After 7 Years…

Seven years ago my dad bought me my first, real, digital camera. I had previously owned an Intel .5mp camera and a 1mp Sony camera. They both sucked. I’d played with his Nikon D1 but like he was going to let a 17 year old kid play with a $5,000 camera, right?

The camera I got was a Nikon Coolpix 4300.

It was a 4 megapixel, 3x zoom camera and at the time, kinda top of the line.  I took all my pictures with this camera, for like five years, until I got the Nikon D80.  And I gotta say, the pictures that came outta this camera were beautiful.  I’d still put it against many of those point and shoot cameras on the market right now. Too many of the cameras coming out now have tiny pixels so they can brag “14 megapixel!!!” but, really it should not be more than like 8.  Ugh, the megapixel war has really fucked up the digital camera marketplace… but that’s a different blog post entirely.

So what, after seven years of loyalty, has got me buying a new point and shoot?  Finally a company came out with a camera that focused on quality not quantity.  I’d wanted this camera for about a year, the pictures coming out of them are beautiful, the lens (a Leica) is pretty incredible and, well it’s just an all around stellar machine.

It’s the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

So what makes this camera so sexy to me?

  • Leica lens is 24-60 with just about zero chromatic aberration or pincushioning (sharp as a tack with no bending of the image or color fringing)
  • Lens opens up at freaking f2.0-2.8.  That means you can shoot in lower light without pumping up the ISO so better images, greater depth of field and sharper images as you move up the aperture range
  • Image stabilization (two forms)
  • Shoots raw (much higher quality images compared to JPEG or TIFF)
  • Lower pixel density on a larger sensor, they do 10 megapixels on a sensor that Canon or Fuji or Kodak would put 14-24 megapixels so low light photography is less noisy, sharper and useable up to 800 ISO (really like 1200 ISO)
  • Metal body is super durable
  • Full manual mode including focus
  • 720P 24fps HD video recording

Basically, it’s a handheld, pocketable DSLR like my D80.

When this camera came out and made its American store fronts it cost around $650 (MSRP $499).  When retailers realized how in demand it was by high end photographers that wanted a throwback to the old Leica rangefinders that totally dominated the camera market for decades, they upped the price to $850-1050!  Yeah, double the MSRP and guess what, people paid it.

Amazon.com has sold it for as low as $400 and as high as $850.  My university is selling it to me for $450!  That’s cheaper than the retail price, $220 cheaper than Amazon.com!

It should come in any day now and once it is, expect a full review here and more pictures streaming into my blog.  I seem to be having trouble taking pictures, carrying a Nikon D700 everywhere I go is kinda a deal, this will be much easier to deal with.

Did I mention how freaking excited I am?

I’m going to keep my Nikon Coolpix 4300. It’s still such a wonderful camera, but this Lumix LX3 just might be a game changer for me and my photography.

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3 thoughts on “After 7 Years…

  1. I have one of these myself and love it. But you should know:

    1) It does not have a larger sensor than a DSLR…not even close. It has a 1/1.63″ sensor. Decent for a P&S, but it’s still only about 20% the size of an APS-C sized DSLR sensor.

    2) Yes, the lens is pretty awesome, but the distortion is very severe on the wide end. You just can’t see it, because the camera corrects for it in software before it writes the jpeg. Even if you shoot raw…it will be corrected for in Panasonic’s own raw software as well as by ACR or Lightroom without even telling you. Only if you open the raw images in some other program like Raw Photo Processor do you really see the amount of distortion that Panasonic is trying to hide. The LX3 took a long time to be supported by Adobe’s Raw because Panasonic was pressuring them to secretly apply the distortion correction so users wouldn’t see the inherent lens shortcomings, and Adobe finally caved. Not to burst your bubble or anything. Google “LX3 barrel distortion” for some background. As I said, I like my LX3 a lot, because the end result is what matters, and it still puts out very good images.

    3) I wouldn’t think of shooting ISO 800 on it. Noise becomes fairly visible around ISO 200-400 or so. Compare a photo on your D700 at maybe ISO800. It’ll have less noise than the LX3 at ISO100.

  2. @Kar Wai Ng

    Thanks for your great comment, I have edited the post regarding #1 and have my responses to #2 and #3 below.

    Ah yes you are correct on #1, not sure what I was thinking, perhaps the result of too much time in front of the computer.

    Regarding #2, as you conclude, yes, it’s what comes out of the camera that matters. If we cared what we saw immediately out of the camera, negative film would never have taken off, all our images would be the inversion of reality. Luckily, people likely smarter than either of us figured out the chemical process needed to invert the negative image on the film into a positive image on paper that we could enjoy. If Panasonic/Leica has figured out how to do something similar with their camera at 24mm, more power to them. My Nikon brand new 24mm lens has similar issues at that end, which is why I almost only shoot at 50mm.

    Finally, #3 I never intended to imply that I would shoot at ISO 800 on a daily basis and I absolutely never compared the quality of the image coming out of the LX3 to my Nikon D700 with a full frame sensor. If you visit my photography blog, http://justinmoorescott.com, you will see that I do my best to have images with as little noise, chromatic aberration or distortion. But, if you have no choice but to shoot at ISO 800 or shoot nothing at all, you shoot at ISO 800. It is just as we used to push and pull negatives to get the image. Yeah you lose some picture quality, but a noisy image that can be fixed, at least to some degree with Photoshop tools like Nik Software’s Dfine, are better than no images at all.

    I went through albums and albums of images from the Canon G9/G10, Nikon P6000, Sigma DP1/DP2 and Panasonic DMC-LX3. At ISOs of over 400, hands down, the Panasonic DMC-LX3 won. No question.

    And, in any case, this camera will be light years better than my Nikon 4300. At the end of the day, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you. Right?

    Thanks for the comment and setting me straight on the sensor.

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