Samsung Samsung EX1 / TL500 vs Panasonic LX3 Shootout - Detail Captured at 24mm Equivalent


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Having looked at how the Samsung EX1 and Panasonic LX3 each handle blurry (link to bokeh shootout), our attention turns now to how they handle sharp. It's a shootout between a Leica DC Vario Summicron and a Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan. How do these two lenses live up to their very serious names?

For this comparison, both cameras were at 24mm equivalent, their widest focal length setting. Technical details:

  • Sturdy tripod, self timer, image stabilization off
  • ISO 80, aperture priority mode, auto white balance
  • RAW files processed in Silkypix (the only RAW processing app which supports both cameras) with identical processing applied
  • Crops shown are representative of performance from more than one capture per setting
Nearly all cameras I test show a small amount of decentering. These two were no exception. Therefore, to give a better sense of overall performance, I'll show the center and all four corners at each aperture tested.

Differences in apparent brightness may in some crops may be due to different metering choices made by the cameras, different max shutter speed (1/2000s for LX3, 1/1500s for EX1) or differences in lens light falloff.

In each set of crops, I chose the EX1 aperture which most closely matches the LX3 aperture, beginning with f/2 on the LX3 and f/2.1 on the EX3, center crop:


Here in the center, both cameras do quite extremely well, even at f/2. Looking at the bush and curtain, the EX1 manages just a touch more detail.


In the upper left corner, the EX1 is clearly sharper. Meanwhile, some color fringing is evident in the EX1 crop and to a lesser extent the LX3 crop.


In the upper right corner, the EX1 continues to look very strong. These are the extreme corners, and it's impressive for any lens to deliver this kind of performance into the extreme corners at f/2.1. Once again, both crops show some color fringing, more so the EX1 than the LX3.


Here in the lower right corner, both crops look soft, and the EX1 crop gives me a headache. That the upper left corner looks so good and the lower right so bad (and worse than the lower left, as we'll see next), is clear evidence of some lens decentering. An EX1 with a perfectly centered lens would look a bit better than this here (but perhaps a bit worse in other corners). Decentering is more common than not with compact cameras, regardless of price range. Anyhow, a win for the LX3 in this corner.


Here in the lower left corner, the LX3 looks a bit stronger than the EX1. Both cameras look better on the lower left than the lower right.


Little has changed in the center at f/2.8.


In the upper left corner at f/2.8, the Summicron has caught up to the impressive Schneider Varioplan and even surpassed it by a bit. The Leica shows slightly better definition, and significantly less color fringing.


Not so for the upper right, where the Schneider remains much stronger. Here again, decentering plays a role, this time for the Panasonic lens.


At f/2.8, the EX1 lens has surpassed the LX3 in the weakest of the four EX1 corners.


Both cameras looking good on the lower left at f/2.8, with the EX1 a bit stronger.

Now for the f/4 and f/5.6 crops without commentary:











Conclusion: Both lenses are excellent, but I have to give the nod to the EX1 in this shootout. Other than a bit more color fringing, a weak lower right corner at f/2, and a slight concession to the Leica in the upper left corner, the Schneider lens delivers more in the solid majority of these comparisons.

Thanks again to B&H for loaning both of these cameras for testing. If you're interested in either of these cameras, you can support this blog (and our ability to get gear to test) by buying using these links:

Additional comments:

1) In some cases, it looks like more sharpening was applied to the EX1 crop. As I stated above, all files were processed in Silkypix with the same sharpening applied. It is possible that the Samsung version of Silkypix is doing something different, but this very slight overall softness is something I have seen before with the LX3 files processed using a converter which corrects the marked barrel distortion of that camera, and the noise levels between crops are similar. I have tried adding extra sharpening to the LX3 crops (data not shown), and that did not change any of the conclusions.

2) Regarding the decentering issues, some may say that I have defective copies of both cameras, and that this invalidates the test results. Having tested many advanced compacts, I know that this degree of lens decentering is par for the course. For example, both of the S90 units I tested (each bought separately from Best Buy) were affected by decentering. The same was true for my GX100, G7, G9, D-LUX 3, D-LUX 4, and so forth. It's easy to say that a $400+ camera should have a perfectly centered lens, but very few of them do.

3) Before anyone gets on me for referring to these lenses as Leica and Schneider lenses, I know that these lenses are designed and produced by Panasonic and Samsung. However, by approving these lens designs and allowing them to be branded as such, Leica and Schneider have staked their reputation and decided that these are their lenses.
Thank you!

Very nice write up on these excellent serious compacts. I just acquired an LX-3 and I am really enjoying it. It is always with me and I am looking forward to using it over the last few months of summer here.

Very informative. Thanks. Can you please comment on dynamic range between the two (or other serious compacts)?
Very informative. Thanks. Can you please comment on dynamic range between the two (or other serious compacts)?

Thanks, Constantinos. Through use and testing, I found no significant differences in dynamic range between these two compacts or between these and other small sensor compacts (LX5, Canon S95, etc). Amongst other advanced compacts, the APS-C sensor compacts (Sigma DP1/2, Leica X1, and now Fuji X100) are way ahead in DR.