Pros: Powerful 12x Leica zoom lens with built-in image stabilization. Panning mode adds background motion blur to sports photos. Excellent output image quality for the price.
Cons: Panning mode not great in bright sunlight. Basic hot shoe. Provided 16MB SD card too small for £400 camera.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10S includes an amazingly powerful 12x Leica zoom lens that has built-in image stabilization and a fairly good selection of advanced creative controls.
Leica’s influence on this camera goes beyond the lens – The Lumix’s retro styling and attention to detail are typical of Leica models. The molded alloy body is surprisingly light; and though the camera is fairly large in comparison to some models, you can grip the camera with one hand remarkably easily for single-handed shooting.
Still, the Lumix has some design shortcomings. Its mode dial, for example, has a single setting for aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and full-manual shooting modes. You have to delve into the menus to select between the three. Most manufacturers dropped this arrangement two years ago. The Lumix has an old-style hot shoe, too, with the most rudimentary connections – in other words, no through-the-lens metering with an external flash, and camera and external flash settings must be matched manually. Finally, if you use the zoom control frequently, it can be somewhat rough on your index finger.
The DMC-FZ10 has five automatic scene modes selectable from the mode dial, and it includes an unusual panning mode that lets you achieve a sense of motion by blurring the background as you track a moving subject. However,
this feature works badly in bright sunlight, though the manual admits this.
We got better panning results when we used shutter priority at a slow speed. Once you’ve discovered the exposure button, you can adjust the aperture and shutter settings easily with the arrow buttons. We liked the Lumix’s smooth manual focus ring, located on the lens.
The DMC-FZ10 scores high for image quality. We saw natural colours and good skin tones in flash photographs.
In resolution tests, the Lumix compared favourably with other five-megapixel cameras, rendering easily-readable
small fonts and fine parallel lines. Colours and details looked accurate in the still life and in outdoor shots.
The battery life is quite impressive: we took 277 shots, half with flash, on a single charge. The charger for the camera’s lithium-ion battery is rather large, but it’s still easy enough to stow in your bag. Unlike most cameras we’ve seen that have separate lens caps, the Lumix does not come equipped with a cord to attach the cap to the camera. Panasonic throws in a plastic lens hood to minimize lens flare and ghosting in sunlight or strong backlight. For almost £400, Panasonic could have provided more than a 16MB SD card.
Our original Lumix unit developed a fault during testing in which both the LCD display and the electronic viewfinder acquired a magenta cast, though photos still came out fine. The replacement unit we received functioned perfectly.