DigitalCameraReview.com
Panasonic Lumix L10 Review
by Jerry Jackson -  11/5/2007

The second full-featured digital SLR from Panasonic is the new Lumix DMC-L10. And while Panasonic is a relative newcomer to the SLR marketplace, the L10 packs an impressive set of features and a very interesting lens into one unique camera kit.

Panasonic Lumix L10
(view large image)

 

The DMC-L10 is a traditional-looking camera that looks something like a cross between an old fashioned film SLR and the Panasonic DMC-FZ50 all-in-one camera. The L10 comes loaded with new features including a fully articulating LCD monitor, improved user menus, a full ten megapixels of resolution and the ability to use contrast-detection auto focus in Live View mode using the sensor itself (though only with compatible lenses). There are also several features that have migrated from Panasonic's compact Lumix range, including Intelligent ISO mode, image stabilization built into the lens, and compatibility with SD and SDHC memory cards.

Technical Specs:

Image sizes • 3648 x 2736
• 2816 x 2112
• 2048 x 1536
File Formats • Raw
• Raw + JPEG
• JPEG
ISO options • Auto
• Intelligent ISO (Live View only)
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
Shutter speed 8 minutes to 1/4000 sec
DOF preview No
Focus • 3-point Phase detection (more accurate)
• 9-area Contrast detection (Live view only, slower, less accurate)
Focus modes • S-AF
• C-AF
• MF (“focus by wire” electronic manual focus)
• Face Detect (Live View only)
Continuous/Burst mode • 3.0 fps or 2.0 fps burst modes
• RAW: 3 frames
• JPEG: Unlimited with a fast card
Self timer • 10 sec
• 2 sec
• 10 sec, 3 frames
Flash

• pop-up
• GN 11 (ISO 100, m)

• TTL hot shoe for external flash 

Scene modes Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Sports, Night Portrait, Sunset, Food, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet
Viewfinder • Pentamirror optical view finder
• Eye point 14mm at -1 diopter adjustment
• 1.2x Magnifier Eye Cup and eye piece cap supplied
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD monitor with Live View option
• Tilt and swivel (180 degree movement)
• 207,000 pixels
Dimensions (W x H x D) 134.5mm x 95.5mm x 77.5mm
Weight • 480 g (body only, no battery or lens)
MSRP US: $1,299

 

Kit Lens and Lens Performance

The Panasonic L10 uses the Four-Thirds open standard for lenses ... meaning it uses the same lenses used on Olympus DSLRs. Unfortuantely, the L10 is only available with the kit lens included ... which raises the purchase price since you're paying for the camera and the lens. Fortunately, the Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-50mm lens is no ordinary kit lens. Featuring the MEGA OIS stabilization system this zoom lens covers the entire 28-100mm (35mm equivalent) range is also longer than most kit lenses.

That said, contrast and sharpness appeared sub par straight out of the camera in both JPEG and RAW modes. Whether these image quality issues where the result of the in-camera image processing or the lens, we cannot say.

Key features:

Kit lens Leica D Vario-Elmar 14–50mm (28-100mm in 35mm equivalent) F3.8–5.6/ASPH. MEGA OIS
Live View AF Yes
Aperture type 7 blade leaf shutters / iris diaphragm
Distance Scale No
Aperture ring No
Aperture range F3.8 (Wide) to F5.6 (Tele)
Minimum Aperture F22
Lens construction • 11 elements in 15 groups
• 2 aspherical lenses
Filter Diameter 67mm
Closest focus 0.29m (0.95 feet)
Max. diameter 74mm (2.91 inch)
Overall length Approx. 93mm
Weight Approx. 434g

CAMERA FEATURES AND LAYOUT

The L10 is a compact DSLR, and the body material is matte black composite polymer (plastic) surrounding a rugged stainless steel internal frame, which contributes to a correspondingly light weight. The material quality, fit and finish are reasonably good – though not as good as other cameras in the $1,000+ price range.

Panasonic Lumix L10
(view large image)

Ergonomically, the L10 is a mixed bag – pick the camera up and some controls seems to be in the perfect location while other important controls are buried inside on-screen menus. Balance with the kit lens is nice but the camera feels a little front heavy given the multiple glass elements and image stabilization system built into the lens. Larger and heavier lenses will likely prove even less comfortable to hold for extended shooting given the light weight of the body.

SHOOTING WITH THE L10

Live View

On most digital SLR cameras, the LCD monitor is used only for viewing images after you've shot them, not as a viewfinder. The L10 changes all that. The enhanced Live View function lets you frame and focus your shots right on the large LCD screen, and it lets you see before you shoot

how adjusting the white balance or exposure compensation will affect the shot.

Full-time Live View makes it easy to shoot and easy to capture images just the way you want them. It's one of the innovative functions that distinguish the L10 from every other digital SLR camera. Unfortunately, auto focus in  the Live View mode is noticeably slower than when using the standard optical viewfinder. Also, when you press the shutter button in Live View mode the camera takes a moment to flip the viewfinder mirror down, meter the scene, flip the mirror back up, and then release the shuter. This means that there is a delay between when you press the shutter button and when the image is actually taken. Bottom line, between the auto focus delay and the shutter delay, Live View mode is almost useless for action.

Auto Mode

The L10 features an Auto mode that is essentially an automatic point-and-shoot mode in which the majority of settings are controlled by the camera in response to shooting conditions. The camera will let you choose from a couple of flash options; image size and quality; ISO sensitivity; shooting, and AF/MF modes if you desire, but the camera handles the rest of the settings. If you’re content to go with default settings, the L10 can come out of the box and the inexperienced shutterbug need never worry about anything other than composing and capturing images.

Auto mode does a pretty good job across a range of subjects, but the entire point of a DSLR is that it is NOT a point-and-shoot camera. DSLRs are for photographer who wants to take control over their images.

Scene Modes

In addition to Auto mode the L10 provides 10 programmed picture modes for specific scenes: Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Sports, Night Portrait, Sunset, Food, Baby 1, Baby 2, and Pet. The camera optimizes settings for the various scenes, and just like the full auto mode, the user has the ability to set some image parameters depending on the scene selected.

P, A, S, and M

Finally, the camera also has the Programmed auto (P), Shutter priority (S), Aperture priority (A) and Manual exposure (M) modes that are the standard features of any DSLR.

P: the camera sets shutter speed and aperture; the user has the option to set a full range of camera settings, including choice of flash modes, exposure compensation, flash compensation, metering mode, AF mode, shooting mode, ISO sensitivity, white balance, image size and quality. These same camera settings may be accessed in the A, S, and M modes as well.

A: aperture is set by the user, shutter speed by the camera.

S: shutter speed is set by the user, aperture by the camera.

M: both shutter speed and aperture are set by the user.

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation of +/- 2 EV in 1/3 EV increments is available in P, A or S modes only, and is most effective with the center-weighted or spot metering options. There is also an exposure bracketing feature for taking multiple images at different exposure settings: one under-exposed, one standard exposure, and one overexposure.

Light Metering

The L10 features a 256-zone multi-light metering system. When you're shooting with Live View mode this way, the LCD shows you how the whole image will look before you take the shot. While this sounds well and good on the surface, metering results in direct sunlight were less than stellar. Exposures were accurate in dark environments or on cloudy, overcast days, but in direct sunlight the camera tends to overexpose highlights ... rendering whites and light blues much lighter than they should be.


(view medium image) (view large image)

Focus

The L10 features three or 11 selectable auto focus points depending on your shooting mode. While viewing the LCD, you can choose from as many as 11 points for the auto focus area. This lets you choose the area that's most appropriate for the subject and your intention. Face detection of up to 15 faces is also available in the Live View mode ... making it easier to grab focus for portraits. Unfortunately, while using the standard optical viewfinder you are limited to only three selectable auto focus points.

On that note, auto focus was notably slow in both the Live View and standard shooting modes. The L10 tends to lock focus on high contrast backgrounds whenever movement is detected within the frame ... making it difficult (or nearly impossible) to obtain critical focus on moving subjects.

Monitor and Viewfinder

The 207,000-pixel, 2.5" LCD monitor can rotate 180° horizontally and tilt 270° vertically. This flexibility combines with full-time Live View to make it much easier to capture the kinds of shots – such as high-angle and low-angle shots – that are difficult or impossible with ordinary viewfinders. Hold the camera near the ground to capture an eye level shot of moss on the forest floor. In a crowd of people, hold the camera high overhead and still get a perfectly framed image. The LCD on the L10 does open up a new range of creative possibilities.

Panasonic Lumix L10
(view large image)

The L10 has a bright but small viewfinder with 0.85-times magnification and 96% accuracy … below average for entry level DSLRs. Thankfully, Panasonic includes a viewfinder magnifier to enlarge the viewfinder ... it also has the added benefit of moving your nose away from the LCD so you don't smudge the display.

Flash

The L10 is equipped with a built-in multi-functional flash that you can adjust from -2 to +2 EV in 1/3-EV steps. The L10 also has a hot shoe for mounting a TTL metering external flash such as the optional DMW-FL500 or DMW-FL360. For those of you who have Olympus DSLR flash units, you'll be pleased to know the L10 is fully compatible with those flash units as well.

Panasonic Lumix L10
(view large image)

ISO

Auto ISO is the default setting for the auto and scene shooting modes and will set a sensitivity between 100 and 1600 as it deems appropriate. . ISO 100 is the default for the P, A, S and M modes unless you have previously selected an ISO. ISO may also be manually set at 100, 200, 400, 800 or 1600.

The L10 also features "Intelligent ISO Control.” This innovative function senses if the subject moves and automatically adjusts the ISO setting and shutter speed accordingly, helping to prevent motion blur.

If the subject remains still, the camera shoots at a low ISO setting to give you beautiful, natural-looking images.

In addition to the seven ISO sensitivity settings (AUTO/100/200/400/800/1600/Intelligent ISO), you can use “ISO Limit Set” to preset exactly the upper ISO limit that you want. This lets you shoot within the sensitivity range that you have set, so if you prefer auto ISO to be limited to ISO 100 to 400 you can make it happen.

The macro images below were taken using the various manual ISO settings:


ISO 100 (view medium image) (view large image)

ISO 200 (view medium image) (view large image)

ISO 400 (view medium image) (view large image)

ISO 800 (view medium image) (view large image)

ISO 1600 (view medium image) (view large image)

Below is an additional "real world" picture taken at ISO 1600. As is common with most high ISO images, noise isn't a visible in the final prints as long as the images are not subject to excessive enlargement.

panasonic lumix l10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

White Balance

Auto white balance is the default setting for all Panasonic L10 shooting modes. In P, A, S, and M modes the user may select from incandescent, fluorescent, direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, or a custom setting using a white or gray object as reference. I used auto white balance or flash for the shots taken with the Panasonic L10 to illustrate this review.

Additional Sample Images

panasonic lumix l10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
panasonic lumix l10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
panasonic lumix l10 review
(view medium image) (view large image)
panasonic lumix l10 review
(view medium image) (view large image)

(view medium image) (view large image)

(view medium image) (view large image)

CONCLUSION

Over the last few years I have used DSLRs from Nikon, Fuji, Canon, Olympus, and Pentax, so I was curious how the Panasonic L10 would perform. In addition to my DSLRs I also own a Panasonic DMC-FZ50 ultrazoom camera, so I expected a lot from the L10. What I discovered was that the L10  tries to combine the best features of a DSLR and the best features of an all-in-one camera like the FZ50 ... but the result is less than spectacular.

Focus speed of the L10 is sub par compared to other DSLRs and even some all-in-one fixed lens cameras are able to provide faster auto focus. True, the Live View shooting mode and 3.0fps continuous shooting performance is great, but focus issues, exposure problems in direct sunlight, and overall lack of contrast and sharpness in images leaves much to be desired. Image quality is only average among the other 10 megapixel DSLRs on the market and ISO noise levels above 400 make this camera a poor choice for shooting in low light. The full compatibility with the Four-Thirds lens standard means   there are many lens options for expansion and growth of your photographic skills, and compatibility with the Panasonic and Olympus external flash units is great. Colors under artificial light or diffused sunlight are rich and accurate. Built-in image stabilization in the kit lens also ensures your images are blur free. Also, anyone upgrading from a point-and-shoot camera to a DSLR will feel right at home with the auto and scene program modes.

Bottom line, given the $1,000+ price tag and only average performance, the innovative features on the L10 might not be enough to make consumers buy this camera.

PROS

CONS