My girlfriend and me decided to buy the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10 camera about four years ago because it was using some kind of fake SLR view finder. This so called "Switch Finder" allows to project the image on the LCD to the view finder which comes in handy if you're used to shoot photos like that or if the daylight makes the LCD unreadable. The rest of this camera's features were all good but none of them were that important either: 8x optical zoom, fast start up, use of normal AA batteries (we used to have bad experiences with proprietary ones) - all at the cost of quite a bulky device with rather low 3.2Mp. Most of the photos I've taken during the last years, including those found on my picasa gallery, were all shot with this camera.
Actually buying a new camera after all these years was something I really didn't expect because the Z10 worked (and still works) without any issues.
I've looked at plenty of new cameras and could narrow the results down quite well by discarding cameras with CCD chips which contain insane amounts of pixels on a small chip area. Thus I was looking at cameras with a chip size of 1/2.0" or bigger to have decent sensitivity and color saturation. Now I started discarding results of cameras which had still a too high density of pixels on their CCD chips which might result in image quality degrade as described on http://6mpixel.org, like the Ixus 980 IS of Canon with a 14.7Mp sensor on a size of just 1/1.7".
At this point I was left with the Sony Cybershot DSC-W300, the Pentax Optio S12, the Ricoh GX200 and, of course, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. I discarded the first two quite quickly because of their cheap plastic body and overall medium features.
Next was the optical system. Without doubt there are plenty of opinions out there about lenses and their qualities and I won't go into detail. The Leica F2.0 24mm DC Vario-Summicron lens however was what made me choose the Panasonic over the Sony device. In combination with the high sensitivity CCD chip it allows the user to shoot pictures in dark surrounding with much higher shutter speeds than any camera in that category resulting in sharper pictures with minimal noise. Additionally, its SLR-like wide angle and very constant sharpness allows for compositions not yet seen from compact cameras.
The only catch for me was the lack of a view finder as I was used to from the Z10 but this got resolved when I could try the LX3 in a local shop to see that LCDs evolved greatly during the last four years, especially in regards of brightness. Also, view finders usually bloat the cameras which, at least for me, is a high price to pay - especially if I can get used to live without them. Another slight disadvantage is the reletively small 2.5x optical zoom. This however is understandable considering the wide angle lense and the total size of the camera and zooming in more than 4x with my old camera resulted in blury pictures anyway, at least most of the times.
The LX3 comes up with some supposedly new and fancy user interface, but to be honest I can't comment much on that because nowadays every new camera naturally features far more functions than the Z10. Overall, the LX3 offers technology which is only found in SLR cameras so far - which is probably why it is targeted at the SLR photographer who needs a compact camera but doesn't want to miss out all the manual adjustment posibilities or the high image quality. On top of all the technical details though, I simply fell in love with the design of the LX3. It looks serious, not cheap, useful and without useless eye catching or modern properties - I think this is why I've got a weakness for Thinkpad notebooks, too.
Last but not least Panasonic offers a couple of accessories, like a wide angel converter, an external, optical view finder and various filters.
I did some field tests with the LX3, to see how it performs in low light situations. The results can be found here: