The LX3 is no ultra-compact, but considering its specification it’s surprisingly small. It measures 109 x 62 x 45mm with the lens retracted, or 70mm with the lens extended, and weighs 264g including battery and card. The body is comfortable to hold thanks to a nice finger grip on the front (not present on the Leica version) and a small textured thumb grip on the back. It will fit easily into a jacket pocket, but like most serious cameras it comes with a good quality neck strap, and there is an optional and rather retro-looking leather case.
Handling the LX3, it’s impossible not to be impressed by its clever design, solid build quality, slick performance and general feeling of competence. It really is an extremely enjoyable camera to use, and while it is complex it isn’t particularly complicated. Some people may have a problem with the small joystick-like control that operates the Quick Menu, however once you get used to it, it is very quick and easy to use.
The main menu is also comprehensive. The main picture control setting is the Film mode, which offers a number of presets, including three monochrome settings, all of which can be customised for contrast, sharpness, saturation and even noise reduction. Naturally the LX3 has multi-zone, centre-weighted and spot metering, and also has a wide range of AF modes, including a manual spot AF. Like most top-end cameras, particular setups can be saved and assigned to two custom settings on the main mode dial. Although it’s a comparison that I would normally dismiss, I have to say that the level of user control offered by the LX3 is not far short of that of a good digital SLR. I particularly like the three position aspect-ratio switch on the top of the lens barrel. I found myself switching aspect ratios to suit the subject far more often that I normally would, with good results.
While the limited 24-60mm zoom range might sound like a restriction, in fact it’s just right for general purpose scenic photography, and anyway the superior speed of the F2.0 – F2.8 maximum aperture more than makes up for it. That’s around two stops faster than many compact camera zoom lenses, and combined with the excellent optical image stabilisation system it means fewer blurred shots. For those times when 24mm just isn’t wide enough, a 0.75x wide conversion lens is available.
Other features include Raw mode, as well as two Raw + JPEG settings. However it’s worth noting that even the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw does not yet recognise the LX3’s Raw files, so you’ll have to convert them using the supplied software.
The LX3 also has a very good video mode, offering 1280 x 720 HD at 24fps, or WVGA (848 x 480) and VGA at 30fps, although clips are limited to 15 minutes.