A reader review.
Former LIFE photographer Peter Solmssen has migrated from the Panasonic LX-2 (I still use the LX-1) to the newer LX-3 which makes a couple of stellar changes from its predecessor. First, Panasonic has come to its senses and stopped the lunatic pixel race, opting for fewer pixels with the welcome result of improved image quality. Second, the lens has been stretched to a 24mm focal length at the wide end (35mm full frame equivalent) with less at the telephoto end. This may well be the widest focal length on a pocket-sized point-and-shoot digital and the reduced telephoto range allows for faster apertures across the range. I suppose the addition of HD video will appeal to many, also.
“Thomas suggested that I provide some comments on the Panasonic DMC LX3 camera; he has written extensively about the earlier LX1 model.
DP Review has selected the LX3 as the best of the “enthusiast” pocket cameras, and rightly so. In this model, Panasonic has finally listened to the many complaints about the megapixel horsepower race and provided a reasonably large sensor without increasing the pixel count. They have also added a new Leica-designed 24-60mm f/2 lens and HD video at 24 fps. The result is a truly useful camera, with the best image quality you will get short of a DSLR, and that still fits into most pockets. There are numerous clever features, including the ability to shoot all three aspect ratios at once – very useful, if like me, you shoot for HDTV and publication at the same time.
While Thomas and I have found it desirable to glue accessory shoes for optical finders onto the earlier models, the LX3 comes with a hot shoe and an optional optical finder. I have yet to see one of the new finders, but the 28mm Voigtlander finder that I have been using on the LX2 works well enough if you ignore the bright lines.
There has been a lot of excitement recently about the quality of video shot with the new Canon 5D Mark II. It is outstanding, but I would say that the LX3 comes fairly close at 10% of the price and a fraction of the size and weight. It boils down to what your purpose is. For my daughter, who is a professional, I bought a 5D. For my personal use (and age!) I am happy with the LX3.
There are always reservations about any model. With the LX3, the problems are the 60mm maximum focal length – some cropping will be inevitable, and you will need another camera for sports and birding. There is no external mic input for the video, and the sound is mono. As on the previous models, the mode dial turns too easily; I jammed some tape underneath to provide a little more drag. For me, the f/2 wide angle and the image quality easily justify accommodating to the limitations.”
Peter has included three pictures taken at 24mm, which I am pleased to reproduce here in their native widescreen (16:9) format:
The extreme wide angle at 24mm is clearly visible in Peter’s pictures. As APS-C sensor EVF cameras are still in the gestation phase – and we will see some truly compact designs with large sensors once manufacturer’s have the courage to drop the ‘professional looking’ faux pentaprism hump – the LX-3 may just be the most usefully equipped point-and-shoot on the market. And, as Peter points out, there’s no more need for a glue pot to keep an external finder in place!