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LX3, (personal) first thoughts.

July 22, 2008

It´s finally here, and it caused, yesterday, quite a shake with it´s anouncement. I believe Panasonic has managed to present one of the most interesting cameras in quite a while, they seem to have understood the exact place this RAW shooting “serious compacts” have in the market.

It is interesting that multimillionaire leading companies such as Canon, that produce some of the best photographic tools in the world, manage to fail, generation after generation of their products, to provide exactly what their customers demand, relying in marketing bullshit and just for the sake of profit. Crippling products by not enabling functions that are just a matter of software implementation, in order to create clear market segments and force the sales has been the  strategy of companies like Canon and Sony. Remember the fiasco when they decided to produce a G7 with no RAW capability? Talk about dumb decisions..Those of us who shoot with DSLR´s have been asking for quite a while now for little changes that would make our shooting experience a much more pleasant and succesfull one. For example, ISO changing. Come on, ISO is one of the most important parameters in today´s digital shooting, it can´t be burried in a menu in a PRO or SEMI/PRO camera. For ages we have been asking for a mirror-lockup button to avoid us going deep into the menus, but still they managed to produce a high-end camera like the 5D with a “direct print button”!!!  Who the X”@%$ wants a bloody direct print button in a Pro body??

 

 

But then it is refreshing to find little commited companies like Ricoh, that actually seem to care about what a photographer needs when operating a camera, and that time after time seem to surprise gladly including features that people had actually been asking for and that do make their little gems very capable cameras indeed.

Well, Panasonic seems to have joined the little group of manufacturers who actually managed, somehow, to “connect” with their potential buyers. Congratulations! A couple months ago I started in this blog a post tittled “LX3 Wishlist”. Many of you kindly contributed and wrote down your wishes for the new machine. Those wishes seemed to be more or less the same in every other blog or forum that discussed the posibility of an LX3. I allways thought that it would be very easy (and cheap) for big manufacturers to have a little team devoted to surf the web and actually read forums and blogs, because I believe it would be the most effective way of knowing the feeling and demands of photographers. Probably cheaper than complex market studies done by expensive companies with difficult, long and snobish names that believe they know what the people want in the street level…It looks like Panasonic did their homework (or they hired a market study company that actually has their feet in the groud..) because you will find that nearly every point in the wishlist was addressed..

RAW shooting serious compacts are not simply easy holiday snapping machines, they are often the first or second choice for people that take their photography very seriously. In that direction I believe the first great success of the LX3 is that it has become not a camera, but a whole outfit with a number or interesting accesories that conform a nice kit. Have a look at this picture:

 

I was a Leica rangefinder shooter for a while. This Panasonic kit resembles my Leica outfit in a way that no other compact has ever. I remember reading yesterday in another forum how similar someone found it to his Voightlander-Bessa kit. It does look very cool and “retro”.

The external optical viewfinder is a smart move in the right direction, but aparently they will only comercialise one, a 24mm. Interesting but not enough. I am personaly more of a 35-50 shooter. True that other manufacturers build  finders for the rest of the focal lengths, but if Panasonic has not implemented a step-zoom option the use of other external finders will be more than impossible.

Now that half case is the sexiest thing..The filter and converter adapter is a godsend. It will allow expanding the kit and it´s photographic capabilities in a very wellcome way. As much as I like the adapter I currently use for my LX2, it only stays in place by preassure, and even when it has never failed/fallen I hope the Lumix adapter will be a threaded one for maximum security and reliability. ND filters, yes, cool, but unfortunately the longest shutter speed is still 60 seconds..

The wide converter is wellcome, but not to rain in Panasonic´s parade, using the Nikon WC-E68 wide converter I currently use with my LX2 will allow a FOV of about 16mm, and is also 46mm threaded (like Panasonic´s). Quality may be another issue..Werther the Nikon converter will vignette in the new LX3 remains to be seen..

 

 

The lens, is obviously one of the greates strengths of this camera. Interestig that the focal length has been reduced in the tele end. A 2.5x zoom will obviously allow a much higher quality lens, plus making a fast lens so small requires some compromises. I just wish they had made it a 24-70. On the other hand, I could see a tele-converter coming from Panasonic in the near future..Fast (very) at both wide and tele ends  makes it a very capable low-light shooter. If the sensor´s high ISO capabilities are up to it..Good that Panasonic decided to keep it to 10Mp. Brave and clever decision. Another strike for Panasonic.

But stating that this camera´s resolution has remained the same may be arguable. Let me elaborate..In the first place Panasonic has opted for a very curios option: The camera´s sensor doesn´t seem to have a native aspect ratio. This are the pixel sizes at the different formats:

                                               16:9  =    3.968 x 2.232                 
                                                 3:2  =    3.776 x 2.520                
                                                 4:3  =    3.648 x 2.736

None of the formats makes use of the whole sensor! So the camera is no more a 16:9 native aspect camera. Actually the resolution has dropped for this format to about 8Mp. But the pixel count has actually increased in the 4:3 and 3:2 aspects to around 9.5-10 Mp. In the LX2 this two formats were actual crops of the sensor, (8.5Mp for 3:2 and 7.5Mp for 4:3) so if you shoot in one of this formats you will actually end up with a higher resolution. Even when the sensor is actually slightly bigger and they claim to have developed bigger photosites I believe the difference is not so dramatic and it will all come , noise-wise, to the improvements Panasonic has managed to make in the lasts years in the sensor area. The major part of the effort will have to come from the Venus IV engine, so let´s wait and see how if fares..

A side effect of all this seems to be that the screen is no more a 16:9 one, but a 3:2. Pitty, I liked my “panoramic” screen. But with 3 inches and 460.000 dots, if I ever get this camera my prediction is that it will take me about 45 seconds to get over it.. 😉

All in all there is so little, nothing actually, not to like about this camera. The design is in my opinion beautiful, very classy, specially in it´s black version  (I personally don´t care for the silver one..). I just can´t wait for the first “real” reviews..

Gosh, could anybody read that far??  😦


Best, Erik.

                                                

 

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7 comments

  1. I did read that far and agree with your assesment. Hopefully Panasonic did not only copy the My Settings and handgrip from Ricoh but also the step zoom. It looks very promissing indeed but I am still hoping they will also release a LC2.


  2. you’re thorough man, nice one!


  3. Got my wife really annoyed since this camera was announced.: She believes I dream with another woman at night.. 😉

    Erik.


  4. Hi Erik

    Wow thanks for the lengthy assessment! Great job. I am currently a user of the LX2 and I simply love the camera. Now after reading this, I am very very tempted to upgrade my LX2 to an LX3!!! And yes I agree, it looks a lot better in black than in silver. Silver makes it look like one of those ‘regular’ cameras 😉


  5. Good site on the Panasonic LX3 here. Looks like a great compact for those who want a bit more than a point and shoot. Black looks much nicer than the siver though…


  6. I’m waiting mine to arrive next week, and was browsing the net for LX3 impressions. Can’t wait to start shooting!


  7. I’ve already gotten my LX3 and her name is Poppy – beautiful, powerful and addictive 😉 I am having SO much fun with her! Unfortunately the additional accessories and that leather casing doesn’t come with and has to be pre-ordered (which I have already placed mine but it has yet to get here…)

    It is definitely an improvement of the LX2 – much more powerful and easier to navigate but I’m still a tad used to the LX2, so I get a bit confused on certain short cut key placements…

    But on an overall – I am a very very happy photographer now



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