Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Panasonic Lumix LX3: first impressions

I went out and splurged on a shiny new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 this evening (got to love those Malaysian prices) - completely against my normal late adopter strategy (e.g. my DSLRs were both bought just a couple of weeks before their successors were announced). I thought I'd get some of my first impressions reported - I've had it all of 2h now. This is by no means a full review, I'm going to focus on the things that I felt were important in buying it.

Look and feel: solid little camera. Nice weight and size. Solidly built for a small camera. Nice lens cap, and it comes with a lens-cap keeper (a little cord to attach it to the camera). Positive feeling buttons. All give the aura of a quality product.

Interface: nice and intuitive. I've run it through most of the modes available without yet opening the manual. I've handled Panasonic Lumix cameras in the past and I like the way their interface is put together, the LX3 is no different. All the manual modes are also intuitive: easy to get aperture, Ev compensation, focus etc working from the off. I also love the live histogram and easy access to Ev compensation - very quick and easy to get good exposure.

Image quality: unscientifically, very good. I've been pushing it hard in rubbish lighting around the hotel and a quick review of the JPEGs (not got the RAW software loaded) shows good detail retention and acceptable noise for reasonable prints up to ISO1600. This is all I had hoped for it - I was going to be happy with that level of performance at ISO400. I've been shooting everything in RAW+JPEG so I can review the differences later.

Now the good stuff: manual operation and RAW.

First, shooting speed. Buffer is 3 RAW (or RAW+JPEG) deep, but truly continuous in single shot mode. Once an image is saved you're good to go for another. Buffer clearing with a slow 4GB card takes about 1.5s by my estimate. The first 3 can be shot as fast as you can push the button (about 1 shot every 0.5s). Very good performance. Burst mode is a bit different - push to button, get 3 shots in quick succession but then you have to wait for the buffer to clear before shooting again. I will be sticking to single shot mode. Haven't tried JPEG only, not interested quite frankly.

Manual focus is very intuitive, running off a little joystick. This is actually a pleasure to use even for such a small controller. Just the right balance of response and feel so that it is very difficult to inadvertently push it in the wrong direction: I'm finding it better than Canon's DLSR multi-controller. There are 3 manual focus modes - no assist (straight off the LCD), centre assist (small patch is zoomed to help focus) and large assist (small patch is enlarged to fill the screen). I find the middle option best. From my quick reviews, focus accuracy is good. In manual mode, pushing the focus button activates AF - I'm not seeing a whole lot of point in switching into AF mode. Focus speed is quite good. At the moment I haven't found a way to lock focus point when switching from MF to AF, so snap or zone focus are tricky. May have to get the manual out.

So what do I think - first impressions: the Lumix LX3 is exceeding my expectations in ease of use, speed and image quality. Definitely a worthwhile purchase.

UPDATE 28/9/08: I've now posted my further observations here.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on getting a LX3!

    I have had one for a couple of days, and for me the user interface has been a bit complex, especially the layering of automatic features (iA, P, intelligent exposure, focus modes etc.). But slowly I'm getting used to it. AF and AE lock pose some trouble to understand how to use them effectively, manual might help here. Also, I haven't tried out the different focusing modes, so there is a lot of things to learn.


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