Canon G10 vs Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

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.