The highly regarded Lumix LX3 is a true photographic gem, with its svelte lines, its fast Leica Summicron DC lens, and its perfect size, it’s an artistic festival waiting happen at the click of the shutter.
Creating Stories, An Ongoing Review
So why talk about a camera that was released circa July 2008, today in Feb. 2012. Well, because despite more modern choices I believe Panasonic got the LX3 right. This camera came during a time that other small compacts were beginning to be geared toward the “enthusiast photographer” market and they debut with both fist up and ready to battle.
I won’t dive into all the options this little gem has, for that, you’re welcomed to shoot over to DP Review and read their quite extensive full-blown review and others around the web. This review will be based on my own personal experiences in everyday photographic situations and sharing some of my best practices as well keeping in mind the nature of this journal — a quotidian photojournal. Hence, you’ll see some street photography, some abstract photography, portraits, macros, landscapes(yes, even some flowers), architecture, and whatever else crosses the eye of this humble servant all in the full spectrum of color or lack thereof with the end goal of sharing some of the photographic capabilities of the camera that replaced my beloved Ricoh GRD 3.
Formalities aside, a note on the images
Images are processed in its RAW format with Lightroom 3 and some of Nik Software’s great plugins like Silver Efex Pro 2, Color Efex, and Viveza 2. To view larger images simply click on the image and then press back in your browser. WordPress.com currently does not support a lightbox view of regular images. Images displayed as thumbnails belong to a gallery and to view those larger, simply click on them a lightbox view will emerge. Pressing the ESC key or clicking outside of the image will bring you back to the regular page. This review style was inspired in part to Jim Radcliffe’s wonderful Boxed Light photography site.
First Impressions are worth a thousand words.
When you greet the LX3 for the first time its hard not to notice its robust fuselage and amazing workmanship to details. Folks, there are no perfect cameras just imperfect light boxes which must be taken for what they’re worth and worked within their limitations while exploiting to the max their attributes. What are some of the LX3’s attributes.
- Leica Summicron DC lens f/2.0 at 24mm to 60mm at f/2.8
- AF, AF-Macro, & MF as a manual option on the lens barrel
- 1cm AF-Macro, repeat, yes 1cm, & its awesome
- Shoots in the RAW format, plus its great Dynamic BW
Well, these are just a few on a long list of features. I wanted to mention early on this review that the ease of handling the LX3 is also something worth paying attention too.
I’ll put this thought forward by saying it’s no Ricoh GRD3 in terms of handling but let me its no slouch either and considerably better than most high-end compacts out there still to this day. Its joystick is quite handy and once you get the hang of it, it will truly make your photographic experience with the LX3 on another level.
This beginning images were taken on a short photowalk in Little Havana, a small section of Miami, whose quite picturesque and full of old city feel. To give you some best practices early on, these types of images can be achieved by setting your LX3 to zone focus.
How to setup Zone Focus on the LX3
Without getting all nerdy and techie on you, having this setup is quite easy even if you don’t quite understand a few basic definitions like depth of field, fast apertures, etc. Let’s do a step by step for clarity sake.
- Turn the little lever on the barrel of the camera to AF
- Focus on an object about 3 feet away from you while at 24mm(the lens is extended fully)
- Switch the little switch on the lens barrel all the way down towards MF(Manual Focus)
- You’re done
What this all means, again without getting all nerdy on you, is that due to this compact have a decent size sensor(1/1.63-inch CCD) and relatively fast lens(f/2.0) you’re DOF, the things that are in focus in front of the object and behind the object are extremely forgiving, much to our advantage. Click on any one of these beginning images of street photography and view them large. Notice how things are relatively in focus in the foreground of the frame as well the background. This is exactly what I’m talking and can be achieved with this relatively simple setup.
What I have to study further is, if this setup at this focal length can be stored in one of the custom settings C1-C2 or any of its sibling. So, I’ll report back with any worthy findings. In the mean time, I’ll be acquiring the wonderful book by Alex White titled — Photographer’s Guide to the Panasonic Lumix LX3 which has a chock full of information and surely beats reading the manual.
So I was feeling a bit creative during the evening hours and this is the result. I must say the LX3 really came through when the shot got tough∗
January 29, 2012
Stealing Souls, Face Recognition & Portraits
In evaluating cameras and in my case, a small compacts, an important feature I always look for is their ability or perhaps better said how apt are they for portrait photography. Have you asked yourselves that question? Maybe you have or maybe haven’t but I think its an important characteristics to have.
The LX3 and again I’ll be comparing it to the Ricoh GRD3 as its replacing it, is extremely capable and up to this task. Let me tell you why.
The LX3 has a lens which happens to be a Leica Summicron DC Lens with a range from 24mm at f/2.0 and extending on the long end with 60mm at f/2.8. Yes, that’s right f/2.8. What this means is that it keeps a relatively fast aperture at this focal length and it lends itself quite well for Portrait photography. In my case, Street Portraits and yet again the LX3 steps up to the occasion and passes with high marks.
Let me make a quick tangential statement because I know it comes up. Jorge, its 2012, why didn’t you get the LX5, after all its newer and suppose to improved? Well, the 60mm f/2.8 is the reason, the LX5 zooms up to 90mm but it does not keep the fast aperture of 2.8, it actually goes slower. Another aspect for street portraiture is that 60mm at close distances works quite well and 90mm is simply too much. Yes, you can zoom out but I didn’t want to do this, its a lot easier to extend all the way out and still keep the fast aperture. So, food for thought.
Fast forward to the statement of the LX3 passing high marks. In comes from another feature I quite like which in my humble opinion works better in the LX3 when compared to the GRD3 — face recognition.
Face recognition works surprisingly fast on this small and robust compact. It just works and to my surprise it even catches seagulls dead on the center. What an added bonus right. Noticed how the other candids so far are sharp(zone focused) but these in this section are considerably sharper.
February 7, 2012
The Magic of Picture Making
Those who know me online know that I’m an Apple fan and I truly believe like Johnny Ive’s says about Apple products that “they’re truly magical.” Well, also happen to think in a similar fashion about the LX3, it is truly magical indeed.
The picture making process is such an individual experience and there is no right and wrong, no black or white, but just shades of grey where we [us togs] fall. This next section is titled in such a way because certain gear is inspirational towards the picture making process for various reasons.
In this case, the f/2.0 24mm FOV is simply marvelous and joy to use in everyday practice. But with that said, I by no means not appreciate having a 60mm FOV at f/2.8. After all, its one of the reason I chose the LX3 over the LX5 as my serious compact replacement over the Ricoh GRD3.
The moral of this entry is purely inspirational. A few days ago I wrote my 5th entry of my Weekly Project and its titled “Striking Inspiration” again on that week all shots were made by the LX3.
Simple, unassuming, discrete, and quite powerful. When I hold the LX3, I just feel like making pictures and my creativity just naturally flows. I don’t have to think about it too much because I know that for the images I want to create the LX3 will be there ready and up to the task when she’s called upon.
Yes, its a she and her name is “Ella” but I’ll explain that name later. Cheers.
To be continued
This is an ongoing user based review which will be updated frequently so tuned for future installments.
Really loved this camera since the onset. Simple, efficient, and very responsive. The F/2.0 constant lens also helps out a lot despite the noise in high ISO.
Hope someone gets to hack the firmware at this point.
Indeed, I loved how you can pre- focus the camera and just shoot away aka Street style. These days, I’m actually thinking of going back to my good ole camera’s of the past and in a weird way setting myself free from all the megapixels. Thanks for chiming in.
Hi, I have been using my GRV for street photography but today I dug out my LX3, your article has persuaded me to use it more, I did not know about the way you explain AF to MF to set it up quickly, brilliant, thanks.
Glad it helped, cheers.
Makes me want to pull mine out the closet!
Lol do it!
Great shots Jorge – totally agree the LX3 is a deceptively simple yet sofisticated gem. Great shots!
Thanks Pat. Indeed, one of the best lenses on a compact camera.
Enjoyed your post a lot.
Incedentally the LX5 opens up to about f2.9 at 60mm. If you don’t like manually zooming to a nonendpoint focal length, the LX5 can be set to resume your preferred length of 60mm each time it starts up. It also can do “step zoom” which stops at classic lengths of 24-28-35-50-90 if you like.
I also have a LX3 and it’s a great camera. Great review, and great pictures too !
Indeed it is! Thanks for chiming in Fred.
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Another vote for the LX-3. I too have this camera and have gotten some great images with it. Congratulations on the excellent blog. Have you received the White book yet? I would be interested to hear what you think of it.
Thanks Olli, indeed its a wonderful camera full of possibilities to explore. Thanks for the compliment on the blog. What White book are your referring to, let me know.
You mentioned a book by Alex White, Photographer’s Guide to the Panasonic Lumix LX3, that you were going to get.
Ah yes, I did get the book and its great but I suppose that having a Panasonic Lumix background(GF1,G1) it didn’t really provide me with a lot of information I didn’t already know. For someone without that background I suppose it would be awesome.
an interesting, well-written piece and some lovely shots, Jorge. I’ve rediscovered my LX3 after selling my Fuji X100 although I still shoot mostly with my DSLR gear. The LX3 is a peach though, an amazing little camera and I share your enthusiasm for its capabilities.
Can I make one comment though (and YMMV)? I find the double column layout annoying and as the piece gets longer, it gets more annoying as you have to page up to the top when you reach the bottom of column 1. IMHO, it would be better laid out as a single wide column. Double columns are visually and graphically appealing on a printed page but don’t work so well on an extending web page. Just my 2 pence/2 cents.
Thanks Russ, I appreciate your insightful comments and recommendations. Yes, the LX3 is most certainly a little jewel as I like to call it or her, mine is named Ella lol.
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Thanks for this. It’s refreshing to read something written by a person who actually understands picture taking and has a more studied approach to what constitutes a good camera. I came to the same conclusions regarding the LX5 as you about the lens, in particular, and the jog knob (not to mention the dreadful chipped batteries). The LX3 is a classic.
Anyway, here’s an alternative quick and easy way to setup zone focus on an LX3: with the focus mode on MF, point at a target and press the Focus button – it’s right next to the shutter button and there’s no fiddling with switches. You can do this for every shot or just once per session. It’s faster than the jog knob & distance scale.
For anyone out there wondering what the point of this exercise is, it’s to take auto focusing time out of the equation – to get closer to that decisive moment. -Dan
Thanks for the compliments Dan, I certainly appreciate them. Dan you’re absolutely right about your tip. I just love that feature, a quick press of the Focus button and voila, perfect focus. I’m going to add your text to actual review with a couple of sample images. Yes, the LX3 is a classic and one that will be in my gear bag for years to come. The more I shoot with it, the more I see its potential I’m certainly going to nurture it lol.
Thanks for your zone focus set up, very useful.
I really think its the best way to do street photography with the LX series. You’re welcome.
I almost bought an LX3 a few years back when I was looking for that elusive carry-on camera that wouldn’t compromise on quality and features. For some reason I didn’t do it – probably bought more Nikon glass for work instead. I eventually ended up – much later – with the Fuji X100 which I’m very happy with.
But this clearly shows I would’ve been perfectly satisfied with the LX3. Nice post and quite lovely images Jorge. That’s a nice little camera 🙂
Thanks for chiming in Patrick. Yes, the LX3 just continues to impress me in more ways that I can imagine. Ironically, I started this whole digital photography started with the LX3 some time ago and you know how the world often turns, a couple of years later we met again. The Fuji X100 is an amazing camera as well. If I had to pick a camera to stay with me for the next 10 years, just one camera and one lens combo that’s not only affordable but with great quality it would probably be the X100, black off course :). I’ve perused your site and your images are quite lovely I must say. Cheers.
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your knowledge is amazing Ledesma, not only about photography as an art, but the tech part that most of people tend to forget. Amazing review.
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Interesting review Jorge. I’m looking forward to future updates.
Thanks Simon. Yes, it is definitely a little jewel waiting to be polished in the right way. I’m loving it and its proven quite a capable replacement for my Ricoh GRD3.
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