|Panasonic DMC-LX3S 10.1MP Digital Camera with 2.5x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Silver)
|List Price: $499.95
Our Price: $499.95
Designed for easy, creative shooting, and high-performance in low-light conditions, the DMC-LX3 features a F2.0 24mm LEICA DC VARIO-SUMMICRON lens, 10.1 megapixels and an ultra-sensitive 1/1.63-inch CCD developed specifically for this model. By combining a high-quality lens and sensor ready for a variety of shooting conditions with a wide-range of accessories and manual controls, the DMC-LX3 is ideal for professional photographers and serious amateurs looking for a compact digital camera that furthers their creative photography.
- 10.1-megapixel CCD captures enough detail for photo-quality poster-size prints
- 2.5x wide-angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized zoom lens
- 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD screen; HD video capture
- Classic SLR-like manual operations include selectable AF spot/multi AF area, customization button, aperture, shutter, program and full manual modes
- Capture images to SD/SDHC memory cards (not included)
- Beautiful Camera
I have been using this camera as my carry-around since December and I have absolutely no complaints.
Fast start-up time.
Small form factor.
Beautifully designed body.
Great image quality....more info
- Zywamys review
After seeing the diner BDay party video and the vanilla ice cream, the critique of the camera wasn't surprising. This video was more about them and their dining habits, and less about the camera. Gee, it's a point and shoot camera. What do you expect? Stop whining. Eat cake. ...more info
- Does Everything I Was Looking For
I got this camera for Christmas. I wanted a camera that would take indoor pictures of my kittens in natural light, and I've got some amazing photos already. I've also taken nighttime pictures of our house with the Christmas lights on, and they came out great as well. There are so many options available. I love having the option of using the automatic settings the camera chooses for me, or using my choice of settings for aperature or shutter. It is small, lightweight, and has a huge LCD display. I also purchased a memory card and an extra battery, which I would recommend. All in all, I'm looking forward to lots of fun with this camera. (I took over 400 pictures in a 3-day period over Christmas!)...more info
- Good camera. . . coulda been a GREAT camera.
This is a good little camera. I thought long and hard before I gave it only three stars. But, despite it being better than any other compact, I still have lots of criticism.
The image quality is very strong. Not as good as the DP1/2, but that camera is a disaster in nearly all other regards. With F/2 and and 400 you'll likely get the indoor shot you need. And when that fails, 800 is tolerable. The LX3 is a zippy performer too. While a little slow on the startup, the auto-focus is decently quick (could be better) and the shot to shot performance is quite good. The full-auto mode is good too. Hand the camera over to a novice and he/she will get a good shot. Love the aspect ratio.
The zoom range is a little limited. But I'm not too bothered by it. Other than macro, I can't imagine the manual focus ever being usable. I'd gladly give up some screen real estate for a viewfinder (even an evf). An integrated lens cap would have been a nice touch, as would a wrist strap. It'd be nice if the RAW format were more open. At the time of this review Aperture doesn't support it at all and Lightroom only kinda supports it.
My main complaint is the interface. It's not awful. In fact it's probably better than most compacts. But this camera had so much manual potential, only to be let down my too many darned buttons. The user programable setting are a good example. It has four presets. But only two of them are really useful. The other two require you to turn the dial, hit the select button, navigate down and then confirm; you just missed your shot. I wonder why it would be so difficult to have two or three more dials on the camera to control shutter, aperture and ISO? Instead, we get the worlds tiniest joystick. Again, by the time you've actually changed a setting you probably missed the shot. Also, why is a manual focus that goes around the lens so hard to implement? It's such a wonderful convention that is almost never seen on a compact.
The wrap up:
I do really like this camera. It's a good RAW shooter with good quality; all in a compact package. But, I hope that Panasonic really concentrates on the fundamentals for the LX4. A viewfinder and a couple of dials or knobs would have made this a four star camera for sure. If they managed to squeeze a larger sensor in too, it would be the best camera of all time.
Shame on Amazon for allowing price gouging from their partners. Currently (April/May 2009) the LX3K is quite scarce. I ended up paying a reasonable $50 over MSRP. But during the shortage the camera has been on sale for as much as $750 ($250 over MSRP!). Capitalism, the free market and supply/demand are all good things. But I'm a little offended that Amazon would allow their customers to be bludgeoned by such heavy pricing. Remember, just because someone agrees to be taken advantage of, doesn't make it right to do so.
- A Surprisingly Good Compact
I've had my LX3 for a couple of weeks now, and shot everything with it from landscapes to portraits and Xmas candids. It has produced a surprising number of impressively good images. It's produced city scapes with great detail at 100% in Photoshop, and portraits with smooth, lifelike tone and colors that show pores and individual hairs on faces.
The LX3 does have its weaknesses. Noise is often visible in shadowed areas on many images, even with the lower ISO's. It can't compete with DSLR's for fine color contrast (for example, hair). Auto white balance and auto focus sometimes miss the mark. Get this camera out of its comfort zone and it will remind you it is a compact. I also wish it extended beyond its conservative 2.5x (ignore the 2.0x description above--the LX3 is a 2.5).
This is the first compact, however, that I've ever really considered a workable DSLR substitute. My prior compact, a Canon G7, gave up too much resolution and picked up too much noise at ISO 200 and above for confidence with reliably capturing that one great impromptu shot. My LX3 recently produced a pic of two orange koi in a pond at ISO 400 that shows why the folks at dpreview praise this camera's mid-range ISO performance---the shot is surprisingly clean and the colors are vibrant (with a little Photoshop work). If you can recognize and work within this camera's limitations, the LX3 can be a fun and great tool. Best compact I've ever owned. ...more info
- Not quite an SLR, but very close...
Camera packed with many useful features, good quality pictures and video. the best you can get in a compact camera. Ideal if you want decent pictures and do not want to carry a bulky slr....more info
- LX3 camera
Very good camera for landscape but NOT good on taking crystal sharp image at dark environment, ...more info
- GREAT low-light camera! Best I've had in eons.
I don't much care for having a removable lens cap on a string (like my old 2000-era digicam from Sony), and I wish the zoom was a bit better, but everything else about this camera I love.
It takes the best low-light no-flash pictures of any camera I've had -- finally beating out the old F2.0 Sony camera I had back in 2000. I've looked for years to find something like this, and can finally replace my Fuji F10 (which wasn't as good, but had clean high ISO low-light performance).
And altough I thought I'd hate it, I ended up LOVING the pop up flash -- so convenient compared to toggling computer menu options.
I'm quite impressed. You can see thousands of photos taken using this camera at DisneyFans.com in the Disneyland 2009 gallery....more info
- Great compliment to a Digital SLR
Great little camera. Easy to carry around with you, and capable of making print-quality photos. The limited focal length is a downside, but there are many upsides that make this a great camera in my opinion. The LCD is large and bright. The HD video capture capability is very convenient. Great bang for the buck. ...more info
- Best point and shoot, evah!
Bought this 'point and shoot' camera for my wife and daughter just before leaving on vacation. Sifted through dpreview.com and found this camera to be 'Highly recommended'. If you are looking for something out of the box ready to shoot with little time or expertise this is your camera; the photos were breathtaking. This camera, unlike my other 'point and shoot' captures the image with little perceptible lag. Best of all, it has adjustable manual settings if you want to experiment. On the downside, it could use a little more zoom....more info
- a jewel
I bought the Lumix DMC-LX3 2 months ago, having been somewhat disappointed with my Olympus 550 UZ (18x zoom) and after having had my Canon S3 IS stolen in Costa Rica. I've lugged around my old Minolta XD-11 for years and wasn't interested in getting another SLR. I try to travel light. Well, this Lumix DMC, in my eyes, does just about everything but tap dance in the dark and sing in Japanese! A lot of people complain about its mediocre 2.5x zoom. Well, by decreasing the image quality to less than 10 million pixels, you can increase that zoom to 4.5, which I find altogether sufficient. What is so impressive about this DMC is its light sensitivity, its 24 mm wide angle lens, and its raw capability. On top of tht it's the size of a pack of cigarettes and won't entice thugs to chop off your head to get to your clunky SLR. I recommend this little jewel wholeheartedly....more info
- Great Camera, worth the wide angle and wide F stop!
I had to get one due to its larger sensor and the 24mm wide angle lens and the large f2 stop, as my Canon G9 didn't have either. Taking pics with it is great, but you have to remember to just tap the zoom button before taking a shot; you're starting at 24mm so unless you want to risk wide angle distortion for a portrait, you'll want to at least go to 28mm or higher to reduce the possibility. Some of my early portrait shots had severe wide angle lens distortion towards the edges, and faces got a little skewed there. But otherwise, that's what I bought the camera for, which is to take wide angle shots, and also the f2 really helps in low lights and also blurring backgrounds. All in all, a great camera....more info
- Panasonic LX3
I was getting a bit tired of carrying two SLR bodies around, one with long lens, one with macro or wide angle so I thought I'd try a compact digital for some shots and leave one SLR behind.
I love the LX3. I'm now doing videoscoping with it in addition to photos and both give excellent results.
I've found one difficult aspect: manual focus with the joystick. Everything else produces good results.
- A stylish way to get it all with wide angle
It is an estimable camera at the top of the heap in its class. I bought it for the f2.0 fast lens, the wide angle, the build quality, the Panasonic processing software in the camera itself, the accessories like even more wide angle with an accessory lens or the 24mm optical finder. I have done some photojournalism in my life and this is what I wish I had back then.
I have gone through at least four digital cameras since I decided to leave my Nikon film SLR on the shelf a few years ago. I have never looked back. But this beauty allows me to do the photography I like best, to be inconspicuous, to be quick, to feel like taking it along because of its relatively light weight and size, to not spook people who are shy when an SLR is around. It looks like any P&S, but I'm thankful it isn't.
I've seen minimal barrel distortion, maximum sharpness and contrast, easy menus, abundant automatic as well as full manual features.
You can go with the much less costly extra batteries (under $15.00) and other items. A tip about non-Panasonic brand batteries: remove the stick-on label because it is just thick enough to make it difficult to remove these after market batteries. When I did this, they fit just as well as the Panasonic batteries. Get the S005 battery. These aftermarket are just as good as maker branded batteries. Get a few of them. They charge up in just 45 minutes or so.
I have used the 720P HD video (use the wide 16:9 format at the right side of the lens barrel selector switch) and am impressed at the quality. Certainly a dedicated 1080P HD videocam would do better, but being able to use a 24mm wide angle lens is a real plus. On my digital TV and on my computer monitor the results were satisfying. My computer played it with a little stutter the first time but playing it again it was smooth on succeeding times. Go figure. I have a low end graphics card so that may be the cause. My HD videos have been less than one minute so far - I understand there may be a limit of five minutes or so (per file). Don't buy another still camera without HD video!
A tip about what some pros and advanced amateurs do with a quality new camera to preserve its resale value is to cover as much surface on the camera as possible with adhesive plastic (such as the PDA screen protector materiel) to minimise wear (and actually, it gives you a better grip than the stock exterior). This is for a user camera.
Oh, one thing. Do not trust the neck strap. It almost came loose at the camera end while on its first use. Use a sailor's knot there - don't trust the tiny plastic sleive to hold. We don't need any of these hitting the concrete. ...more info
- Good camera. Worth the cost?
Takes sharp pictures most of the time. HD video is nice. Not sure that it is worth 2X cost of other decent P&S cameras. Manual lens cap is annoying. Some buttons/switches feel flimsy....more info
- A review from an honest user
I posted a few sample pictures in the album. Many of you might have some questions. How much do I love my new LX3 after 3 months? Love gets cold, some say. Let's see if that's the case.
Oh, I still have plenty of love for my LX3. The fact is, when this love lasts, I start to know what she can or she can't do, and that just becomes easier for both of me and the camera.
First of all, I have to tell you this is the first electronic equipment that I actually read the whole user guide. The 1cm focus range, the manual controls, and the cool f/2.0 lens are among the things I really like about this camera. Plus that compact size, there are a lot of general occasions people will find this camera extremely useful, especially when a DSLR is not present.
And that says it all, when a DSLR is not around, this camera is the king of the house.
From my album on Flickr you probably have already noticed I shoot a lot of different objects. Especially when I am on a trip, I won't start saying, I am going to shoot landscape today. Or I am going to shoot party scene today. Or anything like that. As I view photography as a way to record life, life has many dimensions. Our photographic objects change quickly, to portraits, to landscape, to macro, to low-light, to anything we, as photographers, would notice.
And that, with my laziness, make me rely on the auto mode in shooting. Too often there is no time for me to massage the camera bottoms, play with the settings and then shoot. Pathetic, maybe, but point and shoot is what I usually do.
That becomes a problem for the LX3. Something about how the computer was set inside. Though I keep updating the firmware, the camera, in more than one occasion, took too long to recognize the scene and left me with no picture. I know this is a common problem for compact small cameras, all brands have it, especially I usually leave only seconds for the camera to shoot. It pushes me back to my old reliable DLSR.
The other problems are the picture quality. Sure, I have tried both the Canon G10 and the Nikon competitor. LX3 by far has the best picture quality with the lowest noise. However my Pentax K100D has only 6MP yet it has better smoother pictures, sort of, maybe I should upgrade to K20D. o
The third problem, actually not from the LX3, is that recently I just took two photographic trips to New Orleans and San Diego. When I am on a trip like that, I would definitely use my DSLR. That's why most of my latest uploads onto my flickr album are from my Pentax.
Now here comes the sliver lining.
1. The camera is compact and can go places where a DLSR cannot go.
2. The camera can take high def video.
3. The camera can be put into a jean?|s tight pockets (ouch~~~!).
4. You don't need to, or you can?|t, change lens on a trip. (oh, that's a plus?)
I hope the above helps!
- High quality pictures in low light environment
I am satisfied in all respects with this new camera. It is exactly what I was looking for. A camera for taking interior pictures without flash because that usualy changes the aspect of the characters.
In addition, it takes very impressive pictures outside for landscapes, and the HD video is of quite good quality also (although unfortunately in MOV.format like most cameras these days...)but without the ability to use the zoom when shooting
I must tell that this camera comes in addition to my Canon Powershop S5IS which I use outside for its x12 zoom and for taking AVI videos of reasonably good quality.
I also have a Pana LX2 and a Canon G9.
The improvement with the LX2 is impressive in all respect.
Compared to the G9, the main area where the LX3 is clearly winning is the shooting in low light. I mainly use my LX3 in P mode with the ISO limited to 400 and I hardly never use the flash. Occasionaly I have to adjust to ISO 800 which still gives very good pictures. I believe that the quality of the optic, the aperture (1:2.0) and the limited zoom explain this result.
For me it is compact enough to be carried in a pocket or in a hand bag, but of course not as compact as some other cameras, but which may not take as good pictures. To give an example, I bought an Olympus 840Mu a year ago but I have not used it beyond the first month as I could accept to get only one or two good pictures out of 10.
It is expensive...But personaly I consider it is a worthwile investment. At that price they could have adeed a viewfinder (even an optical one)because in the sunshine it is difficult to adjust.
- Excellent compact
I have only had the LX3 for a couple of weeks and so far it performs as advertised. I especially like the opportunities the wider-than-usual lens offers. Image Quality is at least as good as my other P&S cameras from Canon and Sony, but at this point I really can't say it's any better. Much better value than it's Leica relative. Good, solid feel suggests excellent construction and reliability. I'm quite happy with this camera based on initial results. I do wish there was a good, reasonably-priced auto flash available....more info
- the best camera is a camera you carry with you
It is not an dSLR, however it is the next best thing. It is on the heavy side when I need to put it in my pocket, but feels very solid when I am holding it & taking photos. It has turn me into a Panasonic believer. The screen is amazing, and quick aspect ratio button on the camera is very handy. Love the fact that the flash does not pop up automatically. The iA function is pretty good. There are only 2 complain; 1) the Auto White Balance (which can be easily fix by manual adjustment) 2) Zoom...more info
- Love the camera, but too expensive!
First, I don't have the LX3. But I have the wonderful LX2 that I have been shooting for several years. Recently, I started my search for a better P&S and have not found anything that excited me. I want to be able to use external flash. Everyone of them (except Leica, which is essentially the same as my LX2 and costs much more) failed miserably when tested against the LX2.
Based on my experience with the LX2, I am so excited when I ran across the LX3. Here is the camera that could rightfully replace my LX2. The only issue is, it is too expensive. I could not justify dishing out $450 to gain may be another 10% functionality. With $450, you can buy an entry level lightweight, DSLR kit from Canon or Nikon that could easily blow this camera away in both images and usability. Yes, it is bulkier and heavier, but if pocketability is your goal, there are plenty of other DMCs that cost a lot less.
BTW, I bought my LX2 over 2 years ago for $250. When Panasonic lowers the price of this camera to about $250-$300, I'll get one. Until then, I continue to shoot my LX2, 15,000+ images and still going. And I wholeheartedly agree with the reviewers here, this is the best of P&S. I've tried the Canon G10 and I'd rather keep my LX2....more info
- great samll camera
As a professional photographer I am picky about image quality and camera controls. This is a great small camera with outstanding image quality. I love it for natural light photography and the wide lens is perfect for scenics and travel. If the noise level is not as good as good SLR so what... it comes very close and I can take it with me all the time....more info
- LX3 Impression & Tips
There are plenty of reviews of this excellent camera. What I'm going to do here is providing some user feedback and tips on how to fully utilize this camera.
First of all, this is a professional's camera (or at least like me, a serious amateur). You can use iA mode for point and shoot, and most scene modes are good enough, but you can't get the most out of it by using it that way. There are other cameras which can achieve that purpose and cost much less.
To begin, I would suggest read the manual fully. The manual is not the best I've read, and the grammar is awkward and seems translated, but it does provide very important information. After all, this camera can overwhelm people with features.
Get familiar with q.menu joystick/button. This thing can save a lot of time. Some complain about the lack of a dedicated ISO button or dial, which this camera's closest competitor, Canon Powershot G10 provides, but the feature is just under the q.menu button. Important features such as ISO, white balance, metering modes, etc., are also under here.
I would suggest set an ISO limit to cap at ISO 200, which this camera allows. Also turn the flash power to the lowest setting. With f2.0 aperture, I rarely use flash anyways.
I agree with others before me, the lens cap is annoying. I also agree the camera should allow turning off all beeping sounds except for the focus confirmation. Panasonic's setting menu can be cryptic, but fortunately there is the q.menu button.
Aspect Ratio dial is absolutely wonderful. 4:3 is very good for digital photo frames of the same aspect ratio, as well as for computer monitors. 3:2 is best if you intend to print them on paper, as most shops print them in 4x6, which is the same ratio as 3:2. 16:9 is best for HD TV or widescreen LCD monitors.
Get a 150x SD flash memory. I personally use OCZ 8GB SDHC flash memory. Or you could opt for two pieces of smaller memory chips, depend on your habit. Fast memory = faster capture and less waiting time, if you intend on using RAW+Jpeg a lot. Also recommended is getting yourself a second battery. If you shoot a lot of photos like me, the battery will last less than a whole day. It is not bad, but you definitely do not want to lose any opportunity when a magic moment comes.
I wish there is a continuous depth of view. Neither this camera nor Canon G10 allows that, which is rather bizarre, considering these are very high-end cameras. My ancient Canon PowerShot S1 IS instantly provides feedback on the impact of changing aperture and shutter speed, which has given me a lot of creative warrants. To be fair, most DSLRs don't have that feature either. Canon's SX10IS, however, is able to do it. Not a big deal for some, but I find it inconvenient having to press the shutter button half way first before able to see if the picture is going to be overexposed or underexposed than I intended.
Get Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2. If you intend to shoot your picture in RAW, and do a lot of post processing, this is a gem. You can get a 30-day trial on Adobe's website, but I think you'll most likely end up buying it.
This is a landscape or indoor camera. I find its auto focus performance under bright day light is subpar. Compare to my own eyes, the exposure tends to overexpose under bright light and underexpose under dim light. Now I think of it, it means the Leica lens it equips (DC Vario-Summicron, by the way) is optically accurate, since human eyes have pupils to regulate the light, hence the discrepancy. I'm the kind who prefer to have my photos as the documentary of what I saw. If I need creative lighting/color bias, I do it after I went home with computer's assistance, but not at the camera level.
You'll need a tripod. ISO 80 is susceptible to shaking under low light condition. It is more intolerant to handshake even with MEGA O.I.S turned on, compared with my Canon PowerShot S1 anyways.
It's a very good camera for low-light and landscape. It is not a DSLR substitute, but an excellent complementary camera if you have a DSLR to handle your daylight photography needs....more info
- Ideal if you like wide and you like control...
There is already a lot of info out there on this camera, so I'll just quickly highlight a few things, mostly from the perspective of someone who normally shoots with DSLRs.
- Unlimited control - You can control just about anything on this camera, and a surprising amount of it very quickly through the "quick menu" accessed through the joystick.
- Wonderful wide angle lens - The 24mm equivalent field of view at the wide end is wonderful for landscapes, street photography and tight quarters. The fast F/2.0 max aperture and IS make the camera an awesome low light performer. I have a Fuji F30, long considered the king of compact low light cameras, and in reality the LX3 is able to get far more low light shots than the F30.
- Excellent user interface - Coming from almost exclusively using Canon cameras I was concerned about another user interface to deal with. I love the LX3 interface, it is so intuitive and transparent that I'm amazed that I often can get settings the way I want faster than with my SLRs.
- Excellent RAW shooting - The camera has a fairly decent RAW buffer (about three shots) and doesn't slow down at all in RAW shooting. Remember, it is still a compact camera and thus shot to shot time is longer than an SLR, but the point here is that the speed is the same regardless of whether you are shooting RAW or JPEG. Most of the few compacts that shoot RAW suddenly become glacially slow if you actually try to use the RAW mode - not the LX3.
Those are probably the four things that made me fall in love with this camera. Be advised of course that it isn't the perfect camera for everyone. If you tend to shoot in auto all the time (and the LX3 does have an excellent auto mode) you really won't be using a great part of the LX3's advantages. If you aren't comfortable working with the relatively restricted 2.5x zoom range you might also be frustrated and would probably be happier with cameras that have longer zoom ranges either by being larger (Canon G10, Panasonic FZ28) or by making a few more compromises in the lens design (Panasonic TZ5).
This camera really is a "photographers" camera that gives you not only complete creative control, but most importantly easy and transparent control through its wonderful user interface.
Even the variable aspect ratio setting, which I thought was sort of gimmicky when I read about it, has proven to be a feature I use almost continuously. The LX3's novel implementation of this (the different aspects preserve the diagonal angle of view rather than just cropping down one of the other aspect settings) is wonderful.
The size is wonderful, it is truly pocketable unlike the Canon G10 (of course the G10 has other benefits).
Being a wide angle junky I actually did purchase the wide angle adapter lens for this camera. Wow, wow, wow. I always thought these accessory type lenses were a silly idea, but this one gives an 18mm equivalent field of view and the optical performance is stunning for such a wide angle lens. My Canon XTi and 10-22mm no longer need to be hauled around for ultra-wide shots.
Finally, to repeat a point made by many, this is NOT a DSLR replacement. It can't do everything a DSLR can. It does have way more manual control than almost any other compact, it can shoot RAW much faster than most compacts, and its imager size and pixel density are better than the vast majority of compacts. That said, it doesn't offer the fast autofocus of an SLR, the deep RAW buffers and fast frame rates of an SLR, nor high ISO performance anything like an SLR. But it is a camera that performs admirably in many of those departments and most importantly it does a great job of getting out of the photographers way just like a SLR. I have now taken the LX3 on two dedicated landscape shooting trips instead of my SLR, so for some tasks is can be a replacement and for others a complement. Don't expect miracles, but do expect to be pleasantly surprised if you've shot with other compacts.
As long as you are aware of the restrictions of the 24-60mm focal range you just simply can not get a better compact camera....more info
- A Terrific Advanced Compact Camera (Thank You Panasonic!)
The Panasonic LX3 is a great advanced compact camera for the photo enthusiast. The photo quality is terrific, the build quality is great, the size is perfect, and it has all the manual and automatic controls you could ever need.
First let me start by saying that I have always wanted a Panasonic digital camera, most Panasonics have always had great lenses, a good interface, great built quality, and image stabilizers. I never bought one, though, because photo quality was subpar, with lots of image noise and noise reduction mushiness. The LX3 is the first Panasonic camera I have bought and I love it.
The best aspect of the camera has to be that lens. It's super-wide at 24mm and is great for indoor shots, and landscapes. Moreover, the maximum aperture of the lens is f2.0 to f2.8 and really helps in low light allowing a faster shutter speed and avoiding the flash, while macro shots benefit from the greater depth-of-field. The lens is also sharp from corner to corner, and the jpeg processing removes any barrel distortion and fringing. The only downside to the lens is the 60mm reach; so take that into consideration before buying.
The rest of the camera is no slouch either. The sensor is a bit bigger than most point and shots and has a modest 10-megapixel resolution. Panasonic claims to have kept the megapixels at 10 to increase sensitivity and decrease noise, and it has worked to an extent. If you don't expect SLR quality at higher ISO speeds you'll be pleased. From ISO 80-200 I have no complaints with image quality. There is plenty of detail, good exposure, and natural looking colors. Above ISO 200 to about ISO 400 it's still plenty acceptable and depends on the subject matter and lighting. Anything above ISO 400, in my eyes, is for emergency use, or photos that are not very important. At that point most of the detail is mushed away and noise is pretty high. Of course, if you prefer to do the processing yourself you can always shoot RAW.
The camera is a good size, not large, but definitely not a pocket camera either, the protruding lens sees to that (see my included picture). Build quality is great; most of the camera is made of metal (even the front of the lens cap). The 3" screen on the back is bright and clear with a high resolution. There are manual controls for pretty much every function, two custom white balance settings, and two custom setting on the mode dial. Of course there is also a fully automatic mode and plenty of scene modes as well. I especially like the different film modes to tweak your results, and the two custom film modes, which even give you control over noise reduction. The aspect ratio switch on the lens let's you shoot in 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9, and the camera also allows you to bracket in the three ratios.
The only minor negatives I have about the camera is as follows: 1) The lens retracts too quickly when you switch into review mode, delaying the next shot, 2) The lens cap can be finicky to put on, the release buttons are quite small, 3) There is no sensor to prevent the camera from extending the lens when the cap is on, I always turn it to playback mode when I turn it off just in case, 4) The battery door, and playback/record switch don't feel as sturdy as the rest of the camera, 5) The flash release switch is small, 6) The camera can be slow when going from record to playback.
All in all... despite the few flaws it's an awesome camera, and a great companion for my digital SLR.
03/23/09 Update: Still love this camera. I'm able to get sharp photos when shooting at 1/4 seconds at wide angle. The stabilizer is very effective. My initial impressions remain for the ISO speeds, I rarely go above ISO 200....more info
This is my 4th digital camera, and I like it much better than my previous point-and-shoots, as well as my SLR! I use it in manual mode with AF. I love having a camera that gives me control over aperture and shutter speed, yet is compact enough to fit in my pocket. The wide-angle, fast lens is excellent!...more info