I have had an early Christmas present: a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 – a premium compact camera. It has been hard to find a compact camera to replace an elderly knackered model that is good enough to carry anytime when it is not convenient to have my Nikon D300 DSLR with me (which generally means when working, out shopping, walking the dogs, etc).
The trouble with being a keen photographer today is that, unlike in the old days of film (where small and cheap could still produce very very good results), there are hundreds of different models of compact camera covering every price point and it is hard to work through the noise to find what is actually good from a photographers point of view. Most compacts are designed to be quick and easy to use and, except for the cheapest of models, stylish.
Most compacts are designed to work in typical social situations with minimal user intervention. In short, most stuff is automated with the user (note I am saying user deliberately rather than photographer) having to do little more than choose a scene mode and perhaps pop-up a flash. Many even pop up the flash automatically and figure out what kind of scene is in view (picking out faces at a party for example).
A photographer may well want to just point-and-shoot at times (hopefully with a little more awareness of composition than the average punter). The rest of the time though, the photographer wants control: exposure settings, focus, lighting. Some compacts let you vary exposure a little using compensation features, but lack a true manual mode.
The LX3 has full manual control, manual focusing if required, and a hot-shoe for a more powerful flash if the built in model is not good enough. It also offers a RAW model (i.e. you can save original sensor data rather than having the camera generate JPEG files based on a wide range of settings).
I managed to charge the battery a little for a quick play, but have now got to wait until the battery if fully charged to get to know the device properly. In the meantime, I can read the manual (which I am downloading in the background) – there is (unusually) a full and detailed printer manual supplier with camera BUT the text is a little small for me hence downloading a copy of the manual which I can read backlit on the screen at any magnification I want to use.