What key limitations does it have? Are those a problem in practice?
Jonathan Valin: The Canon G10’s superior resolution (from all those pixels on a tiny sensor) comes at a price: noise, particularly at higher ISOs (although you can see noise even at ISO 80). Although the G10 is capable of very good images, as in the shot below taken in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul at ISO 800, those images have to be carefully doctored in post via Lightroom or Photoshop. (You’re going to want to add a little sharpness to all G10 images.) They may also need to be Noiseware’d (at a small cost in detail). Though a genuinely superb performer in bright to overcast light, the G10 isn’t the same package in very low light (images are virtually unusable at ISO 1600 or higher).
Whether this is a problem kind of depends on whether you go spelunking for images on a regular basis. If you shoot regularly at night or in very dim places, there are better options. If you shoot at IS0 400 or lower (and because of the lens’ speed, the image stabilization, the rangefinder and grip, and the camera’s auto-programming of wider/faster apertures you can do this without the aid of a tripod more often than you might think), you’ll not find the G10’s limitations very limiting. If you shoot at ISO 600-800, you will find your images are compromised by noise, and higher than that…forget it.
Steven Stone: In order to make a lens that was compact, fast, and extraordinarily fine in terms of contrast, sharpness, and color aberrations, the Panasonic/Leitz lens designers had to compromise. Instead of making the LX3 lens focal length extend well out into the medium telephoto range of 100 to 110mm it only goes to 60mm. For some prospective owners this may seem to be a fatal flaw, but in reality it isn’t an issue.
I believe in “zooming with my feet.” (see the buck photo on the left as an example). When I need a tighter crop I move closer to my subject. It could be argued that 110mm gives different perspective and offers the photographer a chance to better isolate their primary subject from the background, but in reality point-and shoot cameras all have such extensive depth of field, even at their widest apertures, that 110mm doesn’t really deliver better Bokeh (out-of-focus rendering) than 60mm. But if your idea of a portrait is a tight head and shoulder shot that totally fills the frame, the 60mm angle of field will not accomplish this (unless your subject has a really big head). Cropping is an option, and given the LX3’s low noise, especially at 200 to 400 ASA, this works fine for me.
Some old-school shooters may find the LX3’s lack of a built-in optical finder an issue. Panasonic does make an accessory finder that mounts on top of the hot-shoe for those who want to use the LX3 as an eye-level camera. This accessory finder, while not inexpensive, is quite a bit better than the built-in finder in the G10 since eyeglass wearers can easily see the entire frame without having to shift their eye position.
What is special that endears this camera to you?
Jonathan Valin: After decades of carting around bags full of lenses and camera bodies and meters and gray cards, I find it simply amazing that a pocketable 13 oz. camera (complete with lens, meter, rangefinder, and battery) can produce images that are this high in quality. To be honest, the G10 has made me put my full-frame SLR away (and it has had this same effect on many professionals). You simply don’t need anything more than this in many situations.
Steven Stone: The LX3 feels like and behaves like a digital Leica camera, which should come as no surprise since Leica re-badges the Panasonic LX3 as a Leica D-Lux 4. The LX3 fits my hand well and all the controls fall where I can access them quickly and easily. Experienced 35mm rangefinder users will discover a sense of déjà-vu when handling an LX-3. It feels like a digital photographic tool, not an electronic brick that takes pictures.
Best of all the LX3 never gets in the way of making pictures. I usually shoot RAW format so I can fine-tune images later in Adobe Lightroom. My 19 x 13 prints from the LX3 display none of the digital artifacts I’ve seen from most other point-and shoot cameras. But even when I shoot JPEGs I’ve been delighted by the quality of the images and the level of creative control available through the LX3.
What would you change, if you could influence the next generation of this camera?
Jonathan Valin: The most obvious change to the Canon G10 would be to lower noise at higher ISOs (in fact, at all ISOs). Although a certain amount of added noise comes with the territory of cramming 15Mp onto a tiny sensor, there are other point-and-shooters that do somewhat better at higher ISOs (the LX3, for instance). Given the way technology is advancing, it wouldn’t surprise me if the G11 does just this: lowers noise and improves very-low-light performance.