Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Toy! Quicky Panasonic LX3 Thoughts

So on boxing day I broke down and picked myself up a Canon G10 (you may have seen my angst regarding pocket cameras). It was quite nice and at the base ISO of 80 it produced nice images (at least on screen), had good physical controls, and so on. It didn't feel quite "right" to me though... it was a bit hard to describe, and I'm not sure if it was a bit too big, or the controls and menus weren't "new" enough, or maybe I'd just already made my mind up about getting an LX3 and I knew that I was just delaying the inevitable return of the G10.

After a lot of searching locally for a while (where apparently the LX3 simply isn't available for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months) I finally purchased one off of the B&H site.

Well, the 2-4 day shipping option I chose got it here in just 2 days and I spent last night playing with it, figured I'd let you know some initial thoughts.

First the bad (or not great):

  • The size is a bit small for my hand... I liked the feel of the G10 in my hand, it felt hefty and solid. The shape of the LX3 makes it feel a tiny bit insecure while holding it, even with the nice rubber grip.
  • I'd love more zoom (without compromising the lens of course).
  • The buttons would be nice to be a tiny bit bigger. I'm sure this is just a learning thing though.
  • This camera has a lot of features. I'm not sure if this is a bad thing or a good thing, or whether it's that Panasonic stuffed as many things in that little package that they could. Things like focus tracking, aspect ratio bracketing and a billion and one scene modes, custom functions, etc are great, as long as they don't a) clutter things up too much or b) detract from the quality of the software that does image processing, etc.
  • More physical controls would be cool. The ability to map the custom function button to something (I have chosen ISO for now) is nice, but the G10 had a very nice setup on top with a mode dial (the green/Tv/Av/P/etc dial), ISO dial and EV dial. Another button that maps to a second custom function would be nice too.
So that's a lot of bitching about some fairly minor things. Of course, there's no perfect camera (though the great Joe McNally has specced out his perfect camera), so I can bitch as much as I want! :)

On to the good!
  • Nice and small. Not 100% jeans pocket sized, but very close (or baggy jeans sized).
  • Lots of cool functions... see above. Discovering things like the focus tracking was fun.
  • Advanced(ish) features like limiting auto-ISO and auto-shutter speed adjustments.
  • The physical controls it does have are quite nice. The aspect ration selector and focus type selector in particular.
  • The lens... Wide angle (24mm). Awesome. f/2.0-2.8. Yummy. Leica glass. Delicious.
  • Menus and UI are also nicely laid out and visually are appealing... not a huge deal granted, and still nice to have.
  • It seems that your custom settings (ie: set to shoot RAW or setting the program shift) are preserved from shot to shot. I think one thing that irked me about the G10 was you could set your aperture or shutter speed in program mode but it would reset back to baseline after you shoot.
  • The quick menu seems potentially fairly awesome, allowing a fast change to a fair amount of settings. Will have to see how well this works in practice.
  • I tend to shoot in program or Av mode, but it was interesting to see some of the preset scene modes they have, such as "film grain" which goes black and white and bumps the ISO up high to make the image grainy... looks very cool (at least on the screen).
Those are my first impressions anyway, from playing with it while sitting in my living room and going through the manual. Not the perfect camera by any means, but it feels like it fits me a little better than the G10 did, which will mean that I'll shoot more pictures, which is really what matters most anyway right? If you like the G10 (or [insert $your_favorite_camera here]) then awesome, I'm not attacking it.

I really look forward to getting out and using this bad-boy "for real" though and will be posting some images in the next few days. Now, back to your irregularily scheduled K20D talk!

Update: Note to self - need to get one of these: Ricoh lens cap on lx3.


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