Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 Review

January 13, 2014 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 is a diminutive, ultra-slim digital compact camera featuring a 14.1 megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor, Full HD video recording, super fast autofocusing and a modest 5x optical zoom with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8, all wrapped up in a thin, two-tone casing. Priced at £99, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 is available in red or black.

Ease of Use

As a photographer, it's easy to dismiss small digital compacts for larger, manual control cameras. What a lot of photographers tend to forget is that a small, discreet digital camera can be a crucial part of a day out. Many large events don't like photographers setting up tripods and large lenses as it gets in the way of other spectators wanting to enjoy the show. So if you leave all your equipment behind, you're left a phone or similar. Smart phones – while useful – have a shutter delay that see tectonic plates becoming impatient. A small, pocket sized digital compact is ideal for such situations. Slip it in your shirt pocket and you'll get a decent record of the day without lugging your gear around and annoying your family.

Enter the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3. It's a tiny, slim digital compact camera that does everything for you. If you're new to the photography scene, you will also be pleased to know that it also has a feature called iA (Intelligent Auto). It's a feature that was pioneered by Panasonic and will analyse the scene that you're pointing the lens at. It then automatically selects the appropriate mode for the best possible photograph. For example, if it sees a person in the frame, it puts the camera into portrait mode, activates auto flash and switches on face detection.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Rear

The XS3 sports a 14.1 megapixel MOS sensor. Panasonic say that it's a high sensitivity sensor for better image quality in low light situations. Our noise test will see exactly how well it copes with high ISO settings, but experience leads us to suggest that the most effective way of increasing sensitivity in low light is to increase the physical size of the sensor. That can't really happen unless you increase the size of the camera and the distance between the rear lens element and the film plane (where the sensor sits). Most digital cameras either use a CMOS or CCD sensor. CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) are regarded as the fuel efficient sensors while CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) are heavier on battery power, but produce better pictures. Panasonic say that the MOS sensor takes those best attributes from both and combines them into one (supposedly) perfect sensor. So why hasn't the MOS sensor taken over from CCD or CMOS? The best thing to do for that answer is to look at the sample images and decide for yourself if you think they're better.

As you've probably gathered by now, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 is incredibly slim. It's by no means the thinnest camera available, but considering it has a 5x optical zoom on it, it's not doing too badly at all. The lens does have to stick out of the front by around five or six millimetres. It's not detrimental to the camera design, portability or appeal, though. The clean lines of the two-tone silver/black or silver/red colouring are complimented by the minimalist buttons on the top of the camera. Simple chrome buttons are used for powering the camera on/off and for taking a picture. The latter being bigger and having no signage to explain its function. The back of the camera is typical of any other digital compact camera with a screen to the left of the space and the function buttons lined down the right side. Because of the thinness of the camera, the zoom has to be a rocker type that is found on the back towards the top. Despite the smaller area, the camera still has a dedicated video record button, navigation pad and three menu buttons.

The three menu buttons are for changing various features. The Mode button brings up five icons that allow you to change the mode of the camera such as Intelligent Auto (iA), Auto, Creative control, Panoramic and Scene modes. Down at the bottom of the camera, there's a Q.Menu button which triples up as the delete button in playback and the “back on move” button when in the menus, which is useful if you go into a sub-menu and you don't want to make any changes. The Q.Menu brings up a few options for shooting such as resolution, ISO, white-balance, metering and continuous shooting. In Auto mode, there's also a setting for the video quality.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Front Top

The Main menu is more extensive and pressing the button (located in the centre of the navigation pad) initially brings up three sub-menus. They're split into three important areas: Recording, Video and Set-up. Recording is like a more advanced, in-depth version of the Q.Menu. It covers the same features as the Q.Menu but also areas such as focus modes, iExposure (a basic dynamic range booster), digital zoom, burst and colour modes among other things.

The Video section has only two options for the video recording quality and whether you want continuous AF to be on or off. Arguably, these two options could be put into the Recording section without too much fuss or confusion at the user end. Finally, the Set-up menu will change more in-depth features such as the clock, world time and volume. Interestingly, there's a Guide line available in here which will superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the screen to aid in composition. There's also – and this is the really interesting bit -  a histogram. This chart comes up on the screen and looks like a graph. It measures the light falling on the sensor and tells you whether the picture will be under or over exposed. This kind of feature isn't normally found on a simple point and shooter, so why have Panasonic placed it on the XS3?

Start up time of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 from cold is fast at 1.5sec. However, recently more cameras are coming through with this kind of speed which shows a progression in technology. There are four burst modes on the XS3. Two of which incorporate continuous AF in order to target moving subjects easier. The camera will use focus prediction technology in this mode which analyses where the subject is coming from and its current trajectory. It then works out where the subject will be while you take photographs and sets the camera up to focus on those points in advance. This pre-programming means that the camera can increase the frame rate because it doesn't have to worry about focusing.  There's a 2fps (frames per second) and a 4.7fps option. Why two? Well, the camera is only guessing where the subject will be while you shoot. The faster you go, the more room for error because the camera can't make any corrections.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

In the normal continuous mode, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 shot 58 photos in 6.5sec. That sounds impressive except it drops the resolution to a paltry 3 megapixel. The sad part is there's no burst mode at full resolution available. It's low res or nothing at all unless you use the focus prediction options. So if you want full size burst modes, you have to be ok with a margin of error for the focus to be out.

Standard practice these days is that if you want to look at the pictures you've taken without switching the camera on, it's possible by holding down the playback button. That way, the lens isn't coming out unnecessarily. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 doesn't have this provision, which is unusual. Once you switch over to playback, it's a matter of seconds before the lens pops in, so it's not too much of a problem, we're just surprised by it. You can scroll through display options using the DISP button which also brings up a histogram. Pressing up on the navigation pad will enter into the Retouch menu. There's Auto, Beauty and Creative retouch options to choose from. The Auto will do what it thinks is right to make the picture prettier (impossible with ours). The Beauty Retouch mode is better for portraits and the Creative Retouch allows you to add the Creative styles if you decide you want them after you've taken the picture. The Playback menu has some basic editing options such as resizing, cropping and video divide. You can set pictures as favourites, protect them and copy them if you wish.

Inside the tiny box, you will get a camera, lithium ion battery, AC adapter and USB cable which doubles as the cable from the bAC adapter to the camera. You also get a wrist strap and operating instructions.

Image Quality


Low noise performance isn't as good as we'd expect on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3. The images are smooth and edges are sharp. Yet at full magnification, there's green discolouring in the shape of blobs in darker areas and even in some mid-tones. Not a good start for the camera.

To try and scratch some good news out of the bad start, the noise doesn't get any worse at ISO 200. It's not until ISO 400 that we start to see a degrading of image sharpness as salt and pepper noise begins to cause trouble.

At ISO 800 noise is affecting the whole photograph, regardless of colour, tone or shade. Noise reduction hasn't resorted to losing colours to maintain some semblance of order, but we think it's only a matter of time.

Panasonic have capped the sensitivity at ISO 3200 on the XS3 and we think that's a good idea. The final two settings are riddled with colour noise and JPEG artefacts. Colour noise turns deep yellow at ISO 3200 and causes a cast to the pictures that can be seen at normal viewing distance.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

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ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The focal length of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 is 24-120mm in 35mm terms. That equals a 5x optical zoom. Not a bad size for such a thin model.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Sharpening your pictures in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop will benefit them as long as you're at ISO 100 or 200. Any higher and the noise in the shot simply exacerbates with the sharpening.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

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sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

All images in this test were taken at full resolution on the Fine setting unless otherwise stated. These images record a file size of around 5Mb. If you change the compression to Normal, they will record around 3.3Mb which saves space on the card, but there is a loss in overall detail.



quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

We managed to find chromatic aberration on most photographs that had contrasting lines on them. It occurs as the image quality drops towards the edges of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

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Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 4 (100% Crop)

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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 has a close focusing setting of 5cm at wide-angle. This is a standard setting which is the reason that Panasonic haven't placed a macro button on the camera. Image quality starts to degrade out to the edges of the frame. It's nice and sharp in the centre of the frame, though.


Macro (100% Crop)

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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 doesn't appear to suffer from vignetting unless you add flash. At wide-angle it's quite bad then. It settles a little as you zoom, but is still evident.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (20mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (20mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (1200mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (1200mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Red-eye is an issue when no red-eye reduction or removal is used on the Panasonic. The XS3 has both types. The reduction is a preflash that fires before the camera takes a picture. The red-eye removal uses software to locate and remove red-eye from pupils.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)
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Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 does have a Night scene in the SCN option in the Mode menu. The camera used the same settings as the Auto setting with the exception of a slower shutter speed. In fact, the Night scene allows an extra four seconds which in our test shot we think over exposed parts of the scene. We considered the Auto setting to be far more balanced and the lower shutter speed with obviate certain types of noise that can appear with long exposures.

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

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Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)

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Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 31 second movie is 77.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Image Displayed

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Turned On

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Scene Mode Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Creative Control Menu


Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3

Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Main Menu

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Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Record Mode Menu
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Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Record Menu
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Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Motion Picture Menu
Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Setup Menu
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Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Playback Menu
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Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Playback Mode Menu
Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 / Playback Menu
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Top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
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Bottom of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
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Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
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Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Memory Card Slot
Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3
Battery Compartment


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 is a really nice little camera to use. It's neat, convenient, pocketable and super fast. It switches on, focuses downloads pictures and switches back off at lightning speed. It looks lovely and will certainly be a camera you won't be ashamed to be sat behind at family gatherings, holidays or nights out.

The resolution is too high for the sensor and because of that noise is overwhelming. We found noise even at ISO 100 which is pretty much unheard of these days. It's as if the noise reduction system isn't even fitted to the camera. Overlooking the noise issue for a moment, colours are nice and while metering isn't the best, it does ok for the price of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3. The dynamic range isn't the widest, but there's a dynamic range boost mode in the Creative menu. On top of the focusing being quite so fast, the pictures are also very sharp. They do benefit in sharpening – most JPEGs do – but if you don't add sharpening, you'll still be happy with how sharp they are.

It seems that for the money, Panasonic have tried to add some high spec technology into the XS3 to make it more appealing to the consumer. That will be where the super fast processor and focusing system has come from. These things cost money, though, and it's likely that some cuts have had to be made. We can only speculate that's why the image quality isn't what we'd expect. If Panasonic have used an inferior sensor, it would explain a lot.

If you're currently on the look-out for a tiny, slim, good looking digital compact camera that's modestly priced, then you can do a lot worse than the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3. The noise performance images concern us, but we're photographers and look for that kind of thing. If you're looking at this camera, ask yourself if the issues we've raised are high on your list of priorities. After all, the pictures still look pretty good and that's not just down to our excellent photography.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3.

Canon IXUS 132

The Canon IXUS 132 is a stylish digital compact camera that won't break the bank. Stand-out features of the IXUS 132 include a 16 megapixel sensor, 8x wide-angle zoom lens and 720p HD movies, all for just £80. Read our in-depth Canon IXUS 132 review to find out if there's still life left in the humble point and shoot compact camera...

Nikon Coolpix S02

The Nikon Coolpix S02 is a tiny point-and-shoot compact camera designed to complement your smartphone. Featuring a 3x zoom lens, 13 megapixels, 2.7 inch touch-screen LCD and 1080p HD movies, is the Nikon S02 too small for its own good? Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix S02 review to find out...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 from around the web. »

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.
Read the full review »


Metrics Dimensions (W x H x D) 92.2 x 54.4 x 18.5 mm
Weight Approx. 89g without Battery and microSD Memory Card (0.20 lb)
Pixels Camera Effective Pixels 14.1 Megapixels
Sensor Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter 1/2.33-type High Sensitivity MOS Sensor / Total Pixel Number 15.3 Megapixels / Primary Color Filter
Lens Aperture F2.8 - 6.9 / 2-step (F2.8 / 9.0 (W), F6.9 / 22.0 (T))
Optical Zoom 5.0x
Focal Length f = 4.3 - 21.5mm (24 - 120mm in 35mm equiv.)
Extra Optical Zoom (EZ) 5.9x (4:3 / 10M), 8.4x (4:3 / 5M), 10.5x (4:3 / under 3M)
Intelligent Zoom 10x
Optical Image Stabilizer MEGA O.I.S. (On / Off)
2- Speed Zoom -
Conversion Lens Compatibility -
Digital Zoom Max. 4x
Focus Focusing Area Normal / Intelligent AUTO / Motion picture: Wide 5cm - infinity / Tele 100cm - infinity
AF Assist Lamp Yes (On/Off)
Focus Normal
AF Metering Face / 23-area / 1-area / Spot
Shutter Shutter Speed Approx. 8 - 1/1,600 sec 
Finder Viewfinder -
File File Format Still Image: JPEG (DCF/Exif2.3) / DPOF
Recording Modes Mode Dial / Mode Button Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Panorama Shot, Scene, Creative Control
Creative Control mode Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic,
Still Image Scene Mode Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot,
Continuous Shooting Mode Full-Resolution Image with AF Tracking:
Motion Picture Recording (*2) HD Video 1920 x 1080 pixels, 25p (FHD: 20Mbps / MP4) (Sensor Output is 25fps)
STD Video 640 x 480, 25p (VGA: 4Mbps / MP4) (Sensor Output is 25fps)
High Speed Video -
Continuous recordable time (motion pictures) AVCHD -
MP4 Approx. 60 min (FHD)
Actual recordable time (motion pictures) AVCHD -
MP4 Approx. 30 min (FHD)
Exposure Parameters Exposure Auto (Program AE)
Exposure Compensation 1/3 EV step, +/-2 EV
Auto (AE) Bracketing 1/3-1EV step, Max. +/-1 EV, 3 frames
Light Metering Intelligent Multiple
ISO Sensitivity Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200
Picture Quality Picture Adjustment -
Still Picture Recording [4:3] 4320x3240 (14M) / 3648x2736 (10M EZ) / 2560x1920 (5M EZ) / 2048x1536 pixels (3M EZ) / 640x480 (0.3M EZ)
Image Quality Fine / Standard
White Balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / White Set
Photo Style / Film Mode -
Color Mode / Color Effect / My color Color Mode: Standard, Happy (only in iA Mode) , Vivid (in normal / video), Black and White, Sepia
Aspect Bracketing -
Other Digital Red Eye Correction (Red-Eye Removal) Yes (On/Off)
Wi-FI -
Zoom in Motion Picture Yes (Digital)
Self Timer 2sec / 10sec
Display Playback Mode All, Slideshow, Filtering Play (Picture Only, Video Only, Category Selection, Select Date, Favorite), Calendar
Thumbnails / Zoomed Playback 12,30-thumbnails / Yes
Calendar Display / Dual- Image Playback Yes (Menu / Zoom Button) / No
Set Favorites / Rotate Image Yes / No
Show Histogram -
Show Highlights -
DPOF Print Setting / Set Protection Yes / Yes
Edit Retouch Auto Retouch / Creative Retouch / Beauty Retouch
Resize / Cropping / Aspect Conv. / Leveling Yes / No / No / No
Copy / Title Edit / Text Stamp Yes / No / No
Cut Animation -
Video Divide Yes
PictBridge Support Single / Multi / All / DPOF / Favorites
Setup OSD language Japanese, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Monitor LCD Monitor 6.7 cm (2.7") TFT Screen LCD Display (230K dots)
Flash Built- in- Flash Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off,
Media Recording Media Built-in Memory, microSD Memory Card, microSDHC Memory Card
Built- in- Memory Approx. 200MB
Audio Microphone / Speaker Mono / Mono
Interface Interface AV Output (PAL / NTSC), USB (AV/USB Multi)
Power Power Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, 690 mAh, 2.5 Wh) (Included)
Battery life (approx.) 230 pictures (CIPA Standard)*1
Standard Package Included Software -
Standard Accessories Battery Pack, AC adaptor, USB Cable, Hand Strap

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