Post by By Andy Ihnatko’

In a fairly loose definition of the term, the block of Vermont Sharp Cheddar in my fridge is a pocket camera. I’ve just given it a test and sure enough…it fits in my pocket.

(Actually, now that I’ve broken off a hunk to nibble on, it’s become even more compact and convenient.)

I have my reasons for inserting the cheese into this narrative. I was a bit peckish and the cheese was just sitting there. But primarily I want to make the point that the term “pocket camera” isn’t a reflection of a camer’a size. It reflects the camera’s design philosophy.

What do you expect from an SLR? Well, you want to be able to take the best photos possible. An SLR is big and clumsy and you can’t use it without attracting a lot of attention. Changing lenses is a pain, and puts the camera’s innards at risk. Sure, go ahead and take a walk through its menu structure if you must…but pack a couple of days’ worth of provisions and a space blanket in case you get hopelessly lost.

(“Six different color profiles,” was all the 34-year-old systems administrator could say after he was finally found and rescued by National Guard helicopters. “The thing kept asking me about my ‘perceptual intent’ over and over again, no matter how pitifully I begged it to just let me take another picture.”)

All true. And who cares? Convenience and ease-of-use are always desirable features but that’s not why you buy an SLR. You buy an SLR to have a fighting chance at walking away from that place and those circumstances with the best photo that could possibly have been taken.

The Panasonic LX3 carries that philosophy into a pocketable size. Bravo! But as I say…it isn’t a pocket camera. Continue reading

Go ahead. The next time you’re shopping for a new piece of gear and you can’t decide between three attractive choices, fire off emails to each manufacturer and see if they’re open to loaning you some samples to play with for a month or so.

Aha. See? So there are some advantages to being an internationally-beloved technology pundit.

And no, I wasn’t being mercenary. The field of “premium point-and-shoot” cameras has really found its spurs in recent years and it was nigh-time that I wrote a comparative review of the Nikon CoolPix P6000, the Panasonic Lumix LX3, and the Canon Powershot G10. The fact that I’d had a void in my coat pocket ever since my beloved Kodak V705 gave up the ghost had nothing to do with it.

(Seriously, dude…you’re just embarrassing yourself by even implying such a thing.)

The photo world has been going moderately ga-ga over the LX3. And who can blame them after shots like this one started to saturate Flickr?

Center stage at the Colonial Theater, Boston.

Center stage at the Colonial Theater, Boston.

The LX3 redefines your expectations of compact cameras. If I saw this photo in anybody else’s Flickr stream, I’d have immediately thought “SLR. Tripod. Decent lens. Remote shutter release.” But in truth, all I did was stop for about five seconds on my way across the stage, take the LX3 out of my pocket, snap a quick photo, and then hustle to catch up to the pal who was showing me around after a performance of “Spamalot.”

I carried the LX3 with me faithfully for about a month and and its shots never disappointed. The LX3 has one hell of a lens. Made by Leica, it’s both very fast and very wide for a pocket camera, opening all the way to f2.0 and as wide as 24mm. Maybe that bit of extra wide-angle doesn’t seem like much (the Nikon’s lens zooms back to 28mm) but when you’re shooting a scene like this one, it’s the difference between a photo that’s framed by the natural margins of the stage, and one that’s simply cut off at the edges. Continue reading