Holiday Gift Guide 2008: Best high-end compact cameras (Canon G10 vs. Panasonic Lumix LX3)

Summary:Holiday shoppers looking for a high-end compact camera this year are likely to be choosing between two hot cameras: the Canon PowerShot G10 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. Both cameras list for $499.95 and can be found selling for about $420 this holiday season.

2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide
Holiday shoppers looking for a high-end compact camera this year are likely to be choosing between two hot cameras: the Canon PowerShot G10 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. Both cameras list for $499.95 and can be found selling for about $420 this holiday season. While the competition between their predecessors wasn't much of a battle--with the Canon G9 handily outshining the LX2--it's a lot harder to choose between the G10 and the LX3 (though there are some significant differences). First, a quick chart to sort out the specs:

Canon PowerShot G10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Resolution 14.7 megapixels 10 megapixels
Sensor Size 1/1.7 inch 1/1.63 inch
Lens 28-140mm equivalent, f/2.8-4.5 24-60mm equivalent, f/2.0-2.8
ISO Range 80 to 1600 80 to 3200
Continuous Shooting 1.3 fps 2.5 fps
Movie Mode 640x480, 30 fps/ 320x240, 30 fps 640x480, 30 fps/848x480, 30 fps/ 1,280x720, 24 fps
LCD 3 inches; 461,000 dots 3 inches; 460,000 dots
Optical Viewfinder Yes Optional
RAW Support Yes Yes
Dimensions 4.30x3.06x1.81 inch 4.28x2.34x1.07 inch
Weight 12.3 oz 8.08 oz
With that out of the way, let's take a look at each camera individually. First up: Canon's PowerShot G10.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Canon PowerShot G10

The best high-end compact camera: Canon G10 vs. Panasonic Lumix LX3
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor the G9 (which has been the compact shooter of choice among many pro photographers, including my husband), the G10 has a lot to live up to.

The benefit of bumping resolution to 14.7 megapixels (up from 12) is arguable , but probably the most significant spec change is the switch from a 6x zoom lens (35- to 210mm equivalent, f/2.8-4.8) to a wider but shorter 5x zoom lens (28- to 140mm equivalent, f/2.8-4.5). Canon also updated the processor to its new Digic 4 and switched to a higher-resolution (but still 3-inch) LCD.

Most reviewers have found that while image quality is hard to beat at base ISO settings (some even argue it's indistinguishable from the image quality of a $40,000 Hasselblad), at higher ISO it doesn't match the lower-resolution LX3 (which doesn't have to cram as many pixels on a roughly same-size sensor). Still, most agree that it's an extremely well-built and usable camera, with excellent ergonomics, intuitive controls, and a top-notch feature set.

[read the review] [compare to similar models] [check prices]

Related: Canon PowerShot G9 [review] [compare] [prices]

More reading: Check out in-depth, hands-on reviews at: dpreview.com, DigitalCameraReview.com, CameraLabs.com, and CNET.com.

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2008 ZDNet Holiday Gift Guide

Panasonic DMC-LX3

The best high-end compact camera: Canon G10 vs. Panasonic Lumix LX3
Though Panasonic's LX2 was never much competition for the Canon G9, the LX3 is giving the G10 a run for the money. The LX3 smartly maintains its predecessor’s 10.1 megapixel resolution, but uses a new-and-improved “ultra-sensitive” sensor that bumps maximum ISO sensitivity up to ISO 3,200 (vs. the LX2’s ISO 1,600 max).

The wisdom of this choice plays out in the hands-on reviews which universally agree that the LX3's high-ISO image quality beats the G10's hands down. The other big change is the wider but shorter 24-60mm, f/2.0-2.8 lens (vs. the LX2’s 28-112mm lens).

The G10 is more versatile at 28- to 140mm equivalent, but some may prefer the ultra-wide lens, which is a rarity in compact cameras of this caliber.  The LX3 sports a slightly larger, higher-resolution 3-inch LCD than its predecessor, and adds an optional optical viewfinder which will be a welcome addition to those who didn’t like the LCD-only viewfinder of the LX2 (of course, you don't have to pay more for this in the G10).

What I personally like most about the LX3  is its sleek retro design. The LX3's use of a separate lens cap mystifies me, though--you'll either lose the cap or you'll have to attach it with the included string, leaving it dangling obtrusively and ruining the sleek effect. Still, it's slimmer and lighter than the G10, and a more attractive camera overall.

To see the LX3 in all its glory, check out this clever "video" review created by PopSci creative director, Sam Syed.  (Full disclosure: my husband helped shoot the still images that Syed used to build the slick animation sequence.)

[read the review] [compare to similar models] [check prices]

More reading: For in-depth, hands-on reviews, check out: dpreview.com, DigitalCameraReview.com, and CameraLabs.com.

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Topics: Hardware, Enterprise Software

About

Janice Chen is an editorial consultant and has been covering technology for over two decades. Serving as editor in chief at CNET and Computer Shopper magazine for many years, she oversaw product coverage for the CNET and ZDNet websites. She has appeared on most of the major morning TV news programs and was featured weekly on CNN Headline... Full Bio

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