I have my eye on the new FZ28 and have been discussing it on another Panasonic forum thread
. The new LX3 is also a very compelling camera, and I can't help wondering if I should perhaps consider it instead of the FZ28.
Fred I found myself battling over the same choice not too long ago, and while I believe that the LX-3 is a better camera, arguably the best digital alternative to the much more expensive Leica M8 rangefinder & an undeniably wonderful tool for street photography enthusiasts... I ended up selecting the fz28 because in the end, as much as I would have loved to own the LX-3, I understood that the limitations of the LX-3 simply do not hold sway over the versatility of the fz28.
Before I explain what I mean, let me just say this as clearly as possible... If I already owned a dSLR (or bridge camera) then without hesitation I would have selected the LX-3. I do not now, nor at any point in this post wish to claim the fz28 to be the better camera... I simply wish to point out how it is a much more useful camera for me
The biggest advantage that the LX-3 has over the other high-end compacts like the Nikon P-6000 or the Canon G9 is the extremely wide 24mm lens(an effective 22mm if you shoot 16:9)
& an extremely fast lens(f2.0 'nuff said)
. This alone is reason enough for most people in the high-end compact market to drool...
Beyond this, the camera offers almost everything you could ask for in a compact. RAW capabilities, complete manual control (aperture priority, shutter priority, manual & program alongside customizable presets). A very usable high-speed burst mode, and what's being touted as a hugely upgraded image processing engine with special care in ensure maximum detail & minimum noise... The sensor is among the biggest one can find on a compact (Sigma's DP1 is ofcourse in the advantage here, but the slow, fixed prime-lens & complaints about camera responsiveness may push it below the LX-3)
and to top it all you have a very sturdy Leica inspired all-metal body.
So why, with all these factors giving the LX-3 the upper hand did I decide to go with the the fz28?
Because I believe that the fz28 is the best "one size fits all" camera that will cater superbly to my every need.
The fz28 isn't as wide as the 24mm LX3, but it's still wider than most of its' competition at 27mm. Do those extra 3mm (or 2.5mm converting the effective width on 16:9 modes)
matter to me, yes. Do they matter more to me than the 400+mm that the fz28 has over the 60mm tele range of the LX3, no. While I don't consider myself requiring a 487mm zoom range in day to day activities, I do think that the potential that range gives me far outweighs the advantage of a slightly wider lens. If the fz28 was something akin to the Canon S5 and started it's wide end at 36mm, then I would have been forced to reconsider, but at 27mm, it's wide enough for me not to complain.
Similarly, while the f2.0 is a very alluring figure, the f2.8 offered by the fz28 seems comfortably close enough for me to not give it enough credence. Again, if the fz28 was offering something like Fuji's SP2000's f3.5 (at the wide end)
then I would be forced to reconsider but as it stands, the fz28 has a very fast lens that should do well enough for me in all but the worse lit conditions...
So with both of those points being negated for my own foreseeable usage pattern, I find myself looking at two very similar cameras. Same Venus IV engine, same manual controls...
Through it all, I found myself favouring the 18x zoom range over the advantages of the LX3, but at this stage, the size factor came into play & I found myself inkling towards the LX3 again. Did I want to have a camera as big as the fz28 when I could get something smaller & better in the form of the LX3 (or even the TZ5)
I found myself clearing this final hurdle by actually grabbing an fz18 from the local market & holding it in my hands. Since the fz28 is virtually identical in it's size & design to the fz18, I found myself acknowledging the beauty of holding a camera thats big enough to feel comfortable & sturdy enough without it seeming big enough to be an SLR. I found myself understanding how I can use the fz28 as a walkaround camera without needed to worry about people complaining that I need a photography permit for using what would appear to be pro-gear.
Now this might not matter to you, but in India, this could have been a serious problem for me & one grasp at the fz18 & I found my doubts disappearing.
The fz28 is a brilliant camera, supposedly fast & responsive with an impeccably grand range (wide to tele) and features some of the best AF-tracking & high-speed burst shooting modes one can think of. I know i'll find it very comfortable "in-hand" and I know I'll be getting a lot of shots with it that I simply wouldn't even see with the LX-3.
So whereas I still think that the LX-3 is a beautiful camera with very impressive rangefinder-ish appeal... I don't think it would serve as my "only" camera as well as the fz28 will. If I were suddenly come into another $500 then I would very probably get myself the LX-3 as well (as such I plan to get my girlfriend either it or the TZ5 soon) but as a stand alone piece of photographic equipment... The fz28 is my choice.
I know that my reasoning may not appeal or apply to you in your photographic plans, but from what all you mentioned, your ability to enhance lighting & the fz28's ability to shoot at 27mm wide significantly reduce the need for a wider or faster lens (which would ofcourse perform better at higher ISO (eliminating the need for as high ISOs as it's competition actually))
but again, that is simply my opinion on the matter.
I would recommend you to go out & grab both these cameras & see how well they handle. Since both of these are available now, I'm sure you could find them at a good store, but if not... Find an LX-2 & the fz18 & compare how they feel...
Actual in-hand comfort was one of the key reasons I chose to go with the fz28 & as far as i can foresee, I don't think i'll be regretting my decision anytime soon.