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|
|Dimensions||4.30x3.06x1.81 inch||4.28x2.34x1.07 inch|
|Weight||12.3 oz||8.08 oz|
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.
Panasonic DMC-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.)