Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review
Oct 10, 2008
By Mark Goldstein
The Lumix DMC-LX3 is the third compact digital camera from Panasonic to offer a 16:9 ratio image, following on from the original LX1 model that was released back in 2005 and the LX2 in 2006. The Panasonic LX3 has a wealth of options that will appeal to the more serious photographer. It features a 2.5x, 24-60mm wide-angle lens with a bright maximum aperture of F/2.0 at the 24mm setting, optical image stabilizer, full range of manual exposure controls, compact all-metal body, 2.5fps continuous shooting and support for both JPEG and RAW image formats.
EASE OF USE:
The Panasonic DMC-LX3 is a fairly compact camera. The overall design is dominated by the lens on the front and the large 3-inch LCD screen on the rear. The built-in flash is particularly neat—it pops up out of the top of the body when you open it, and then is stored safely away by pushing it back down. Another cool feature is the joystick, which allows you to set apertures and shutter speeds, control manual focusing and access the quick menu. Slight negatives in terms of build quality include the cover for the battery compartment and SD card slot, which feels a little insubstantial and is locked using a cheap plastic switch, and the tripod socket is positioned in the bottom-left corner of the camera, which doesn't make it very stable on a tripod.
The DMC-LX3 has an unusual wide-angle, 2.5x zoom lens, which provides a focal length equivalent to 24-60mm on a 35mm camera. The 24mm wide-angle lens makes this one of the more versatile compacts in terms of focal range, especially as it is coupled with Panasonic's Mega O.I.S system, which helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp. Things are a lot more limited at the telephoto end, though, with the 60mm setting providing an angle of view that's very similar to our normal vision.
On a more positive note, the maximum aperture at wide-angle is a very bright f/2.0, increasing to a still very respectable f/2.8 at full telephoto. The new f/2.0 lens is about twice as bright as the previous f/2.8 lens, which means that the LX3 can be used to shoot at higher shutter speeds or in lower-light conditions, and still achieve comparable results. You can choose to shoot in RAW only, or RAW plus one of the two JPEG modes, giving you the best of both worlds. Shutter speeds range from 60-1/2000 seconds, and apertures from F2.0 - F8.
The Lumix DMC-LX3 is one of the most complex Panasonic compacts in terms of the number of external controls that it has, with nearly 20 in total. Found on the top of the camera are the small on/off switch, Focus button which lets you quickly select the number of auto focus points in the frame, responsive push/pull zoom lever and the large, tactile shutter button. There's also a traditional dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the different exposure modes; Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes. The various Scene modes, Intelligent Auto and the Movie mode are also accessed via this dial. Additionally there are to custom modes, C1 and C2, which allow you to configure your favorite settings and quickly access them.
The main menu system on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is easy to use and is accessed by pressing the menu/set button in the middle of the navigation D-Pad. There are two main menus, record and setup. Most of the camera’s main options, such as white balance, image quality, auto-focus mode and ISO speed, are accessed here, so the record menu has 22 options spread over four screens, and the setup menu has 26 options over five screens.
The large three-inch LCD screen is the only way of framing your shots. The Auto Power LCD function automatically detects the current lighting conditions and boosts the LCD backlighting by up to 40 percent when shooting outdoors in bright sunshine, helping to keep the screen visible. The various icons used to represent the camera settings are clear and legible. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you’re upgrading from a more basic model, reading the easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. In a throwback to the days before digital took over the world, the LX3 offers a Film Mode with six color types and three types of monochrome to choose from. This applies to both JPEG and RAW files, so you can effectively shoot a black and white RAW file. As you select a different Film Mode, the effects can clearly be seen on the LCD screen. In addition, you can change the contrast, sharpness, noise reduction and saturation levels for each one, and create two custom modes of your own.
The HD video capability of the DMC-LX3 is one of the major new features of this model. The HD movie mode records 720p video at 1280x720 pixels at 24 fps. Selecting this mode is a little more awkward than it should be, as you have to first select the 16:9 aspect ratio on the lens barrel and then the HD picture mode. Panasonic also provide a High Sensitivity mode to help combat the effects of camera shake. When this scene mode is selected, the camera automatically raises the ISO speed from 1600 up to a maximum of 6400 and therefore allows for a faster shutter speed. This mode allows you to handhold the DMC-LX3 without using the flash and get more natural results, whilst at the same time freezing subject movement more successfully.
Once you have captured a photo, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, up to 30 onscreen at the same time and in a special Calendar view, zoom in and out up to 16x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, trim, resize, copy and rotate an image. You can also select favorite images, sort images into categories, change an image's aspect ratio, add a text stamp, add a sound-clip and set the print order. The new leveling option automatically corrects a picture in which the subject is leaning to the left or right, rotating the image to straighten it and cropping the edges. Dual Play is a great option that takes advantage of the big LCD screen by allowing you to compare two images onscreen at the same time.
In summary, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 is an unusual, well-made, feature-rich yet easy-to-use camera that caters for both beginner and more experienced photographers alike.
To read this review in its entirety please go to the PhotographyBLOG.
Mark Goldstein is an experienced professional photographer and website
editor. He owns, runs and writes for PhotographyBLOG, one of the UK's biggest digital photography websites, which offers informative new product reviews and original in-depth news from around the world.
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