Throwback Thursday: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, Multi-Aspect Master

Back in 2008 there weren’t a whole lot of enthusiast compacts. The two models which got the most attention were the Canon PowerShot G10 and Nikon Coolpix P6000. At that time, the ‘Megapixel race’ was really getting going, with the G10 and P6000 having 14.7MP and 13.5MP sensors, respectively (the LX2 was still at 10MP). All three of the aforementioned cameras had lenses with lovely focal ranges, but slow maximum apertures (F2.8-4.5 for the Canon, F2.7-5.9 for the Nikon).

Enter the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. Panasonic didn’t go crazy with Megapixels like other companies, instead using a 10 Megapixel, 1/1.63″ CCD with a unique ‘multi-aspect’ feature. An even bigger story was its ‘Leica’ DC Vario-Summicron lens that had an equivalent focal length of 24-60mm (yep, kind of short) and a max aperture range of F2-2.8. Despite that fast lens and because of that limited range, the LX3 remained extremely compact.

The LX3 is remarkably compact considering its lens. Its metal body gave it a quality feel.

Indeed, one of the fun things about the LX3 was its multi-aspect capabilities. Using the switch on top of the lens barrel you could choose between 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. On most cameras the angle-of-view would change at each of those ratios, but on the LX3 they are all the same. Simply put, the focal range (24-60mm equiv.) was the same, regardless of which of the three aspect ratios used. Having the ability to quickly switch aspect ratios made it a lot more tempting to mix things up a bit, since a trip to the menus wasn’t required.

The back of the LX3 had a pretty standard layout, with a 3″ LCD and cluttered controls.

The LX3 had a snappy UI, effective ‘MEGA OIS’ image stabiliization and plenty of manual controls. It could even capture 720/24p video, which was uncommon in that era. It’s battery life of 380 shots/charge was pretty darn good, too.

A pricey optical viewfinder was an available accessory. Third parties made teleconverters, like this 2.5x model from Fujiyama.

Two other nice things about the LX3 were its support for an optional viewfinder and a threaded lens barrel. The DMW-VF1 was attached via the hot shoe and was framed for 24mm shooting. If you wanted to screw something onto the lens, Panasonic sold a 0.75x wide-angle converter and a number of filters. While Panasonic didn’t sell any teleconverters, third parties did. Fujiyama produced a 2.5x teleconverter, which brought the long end of the lens to 150mm equivalent. 

Ultimately, it’s was the sensor + lens combination that made the LX3 so appealing. The LX3 had very good image quality at its base ISO and it held up well through ISO 800. Having that bright lens made the LX3 very capable in low light, as it allowed the photographer to keep the ISO as low as possible. And at a time when CCDs weren’t exactly noise-free, that made a huge difference.

My colleague Richard Butler adds:

The LX3 is the first compact I ever liked. It also, arguably, rejuvenated the entire sector: everyone else started to make small cameras with bright lenses, including Canon re-launching the S series. Sure, the move to 1″ sensors make the LX3 look rather less impressive, but it still pointed the way towards a generation of enthusiast pocketable compacts with lenses that let you get the best out of their sensors.


Have fond memories of your Panasonic LX3? Share them in the comments below!  Feel free to leave suggestions for future TBT articles as well.

Read our Panasonic LX3 Review

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