Lumix DMC-LX3, Canon G10

Seems like the decent prosumer compacts are here with the LX3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Digital Camera – Review – The Imaging Resource!

The Panasonic LX3’s noise handling is significantly improved over the LX2. Noise performance was the single biggest issue with the LX2, its Achilles heel. On the Panasonic LX3, we’ve had a change of image processors but the detail and color the LX2 captured at ISO 200 is roughly equivalent to ISO 800 on the LX3. In both cases, that’s about where the detail starts to fall apart, although it’s still quite acceptable. If ISO 400 was the LX2’s limit, ISO 800 is the LX3’s, with ISO

It has a fast lense with little zoom 24-60mm equivalent. F/2-F2.8 which is awesome. It has a bigger 1/1.6″ sensor. It also shoots Raw.The Online Photographer: Canon G10 Review

Canon has done something amazing with all those pixels it crammed into that small sensor. In a well lit, well exposed photo taken at low ISO, the image quality is so good that I was caught off guard. I kept checking to make sure I was looking at the photos from the G10 and not my 5D or 1Ds. The images have plenty of detail, nice saturation, and definite “cropability.”

Canon lense quality

“SLR Gear”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showcat.php/cat/11 has a good analytic review set for lenses. Canon is a focus here, but they have Nikon too of course. Unlike many reviews, this one is quite quantitative with good recommendations for what aperture and focal length to use for maximum sharpness:

“Canon EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/77/cat/11. Image quality 8.61/10. Best results at 100-135mm at F/8 or 300mm and F/11. Corner softness at 200mm, but keep it at F/8-F/11 and you won’t see blurring. Undetectable vignette on sub-frame sensor and some on full frame when you are at F/5.6 and below. Very low distortion less than -0.2% pincushioning at most.

“Canon EF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/145/cat/11. On my 350D, this is too slow, but on a new 5D Mark II, it will be great because it is slower than F/2.8 for available light, but the 5D is so sensitive, it doesn’t matter. 8.97/10 image quality. F/4 to F/8 the lense is very sharp at 24mm. At 105mm, it is slightly soft and best at F/5.6 (either end is soft again). Vignetting is virtually nonexistant. Moderate barrel distoration at 24mm (0.6%) and slight pincushion at 50mm+ 0.2%. Basically a superb lense and expensive too at $1,100!

“Canon EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/57/cat/11 is amazing at 9.47/10 image quality but costs $1660. F/4 and above has no blur at all and it is very sligth at 135mm and F/2.8. At F/16, diffraction limiting causes a tiny blur only. Chromatic abberation is low and then become medium toward 200mm. Essentially zero distortion at 0.2-0.16%

For a full frame geek, this is a great set that gets you an everyday lense (24-105), a zoom for those birds and soccer games (100-400) and medium shots too in low ight (70-200), the only one missing is a true wide angle which is the

“Canon EF 16-35mm F/2.8L II USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1082/cat/11 which is another amazing 9.67/10 lense. Main bummer is it takes an 88mm filter instead of the 77mm that all of the other lenses above take. These big wide angles tend not to be too sharp, but this one is very sharp wide open at F/2.8 and then gets software at F/4-5.6. The sweet spot appears to be about 24mm at F/5.6. If you zoom out to 20mm, losts of softness goes away. On a full frame sensor thought, it has lots of issues with corner sharpness even at F/8 and there is quite a bit of chromatic aberration at 16mm but does best at F/2.8. It also vignettes quite a bit with a full frame. About 1.75 stops at the corner darker. Low distortion is at 22mm on full frame.

With a fast camera like the 5D Mark ii, the “Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L USM”
“Canon EF 17-40mm F/2.8L II USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/31/cat/11 which is another amazing 9.67/10 lense. might be a better choice because it is half the price at $680 vs. $1300.

h3. Subframe sensors

If you have an APS-sized sensor like the 50D or the 450D, then there are a bunch of very nice lenses that take advantage of the smaller frame size:

“Canon EF-S 10-22mm F/3.5-4.5 USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/135/cat/11. 8.82/10 quality. Its maximum sharpness is between F5.6-8 at 10mm and F8 at 14mm and 22mm. Chromatic abberation is a little high at 10mm. Shading is a little high as well at 0.85EV at F/2.8 and 10mm but drops to 0.5EV at F/5.6. Distortion is actually kind of amazingly low.

“Canon EF-S 17-55 F/2.8 IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/353/cat/11. 9.41/10 image quality. It is very sharp at F/4, but at F/2.8, it is OK. Chromatic aberration is a week point, with high CA at 17mm. High vignetter of 0.85 EV at 17mm and F/2.8 but drops at half at F/4. Distortion is modest at 17mm, but gets high at 20mm. Good for available light shots with older generation Canons like by 350D.

Finally point if you win the lottery and want to do really great wildlife or available light soccer games, then the $5000 “Canon EF 500mm F/4L IS USM”:http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/168/cat/10. If you can manage the 13 pounds of weight. You pretty much want to get a 1.4x convertor and use a fast camera like the 5D Mark II to get those wildlife shots at dusk.

Smaller than a dSLR recommendations

David asked me, OK, zooming back (no pun intended), if you want a smaller camera, what are the realy choices:

# Canon or Panasonic point and shoot. If you just want a point and shoot like the Instamatic of old, then pretty much anything in the el cheapo 8MP range is going to work. Last year’s SD850 is a good choice which is 8MP. The picture quality is decent. The SD790 is a 10MP camera so it is going to have images twice as large. But it does have all the features like stabilization. It would be a slam dunk except at the really low end 28mm, it has distortion. Similarly the Panasonic FX35 would be a slam dunk but it has noise in the dark spots.
# Got retro. Go Fuji. The F30 is essentially an ebay item now and doesn’t have a modern screen and so forth, so it is the retro choice for the afictionado. I have an F10 and an F11 and they remind me of the Yashica T4. The T4 is a film camera long out of production, but it had an amazing fast lense and was a fixed lense, no zoom. The ugly truth is that you can’t have a tiny package, gigantic zoom and lots of megapixels something has got to break.
# Non-Altoid box sized. But still small. LX3. If you are willing to go just a little bit above point and shoot and slight larger, then that is where all the action is. These cameras are much smaller than an SLR, but have much, much, much better image quality that a point and shoot. I only got the SD790 because most folks really don’t care about image quality, they just want a snap. But if you care a little, then there are three amazing choices that are coming in October that are just maybe more like the size of the old 35mm point and shoots rather than an Altoid box size.

It is these so called “super compacts” that are generating the most interest. They break the physical constraing of small size, but still use the tiny sensor. So maybe with a better lense, you can coax more performance out of these tiny 0.5 inch sensors:

* Panasonic Lumix DSC-LX3. Reviews are just coming. It is $500, but has a very, very fast lense F2.0/2.8 so could be a really great available light camera. The point and shoots really suck in the most common case, you are in a restaurant and you use a flash. They you get that bright forehead, red eye, deer-in-the-headlights shot. All these look much better without a flash (like the F30).
* Canon G10. Photokina is coming and Canon is updating their so called “super compact” which might be very good.
* Panasonic micro-4/3rd. This is between a big SLR and a compact. It uses a much larger sensor (the beginning and middle and end of the quality bar is really how big a sensor you put in. A dSLR essentially has a single chip with is 1 inch x 1.5 inches. That is kind of a big piece of silicon and requires a big piece of glass in the lense, but that whole thing might have 12MP. In contrast, your basic point and shoot crams 12MP into something with is 1/2″ x 3/8″, so no kidding, you get a tiny camera, but that is an aweful lot of density, so no surpirse. Then instead of glass, you have this tiny single lense. No surprise it looks like a picture from a Cracker Jack box camera.

So my real recommendations are:

* If you want a camera for just point and shoot, then really look at the super compacts because one great picture is worth 50 crappy ones. LX3 all the way!
* If you really care, get a Lowe Backpack and carry around a full dSLR with a superzoom lense. Ironically the price is about the same as these cameras and picture quality is amazing because you are carry around so much more sensor.

Final decisions on ultracompact cameras: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 vs. Canon Powershot SD790 IS

!>http://www.trustedreviews.com/images/article/summary/8006.jpg! Well, unless you are going for a pro-grade compact camera like the soon to launch $500 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, probably your main criteria is being small and OK pictures which is what you are going to get. Overall, it is interesting how cameras have not improved much from my trusty “SD500”:http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/canon/powershot_sd500-review/ and Fuji “F11 and F10″:http://www.dcviews.com/reviews/Fuji-F11/Fuji-F11-review.htm. To set the basis, the SD500 is 3.4×2.2×1.0″ or 7.5 cu in and 170 grams with 3x F/2.8-4.9 zoom with 1/2.5″ sensor at 7MP and works at ISO100 and 2″ LCD while the F11 is 6MP and shoots well at ISO400 with a 2.5” screen.

Personally, I’d probably get the bulkier model with the better lense, but these are a pain to carry. So if you don’t like your 2MP camera phone, here are purse size choices. The image quality is pretty much identical, so it comes down to weight. The two choices are the Canon which is kind of the trusty dusty. I also looked that DMC-FX35, but it has noise problems. Other cameras in this range are pretty much ordinary. Canon is a little more expensive, but they are reliable. We’ve had an SD500 for years.

As an aside, both DCResources and “Trusted Reviews”:http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/09/15/Sony-Cyber-shot-DSC-T77/p1 seem to do the best technical job on image quality, but DCResources unfortunately doesn’t test too many compacts. “Imaging Resource”:http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM has a good set of picks that are little dated, but useful. He likes the Panasonice Lumix DMC-LX2, but doesn’t mention the LX3 is coming out next month. Has the SD870 as well.

The hard part is that are so many “announcements”:http://dcviews.com/cameras/camera_news.htm all the time. You really have to check the new camera section of DCViews daily. Also there is really no difference in image quality between 8-12MP (or really 5-12MP because it is all about the lense really), so here are the picks. The main issue is the lines of cameras are really confusing. Only way to figure it out is to do a sort on “Panasonic”:http://www2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/vModelList?storeId=15001&catalogId=13401&catGroupId=75047&langId=-1&surfCategory=null&cacheProgram=11002&cachePartner=7000000000000005702&isSeo=true&orderBy=price home site to see what is going on.

h3. Canon

Canon sells lots of these cameras and compared to say an older SD500, the main difference is image stabilization and face detection. The image quality is roughly the same, but pixel count is higher. It is kind of the default choice. I like the 3″ screens and don’t think you need an optical viewfinder in normal shots anymore.

Actually Canon has three distinct choices in a confusing model line. There is the SD1100 (the SD770 is the same but with 10MP, so I’d just get the 8MP one), which has a 2.5″ LCD and is the samllest at 125-130g and 3.4×2.2×0.9iun. The rest of the Canons are 3.6-3.8 inches, so a little bit larger and 30 grams (or one ounce heavier). These tradeoff the 2.5″ smaller screen for an optical viewfinder which better in the sun. The main drawback is that like all Canon’s it is really only an ISO 100 camera in low light and in bright light, it works to ISO 200.

So the top picks in the family are:

# “Canon Powershot SD790”:http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/canon/powershot_sd790-review/ (“Imaging Resource”:http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1220662551.html). It is 10MP, 3x zoom, image stabilized and has a 3″ LCD. The lense really hasn’t changed since the SD500 is is 35-105mm F2.8-4.9 3x zoom but there is no optical view finder and the dimensions are 3.5×2.2×0.8 and 155g without the battery and is 6.3 cu in. It is fine in bright light at ISO 100 (just like the SD500). In low light, it is basically usable only with small prints with noise at ISO 100 (makes sense, compared with the SD500, there are lots more pixels and the sensor is smaller). It odes have barrell distortion and vignetting as well as blurry corners. In bright light, it is good through ISO200. It doesn’t have HD movies like the DMC-FX35, but it doesn’t have noise either 🙂
# “Canon Powershot SD870 IS”::http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonsd870is/ the SD790 is confusingly the 10MP version while the SD870 is the 8MP, “Imaging Resource”:http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD870IS/SD870ISA.HTM, “Camera Labs”:http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Canon_PowerShot_SD870_Ixus_860IS/outdoor_results.shtml). This is the same as most of the other models but has a 3″ LCD and no optical view finder. Dimensionally it is 3.6×2.2×0.8″ and 155 grams. These cameras have really improved their screens, so no optical is probably not that bad and 3″ is really great. It does quite a bit of in camera sharpening. In the lab, it is about 1950 lph in resolution, but again, noise is the real issue with all these cameras. It is nice that it has a 28mm semi-wide angle lense. The nice thing is that the screen is actually really good. It does have 1.1% (which is alot) of barrell distortion in wide angle but it does start at 28mm rather than 35mm.
# “Canon Powershot SD1100”:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canonsd1100is/ (“DCResource”:http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/canon/powershot_sd1100-review/. The main problems are the image quality isn’t so great, there are moire and other sharpetning artifacts. Resolution is 1625lph. Like all cameras, there is highlight clipping that is about average and the image quality is OK. Keep it at ISO 100 or 200 at most.

h3. Panasonic

“Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35”:http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/06/27/Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-FX35/p1. (“Imaging Resource”:http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/FX35/FX35A.HTM “Camera Labs”:http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panasonic_Lumix_DMC-FX35_FX36/, “Digital Camera Review”:http://www.digitalcamerareview.com/default.asp?newsID=3389, “Steve’s Digcam”:http://www.steves-digicams.com/2008_reviews/panasonic_fx35.html is the top choice. As a another example of false innovation, the FX37 just shipped and is 5x zoom which is nice, but the lense quality is way lower, so this is a 4x which works better and is cheaper too! It has a 28mm equivalent lense which is great. Wide angle is way more important that zoom. It like all the cameras noted here have OIS. It also shoots 720p movies. High lense quality and ISO 200 is the maximum. Compared with the very good quality Fuji F30 which in terms of image quality alone even at 6MP is still the benchmark (like the F10 and F11 I have). Interesting to see how in a “side-by-side”:http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panasonic_Lumix_DMC-FX35_FX36/outdoor_results.shtml the two cameras had nearly identical resolution, so it ain’t about megapixels with these tiny lenses. It is about 2100 lph. It is really an ISO 100 camera with going to 200 ok. (Makes me just want to buy a used F30!). Its incamera sharpening is relatively soft (I personally like that). It is really great to get 25-100mm equivalent and the HD, but sadly the noise at ISO 100 makes it really impossible to buy.

Here is how the Panasonic model line works. The different models are confusing. LX seems to be for the top end and there is FS and LS at the low end, but in the middle the FX seems to be one under the LX line, FS means more stylish FX, FZ seem to be for EVF “bridge” cameras superzooms right below dSLRs and TZ seems to be travel size or very small.

# DMC-LX3. This is their top of the line $500 camera that has 10MP, but most importantly a F/2.0-F/2.8 lense. It is big though.
# DMC-FX150. 15MP so I’m betting at $400, it is 28mm and has a big zoom, so probably more of a megapixel war camera without really good quality
# “DMC-FX500”:http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panasonic_Lumix_DMC_FX500_FX520/ this is like the FX35 mechanically, but has a touch screen and has full manual controls which is pretty great. For all that it is fatter than the FX35
# “DMC-FZ28″:http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/08/22/Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-FZ28/p1. This is really an EVF camera this is large and heavy and a competitor to low-end dSLRs. At 10MP with an amazing 18x optical zoom it is pretty decent, although if you want something like this you should probably wait for the micro-4/3rd camera.
# DMC-FX37 and DMC-35. 5x and 4x zoom respectively but main feature is a true 25mm wide angle. The FX35 is actually better because zooming really hurts image quality on the FX37. Main drawback is the 2.5” LCD and like all cameras in this range, it has poor low light performance and noise, but no worse than usual given the huge sensor density. As an aside, the APAC models of these are the FX38 and FX36 respectively. Competitively, imae quality is close the SD870 but it has a bigger screen.
# “DMC-TZ5”:http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/08/27/Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-TZ5/p1 and “dpreview”:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonictz5/ is big and heavy at 240g, but it means it is durable. The TZ although bigger uses the same sensor as the FX35. It has a 10x zoom and a 3″ screen that has 460k dots vs the 230k in the FX35. DPReview does not that there is quite a bit of shadow noise as did Trusted Reviews for the FX-35. Most of the time, you want to underexpose shots as the TZ5 and the other cameras in this line hightlight clip quite a bit. About 1/3 to 2/3 an EV.

h3. Best image quality in retro Fuji

Ironically, the “Fuji F30″:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujifilmf30/ which is only 6MP is probably still the best quality camera around for the size. It has a 2.5″ screenwith 230 pixels vs the lower resolution 2.5″ of the F10 and F11. It is also huge at 3.6×2.2×1.1 and 195 grams, but the sensor is amazing 1/1.7” Super CCD HR. It is even cleaner than the F10 at ISO 400 which is pretty darn amazing. Note that the newer Fuji F50 as so forth don’t use this great sensor, so their quality is no better than average. It doesn’t have nifty features like image stabilization and is much fatter, but otherwise, its a great high quality camera. Hard to find anything better just from an image POV at the $250 street.

h3. Other brands

There are a host of other brands but most don’t have the image quality:

# “Casio Exilim EX-Z200”:http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/07/23/Casio-Exilim-EX-Z200/p1 which is their first image stabilized model. It shoots to ISO 200, but thre is a problem with blurring at frame corners at wide angle.
# “Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77”:http://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2008/09/15/Sony-Cyber-shot-DSC-T77/p3. Really ultracompact. It is too bad the picture quality is so poor. Main issues are the JPEG artifacts because they have the compression turned on way too high. It is a folded lense design so that makes it look cool visually even if image quality is just OK.

Less sophisticated but ultracompact

So it looks like the advanced compact cameras are really a turkey shoot between the Panasonic DMC-LX3 and the upcoming Canon G10. As an aside the 5MP camera we are replacing is a “Canon SD400”:http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/canon/powershot_sd400-review/ which is 5.7 cubic inches and 130 grams. So it would be nice to get something about the same size.

What about something without all the manual controls and fine lenses that is fine for daylight use but is incredibly small. What’s the smallest decent camera you can buy. “DCViews”:http://dcviews.com is useful for high-end cameras, but not for low end. I’ve found that “DCResource”:http://dcresource.com is one of the few sites that actually reviews these low-end cameras.

If you care about available light photography, then you have to go all the way back to the “Fuji F30”:http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/fuji/finepix_f30-review/ to get a decent camera. We have the F10 and F11 and they are remarkable. Nonetheless of the current crop, here’s a stack rank:

* “Canon PowerShot SD1100″:http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/canon/powershot_sd1100-review/index.shtml. It’s 8MP and 38-114MM F/2.-F/4.9 and with a view finder and 2.5″ screen at 3.4×2.2×0.9” and 125g. Canon has an incredible complicated line of PowerShots. But essentailly there is the very compact SD1100 ($237 street). Image quality is decent to ISO 200.
* “SD790″:http://dcresource.com/reviews/canon/powershot_sd790-review/index.shtml is a 10MP with the 3″ screen and no optical viewfinder. It is slightly wider 3.6″ and slighly thinner 0.8”. It also has a underwater case for $149. Image quality is decent upto ISO 200.
* “Panasonic DMC-FX35”:http://dcresource.com/reviews/panasonic/dmc_fx35-review/index.shtml. It has got a 24mm equivalent lense which is great. The main problem is that the image is quite noisy. Best to leave it at ISO 100 as you can see visible noise at 200.

Just going by size and weight, here are the leaders according to “DCResources”:http://deresource.com. Thos guys do the best compact camera reviews by the way. It is amazing how standard and incredibly high the features are. All of these have image stabilization and also are instant on and have 2.7″ screens without an optical viewfinder for instance. If you shoot for less than 7 cubic inches and 125 grams, you get. From the new section of dcviews, here are the latest and smallest cameras:

| Camera | Volume (cu. in.) | Mass (empty) | Comment |
| Canon SD1100 | 6.7 | 125g | viewfinder |
| Canon SD790 | 6.3 || 155g | 3″ ISO 200 |
| Casio EX-Z250″*”:http://dcviews.com/cameras/casio_news.htm | 6.6 | 119g | |
| Fuji Z20fd | 6.3 | 110g | |
| Nikon S520 | 7 | 115g ||
| Olympus FE-320 | 5.5 | 95g | Uses xD |
| Panasonic DMC-FX35 | 6.7 | 125g | 25mm, ISO 100 only |
| Pentax M50 | 7.3 | 116g |
| Samsung NV4 | 5.7 | 140g |
| Sony DSC-T700″*”:http://dcviews.com/cameras/sony_news.htm | 5.5 | 125g | 3.5″ memstick |

These models churn faster than milk into butter, so of course most of these have new models. I put an asterisk next to those. Some of these are easy to exclude. For instance the Olympus like uses xD cards which is why they are small, but these cards are really nonstandard.

Webcams

Dave was asking me about webcams. Since we use Macs mainly, I haven’t really studied the PC market (all Macs have iSight webcams which are decent, but most importantly built in).

“Cowboyfrank.net”:http://cowboyfrank.net has an amazing number of webcam reviews. He likes the “Creative Notebook Pro”:http://cowboyfrank.net/webcams/Creative/NotebookPro2007/Description.htm, but the top rated notebook one is the “Logitech Quick Cam Pro Notebook”:http://cowboyfrank.net/webcams/Logitech/QuickCamProNotebook2007/Description.htm. I have one of these and I must say its pretty good.

If you have a desktop, then he recommends the “Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000”:http://cowboyfrank.net/webcams/Logitech/QuickCamPro9000/Description.htm. I have an earlier model and must say it provides really great quality. Again the main thing is the image quality is really great.