Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update: Panasonic LX3 Review

Courage Defined. Taken during The North Face Ultra 100 Singapore with a Panasonic Lumix LX3.

My criteria for choosing a compact ‘adventure’ camera is simple: I’m stretching my limits, both physically and mentally, and the camera has to give me the best quality image in a package that I’d be willing to carry (given the option of carry this or nothing at all).

Think of it like this: What camera would you be willing to carry for that once-in-a lifetime climb up the summit of Mt. Everest? You want a good camera to record your success, but at the same time, carrying too heavy a camera may jeopardize that very success.

Or what camera would bring while running the Marathon des Sable, a 250km foot race in the Sahara Desert where racers need to carry all their food and personal gear while racing for 7 days? Again, carrying too heavy a camera may affect your performance, making you less competitive, or even jeopardize your chances to complete the race.

The answer to both these questions, at least for me, is the Panasonic LX3. Light enough, with excellent and publishable image quality, in a compact, relatively easy-to-use package.

LX3 vs. Panasonic GF1
The GF1 offers more flexibility with its interchangeable lens system and may offer better image quality, but the GF1 will be both larger and heavier.

Choose the GF1: for less extreme adventures where weight and size matter less, and the photographer can benefit from the interchangeable lens system.

LX3 vs. Canon G10 (or G11)

These cameras are going to give me excellent image quality. I prefer the ergonomics and control layout of the Canons, and I think they would be easier to operate with gloves on. But it came down to which lens I preferred, and I preferred the wider, faster lens on the LX3.

Choose the G10 (G11): if you prefer the longer focal length and broader zoom range.

LX3 vs. Leica D-Lux 4
I’ve seen the image comparisons online, and the results are too close to call. It came down to the cost, and the D-Lux 4 will cost a lot more to replace if you break it. Plus the LX3 has the benefit of the tiny molded grip, which does make it a little better to hold… and probably less likely to drop.

Choose the D-Lux 4: if you’re a die-hard Leica fan.

10 comments:

-ben said...

I prefer the ergonomics and control layout of the Canons, and I think they would be easier to operate with gloves on. But it came down to which lens I preferred, and I preferred the wider, faster lens on the LX3.


What you said here is spot on for me. I totally agree with you on the better ergonomics and control layout of the Canons (although I generally still prefer tactile controls over menu-driven ones).

With regards to the lens, yes, I have often run into limitations when the lens at hand is limited to 35 mm at its widest. I.e. There is only so far back you can step when taking a picture of your bike when the trail is chiseled off the side of a mountain.

Thanks for a great hands-on review!

Ken said...

Thanks Ben,

I guess you've hit the nail on the head with the main point I was trying to make: these are all fine cameras, and it would be better to choose them based on practical use rather than to pixel peep.

Thanks for reading,

Ken

telekia said...

Hello, I like your blog, it is about everything what I love. I have one question in mind. I am a fan of Galen Rowell and since you have written about him in this blog a knew him personaly I would like to know if you think he still would shoot exclusively with SLRs, even on most rugged outdoor adventures? I recall an article by Galen in which he suggested Nikon F4 as the only dependable Mt. Everest camera. Do you think Galen would switch to LX3 today?

Ken said...

Hi Telekia,

I've only met Galen Rowell on a couple of occasions, so I didn't know him all that well personally. Like you, I was a big fan, and I've read all of Galen's books and articles.

If I were to take a guess at what Galen would be using today, it would be something like the Nikon D700 for most of his work, a lightweight body like the D60 with a 16-85mm lens for his lightweight adventures, and perhaps a D90 (or D300) for anything in between.

The LX3, although a fine compact camera, has certain limitations, such as the inability to render a shallow depth of field because of its small sensor. I doubt that Galen would use this. Then again, remember that Galen was a super-strong dude, and carrying the D60 wouldn't be too difficult for him.

I miss Galen. He was one of a few outdoor photographers at the time who was ever willing to share, and not afraid to voice an opinion.

Regards,
Ken

telekia said...

Hello Ken,
Thank you for taking your time to answer my question in depth. Your opinion is helpful.
I also have read all Galen Rowell's books and I have them in my library. I have read nearly all his articles, too. The only one I am missing is "The Agony of Tibet", which he wrote for Greenpeace sometimes in early 90'.
You were lucky to get to know Galen personally. I was not so lucky. But I learned to run with a SLR camera, secured in light Galen Rowell chest pouch, and I am very happy with that.
You may remember me from last year when I asked you for info on Slik Print Mini Tripod. I bought it via Amazon.com but they did not deliver it to my adress in Europe, so my "new" tripod is still at my friends in San Francisco Bay Area, nine time zones away. This Christmas someone is going there and will bring it to me. Meanwhile I am using my Cullmann mini tripod with Manfrotto ball head. I take it on my pacpacking adventures and runs and it really works. With light tripod many pictures are possible. Without light tripod my landscape photography would be severely limited. When I will have enough experience with Slik Print Mini I will let you know as I promised nearly a year ago.
With regards
Otto Hauck

Ching Yee said...

Hi, I met you along the return route at TNF 50 run, I was crossing the metal barrier at the end of rifle range road back onto the trail ground. Saw your TNF photos on facebook, you manage to capture me & my partner in the picture "the return".

Thanks for your camera reviews, now I know which works better on-the-go!

Ching

Ken said...

Hi Ching,

Glad you like it. Thanks for reading!

KEn

r4i said...

This camera was a delightful surprise. It is small and easy to use, yet takes beautiful pictures.

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