Ok, so, I've been researching equipment because I'm going to start shooting again. Yesterday I discovered some people are in a little bit of an uproar in regards to something Panasonic has started doing with their cameras without telling anyone. Their LX3 had been winning a lot of praise and acclaim for the quality of the lens. It was producing shots with very little barrel distortion and chromatic aberrations - best in class actually. Several reviews indicated this little compact camera was producing results that rivaled some dslr's and, to be honest, after looking at some examples I agree that its not too much of a stretch. Fantastic quality at the lower ISO's and better than a compact camera has a right to be at higher ISO's.
The trouble began however when certain photographers began shooting in RAW format (an uncompressed, unprocessed format - more info than a jpeg) and were editing in a RAW editor other than the one included with the camera (I believe its called Silkypix or something like that). They noticed all of the sudden they were having to correct a lot more barrel distortion and chromatic aberration than they did either from in camera jpegs or through the Panasonic RAW editor. Finally, and here's the critical point, Panasonic admitted that both the in camera software/firmware and their RAW editor were programmed to automatically correct and compensate for some flaws in the lens. So basically, a lot of the optical quality of the camera is being determined by the software in the camera. Panasonic is taking this approach with their dslr's as well, although it only works with certain lenses.
My first thought was that the camera wasn't as good as advertised and that I was going to send mine back (haven't received it yet), but after thinking about it I thought 'hmmm, why not?'. I mean frankly the software is just correcting something I would probably do myself in post processing. I mean if it really is a bother I can shoot in the RAW format and process it through another editor. Whenever you use the jpeg format, you're always kind of at the mercy of in camera software anyway. Really what a manufacturer should want to do is create a product that delivers the best quality possible. Panasonic (and other companies possibly as well), is just taking a new approach made possible by technology. Its just interesting because, up until now, the camera was more or less just a light tight box - the quality of the photograph was almost entirely determined by the lens. Now the camera and how it processes the information handed to it is contributing directly to the optical quality. Now the camera is actually compensating for flaws in the lens. Definitely interesting.