Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review

 
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Optics

Lens

Zoom
A wide, 2.5x optical zoom lens with good performance. Good digital zoom performance as well, with better than average detail.

24mm 60mm 4x Digital Zoom

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3's Leica lens covers the equivalent of a 24-60mm zoom on a 35mm camera, which is slightly short among consumer digital cameras, though you do get a nice maximum wide angle (you actually get an even wider angle with the aspect ratio set to 16:9). Results are good at wide-angle, with minimal blurring and coma distortion. Details are stronger at full telephoto, with only a small amount of noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame. The camera's 4x digital zoom did a good job of maintaining fine detail despite some slight blurring and loss of resolution.

Macro
A very small macro area, though soft details. Closest focusing distance is too close for the flash.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Panasonic Lumix LX3's macro setting captured a very tiny minimum area of just 1.03 x 0.77 inches (26 x 20 millimeters). Detail and resolution were only good at the very center of the frame, with strong blurring in the corners creeping far into the image area. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode, but this is extreme.) Chromatic aberration is also noticeable along the printed details of the dollar bill. The Panasonic LX3's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area due to the very close proximity, and produced a very uneven exposure. Plan on using external lighting for any macro shots with the Lumix LX3.

Distortion
Lower than average barrel distortion in JPEGS, very high in Raw files.

JPEG: Barrel distortion at 24mm is 0.6%
JPEG: Barrel distortion at 60mm is 0.1%

JPEG: The Panasonic LX3's 0.6% barrel distortion at wide angle is actually quite low compared to the average digital camera, and really surprisingly low considering its 24mm equivalent focal length (see below for the explanation). At the telephoto end, the DMC-LX3's 0.1% barrel distortion is almost imperceptible. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Raw: Barrel distortion at 24mm is 2.9%
Raw: Barrel distortion at 60mm is 0.6%

Raw: When we looked at Raw files converted with SILKYPIX (the software that ships with the LX3), we didn't notice a difference in distortion, even with distortion control turned down to zero. Longtime IR forums contributor Barry Fitzgerald alerted us (thanks Barry!) to the fact that LX3 owners reported seeing high distortion when using third-party Raw converters, so we reshot our standard viewfinder target using Raw mode to investigate. Adobe Camera Raw, our standard converter doesn't support the LX3 yet (mid Oct.), but dcraw, a good freeware Raw converter, does. To our surprise, the distortion in Raw files was much higher than when opened with SILKYPIX. Barrel distortion at wide-angle was a whopping 2.9%, while telephoto had about 0.6% barrel distortion, also higher than average. This may not be much of an issue for owners who use SILKYPIX, as it corrects much of the distortion silently, but if you plan on using a third-party Raw converter, be aware of the high distortion inherent in the LX3's lens, especially at wide-angle focal lengths.

Chromatic aberration
Moderately bright at wide-angle, almost none at telephoto.

Wide: Moderately bright,
top left @ 200%
Wide: Moderate,
top right @ 200%
Tele: Very little,
top left @ 200%
Tele: Very little,
top left @ 200%

Chromatic aberration is moderate at wide angle, showing about 6-8 pixels of moderately bright coloration on either side of the target lines. At telephoto, there is little detectable chromatic aberration. Looking at the dcraw converted viewfinder target shots in the previous section, it looks as if the LX3 and SILKYPIX are reducing chromatic aberration in JPEGs as well, but the levels of CA in uncorrected Raw images appears to be quite low. Chromatic aberration is a type of distortion visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.

Corner Sharpness
Slight blurring in the corners of the frame at wide angle, and minimal blurring at telephoto, compared to the center of the frame.

Wide: Slightly soft in the
corners (lower left).
Wide: Sharp at center.
Tele: Only a hint softer in the
corners (lower right).
Tele: Sharp at center.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 produced only slightly soft corners of the frame at full wide angle and telephoto. Blurring was strongest at wide angle, but not bad at all.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.

24mm eq., LCD 60mm eq., LCD

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3's LCD monitor showed about 102% coverage accuracy at wide angle, and about 100% at telephoto. Great results!

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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