort

    Thank you so much for this concise review. Lately I've been thinking on what camera would be best for skiing and at the same time user-friendly. This camera is now one of those on top of my list. =)

  • FrancisWakeboardingEquipments

    Many people recommends LX3 than it's nearest competitor the CanonG10. I planning to buy this one, It has good reviews and setting similar to dslr's but it much more compact and light to carry.

  • family ski resort

    I've been hearing nothing but good news about it since its release. Finally, something worthy to replace my old yet reliable Canon 40D.

  • welly

    Panasonic LX3 is not a regular item, I want it long but so far can not yet, hopefully in the near future I can get it

  • Back Massager

    kitesurf, LX3 is meant for taking photos, HD video with an average sound quality. If you want yourself a good sound clarity etc. go get yourself a recording device. And ow 1 more thing, So far LX3 is one of the best point and shoot camera out there. It has a Leica lens on it, nuff said.

  • sanader

    hah i knew this wud happen, thanx.

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