Monday, December 22, 2008

Thinking About a Pocket P&S

While I love love love my DSLR, it's large enough that it's not reasonable to take it with me all the time, to work every day on the train or to family or work gatherings, and because of that I find myself taking less and less pictures lately. I'm sure I could take it with me, but it is definitely not convenient.

So lately I've been thinking about a "pro" point-and-shoot camera... something that is pocket sized, but gives me the options image quality and flexibility that I've become accustomed to with a DSLR. Specifically I've been looking at the Canon G10 and the Panasonic LX3. These two seem to be "the" pro-point-and-shoot cameras, and the G10's predecessor the G9 and the LX3 are well reviewed and loved by the guys on the This Week in Photography podcast.

Here's my issue. Both cameras have both pros and cons, and I'm not sure if the pros of one outweigh the pros of the other. For example:


  • RAW mode
  • Full manual controls and good fine grained control
  • Large high resolution screen
  • Crappy at higher resolutions easily attained by DSLRs (no surprise)
  • Just larger than pocket size... neither would fit nicely in a jeans pocket it seems (still way better than a DSLR of course!)
  • Have built in optical image stabilization
Canon G10
  • I really love the manual dials for mode, EV, and ISO control
  • Canon is kinda well known for making good cameras
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 5x Zoom
Panasonic LX3
  • Slightly smaller than the G10
  • Unique 16:10 / 3:2 / 4:3 aspect ratio selector
  • High quality 2.0-2.8 Leica lens
  • Wide angle lens (24mm vs the G10s 28mm, so equivalent to the wide angle on my DA16-45)
  • 720p movie mode (I don't use movie mode, but having something better than 640x480 might inspire me to)

Feature Canon G10 Panasonic LX3 Angst
Lens 28-140mm f/2.8-4.5 5x Zoom 24-60mm f/2.0-2.8 2.5x Zoom I keep on coming back to the lens quality of the LX3, which from all accounts is absolutely fantastic, and best of all, fast.
Manual Controls Very sexy manual dials on top Some dials, other stuff still in the menus (but hotkeys are assignable). I really like the look and rangefinder feel of the dials on the G10.
Physical Glitches Has a lenscap on a chord Built in lens cover A silly thing, but my wife has the Canon S1 which has the lens cap on-a-string and it sucks to have to deal with.
Megapixels 14mp 10mp Higher MP = more croppabilty, but also means less image quality sometimes
High(er) ISO Preforms well at base ISO, munges image at higher ISO, losing any megapixel advantage Appears to be quasi-usable to 1600 ISO I know that higher ISO use on a P&S isn't really reasonable, but while the G10 beats the LX3 at base ISO, that the advantage appears to be gone by ISO400 or so is bad :( While the image stabilization would deal with a lot of this, the LX3s faster lens is attractive here as well, as I invariably will always end up needing higher ISO.
Viewfinder Has one (but is crappy for coverage) None (optional expensive one available) I do like the idea of a viewfinder, for that rangefinder feel. Not sure if it's 100% needed though. Also the DPR review notes that use of the G10 viewfinder just smudges the LCD more.
Image Notes Has issues with white balance I'd probably use RAW most of the time, but it would be nice to export right out of the camera sometimes. Not sure how much of an issue this really is though.

So you can see my frustration. The LX3 seems to have the edge on image quality (lens, noise) but the G10 has the edge with ergonomics (dials, viewfinder). There are more than a couple of G10 owning bloggers who are condemning the DPReview review as bullocks, and at least one that claims that the G10 can rival a medium format digital (though note he's only using ISO80). I tend to discount these and take the DPReview opinion a bit more seriously though as their silly formalized testing is there to compare cameras in a controlled condition, regardless of how well it performs for you.

So is a nicer lens and slightly higher ISO performance worth it over good(er) ergonomics? The whole idea of me getting this camera is to go out and shoot with it, so I'd almost lean towards the G10's ergonomics, but I'm worried that the pictures I'll now be taking will end up being disappointing when downloaded to the camera.

That said I also know that I'll be perfectly happy with either and both will be out of date and a model or two out to pasture before whatever I end up buying has even been unwrapped :)

Any opinions from folks out there? Thoughts? Help on making a decision for myself :)


Anonymous said...

I think it's simple: Those who shoot outdoors in broad daylight at ISO 80 should pick the G10. Those who often shoot ISO 200-400 should pick the LX3.

You've hit the nail on the head with the reviews. DPReview is not perfect, but at least it's got a rigorous standardized testing procedure in place. The Canon lovers who are complaining seem to think everybody should shoot ISO 80 with a tripod. Sorry, but that defeats the purpose of a portable, carry-everywhere camera.