Panasonic LX3 Comments

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The LX3 is not for everyone as the 24~60mm equivalent zoom range may be too limiting. In my case I do use the wide end most of the time so is not a worry, plus of course that maximum aperture of f/2.0~f/2.8 makes low light shots in dim situations so easy and reliable. A way easier solution for travel as a convenient belt pouch is much easier to deal with than a clunky camera bag slung from the shoulder, and particularly if you had to carry f/2.0 or f/2.8 lenses to get those low ISO low light shots.

After about 3,100 shots taken on my 2009 Japan holiday I feel that I now know the LX3 a little better, even though I kept life simple and shot mostly P mode or A mode and only used iA mode when handing the camera to a stranger to take the necessary "we were there" photos. This time I took more videos than usual as I see it as a very convenient way of remembering where we went and what we saw, a say, 30 second panning video of a scene tells way more than a few stills of the same situation. I prefer realistic colours so used Standard film set to minus 1 for both Saturation and Contrast. That gives a decent result for skin tones and further post process can produce any colour boosts needed.

The major operational problem with the LX3 is the hard-to-see LCD, it is very shiny and dim in full sunlight and reflects back from say the white shirt you may wear and makes things difficult. LCD screens are not truly useful yet. I have had those LCD problems with a few different cameras so have learned to deal with it. Just living in hope that one day a decent LCD will appear. The best I've found so far is on my Casio V8 which is reasonably visible in sunlight.

Later... I bought a BoxWave anti-glare filter to stick on the LCD and that makes it easier to see in sunlight. The filter does have a grainy surface and makes apparent resolution and contrast less, but the overall advantage of reduced reflections makes it a necessary item to add (more info) and the BoxWave is found here

One comment about the LCD is to realise what you are looking at when reviewing images. The possible magnification is 16x in review, and this represents real pixel peeping. The screen is 2.5" wide so the different review magnifications relate to reality like this....
1x looking at 2.5" wide print  (63.5mm)
2x looking at 5" wide print  (127mm)
4x looking at 10" wide print  (254mm)
8x looking at 20" wide print  (508mm)
16x looking at 40" wide print  (1,016mm)
So what may look soft at 16x on the screen may print perfectly well as an 8"x10", so best to only use review magnifications that make sense, and stick to the range 1x to 4x for 99% of situations.

One-handed operation often causes the thumb to mash the buttons and things don't behave properly, so practice holding one-handed before getting serious with this camera. One-handed is definitely needed in sunny situations where the left hand needs to be free to act as a sun shield over the lens to help prevent flare. For convenient carrying I use only a wrist strap attached to the right side, plus that lens cap is restrained to the right side as well, and is so easy to grasp in the right hand when you remove it. No problems at all with the lens cap that way. Many people get hot and bothered about that lens cap, but it is a far more reliable and safe way to protect the lens compared to those fragile flippy leaf things on most cameras.

While in Japan I saw and bought the regular filter adapter tube with 46mm thread and also a 46~52mm step-up ring to suit the many 52mm accessories that I already own. No idea of local Aussie price for that adapter tube but it cost Yen 2,100 in Japan which I thought was a fair price for the gadget.

An analysis of those 3,100 Japan shots showed only 14 different focal lengths reported, and more when using EZ zoom or digital zoom, chart seen here.

As at November 2009 the LX3 still seems to be in short supply around the world, even Japan was out of stock of the International version in early April. I suspect that it is way more popular a camera than Panasonic expected so they are having great difficulty in supplying the market demand, plus of course the economic situation and the huge financial losses of Panasonic and closing many factories means production will lag demand for any popular cameras. Some say to wait for the LX4 (maybe due after July 2010?), but too many times in the past the later model from many brands has turned out to be a worse performer, so I for one will go with what's available now rather than wait for the next "improvement".

The LX3 comes in black or silver in some countries with the greater demand for the black version. That old "black looks more professional" idea is hard to kill. Many times it is way better to look less "professional" in order to get more relaxed candids.

The apparently nearly identical Leica D-LUX 4 (black or titanium finish) appears to possibly have a different lens coating (probably not true, only a rumour), has no grip on the right end and is supplied with Capture One RAW conversion software instead of the usual Silkypix that comes with the LX3 and a 3 year warranty instead of 1 year for the LX3. There may be slight in-camera jpeg conversion differences. It's up to you to decide if that red dot is worth twice the price (well, twice the price in Australia, maybe less difference elsewhere).

Talking about RAW converters, the Silkypix software is very capable and it includes automatic barrel distortion correction, the same as the in-camera jpeg will have. Other RAW converters may not know about the correction so the excessive distortion may disturb some people. The main problem with Silkypix is the help manual, the online version is very confusing. I found that printing out the PDF version is still confusing but it does allow scribbled notes in the margin.
The full manual is installed along with the software and help or F1 (with Windows) will access it.

Find the latest update of the Panasonic version of the free Silkypix SE here..
It is free to use by anybody but only works with RAW or jpeg files from Panasonic cameras that happen to have Silkypix supplied on the CD with the camera. It will not work with jpegs from a non-RAW camera unless probably if you manage to manipulate the exif data to pretend that it's a RAW capable model of Panasonic. Some more talk about RAW converters

Many people like the Dynamic B&W film setting results and try to copy it for any colour shot from any camera. Basically the RAW associated with that film setting seems to have the colour temperature shifted, and then other things done to it to get the starker contrast effect. A long discussion here can be used to find a few different approaches to duplicating the effect from Panasonic or any other camera.
A technical analysis of why the Dynamic B&W RAW looks the way it does is contained here.....
[edit: images on those old pages long since gone]

One of the favourite methods in the forum for dynamic B/W seems to be what I recommended using Silkypix. It works with any RAW or jpeg file if you buy the full version of Silkypix, otherwise the free SE version only with the jpegs or RAW from Panasonic RAW capable cameras.

♦ Open a full colour jpeg or RAW file.
♦ Set colour temperature way to right 90000K.
♦ Set Colour to Monochrome 2.
♦ Set Contrast to Strongest Contrast or use the 4 manual controls to set Contrast to maximum, and slide the Contrast Centre, Gamma and Black Level until you get something you like.

Fiddling with that gave me some nice dramatic B/W effects, but of course it's a taste thing and you need appropriate source images as well. Don't try and understand the Jinglish Silkypix manual, it's way easier to experiment with all the buttons and menu items and see what works. You can output 16 bit tiff from Silkypix to experiment further in any photo editor. Some Silkypix links here.

As for a belt pouch I found that a Canon branded belt pouch fitted the LX3 perfectly, so take some time to try all pouches available and don't be fussy about brand names on the pouch. That pouch was sold in Australia as the Canon PSCM2 suitable for Canon SX110. In this photo I have removed the metal logo (slight staple marks seen) as it was a potential source of snagging on things. Some spare cards and a spare battery are hidden in the lid. Alongside is one of many Casios in the house that may occupy the same pouch.

The old Ricoh wrist strap is attached like this to the right hand side, along with the lens cap string....

My personal view is that I see the LX3 as a nice way to get the very wide angle shots that my usual pocket cameras (zoom range 28-200mm or 38-266mm equivalents) cannot do [changed now with Casio ZR5100 which has a 19-95mm equivalent lens, but sadly not the same lens quality]. For traveling, two pocket cameras with each in a belt pouch is way easier to carry than a DSLR or mirrorless outfit and is way less conspicuous and allow more candid shots to be taken. I also did take my whole holiday in 16:9 ratio as I suspect I will only ever see the results on wide screens and on 16:9 digital picture frames.

Image quality of course cannot match a bigger camera but the pocket camera solution is so convenient and close in many cases to a larger sensor result. I consider the LX3 to be a true keeper and will be my carry everywhere camera maybe until a silent micro 4/3 sensor camera comes along.
Minor edits 1st April 2020

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