The Panasonic LX3: The perfect personal camera (for me)?

I haven’t shot with a fixed-lens, compact camera for about five years. But recently I decided I wanted a camera compact enough to go everywhere with me, comfortably. The only problem was that the camera also had to take truly outstanding pictures. My research and testing led me to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. I’ve been putting it through its paces lately and I’m impressed with what this little camera can do.

Double-wide

One of the most remarkable of the many remarkable features of the LX3 is that the lens, an optical gem made by Leica, goes wider than just about any other compact camera: to 24mm in 35mm film equivalence. At the telephoto end of the lens’s zoom range, it only goes to 60mm, which isn’t much of a telephoto at all. In short, this is a camera made to go wide, very wide.

This makes it perfect for working inside.

Or outside, in the wide-open spaces.

I used to think that telephoto reach was what I wanted most from a camera. I’ve changed my mind. Now I want everything double-wide, and the LX3 delivers.

Up close

The LX3 also lets me get close, really close. It’s a good thing that my model here (Beebe the guinea pig) and I are on pretty good terms.

Wide and close can be nice. I was only an inch or two from this flower:

Although sometimes, simply very close is all that’s needed. This was taken from less than an inch away:

Raw or jpeg?

I’ve been a raw evangelist for a while. “Raw” capture is what every digital camera’s sensor does. When photographers say they “shoot raw,” they mean that they like to save all of the data seen by the sensor, so they can work with it on their computers later. The LX3 supports raw capture, and indeed, that was one of the reasons I bought it. (Most compact cameras do not.)

But I’ve discovered that the LX3’s in-camera conversion of raw data to jpeg format is outstanding, and although it seems like heresy for me to say this, I’m tempted to start shooting jpeg with this camera. I spend too much time processing photos for clients. I’d be happy not to spend so much time processing my own photos. This picture was created by the camera’s built-in jpeg procesing engine and it’s indistinguishable from the jpeg that I created myself in Adobe Lightroom 3 from the raw file:

The perfect personal camera (for me)

In short, the LX3 seems to be the perfect personal camera, at least for a wide-angle photographer like me. The Panasonic wide-angle conversion lens, available as an add-on for the LX3, takes the camera to an amazing ultra-wide angle focal length of 18mm (in 35mm film camera terms), and I think I’ll find a use for that focal length when we go to Yellowstone National Park later this year. In fact, I think I’m going to leave my Pentax DSLRs and all my lenses at home and rely on the LX3. I’m confident it can do the job.

*

Postscript 6-15-2010: For details on what I like most about the LX3, see my next post, here.

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