The newly-announced Panasonic DMC-LX3 suggests the beginning of a long overdue correction of the more-megapixels trend, with “focus” going to other features that make the camera more useful for actual photography.
The LX3 announcement is striking in several ways:
Pixel count — For the first time I’m aware of, a press release explicitly acknowledges the quality issues of too many pixels in too small a sensor (and not just as a parenthetical note). The LX3 sensibly limits the resolution to 10.1 megapixels, in a relatively large sensor, and the electronics have been updated to improve pixel quality.
Wide angle lens — the world doesn’t need yet another 35-whatever point and shoot; true wide angle capability (24mm) has been almost non-existent in point and shoot cameras. The LX3 offers a 24-60mm zoom (equivalent) and even an 18mm equivalent add-on, perhaps the first in a camera this compact.
Fast f/2 lens — too many point and shoot cameras become useless at dusk or indoors for natural light shooting. The LX3 offers a 24-60mm zoom with f/2.0 - f/2.8 in that range. That is a major improvement over nearly all the point and shoot cameras out there, certainly ones of its compact size. To offer f/2.8 at the 60mm setting is a big plus (vs f/4 - f/5 with many compacts).
System camera — the LX3 offers a workable set of accessories. With a hot shoe, an 18mm add-on lens, a hot-shot-mounted optical viewfinder, and polarizer, neutral density and protection filters, this is the first stab at the “point and shoot system camera”.
LCD — the LX3 sports a 460,000 pixel screen, double (or more) the resolution commonly seen today. This is a non-trivial feature; with all imaging being done on the screen, a large, high resolution LCD is very, very enjoyable, and makes evaluating images easier.
In addition to these key features, the LX3 offers RAW file support, choice of cropping its 16:9 native format to 4:3 or 3:2 and a super macro capable of focusing to 1cm in front of the lens. Add in HD video recording, image leveling and the compulsory “moron modes” and the LX3 offers a compelling package for the photographer looking for a versatile but compact point and shoot. You can compare for yourself at dpreview, but it seems that the LX3 brings together a combination of useful features unmatched by any other camera.
Now if only Panasonic would really stretch and offer a monochrome sensor version, now that would be interesting!