Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10: Performance

April 8, 2011 by Howard Creech Reads (28,670)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 6
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.50
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The Panasonic ZS10 is a competent general purpose P&S digicam that is capable of producing excellent images not only for photography enthusiasts, but also for travelers and straight-shooters. Performance was consistently good, and startup time is about 1 second. Shot-to-shot times measured between 2 and 3 seconds and using the flash slowed things down only marginally.

Shooting Performance
Timing is one of the two most important considerations when assessing digital camera performance – the other major criteria is image quality. The ZS10’s DCR lab measured times are at the top of its class in shutter lag (0.01 seconds) and AF acquisition (0.18), and continuous (5.5 fps) shooting mode.

Auto exposure in Intelligent Auto, Program, and Scene modes is dependably accurate and fairly quick. The ZS10 reliably selects the appropriate shutter speed in aperture priority mode and the appropriate aperture in shutter speed priority mode. In manual mode, exposure accuracy is dependent on the skill and experience of the shooter.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Digital Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.01
Olympus X-Z1 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 0.01
Canon PowerShot SX230 0.02

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 0.18
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.19
Canon PowerShot SX230 0.38
Olympus X-Z1 0.45

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 14 5.5 fps
Canon PowerShot SX230 2.3 fps
Olympus X-Z1 2.0 fps
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 4 1.6 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The ZS10 features a TTL Contrast Detection AF system with Center AF (1 AF point), Multi AF (23 AF points), Face AF, Tracking AF, Spot AF and Touch Area AF modes. The ZS10 can remember specific faces in Face Recognition AF mode and in playback, users can choose to display only photos of their favorite subject using the Category Playback.

The ZS10’s AF system analyzes the scene in front of the lens then calculates camera-to-subject distance to determine which AF point (in multi AF mode) is closest to the primary subject and then locks focus on that AF point. The ZS10’s AF system is consistently quick to acquire the subject and lock focus with dependable accuracy – in most shooting situations.

The ZS10 features Panasonic’s new Quick AF mode. With conventional AF systems, auto focus is initiated when the shutter button is pressed half-way. With Quick AF, auto focus is initiated as soon as the camera is pointed toward your subject which could cut up to a second off the frame/compose/lock focus/capture sequence. Quick AF is automatically activated in the iA Mode and can be turned on or off in the P/A/S/M Modes.

The ZS10 utilizes an optical image stabilization system; built-in gyro-sensors detect camera shake and an element in the zoom lens is rapidly and precisely shifted to compensate for that minor camera movement. According to Panasonic, the ZS10’s new POWER O.I.S. system nearly doubles the anti-shake correction power of their conventional MEGA O.I.S system.

According to Panasonic the ZS10 is good for about 260 exposures on a fully charged SLB-07A rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but based on my experiences with the camera, that claim is a bit optimistic. I used the camera for two weeks and had to charge the battery three times.

Panasonic Lumix ZS10

My ZS10 image file contains about forty photos and three short video clips. Even factoring in my seventy-five to eighty percent deletion rate, I didn’t shoot anywhere near (any combination of) 700 images or three hours of video. The battery is charged via a flip plug wall unit and requires somewhere between two and three hours to fully charge a depleted SLB-07A battery.

The ZS10 provides 18MB of on-board image storage and saves images to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media.

I often complain about digicam user’s manuals because today’s cameras are the most feature rich in the history of photography, but most of those features are never used by camera purchasers. Why don’t consumers utilize all of these nifty cutting edge features to make their pictures better? Simply put, because most of them aren’t explained in sufficient detail to allow the camera’s target audience to understand how to use them. On top of that, many user’s manuals don’t do a very good job of describing how to use even the most basic features; case in point – the Panasonic ZS10.

I wanted to check out the ZS10’s new HD movie mode. I shot a couple of test videos but couldn’t figure out how to make the camera play them back for me. The manual describes how to view captured video, but the directions (even when followed to the letter) don’t work. Finally, in frustration I called Panasonic Technical Support and explained my problem. The technician was very apologetic as he explained the proper process for viewing video and he apologized repeatedly that the user’s manual was wrong. He thanked me for informing them of this mistake and assured me that he would forward the error I had discovered to his supervisor – hopefully to be corrected in future issues of this user’s manual.

Lens Performance
The ZS10 is built around a fairly fast f/3.3-5.9 4.3-68.8mm (24-384mm equivalent) DC VARIO-ELMAR zoom lens from famed German lens/camera maker Leica. When the ZS10 is powered up, the zoom extends from the camera body automatically. When the camera is powered down, the lens retracts into the camera body and a built-in guillotine style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is smooth, fairly precise, and relatively quiet. The ZS10 needs about 3.0 seconds to move the zoom lens from the wide angle end of the range to full telephoto.

Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image

The ZS10’s Leica zoom is very good even though it displays some minor corner softness, but it is not as sharp as I expected it to be. As lenses get smaller and more complex, optical faults and aberrations are magnified exponentially. Miniaturization and optical complexity are obviously the twin culprits here. There’s no vignetting (dark corners) at the wide angle end of the zoom, but barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center of the frame) at the wide-angle end of the zoom range is above average. Pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) is present, but fairly well controlled at the telephoto end of the zoom.

Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is noticeably above average. Check out the 100% crops of the ISO/Sensitivity examples and you’ll notice a faint purplish fringe along the black inner border of the playing card – even at ISO 100.

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