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Canon G10 vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

:: Thursday, November 13th, 2008 @ 5:46:43 pm

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A year ago, I wrote an entry wherein I recommended the Fuji FinePix F30 or F31d as my compact digital camera of choice. I later updated that entry to include a plug for the FinePix J10 — a $115 point & shoot camera.

So why, then, did I recently acquire a Canon G10?

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 and Canon G10

Compact digital cameras have long frustrated me. I’ve probably owned and tried a dozen of them since my first one, the Agfa ePhoto 1280, which I acquired in 1999. All of my frustrations stem from the same issue: point & shoot digital cameras use small sensors, and small sensors are noisy. The Fuji F30 offered the best medium-ISO performance of any compact digital camera, but its image quality was quite poor when compared to any digital SLR.

I recently purchased the 14.7-megapixel Canon G10 because it is a breakthrough in compact camera ergonomics and has all of the modern features that make people photography convenient and easy (e.g. face detection, optical image stabilization, decent high-ISO image quality). There is a dedicated ISO dial and an exposure compensation dial, which means that I can pre-set both of those settings before I even bring the camera up to my eye.

The Panasonic DMC-LX3 is also an interesting camera; it offers an unprecedented 24mm (equivalent), f/2 wide-angle lens and competitive high-ISO performance. It’s “only” 10.1 megapixels, but its super-wide lens wide open at f/2 is really compelling, and I like that they ditched the 16:9 aspect ratio (gimmicks always lose, in the end). It’s worth reading this review, if you’re interested in the LX3.

But even though the LX3 has a “Quick Menu” that gives you access to functions like ISO, the G10 is the clear winner, in terms of ergonomics. It’s still not perfect — like most modern compact cameras, when you’re in manual mode, you have to hit a button to toggle between shutter speed and aperture control. The G10 actually switches between shutter, aperture, and metering modes, which I find mildly annoying. The old Olympus cameras had an up/down, left/right interface, with one controlling shutter speed and the other controlling aperture. I miss that interface.

The LX3 review shows that the two cameras compete well in low light, but what it doesn’t show is that the G10 kicks serious ass in bright light. A Luminous Landscape article compares prints made from an image taken with the G10 and an image taken with a Hasselblad H2 and P45+ combo. You should check it out.

Another reason I ditched my Fuji F30 (other than the fact that I can’t find it right now) is that I’ve long been dissatisfied with the general performance of the camera. Yeah, so it’s the best option if you want to crank ISO up to 800 and shoot indoors without a flash, but in broad daylight, the images pale when compared to a modern camera like the G10. Ideally, I’d have the G10 as a camera I can put in a jacket pocket, and the LX3 as a night/restaurant camera, but I don’t really want to buy another camera. Both seem like excellent choices.

Anyone out there shooting an LX3? What do you think of it?

Affiliate links on Amazon: [Canon G10] [Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3]

UPDATE, April 2009: I’m now shooting a Lumix DMC-LX3 as well. I love the wide lens and f2 lens, but I hate that the RAW format is proprietary, which means that Lightroom and Aperture don’t support it. I also love the 720p video, but wish they had used a more efficient codec.

| San Francisco, CA | link | trackback | Nov 13, 2008 17:46:43
  • Chester

    Why the LX3 as the night/restaurant camera? Is the high-ISO performance better or is the low-light just fundamentally better because of the f/2.0 max aperture?

    24mm in a pocket camera would be something I’d love to have…especially for taking with me on bike rides. But, then again, ISO control through a dedicated dial is really sweet as well.

    Too bad neither of these is comfortable pants-pocketable.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Chester – I believe it’s both. Check the review — it has direct comparisons at the same exposure value. But you’d get to open up even more on the LX3, which would help a lot (i.e. could shoot at ISO 400 instead of 800).

    Incidentally, the Olympus that had the up/down, left/right interface also had an f/1.8 lens (the C-5050). It was, however, pretty noisy.

  • Chester

    I mourn the C-5050 and that whole Olympus line for their being the last of the f/1.8 digicam lenses…but not so much, because they only went up to ISO 400…and a crappy 400 at that…

    I think out of the above two cameras, I’d probably go with the Panasonic…for the 24mm lens, f/2.0 max at the wide end and, more surprisingly, f/2.8 max at the tele end. That’s pretty sweet.

    You might even be able to take portraits with decent bokeh at 60mm @ f/2.8.

  • http://www.hitokiri.com/blog Ben

    I have a LX3 and so far I like it a lot. Much more compact than the G9 I used to own but unfortunately because of the lens protuberance it’s still not completely pants pocketable. It also mystifyingly has a lens cap which can get in the way at times if you’re using the lens strap to keep it attached to the body like I do.

    Not sure why you say they ditched the 16:9 aspect ratio as it’s still there. But you can choose 3:2 or 4:3 as well. I haven’t shot it in RAW mode yet as I’m waiting for Adobe and/or Apple to update their RAW support for it but so far the JPEGs have been pretty good. Since the shots I take with this will usually just be web posted at no larger than 1024 I have no qualms using ISO 400 and even 800. Obviously it’s not DSLR quality but it’s perfectly acceptable for web use and I think it’s better than what I used to get with the G9.

    60mm at the long end does get a bit limiting at times but I knew and was fine with that before I bought it.

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    Yeah, I see the manual switch for the aspect ratio (bizarre, if you ask me). I’m just glad that the sensor is somewhere between them all. It was a waste to have a 16:9 sensor.

    The lens cap is annoying, too. I don’t know why they did that.

  • marc v

    i love my outdoor shots w/ Leica D-Lux 3. I’m no pro. Have you looked at the Sigma DP2, or the new D-Lux 4?

  • http://www.hitokiri.com/blog Ben

    The D-Lux 4 is basically a rebadged LX3 with some minor cosmetic differences, a bit different JPEG processing, longer warranty and better bundled software. It’d take a lot to convince me that it’s worth the $300+ premium over the Panny.

    16:9 ratio makes sense I guess if you use the movie mode frequently. People loves the widescreen format. ;-)

  • Richard

    I’ve been reading up on this too (need/want a compact to take on honeymoon). The executive summary I have come to is: DP-1: Best image in good light, biggest sensor (by far), worst usability (and slooowww!) G10: Best usability, biggest camera (least pocketable) LX3: Best low light images, widest aperature, smallest (of the three)

    So you have to pick your poison. I keep changing back and forth between the DP-1 and the LX3. DP-1 is quite amazing in good light for landscape type shots, but sadly seems to suffer in everything else. LX3 impresses in low light and is at least “good” in all other areas (image quality in bright light, usability, size). So I’m leaning towards LX3 at the moment despite some deep DP1 lust ;)

    p.s. I discount the G10 because I’d go with the DP1 if IQ in good light was the main thing, and I’d go with the LX3 if low light was the main thing. The only thing the G10 has is better manual controls, but if that’s your thing then step up to a small DSLR which won’t be much bigger (or more expensive).

  • http://echeng.com echeng

    The G10 is much smaller than an equivalently configured small SLR. You need a lens on those things. :)

  • Richard

    Depends what you mean by “much” ;) According to DPReview some comparable specs are:

    G10: 109 x 78 x 46 mm, 390g, 34 MP/cm^2
    Panasonic Lumix G1 (micro 4/3s): 124 x 84 x 45 mm, 360g, 5 MP/cm^2

    So you get 6x bigger photosites on the G1 in nearly the same size and weight. Admittedly you then have to add the lens. I couldn’t find any size specs immediately, but imaging-resource review of the G1 does give a total weight of 638g – so it’s a bit over 60% heavier than a G10 all in. (Then again, the G10 itself is 45% heavier than the LX3 at 265g)

    Anyway, my main point was that the G10 doesn’t win the out and out quality award (that’s the DP1), it doesn’t win the low light flexibility award (that’s the LX3), and it doesn’t win the pointless gadgetry award (that’s the Nikon P6000′s ethernet port?!). Plus it’s too big and heavy to be a pocket camera. So what it has going for it is ease of use, and its near mini-DSLR status. However, for me, if I wanted a camera that fits in a bag but not pocket, and has all the customisability of a DSLR then that’s what I’d get and get much better quality as a bonus. To be fair the G1 is still a little steep right now though!!

    But sadly there’s no perfect compact out there so that’s why you’ve got to pick your poison. Just imagine a compact with the image quality of the DP1, the low light capability of the LX3, the MPs and usability of the G10, the GPS of the P6000, and all in a case the size of my Pentax Optio S (that fits in an altoids tin!) – that would be a compact to die for!

    Just don’t imagine the IQ of the Optio S, the usability of the DP1, the gimicks of the P6000, in something the size of G10 (or G1 with lens!)

  • eloh

    @ben: there’s a modification for the LX3 that involves popping on a Ricoh LC-1 “flower-petal” lens cap that opens and closes automatically with the lens:


    the movie shows it in action on the D-Lux, for which this modification also works.

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  • http://N/A heatherk

    hi eric, i am very confused. want to buy a new camera, the Lumix G1 has recently released in UK and I wonder if it is good or not. I heard so many positive comments for G10 canon. I love the sound of the shutter for DSLRs, but DSLRs are too heavy for me travelling around. Do you have any suggestions? I personally own a canon 400D. Do you also recommend Leica DLux 4? thanks a lot

  • bcheng

    Hey, from a Cheng to a Cheng… Hi Eric. Thanks for the nice web site and reviews. I’ve been doing the great LX3 vs G10 comparison for four days. I’m pretty exhausted. I’ve been looking a photos on flickr forever. Based on reviews and tons of images, I’m going to have to say that photos from the LX3 really shine for me. I had found a technical site (lost the damn url) which gave all the hardcore specs on cameras (dynamic range, sensitivity, color handlig and other technical aspects) and the LX3 outperformed the G10 in every category. I really think it is a camera’s dynamic range which “brings a picture to life.” Just gives a photo all that variation of light, shadow, color and sculpting (3D quality) that results for the interplay of those elements. Funny thing is I started off wanting a G10 REALLY badly, since I love its looks, its handling, its controls, just everything about it. I think the G10 has a much better display screen as well. But if I buy one, I’m going to be worrying about whether I’m getting the best possible image. I have yet to see anyone of flickr produce consistently impressive shots on the G10 in the same what that a lot of people just taking grab shot manage to produce cool pictures with the LX3. I found one guy on flickr who took good G10 shots, but he must have took EVERY one with a tripod (a lot of 1/4 and 1/2 second exposures) which to me defeats the whole point of a point and shoot. If you can’t handhold a point and shoot, why bother? At first I thought the LX3 was too fragile looking compared to the G10, but I went to another camera shop today and it’s really pretty sturdy. It’s no G10, but it will do. I actually really preferred the build and styling of the D-Lux 4 — much cleaner looking in my opinion, but just too pricey. So right now I’m about to pull the trigger on a LX3. I think, in the end, it’s all about image. Right? Cheers, Brad

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ray1684/ Ray

    So after several months of use, any further comments on these two serious compact cameras? I’m in the market for a compact camera now and I’ve done extensive research on both these cameras. I’m currently using a 450D as my main, but switching to a 50D dSLR by the end of the month and will need something more pocketable to compliment my photography gear =D

    I have to say, most reviews I’ve read appears to have the LX3 on top with its 24mm wide and f/2 fast lens. Just held the G10 today and it feels really good, the layout for the manual settings is pretty nice and its a nice solid build with a slight nostalgic feeling of the rangefinder cameras. I guess I would still settle for the LX3 though, after using fast primes on my SLR, you can really learn to appreciate fast lens and bokeh =D

    Keep on the lookout for the new Olympus m4/3 compact camera with SLR equivalent sensors being announced later this month though, could be pretty interesting. Olympus E-P1…

  • bcheng

    Oh, here is the Web site with the measurements of the G10s and LX3 relative dynamic range. I hope it helps someone


  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/amazonsandimages/ KeithT

    All very well, but the LX3 kicks ass with the G10 on noise in low light situations. As a compliment to a DSLR outfit, the size and weight of the LX3 easily wins over the Canon G10 hands down. I would comfortably take the LX3 along with or without my 5d gear, I wouldn’t want to do that with the G10 – and I can get it via staff sales if I wanted to get it I hasten to add.

  • Peter

    The LX3 high ISO noise performance seems to be only a very little better than the G10′s… per pixel. When you resize pictures from the two cameras to match, the G10 noise artefacts are much smaller and are less noticeable than the LX3′s. The only LX3 advantage I’ve experienced is the fast lens enabling use of one stop lower ISO – not that this advantage should be under-rated, mind you!

  • bcheng

    I purchased an LX3 about three weeks ago and I am loving using it. So small and easy to carry about. The final deciding factor for me was downloading some sample files from the web. There were side-by-side shots of the G10 and Lx3 of the same scene. The G10 shots were darker so I thought I’d experiment with the unadulterated jpeg files that were posted. I was unable to bring any quality detail out the of the dark G10 photos to match the shadow detail of the LX3. Its not just low-light situation where the LX3 seemed to excell, but also capturing shadow detail in daylight shots – something very important much of the time — in less that perfect world shooting conditions. That really sealed the deal for me and i’m happy I bought the LX3.

  • Nicole

    I’ve been looking for a lx3 for some time but it seems to be sold out. Anyone know where I can get one?

  • Matt

    Luminous Landscape are nothing more than Canon fanboys. The G10, good as it is, is just too heavy and bulky. Better off comparing the LX3 with the S90…

  • riddly

    I’d like to thank eveyone who posts about the lx3 and the g10……I am now completely confused, and might just stick with my old 5400 nikon- although it’s still putting images away one pixel at a time when I’m on my way home….oh and it cant see anything in low light…

  • Anthonyx2

    Now with the G-11 out, the noise advantage the LX3 had will probably be less or equal. (Not sure I like the swivel screen on the G-11… I wish it could be “locked” in place. Canon cut back on the pixels to get better low light results. Seems to have helped them go in a more helpful direction. I picked up an LX3 just the same, since I got a deal on it I couldn’t pass up. I do like the solid aspect of the Canons though. Really tough call to pick one over the other.


    Found a site comparing the G10 and LX3


    The G10 kicks serious ass in daylight… :) IMG_xxxx are G10 pictures….

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