Leica C-Lux 3

      Photo Review 7

      In summary

      A stylish and pocketable digicam for point-and-press snapshooters. The C-Lux 3 is the latest Leica-branded camera to emerge from the on-going partnership between Leica and Panasonic. Essentially a re-badged Panasonic FX37, it has the same image sensor and 5x optical zoom lens, the same monitor and identical controls. In the past, the main difference between the Leica- and Panasonic-badged models was the superior software package supplied with the former. But no software was included with the review model. . . [more]

      Full review


      The C-Lux 3 is the latest Leica-branded camera to emerge from the on-going partnership between Leica and Panasonic. Essentially a re-badged Panasonic FX37, it has the same image sensor and 5x optical zoom lens, the same monitor and identical controls. In the past, the main difference between the Leica- and Panasonic-badged models was the superior software package supplied with the former. But no software was included with the review model.
      Since Photo Review hasn’t yet been offered the FX37 to test, we’ll provide a complete review of the Leica model. Designed for point-and-press photographers, the C-Lux 3’s slimline body is available in black and white. Small enough to slip into a shirt pocket and weighing less than 150 grams with battery and memory card, C-Lux 3 is metal-clad (over a plastic chassis) and nicely finished with the distinctive red Leica dot prominent on the front panel.


      Front view of the C-Lux 3 showing the retracting lens, slim flash tube and Leica logo.

      The lens retracts into the camera body and extends approximately 2 cm when the camera is powered up. Maximum aperture settings range from f/2.8 to f/5.9 as you zoom from the wide angle to telephoto position, with a minimum aperture of f/8.0 at all focal length settings.
      Just above and to one side is a slim electronic flash. No viewfinder is provided. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery and memory card share a compartment in the base of the camera, pushing the tripod socket (which is metal-lined) almost to the opposite edge of the base plate.


      Rear view showing the LCD monitor and main control panel.

      The LCD monitor covers two thirds of the rear panel and sits slightly proud of the body. Its 230,000-pixel resolution is typical of many digicams but the screen provides a sharp, clear view for both menu adjustment and image playback. Panasonic’s excellent menu design makes settings easy to read and implement.
      Beside the LCD is the main control panel, which consists of a semi-concealed mode dial at the top plus a slider that selects between shooting and playback below it. Further down is the arrow pad and below it buttons for the Display and Quick Menu settings. The top panel has only the on/off switch and shutter button, which is surrounded by the zoom lever.


      Top panel with the microphoen grille, on/off switch, shutter button and zoom lever and semi-concealed mode dial.

      The C-Lux 3’s mode dial carries only two shooting modes: still and movie. If you press the Menu/Set button in the centre of the arrow pad, you can access a Program AE (P) mode that allows you to use a wider range of settings than most point-and-shooters will require. However, the camera always defaults back to full-auto mode, which can be frustrating when you wish to adjust settings.
      The same page in the main menu also allows you to access the Scene pre-sets – of which there are 25. As well as the standard portrait, landscape, sport, party, beach and snow modes, the C-Lux 3 provides some of the interesting modes offered in recent Panasonic digicams, such as starry sky, aerial photo, high-speed series, transform, flash series, film grain and pinhole camera.


      Scene mode settings.

      The Transform setting allows you to stretch the subject vertically or horizontally and the camera provides five options: Slim High, Slim Low, No Effect, Stretch Low and Stretch High. In this mode, Soft Skin processing is activated and image quality defaults to Standard.


      The two Baby modesl allow users to input the name and age of a child…


      … and also the birth date. This is updated automatically during the life of the camera.

      The main menu in P mode sits below the Scene menu on the on-screen display. Below it is the set-up menu. In this sub-menu you will find settings for the internal clock, world time, travel date, time and location settings, beep and shutter sound levels, LCD mode, framing guides, histogram, power management, auto file numbering, formatting and other standard controls.


      The main menu in P mode.

      When you’re in P shooting mode, pressing the Q. Menu button below the arrow pad calls up on-screen adjustments for the image stabiliser, continuous shooting modes, AF modes, white balance and ISO settings. The ‘Intelligent’ exposure control and LCD mode settings are also adjustable through this button, along with the image size settings.


      The Q. Menu in P mode.

      Aside from these settings there’s not much you can change. The arrow pad provides quick access to the flash, exposure compensation, macro and self-timer settings in all shooting modes. Pressing the Display button toggles through three settings: image without data, image with data and rule-of-thirds grid overlay.
      The 11-point AF system on the C-Lux 3 supports six focusing modes: face detection, AF tracking, 11-area, 1-area High-Speed, 1-area and Spot. They’re only accessible in the P shooting mode. The 1-area High-Speed setting provides quick focusing in the centre of the frame and is useful for snapshots of moving subjects.
      The difference between the 1-area and Spot modes lies in the size of the AF sensor (the Spot mode sensor is roughly 1/6 the size of the 1-area mode sensor). AF tracking, which can be used in the A (full auto) shooting mode, allows the focusing system to track moving subjects. However, none of these modes allows users to position the AF sensor in any part of the frame – aside from dead centre.
      Only one metering option is provided: variable multi-field metering. Sensitivity settings are limited to ISO 100 to ISO 1600 in one-stop increments. There’s also an ‘Intelligent ISO’ setting that lets you restrict the highest sensitivity to a maximum of 400, 800 or 1600. Sensitivity extends up to ISO 6400 in the High-sensitivity Scene mode – but this setting is only used where shooting conditions require it. You can’t adjust the sensitivity setting manually in this (or any other) Scene mode.
      Exposures longer than one second can only be set in the Starry Sky Scene mode, which offers three shutter speed settings: 15 seconds, 30 seconds and 60 seconds. Sensitivity is locked at ISO 100 in this mode and dark-frame subtraction is applied to minimise image noise. In P mode, you can select minimum shutter speeds across a range from 1/250 second to 1 second in increments of one f-stop.
      White balance is manually adjustable in the following shooting modes: P, Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Sports, Baby, Pet, High Sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst and Pinhole. Settings include a measurement mode plus auto and four pre-sets (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade and Halogen). When one of the white balance pre-sets or manual mode is in use, you can adjust white balance settings along a Red/Blue axis by toggling the top button on the arrow pad until the WB Adjust menu appears.
      The built-in flash covers a distance range of 60 cm to 6 metres when the lens is at its widest focal length and 1-2.8 metres in the tele position. Five flash modes are provided: Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction and Forced Off .

      Image Capture
      The C-Lux 3 only supports JPEG capture for still images and QuickTime Motion JPEG for movie clips. Like most Panasonic digicams, it offers three aspect ratio settings: 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. Aspect ratios can only be changed in the Camera menu. Two JPEG compression settings are supported: Fine and Normal. Compression levels are relatively high.


      Image size settings.


      Aspect ratio settings.

      The camera comes with 50MB of internal memory, which is enough for nine high-resolution still shots or one minute and 38 seconds of video shot with QVGA resolution and 30 frames/second. The memory expansion slot is compatible with SD. SDHC and MMC memory cards. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio






      3648 x 2736




      3072 x 2304




      2560 x 1920




      2048 x 1536




      1600 x 1200




      640 x 480





      3648 x 2432




      3072 x 2048




      2560 x 1712




      2048 x 1360





      3648 x 2056




      3072 x 1728




      2560 x 1440




      1920 x 1080



      Although the C-Lux 3 can use MultiMedia cards, video clips can only be recorded on SD and SDHC cards, with a continuous recording limit of 2GB. Two aspect ratios are supported: 4:3 and 16:9, the latter being for display on widescreen TV sets and computer monitors. Only Component output is supported. For all but the QVGA settings, movies can only be recorded on memory cards.
      Focus, zoom and aperture settings are fixed at the start of a movie clip and all clips are recorded with audio. Typical capacities for a 1GB memory card are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode


      Frame rate

      Recording time/1GB card





      10 minutes 50 seconds



      31 minutes 20 seconds


      10 fps

      1 hour 24 minutes





      4 minutes



      9 minutes 20 seconds

      Image playback is engaged by sliding the Camera/Play selector switch down. The default setting displays single shots, starting with the last picture taken but users can select index views of 12 or 30 thumbnails or swap to a calendar display by toggling the zoom lever. Up to 16x magnification is available in zoom playback mode, achievable by stepping through 2x, 4x and 8x magnification with successive turns of the zoom lever.
      When playing back movie clips the following controls are available: pause, stop and fast forward/rewind. The latter can work on a frame-by-frame basis. You can extract single frames from movies by viewing a sequence of
      nine frames. These frame grabs are saved automatically as separate files.
      Still images can be allocated to Categories for playback as slideshows and on-screen duration and background music are selectable. You can also allocate images to a Favourites category.
      Other playback facilities include image rotation, resizing (to reduce the number of pixels), trimming, protection, aspect conversion and DPOF print tagging. You can also add text stamps with the date/time of the shot, age of the subject or a title stamp. Image levelling allows small tilting adjustments to be made to straighten skewed horizons. PictBridge compatibility is provided for direct printing.

      One outstanding feature of the test camera was the quality of the LCD screen, which provides a sharp and more colour-accurate view of subjects in both shooting and playback modes than many other cameras’ displays with the same resolution. It was also slightly easier to use in most shooting conditions – although bright sunlight presented the usual difficulties with screen visibility.
      Test shots taken at night were mostly sharp and colourful with adequate detail. Traditionally difficult-to-reproduce colours like purple and teal blue were close to natural looking in test shots. However, shots taken in bright conditions tended to have blown-out highlights and shadow details were often lost. An example is shown below.


      Vegetables: ISO 100, 5.3mm focal length, 1/800 second at f/5.

      Backlighting often produced shots with some minor veiling flare and, although shadow detail was usually captured, highlights were invariably lost. Examples taken with the wide and tele lens settings are reproduced below.


      Backlighting: ISO 160, 4.4mm focal length. 1/800 second at f/4.


      Backlighting: ISO 125, 22mm focal length, 1/125 at f/5.9.

      Photo Review’s Imatest testing showed the sample camera to be capable of quite good colour reproduction, although saturation was slightly elevated and skin tones showed significant colour shifts. Shifts were also detected in several other hues, notably blues, reds and orange – although little evidence was seen in test shots.
      Imatest showed resolution to be below expectations but the difference between centre and edge resolution wasn’t as great as we’ve seen with some small sensor digicams. Resolution declined steadily as sensitivity was increased, although the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 1600 was less that we have found with many similar digicams. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Night snapshots taken at ISO 1600 were usable and printable at snapshot size, although noise was visible when they were viewed on a computer screen. Long exposures taken with the Starry Sky scene mode were clean but colours weren’t quite true-to-life. Shots taken with the High Sensitivity mode were slightly soft, flat and noise-affected.
      Digital zoom shots were soft and interpolation artefacts were evident. Lateral chromatic aberration was generally low, although slight coloured fringing – and some blurring of edges – were observed when shots taken in bright sunlight were enlarged to 100%. An example is reproduced below.


      The auto white balance setting failed to remove the colour casts of either incandescent or fluorescent lighting. The manual pre-sets fared little better, with the incandescent setting introducing a distinct purple cast. Using the White Set mode produced closer-to neutral colours – although slight residual colour casts remained with both types of lighting.
      The test camera powered up within just over a second and we measured an average capture lag of 0.85 seconds. With pre-focusing, this lag was reduced to 0.1 seconds. It took 2.9 seconds to process each high-resolution JPEG image. The standard continuous shooting mode records only three high-resolution JPEG images in each burst with intervals between shots of 0.4 seconds. It took just over three seconds to process this burst.
      Swapping to the ‘infinite’ continuous shooting mode slowed the capture rate to just over three frames/second for the first four frames, with further slowing to one frame/second and then 1.1 frames/second by the tenth frame. Processing is carried out on-the-fly with this setting, resulting in a delay of approximately one second after the last frame was recorded.





      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Close-up: ISO 100, focal length 4.4mm, 1/160 second at f/2.8.


      Digital zoom.


      Night snapshot: ISO 1600, 1/15 second at f/5.7, 19.2mm focal length.


      Starry Sky mode: ISO 100, 15 seconds at f/4.3, 12.3mm focal length.


      Flash: ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.7, 19.2mm focal length.


      Flash: ISO 1600, 1/60 second at f/5.7, 19.2mm focal length.


      High Sensitivity mode: ISO 3200, 1/60 secodn at f/5.7, 19.2mm focal length.


      Japanese iris: ISO 100, focal length 4.4mm, 1/125 second at f/2.8.


      Flowers: ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/5.9, 22mm focal length.




      Image sensor: 6.13 x 4.6 mm CCD with 10.7 million photosites (10.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.4-22 mm f/2.8-5.9 ASPH. (25-125mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 5x optical,
      Image formats: Stills: JPEG (Exif 2.21); Movies:
      Image Sizes: Stills: 4:3 format – 3648 x 2736, 3072 x 2304, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480; 3:2 format – 3648 x 2432, 3072 x 2048, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360; 16:9 format – 3648 x 2056, 3072 x 1728, 1920 x 1080; Movies: HD – 1280 x 720 (30 fps), 848 x 480 (30 fps); SD – 640 x 480 (30 fps), 320 x 240 (30 fps, 10 fps).
      Shutter speed range: 8 to 1/2000 second
      Image Stabilisation: Optical
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
      Focus system/range: AF: Face recognition, AF tracking, 11-field, 1-field-high-speed, 1-field, 1-spot
      Exposure metering/control: Variable multi-field metering
      Shooting modes: Auto (Photo/Video) plus 25 Scene pre-sets (Snapshot, portrait, soft skin, self-portrait, landscape, sport, night portrait, night landscape, food, party, candlelight, baby1, baby 2, sunset, high-sensitivity, starry sky, fireworks, beach, snow, aerial photo, high-speed series, transform, flash series, film grain, pinhole camera
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
      White balance: Auto, sun, overcast sky, shade, halogen lighting, White Set
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto/Auto+Anti-red-eye, Slow Synchro+Anti-red-eye/ Flash on, Flash off, 1st /2nd shutter curtain;
      Sequence shooting: 2.5 fps. Max. 3 images (standard), 5 images (fine).
      Storage Media: 50MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC/MMC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: n.a.
      LCD monitor: 2.5-inch TFT LCD with 230,000 pixels plus wide viewing angle
      Power supply: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 280 shots/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 95.8 x 51.9 x 22mm
      Weight: 126 grams (without battery and card)






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