Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The compact camera I would buy today if I had any money: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3K

Of course there's no such thing as an absolute best compact camera, but for my own needs these days, if I were buying a compact, this may be the one I'd get: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3K. I've heard rumors about it coming - had a preview of this camera back in July - and I just became aware that it's out by reading an actual review in the dead-trees edition of Pop Photography (October 2008) that was extremely positive. Here's a link to the summary page of the review on, where the camera is given a "highly recommended" rating and compared favorably (in most respects) to the Canon PowerShot G10 and the Nikon Coolpix P6000. And here's a link to the product page where it has a 5-star rating based on 14 consumer reviews - a pretty remarkable achievement. And the reviews are interesting. A number of them are from DSLR users who sound like serious photographers.

The camera's not perfect. Two problems mentioned in the reviews that would make me hesitate are, first, handling is a bit awkward for folks like me with biggish hands; and second, its raw files aren't supported by Adobe. The latter problem sounds like something that will be fixed sooner or later - probably sooner, especially given the reviews the camera's getting. As for the handling, well, I guess I'd want to get to a bricks-and-mortar store and handle one to see how it feels.

Still, there are some real strengths to offset those disadvantages. Like the sensor on my Pentax K20D, the sensor in the DMC-LX3K has been reengineered so that the photosites themselves are larger, and that helps reduce noise. And there's that lens! It's a 24-60mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-f/2.8 Leica DC Vario-Summicron. These are impressive specs. Digital SLRs typically come with kit lens that only go as wide as 28mm (35mm equivalent). This is one of the reasons I really love my Pentax 16-45mm f/4 lens: On a Pentax DSLR, that 16mm wide angle = 24mm field of view. Well, the Lumix DMC-LX3K has that same 24mm FOV. And while my Pentax 16-45 only goes to f/4, the DMC-LX3K goes to f/2 (!) wide open, and can get to f/2.8 at 60mm. Impressive. It's funny how things change, well, at least for me. When I got back into photography a little before we went to China, what I really wanted was long telephoto reach, so I could shoot birds and such. These days, I'm willing to trade long for wide.

While some would disagree, I would also count it as an advantage that the DMC-LX3 has "only" 10 MP. Sheesh, 10 MP is plenty for a compact camera! There's no point in increasing resolution unless you're really getting something in return. The lenses on most compact cameras can't provide resolution that matches the sensors already. So if you're using a Canon G10 or a Nikon P6000 (14 and 12 MP respectively) there's a good chance you're getting nothing in return for filling up your hard disk faster.

Anyway, 24-60mm (35mm equivalent) f/2-f/2.8 lens sounds wonderful. If you really need a digital SLR, well, this isn't a digital SLR. But if you don't need a DSLR but want to take outstanding photos or people or landscapes, or if you already have a DSLR and just want a really good compact camera to carry around when your DSLR would be too big, then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3K sounds terrific. There's a new compact camera on the market almost every week. This one however seems a bit different.

About Me

I am an event photographer living in Dallas, Texas.