Monday, July 21, 2008

Panasonic LX3 is announced, f2.0, RAW, 24mm wide, and modest 10-megapixels generate chaotic buzz

The early morning chatter on the Panasonic LX3 proved to be prophetic (in a leaky kind of way), as we are all now proud "virtual owners" of the new Panasonic LX3.

And this is a direction many photography enthusiasts wanted Panasonic to take, break out of the mold of the predictable sequential updates. And they sure did with the new LX3! Press release via the Imaging Insider, where we learn of its modest $500 price and expected August release date. August is not far folks! Hooray!

Meet the Panasonic LX3

The biggest item of interest on the LX3 is existential: it's finally here, after months and months of waiting, watching the clock, and speculating. Its predecessor, the LX2, was announced in July 2006. Two years is almost an eternity in the ephemeral digital camera world.

The lens appears to be the "India" of this camera, with a constant f2.0 f2 (wide) to f2.8 (telephoto). The lens is a Leica DC Vario-Summicron, and with specs like these, it is very interesting to see what Leica's involvement was. As expected the lens has MegaOIS, with auto, mode 1 and mode 2 available. Will we see a Leica version of this by Photokina 2008?

Telephoto and portraiture fans may be disappointed a little bit because the lens is going 24-60mm in 35mm equivalency, but you can't have a big zoom lens and f2.0 throughout through f2.8 (tele) at the same time.

But the "microscopes" of photographers, gadgetologists and pixel-peepers alike will be "focusing" (oh dear, so many bad puns in a single sentence) on the brand new 10-megapixel 1/1.63" sensor introduced by Panasonic. The Panasonic page promises 40% higher sensitivity and 35% higher saturation when compared to the 10-megapixel 1/2.33" sensors such as the one found in the Panasonic FX35. Press release promises are great, and while we hope that not only they are true, but they are also under-estimated, we have to wait and see hard data and pictures.

As with all the new Lumix models of today, the new Venus Engine IV is another item of interest, as the press release promises noise miracles and wonders, ISO to the moon (6400), 5ms response time, and things like that.

Old is new and new is old, and film modes are hot in this model, with six color and three monochrome options. Talk about baiting film users to buy this camera :)

If you are frustrated by the aspect ratio soup out there, the LX3 provides three out of the box options, the usual 3:2 and 4:3, along with the widescreen-friendly 16:9. It has a "multi-aspect mode" which allegedly takes a picture in all three models and lets you chose which one to keep. Does it let you chose all three? Some people may be interesting in that option as well! Time will tell!

On the gadgetology front, the camera has a LiIon battery that delivers 380 CIPA pictures, which is not bad, considering its size, but no one would complain if it had more. Nevertheless, 380 is a fairly good number, and considering the f2.0 throughout the lens, and the "modest" 10-megapixels, people may not be using the flash as much, thus getting more out of the battery.

The LX3 has a 3" TFT LCD display with 460K dots (nice!) and a 3:2 aspect ratio. But there is no optical viewfinder built in the camera. This can be very frustrating to those who prefer to compose their pictures through the viewfinder. But just like the Ricoh and the Sigma, Panasonic is joining the "milk the accessory cow" campaign by offering an optional DMW-VF1 external viewfinder.

We forgot to mention it already, but the camera comes with a hot-shoe, where you can attach the new Panasonic GN22 external flash. The irony perhaps is that Panasonic calls it "Compact Flash" which perhaps may confuse some with the "Compact Flash" memory card format. The camera, as with all things Panasonic, uses SD/SDHC memory cards.

And speaking of milking the cow, there is also an optional 18mm wide-angle converter DMW-LW46 lens that gets you to 18mm wide. Not bad for a compact digital camera!

The LX3 will be available in silver as the LX3S and in black as the LX3K. No pink, blue, or green I'm afraid :)

We searched Amazon for pre-orders and we have now found the LX3 available for pre-ordering. See the next paragraph for details.

UPDATE: The Panasonic LX3K is available for pre-order at Amazon for $500. Also available is the LX3S (silver) for the same price. No shipping date is given, but Amazon says "temporarily out of stock", which we are not sure how to interpret. Does this mean it is about to ship soon?

Panasonic LX3 coverage on the Net (photography sites)
  1. Detailed specs and feature breakdown at
  2. The highlights of the LX3 at Professional Photographer UK.
  3. Summary at Serious Compacts
  4. Lots of body pictures at LX2 Diary, along with news from Russia
  5. More on the LX3 at Wouter 28mm
  6. lots more in "Reactions to the LX3 post"
  7. And even more, reactions in the forums

Be sure to bookmark this post and revisit!


mrsfixit said...

Ok, this has my attention.

10MP and a slightly larger sensor, optical image stabilization, and a f2.0 lens. Oh, and a modest zoom. Too modest by some people's standards, but *much* more versatile than a fixed 28mm like the DP1 has.

Is this a sign of things to come? I wonder...

It lacks an optical viewfinder, and an articulated LCD though.

Even so, depending on performance at higher ISO's, I might consider one of these.

Give me a camera with a decent sensor that can give me usable ISO 400+800- and I'll be a happy camper...

This is a major step in the right direction, and I hope to see some of the other big players step up to the plate and make some improvements like Panny has...

You hear that Canon?

Looks like Panny might just kick the G9's butt... LOL

1001 noisy cameras said...

Very good points! The f2.0 has been something of a holy grail among 1/1.x" digital cameras in recent years, and it's been a while since we had one!

As you pointed out the lack of built-in OVF and telephoto range are two things that might put off some potential buyers. But they had to make trade-offs. Perhaps they are planning a sister model that satisfies the telephoto users?

The press release is filled with promises of noise improvement, 40% improve sensitivity over the 10mp 1/2.3" FX35, etc, and the new Venus, but obviously, considering past performance, while cautiously optimistic, we have to wait and see.

An August release could mean that we should perhaps start seeing reviews tricking in in a few days or so!!!

Amin said...

On paper, this looks like the one to beat. Seriously ;-).

1001 noisy cameras said...

This is a Seriously Serious compact!

I hope Panasonic is not reading this, but they could probably get away with selling this at $600 - at least initially :)

But then again, Panasonic did drop the price of 18X hyperzooms to $400 with the FZ18 when everybody else was at $500, including the 12X S5-IS.

Wouter photoblog said...

Considering the fasr lens (labeled as DC Vario Summicron) and the specifications, Leica could as well batch their new camera the CM Zoom. All packaged in a more exclusive housing.

And it is fantastic that a manufacturer didn't increase the amount of pixels. Kudos for Panasonic.


1001 noisy cameras said...

Indeed! This could be the closest to the "Leica spirit" a "Leicasonic" has gotten so far!

Indeed, kudos to the brave Panasonic camera engineers who resisted the 15-megapixel sensor and instead picked the sensor that seems to be a good fit (on paper) for the camera!