The Lumix DMC-LX3 is Panasonic’s flagship compact for enthusiasts. Announced in July 2008, two years after its predecessor, the new LX3 features 10.1 Megapixel resolution, full manual control, HD movie recording, a flash hotshoe, RAW recording and a 2.5x optical zoom with optical stabilisation, a bright focal ratio and an unusually wide angle lens.
The new Lumix LX3 may physically resemble its predecessor from the outside and indeed shares most of the same controls, but under the hood, almost everything is different. The total pixel count may remain essentially the same, but it’s out with the old 16:9 widescreen sensor and in with a newly designed CCD with a more conventional 4:3 aspect ratio, but which maintains its angle of view at multiple aspect ratios – see our Features page for a full explanation. Crucially, Panasonic claims this new sensor is 19% more sensitive than the LX2, which should hopefully address concerns over noise on this earlier model.
The earlier LX2 already sported a wide angle lens with coverage equivalent to 28mm, but the new LX3 trumps this – and most compacts – with impressively wide 24mm coverage. Panasonic has also designed the lens to have a bright focal ratio of f2.0-2.8, which is at least a stop brighter than most other compacts, allowing it to typically gather double the light, which in turn means quicker exposures or less reliance on higher sensitivities. Like all Panasonic compacts, the LX3’s lens also features Optical Image Stabilisation to help combat camera-shake. So while the LX3’s new lens has a shorter range than its 4x predecessor, many will prefer the wider coverage and brighter aperture here.
The LX3’s screen is now larger and more detailed at 3in with 460k pixels, but the shape is now 3:2 to the LX2’s 16:9. Unlike its predecessor though, clever use of the sensor area allows the LX3 to maintain its angle of view at any of its three aspect ratios, so there’s no coverage compromise whether shooting 4:3, 3:3 or 16:9, and only a small drop in resolution at the wider aspects.
Like its predecessor, the Lumix LX3 features an impressive array of manual controls, giving you complete control over the aperture, shutter and focus. There’s also still the facility to record in the RAW format, and recognising many potential customers were won over by some aspects of the Canon G9, Panasonic has additionally equipped the LX3 with a flash hotshoe and an optional clip-on viewfinder.
Completing the package are a number of technologies from Panasonic’s latest Lumix compacts – so the LX3 enjoys HD movie recording in the 720p format, optional component video output to HDTVs, and Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode which has an uncanny ability of figuring out what kind of photo you’re trying to take.
Overall it’s a compelling specification for enthusiasts or anyone wanting a compact to complement a DSLR, but of course the big question is how it all works in practice. Does the LX3 really give you full control over your creative desires and crucially is the image quality a step-up from the disappointing output of the earlier LX2? Find out in our full review where we’ll examine the LX3’s new features, test its performance in practice and see how the image quality measures-up to key rivals including the popular Canon PowerShot G9. And as always, for a demonstration of its key features, check out our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 video tour.
Testing notes: we tested a final production Lumix LX3 running firmware version 1.0. Unless otherwise stated, the LX3 was set to Program mode with Auto White Balance and its Standard Film mode. Optical Image Stabilisation was enabled for all handheld images and disabled for tripod-based tests.