Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Review

 
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good overall color and hue accuracy, with minor oversaturation of some colors.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Saturation. The Panasonic DMC-LX3 produced generally good saturation overall, with only slight oversaturation in strong reds and blues. Bright yellows were actually undersaturated a small amount. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the DMC-LX3's skin tones did have a pink-red cast, but should still be pleasing to most consumers. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 showed very few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects. Thus, overall hue accuracy was very good. Hue is "what color" the color is.


Saturation Adjustment
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 lets you adjust the image saturation in five steps. The above analysis was done at default settings. The DMC-LX3's adjustable saturation setting did a good job of adjusting saturation without affecting contrast.

Saturation Adjustment Examples
Click to see LX3OUTBSATP1.jpg Click to see LX3OUTBSATP3.jpg Click to see LX3OUTBSATP5.jpg
Lowest Default Highest

The table above shows results with the default as well as the two "extreme" saturation settings. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.



See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good exposure with the default setting, and best color with the Manual white balance.

Auto White Balance
Default Exposure
Incandescent White Balance
Default Exposure
2,600K White Balance
Default Exposure
Manual White Balance
Default Exposure

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and quite warm with the Incandescent setting. The 2,600K white balance option resulted in a cooler color balance, while the Manual setting produced the most accurate overall (though it too is a little cool). The DMC-LX3's exposure system handled this lighting well, producing good results without any boosts in exposure compensation. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Good performance outdoors, with good overall color and exposure.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 produced good overall color and exposure, with only slightly high contrast. Detail is fairly strong in the shadows, despite slight noise suppression. Highlight detail is also fairly strong. In the portrait shot above, the DMC-LX3's default exposure setting actually performed pretty well, though the overall image was just a hint dim, making the +0.7 EV adjustment a little more appealing. In the outdoor house shot, the default exposure is just a little on the bright side, but overall results are still good. Overall, the DMC-LX3 performs well under harsh conditions.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, 1,600 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,600 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,600 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to blur slightly around 2,000 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Slight noise suppression limits definition in the shadows, though detail is still strong here.

Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of minor
edge enhancement.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.

Sharpness. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 captures reasonably sharp images with a lot of fine detail, though some noise grain reduces definition in the finer details. Slight enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows moderate noise suppression, as the darker areas of hair show less distinct detail. However, individual strands remain fairly well defined in the more moderate shadows. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As is almost always the case, quite a bit more detail can be obtained from carefully processing RAW files than can be seen in the in-camera JPEGs. Take a look below, to see what we mean:

In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking twice will open the full resolution image. The first image is a in-camera Fine JPEG taken with default settings. The second is a RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 4.6 (which performs some noise reduction), then Unsharp Mask of 500%, radius 0.3 was applied in Photoshop. The third was processed using draw (which applies no noise reduction), then sharpened in Photoshop using Unsharp Mask at 300%, radius 0.3 pixels. You'll probably want to use a good third-party noise reduction program such as Neat Image, Noise Ninja or Noiseware to perform some noise reduction.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with pretty good results even at the higher settings. Strong noise and loss of detail at the highest setting, however.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1,600
   
  ISO 3,200  

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 produced moderate noise at the lower sensitivity settings, with only small increases in noise as the sensitivity level gets higher. Even at ISO 400, noise is reasonable. At ISOs 1,600 and 3,200 however, a pronounced increase in noise grain greatly interferes with detail and color. Yellow and purple blotches start to appear in even tones and hair at ISO 800, and worsen as ISO goes up. To see how these images held up to printing at various sizes, read the Output Quality section below

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong detail, even in the shadows. Good low-light performance, capable of getting bright images in near darkness.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 performed well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Despite some noise suppression in the shadow areas, detail is still good in the shadows. Highlight detail is compromised slightly, but still pretty good. At +0.7 EV, the background and some shadow areas are just a little dark, but though the skin exposure is better, the +1.0 EV adjustment resulted in blown highlights.

Contrast Adjustment
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 lets you adjust the image contrast in five steps. The DMC-LX3's adjustable contrast setting did a good job of decreasing the overall contrast and bringing up the midtones, without creating any strange color gradations on the face. Still, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.

Contrast Adjustment Examples
Click to see LX3OUTBCONP1.jpg Click to see LX3OUTBCONP3.jpg Click to see LX3OUTBCONP5.jpg
Lowest Default Highest

The table above shows results with the default as well as the two "extreme" contrast settings. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)




  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
80
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0.8 sec
f2.0
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1.6 sec
f2.0
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4 sec
f2.0
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8 sec
f2.0
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15 sec
f2.0
ISO
100
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0.6 sec
f2.0
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1.3 sec
f2.0
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3.2 sec
f2.0
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6 sec
f2.0
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13 sec
f2.0
ISO
200
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0.3 sec
f2.0
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0.6 sec
f2.0
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1.6 sec
f2.0
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3.2 sec
f2.0
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6 sec
f2.0
ISO
400
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1/5 sec
f2.0
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0.3 sec
f2.0
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0.8 sec
f2.0
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1.6 sec
f2.0
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3.2 sec
f2.0
ISO
800
Click to see LX3LL08003.JPG
1/10 sec
f2.0
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1/6 sec
f2.0
Click to see LX3LL08005.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.0
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0.8 sec
f2.0
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1.6 sec
f2.0
ISO
1600
Click to see LX3LL16003.JPG
1/20 sec
f2.0
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1/13 sec
f2.0
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1/5 sec
f2.0
Click to see LX3LL16006.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.0
Click to see LX3LL16007.JPG
0.8 sec
f2.0
ISO
3200
Click to see LX3LL32003.JPG
1/40 sec
f2.0
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1/25 sec
f2.0
Click to see LX3LL32005.JPG
1/10 sec
f2.0
Click to see LX3LL32006.JPG
1/5 sec
f2.0
Click to see LX3LL32007.JPG
0.4 sec
f2.0

Low light. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 captured bright, usable images at the lowest light level we test at, even as low as ISO 80. Color balance looked good, if slightly cool, with the Auto white balance setting. The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted below the 1/16 foot-candle light level, keeping up well with its exposure system.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
A fairly powerful flash, with good coverage. Exposure compensation had little effect on brightness.

24mm equivalent 60mm equivalent
Normal Flash, Default Exposure Slow-Sync Flash, +0.3 EV

Flash coverage was only slightly uneven at wide angle, with more uniform results at full telephoto. In the Indoor test, the DMC-LX3's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, but boosting the exposure compensation had very little effect on overall brightness. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced slightly brighter and more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. We noticed a very slight increase in brightness at the +0.3 EV setting, but any additional EV boosts had no effect.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see LX3FL06W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL08W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL09W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
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1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL11W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see LX3FL12W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL13W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL14W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL15W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL16W.JPG
1/30 sec
f2.0
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see LX3FL06T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL07T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL08T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL09T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL10T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL11T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see LX3FL12T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL13T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL14T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL15T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL16T.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. At wide angle and ISO 100, flash shots were reasonably bright to about 10 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At telephoto, flash shots were bright to about 7 feet.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see LX3FL_MFR272WA0100.JPG
27.2 feet
Auto ISO 100
Click to see LX3FL_MFR194TA1000.JPG
19.4 feet
Auto ISO 1000

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the DMC-LX3 seems to perform about as Panasonic says it will at telephoto, but it boosts ISO to 1,000, a little too high for our tastes. At wide-angle, the target is not exposed properly, likely because the camera set the exposure based on the white wall and doors in the foreground. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, good color, sharp 13x19-inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 13x19, ISO 800 shots are good at 8x10.

The Panasonic Lumix LX3 had enough resolution to make good looking 13x19-inch prints, and slightly softer 16x20-inch prints at ISO 80. ISO 200 and 400 shots soften up a bit but still look good at 13x19 inches. ISO 400 shots do look better at 11x14. High contrast detail holds up nicely at ISO 800 and 11x14, but low contrast detail looks better at 8x10. ISO 1,600 produces a somewhat rough image at 8x10, but it's still usable. ISO 1,600 looks decent at 5x7. ISO 3,200 is quite good at 5x7, surprisingly, and of course gets better at 4x6.

Indoor incandescent shots looked about the same as the daylight shots, if not a little better, with even ISO 800 looking good at 11x14. ISO 1,600 and 3,200 actually looked good in terms of detail at 8x10 and 5x7 respectively, but the yellow blotches were somewhat distracting in light-colored solid areas.

Overall, a remarkable performance from a small pocketable digital camera. In some ways, the Panasonic LX3 does rival a digital SLR.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 review for details on that model.)

 

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.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Panasonic DMC-LX3

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