The new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, successor to the now two-year-old LX2, sports a Leica-branded 5.1–12.8mm (24–60mm-e) ƒ/2–2.8 lens, which as far as we know is the fastest, widest lens yet on a small-sensor camera. The sensor is more or less the same size as the largish (for a compact) 10-MP sensor on the LX2, although Panasonic says it's all new and developed just for the LX3. Better low-light capability and an improved processor are of course claimed, and the new camera has some lovely accessories, including a clip-on optical finder and a cool old-style two-piece case. (The accessories aren't showing up on Panasonic's own website yet, but you can see them elsewhere on the web.)
The big news is so far that Panasonic has declined to increase the pixel count, which in its press release it calls a "bold" move. Maybe from the point of view of marketing it's bold to pull up in the megapixel race, but to us it just makes good sense.
The $500 camera is also available in silver and will ship in August.
Read the press release.
Mike (Thanks to Stephen Gillette)
UPDATE: Mark Goldstein has published some LX3 sample pictures over at PhotographyBlog.com. (Unfortunately none were taken in low light conditions.)
Featured Comment by Erlik: "'...the fastest, widest lens yet on a small-sensor camera.' Pedant alert. :-) Widest, no. Fastest, no. Widest (AFAIK) was the Kodak V705 with 23mm. You know, the weird one, with a 23mm prime and a 39–117mm zoom. Fastest, I'd say it was Olympus C-5050, with its ƒ/1.8–2.6 lens. An excellent lens, by the way. But all together, this Panasonic looks like quite an interesting compact camera.
Featured Comment by Gordon Lewis: "I think I'd rather wait for the more expensive Leica version. The specs and the lens—designed by Leica, by the way—may be exactly the same, but it's still not a 'real' Leica unless it says so on the body. (He laughs mischievously, then clicks the Post button.)"
Featured Comment by Switters: "I'm actually pretty excited about the LX3. The specs are great, yes, but the thing has style! I'm remembering Mike's recent post exhorting people to 'find the equipment they love' regardless of whether it makes perfect sense on paper. For me the aesthetics and the 'feel' of a camera is important to me. This one looks like a winner from that perspective."
Featured Comment by Jeff M: "I've been fooled twice before by these little beauties, but they ain't gonna get me a third time. Both the 1 and the 2 were gorgeous in the all black version, and the specs were fabulous (at the time, of course). They have real Leica lenses and very enticing native panorama modes. Yes, well...they are also both so noisy, even at 200 ISO (some would say 100 ISO), that I stopped using them after noticing I had stopped printing images from them. I can forgive myself for ignoring the reviews the first time, but I have no excuse for #2, so you guys go for #3 and I'm gonna sit back this time, no matter how pretty it is."