Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review
Originally Posted: October 13, 2008
Last Updated: September 4, 2010
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 ($499) is not your typical compact camera. Other cameras offer more pixels, more zoom, and bigger LCDs. So what makes the LX3 so interesting? It has a fast, 24 - 60 mm Leica lens with optical image stabilization. Three available aspect ratios, all of which maintain the camera's 24 mm wide end. Manual controls, "film modes", and support for the RAW format. A high definition movie mode. Heck, there's even an optional viewfinder.
While the LX3 shares the general design of its predecessors (the LX1 and LX2), a few things have changed. It no longer has a CCD with a 16:9 aspect ratio, but the new sensor has more space between pixels, allowing for better sensitivity. The LCD, too, has swapped the 16:9 ratio for a more traditional 3:2. Finally, while the LX2 had a 4X zoom, the lens on the LX3 is only 2.5X (though it's much faster).
The DMC-LX3 is definitely one of the most interesting compact cameras of 2008. How does it perform? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 10.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-LX3 camera
- CGA-S005 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio, ArcSoft Media Impression and Panorama Maker, and drivers
- 131 page camera manual (printed)
Most cameras have built-in memory these days, and the DMC-LX3 is no exception. Panasonic supplies 50MB of built-in memory on the LX3, which is quite an improvement from the 13MB offered on the LX2. Even so, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and you can choose from SD, SDHC, and MMC cards (I'd stick with the first two). I'd recommend starting out with a 2GB card, and yes, it's worth spending a little more for a high speed model.
The LX3 uses the venerable CGA-S005 lithium-ion rechargeable battery. This battery packs 4.2 Wh of energy, which is about average for a compact camera. Here's how that translates into battery life:
One camera I really wanted to put in the above table is the upcoming Sigma DP2. Alas, I have very little information on it at this point, so that's not possible. As for battery life, the DMC-LX3's numbers are 25% higher than those on the LX2. In this rather small group, the LX3's numbers are above average.
I do want to mention the usual issues about the proprietary batteries used by the LX3 and all of the other cameras on the above list. They're expensive (a spare will cost you at least $38), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when the proprietary one runs out of juice.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes approximately two hours for a full charge. This is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall, with no power cable needed.
Panasonic apparently lost all the lens caps for their LX3 review units, so mine didn't come with one. But rest assured, yours will, and there will be a retaining strap too. As the photo above shows, the LX3 is a fairly compact camera.
LX3 shown with optional viewfinder; image courtesy of Panasonic
The DMC-LX3 has a nice selection of accessories available, including the unique optical viewfinder you see above. I should point out that this viewfinder does not offer any zoom ability -- it's fixed at 24 mm. Here's the full list of extras that you can buy for your LX3:
Quite a list for a compact camera, if I do say so myself!
PhotoFunStudio for Windows
Panasonic includes several software applications with the DMC-LX3. First up, we have PhotoFunStudio 2.1, which is for Windows only. The first way in which you'll probably use this software is for transferring photos off of your camera. Do note that this software will not transfer RAW images to your computer!
Once on the main screen (pictured above), you'll find a familiar thumbnail view of your photos. Photos can be organized, e-mailed, printed, and rotated from this screen. Photos can be sorted by date, scene mode, keyword, and even camera model.
Editing in PhotoFunStudio
Select "retouch" and you'll get the editing window you see above. Here you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Images can be changed to sepia or black and white, and redeye can be removed with the click of your mouse.
ArcSoft MediaImpression in Mac OS X
Another option for basic image editing is ArcSoft MediaImpression software (for both Mac and Windows). MediaImpression can be used to import photos from the camera, with the unique option of removing redeye during import. After that's done, you get the usual thumbnail view you see above. There are plenty of editing options here, including an Easy-Fix Wizard that lets you straighten, crop, sharpen, and remove redeye from a photo, with very little work on your part.
ArcSoft Panorama Maker in Mac OS X
Another piece of the ArcSoft suite is Panorama Maker, which helps you combine photos that you've taken side-by-side into a single panorama. It's easy to use, and the results can be really impressive.
SilkyPix in Mac OS X
For editing RAW images, Panasonic supplies SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.0 SE. While its interface is better than earlier versions, SilkyPix is still fairly clunky, and the poorly translated menus can confusing at times. That doesn't mean that the software isn't capable -- quite the opposite, in fact. SilkyPix is a powerful RAW editor, allowing you to adjust everything from exposure to white balance (with fine-tuning) to the tone curve. You can also adjust noise reduction, lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and much, much more. SilkyPix is fairly responsive, as bundled RAW editing software goes.
So what is RAW, anyway, and why should you care? RAW images contain unprocessed data from the LX3's image sensor. In order to do anything with this information, you must first process it on your Mac or PC, as shown above. When you do that, you can adjust white balance, exposure, and more, without reducing the quality of the image. It's as if you get to take the photo again. Do note that RAW files are larger than JPEGs, taking up more space on your memory card, and they can also reduce camera performance in certain situations.
The manual included with the LX3 gets a mixed review from me. While I appreciate its depth, it's not very user-friendly. Expect lots of fine print and confusing tables -- though you should find an answer to any question you may have about the camera. Documentation for the bundled software is installed on your computer.