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Panasonic Lumix XS3 Ultra Compact Camera Review

We review the ultra compact and stylish Panasonic Lumix XS3, which is smaller than most mobile phones.

|  Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 in Compact Cameras
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Panasonic Lumix Xs3 (1)
The Panasonic Lumix XS3 is this years update to the XS1, and is an ultra compact and stylish digital camera designed to be taken anywhere and everywhere, with a 14 megapixel MOS sensor, 5x optical zoom lens, optical image stabilisation, full HD video, and built in Xenon flash it should provide better performance than a mobile phone for nights out or in low light.

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Features

Panasonic Lumix Xs3 (2)

The Panasonic Lumix XS3 is ultra compact, and has a microSD slot, and lithium-ion battery. On the front is a Lumix DC Vario 5x optical zoom lens equivalent to 24mm wide-angle to 120 mm in 35mm equivalent terms, with mega optical image stabilisation. The camera records full HD video, takes panoramic photos, and has a number of creative effects that are also available on panoramics. A 2.7inch screen is on the back, and there a numerous scene modes as well as intelligent Auto to make the camera easy to use. For portrait photos there is a built in beauty re-touch feature that can soften skin, alter foundation colour, and apply makeup. 

Panasonic Lumix Xs3 (4)

Key Features

  • 14 megapixel MOS sensor
  • 5x optical zoom lens equivalent to 24-120mm
  • Mega Optical Image Stabilisation
  • 2.7 inch screen, 230k dot resolution
  • Full HD video, 25fps (mono sound)
  • 2fps C-AF, 4.7fps C-AF continuous shooting (full resolution)
  • High speed burst with flash (full resolution)
  • Light speed AF
  • ISO100 - ISO3200
  • Available in black or red

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Handling

Panasonic Lumix Xs3 (5)

Handling - Despite the small size, the camera features a standard sized tripod socket on the bottom. You'll also find the battery and memory card compartment, which features a MicroSD card slot. The top features the on/off button as well as the shutter release. On the rear is the zoom control, mode button, video button, 4-way controller with middle menu / set button, play and quick (Q) menu / delete button. On the bottom there is also the USB connection and AV-out, which is where you connect the USB cable for charging.

Mode button switches between iAuto, Normal picture, Creative Control, Panoramic Shot, and Scene mode. In playback there is the option to retouch photos where you can auto retouch, beauty retouch, or creative retouch - applying the same creative filters available in photo mode.

Panasonic Lumix Xs3 (7)

Menus - The menus are very clearly laid out, with built in guidance explaining what settings are for, and the menus are split into record, video and setup menus as well as playback options when in playback mode. The Q. Menu button gives quick access to common settings on the screen such as image size, white balance, ISO, and others depending what mode you are in.

Panasonic Lumix Xs3 (8)

Battery Life - The compact battery is a 690mAh rated lithium-ion rechargable battery which is fairly standard for an ultra compact camera such as this. The cameras CIPA rating stats that it should be possible to get 230 shots from a fully charged battery - again fairly typical for an ultra compact camera - and a spare battery is recommended.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Panasonic Lumix XS3
Shutter Response <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.45
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.8
Shot to Shot with Flash 1.1
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
4fps (4-5 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 2fps (5 shots)

The camera features a number of high speed shooting modes, at 2 or 4.7fps with continuous AF at full resolution. There is also high speed burst with flash (at full resolution). High speed burst at 3 megapixels lets you shoot at roughly 8-9 fps for up to 40 shots. Focus and shutter response are also very quick.

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Exposure is reliable and the camera is capable of producing bright saturated images in good light, although in duller weather the camera's images can appear a little cool or cold in appearance. Portrait photos with flash come out looking good, and the camera has automatically reduced red-eye in this photo, although some was seen in other photos.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 Lens test images

Lens Performance - 5cm macro distance lets you take a reasonable macro photo, and when using flash in low light the camera does a good job of exposing the subject. There is some barrel distortion when shooting at the wide-angle end of the lens, however there is minimal distortion at the telephoto end, and chromatica aberrations are controlled well. Images are slightly softer towards the corner of the image. Detail is reasonable but not exceptional.

Creative control features a high dynamic mode that takes one shot with extended dynamic range however there isn't a manually selectable high dynamic range in the normal photo shooting mode, and instead you need to shoot in intelligent Auto and let the camera decide whether to set itself to the backlight mode where it will use the flash if needed. iExposure can also be used to extend dynamic range.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - The camera has an ISO Range of ISO100 to ISO3200. Noise performance is reasonably good, with the most detail visible in ISO100 shots, then detail suffers as the ISO setting increases. Noise becomes worse at around ISO800 and ISO1600 where noise increases and detail is lost as a result. ISO3200 is best avoided unless you plan on resizing the images for use on the web.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - The camera features AWB, Tungsten preset, and manual white balance, but as with other Panasonic cameras does not feature a fluorescent preset as the AWB setting does an excellent job. 

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Panoramic P1010151 | 1/1000 sec | f/2.8 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100
1/1000 sec | f/2.8 | 4.3 mm | ISO 100

Panasonic XS3 Panoramic Impressive Art P1010086 | 1/125 sec | f/9.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 160
Impressive Art | 1/125 sec | f/9.0 | 4.3 mm | ISO 160

Panorama modeThe panoramic mode works well with you simply pressing the shutter button and holding it while you sweep the camera around. A number of digital filters are also available when shooting panoramics, giving you additional creativity and effects.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 Digital filters

Digital Filters - 13 digital filters are available to add a different look to your photos. You can also choose from a number of different colour modes including standard, vivid, black and white, and sepia.

Video - The camera records Full HD video, with mono sound and optical zoom is not available while recording, although up to 4x digital zoom is available. Video is recorded as MP4, 1080, 25p (at 20Mbps). 

Value For Money

The XS3 is available for around £117 making it reasonable value for money. Alternatives to consider include the ultra compact Nikon Coolpix S02 for £119, Canon IXUS 135 for £119 with Wi-Fi. Very few compact cameras are this small, with the majority of compact cameras favouring a 10x optical zoom lens and a slightly larger body, such as the Panasonic Lumix SZ9, available for £149 with Wi-Fi.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Verdict

For anyone who wants better photos that they get from their mobile phone of friends and family, or on nights out in low light, the Panasonic Lumix XS3 delivers decent quality photos thanks to its built in xenon flash, which is better than almost all mobile phones, except for the rare few that feature a real xenon flash, such as the Nokia Lumia 1020.

It's also extremely compact making it easy to take with you everywhere you go, without taking up space, as it fits very easily into any pocket or bag. With Full HD video, optical image stabilisation, numerous options and effects, and a wallet friendly price the XS3 could just be ideal for the social photographer, although there will of course be those that would have found it even more useful if it featured built in Wi-Fi. 

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Pros
Extremely compact
Xenon flash
High speed shooting
Quick focus and shutter response
Optical image stabilisation
Easy to use
Stylish design

Panasonic Lumix XS3 Cons

Optical zoom not available during videos
No HDMI out
No Wi-Fi


Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/6.9
35mm equivalent24mm - 120mm
Optical Zoom5x
Image Sensor
Pixels14.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4320
Pixels (H)3240
Sensor TypeLive MOS Sensor
Sensor Size1/2.33
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor2.7in
Screen resolution230k
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1600sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Scene modes
  • Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity100 - 3200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting4.7fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
Video FPS30fps
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoNo
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • Micro SD
  • Micro SDHC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium-Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)230shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsBattery Pack, AC adaptor, USB Cable, Hand Strap

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Photographs taken using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

AutumnBradford ArchesMirror Lake Bradford UK

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