Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10: Video and Image Quality

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

Video Quality
The ZS10 captures HD video at 1920 x 1080i at 30/24 fps, VGA video (640×480 at 30 fps) or QVGA video (320×240 at 30 fps). The ZS10 uses either AVCHD or QuickTime Motion JPEG compression for high-def movies and Motion JPEG for standard-def movies. Zoom and focus can be adjusted during video capture, but video clips are limited to 2GB. The video clip that accompanies this review was shot in the early afternoon. When the Circus Train arrived it was raining, about 35 degrees, and heavily overcast. Contrast is flat and the colors are dull in the sample video, but I feel like the ZS10 did an exemplary job in the video capture department, given the conditions.

Download Sample Video Clip

Image Quality
The ZS10’s 14 megapixel 1/2.33-inch CMOS sensor drives Panasonic’s Venus Engine FHD processor to produce reliably first rate images. The ZS10’s image files are clearly optimized for bold bright colors and slightly flat contrast. Images display decent resolution (sharpness), but default color interpolation is typical of modern consumer oriented digicams.

Most current digicams boost color saturation – reds are a bit too warm, blues are noticeably brighter than they are in real life and greens/yellows are overly vibrant. Veteran shooters call this “consumer color” because casual shooters (the demographic that buys the most digicams) like bright bold colors. The ZS10’s images are closer to the enhanced colors and flat contrast images generated by consumer favorite Canon A3300 IS than they are to the accurate real world colors and slightly hard contrast of the prosumer Samsung TL500.

The ZS10’s default evaluative (Panasonic calls this metering mode Intelligent Multiple Metering) light measurement system is dependably accurate in most lighting – so casual shooters shouldn’t have to worry about metering. More experienced photographers can opt for either Spot metering or Center-weighted Averaging metering for more demanding/creative compositions. Like all ultra-compact digicams, the ZS10 has some dynamic range (from deep shadows to bright highlights) shortcomings because the diminutive1/2.3-inch CCD sensor can’t capture the full tonal range. The ZS10’s default metering system is calibrated to preserve shadow detail at the expense of highlight detail and that built-in exposure bias results in occasional clipping (burnt out highlights).

The ZS10 provides users with a very good selection of White Balance options, including Auto WB, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, and White Set. The ZS10’s auto WB system does a pretty good job across the board, even under incandescent (tungsten) and fluorescent lighting.

Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

Tourists rejoice, the Panasonic ZS10 is pre-loaded with sightseeing spots around the globe. When in the vicinity of one of these World class photo ops, the ZS10 will automatically alert shooters. Geo-tagging is growing in popularity with shutterbugs, as they seek unique new ways to share their images on web social sites like YouTube. The ZS10 displays the name of the Country/Region, State/Prov./County, County/Township, City/Town/Village and Landmarks using the camera’s internal database to provide real-time information. The ZS10’s GPS system displays not just latitudes and longitudes, but also provides area information on 203 countries and landmark information on over 1,000,000 locations in 82 countries or regions – to include several in my provincial little hometown.

The megapixel wars have arrived at the point of diminishing returns – crowding more pixels onto tiny sensors dependably results in higher levels of image degrading noise, fuzzy details and lower contrast. Point-and-shoots with 14 or 16 megapixel resolution don’t really produce better pictures than digicams with 10 megapixel resolution – they just generate larger and noisier image files. The ZS10’s 14 megapixel images all show noise, even those shot at ISO 100.

The ZS10 provides a very impressive range of sensitivity options, including auto, intelligent ISO and user-set options for ISO 100 to 1600. ISO 100 and ISO 200 images are essentially indistinguishable. Both settings show over-saturated colors, slightly flat native contrast and very little noise. ISO 400 images were also very good, but with a tiny bit less pop.

Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 100
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 200
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 400
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 800
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop

At the ISO 800 setting, noise levels are noticeably higher and there’s a perceptible loss of fine detail. ISO 1600 images show flat under-saturated colors, reduced contrast, no fine detail and visible noise.

Additional Sample Images

Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image
Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image Panasonic ZS10 Sample Image

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