Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 21, 2003
May 12, 2004
of the most unique cameras of 2003 was also one of my favorites:
the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 (read
our review). I loved the incredible F2.8, 12X optical zoom
lens with optical image stabilization. For whatever reason, shooting
with the FZ1 was always fun. But it wasn't a perfect camera;
it was only 2 Megapixel, and it lacked any real manual controls.
the new Lumix
DMC-FZ10 ($599), you can have your cake and eat
it too (first time I've worked that cliche into a review). You
still get the F2.8, 12X stabilized lens, but now there's a 4
Megapixel CCD, full manual controls, and a hot shoe! The only
catch is that the FZ10 is a fairly large camera compared to other
ultra zoom models out there.
this the camera ultra zoom enthusiasts have been waiting for?
the model shown here (DMC-FZ10S) has a silver body. Another
model (DMC-FZ10K) with a black body is also available.
in the Box?
FZ10 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.0 (effective) Mpixel Lumix DMC-FZ10 camera
Secure Digital card
adapter / battery charger
featuring ArcSoft Camera Suite and USB drivers
page manual (printed)
throws a 16MB Secure Digital (SD) card in the box with the camera.
That's barely enough to start with, so consider a larger card
a mandatory purchase. I'd recommend picking up a 128MB or larger
card right away. The FZ10 supports both SD and MultiMedia (MMC)
FZ10 uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery to provide power.
The included CGA-S002A battery has a decent amount of energy
-- 4.9 Wh. Panasonic estimates that you can take about 200 pictures
using the LCD, or 240 pictures using the electronic viewfinder,
which is about average.
of a proprietary battery include the cost ($50), and the fact
that you can't just pop in a set of AAs when you're low on juice.
This battery is notorious for being hard to find, but I found
it in stock at B&H Photo-Video.
it's time to recharge, just put the battery in the included external
charger, and wait 90 minutes. This isn't one of those "plug
right into the wall" chargers -- you must use a power cable.
can also use the charger as an AC adapter to power your camera
without using batteries -- a nice touch.
FZ10 includes a lens cap to protect your fancy lens, but it doesn't
use a retaining strap. If that bugs you, you may want to buy
one of those stick-on retaining straps.
an added bonus, Panasonic includes a lens hood, which comes in
handy when you're shooting outdoors. The lens hood is threaded
for 72 mm (!) filters, as well.
accessory scene has improved since the FZ1. First, you can now
add conversion lenses! Choose from the 0.8X DMW-LWZ10 wide-angle
lens, or the 1.5X DMW-LTZ10 telephoto lens. The wide-angle lens
brings the wide end of your FZ10 down to 28 mm, while the tele
lens brings the top end up to a whopping 630 mm. Do note that
you can't use the full zoom range while using these lenses: the
wide lens is only for 1-2X, while the tele lens is only for 6-12X.
protect your lens, you can purchase the DMW-LMC72, a multi-coated
filter. There's also a neutral density filter available, known
as the DMW-LND72. Both of these require the use of the aforementioned
to its hot shoe, the FZ10 also supports an external flash. Panasonic
would be happy to sell you their PE-28S flash ($150), but you
can use any standard flash with the camera. More on this later.
accessories include things like memory cards, card readers, and
a carrying case.
includes a whole bunch of ArcSoft's software with the FZ10. This
includes PhotoImpression (for editing photos), PhotoBase (for
organizing photos), PanoramaMaker (for creating panoramic images),
and PhotoPrinter (for printing photos). All of these programs
are Mac OS X native -- and Windows compatible too, of course.
In addition to the ArcSoft software, USB drivers for Windows
are also included.
won't be winning any awards for their camera manuals. The information
is there, but it can be hard to find, and there's a lot of "notes" on
DMC-FZ10 has put on some weight since it was the FZ1. It's bigger
and heavier -- this camera is built like a tank. It towers over
other ultra zoom cameras:
The FZ10 is considerably larger than the
HP Photosmart 945
unique appearance of the FZ10 will be sure to turn heads. Most
of the controls are easy to reach, though I wish that the zoom
controller was a little more toward the side of the camera. I
also would've liked a larger right hand grip, as it's hard to
hold the FZ10 comfortably.
how the FZ10 compares to other cameras in its class, in terms
of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 3.4 x 4.2 in.
x 3.2 x 3.1 in.
x 3.2 x 3.2 in.
x 3.4 x 3.4 in.
x 3.1 x 3.2 in.
C-750 Ultra Zoom
x 2.6 x 2.7 in.
x 2.8 x 3.3 in.
x 2.7 x 2.6 in.
what I meant about the FZ10 being big? It's not as big as my
Canon D60, but it's getting there.
let's begin our tour of the camera now.
feature that makes the FZ10 unique is its Leica 12X optical zoom
lens with optical image stabilization. There are actually gyroscopes
inside the camera, which sense "camera shake". The
camera then moves the lens elements to compensate for the motion.
This gives you a few extra stops of shutter speed -- in other
words, you can shoot at a slower shutter speed than you could
without image stabilization! It's a real boon for those who are
shooting sports or wildlife.
other lenses which typically have a maximum aperture range of
around F2.8-3.5 (or more), the FZ10 is F2.8 at both the wide-angle
and telephoto positions. That gives you extra flexibility when
shooting in low light situations (i.e. being able to use a faster
focal range of the lens is 6 - 72 mm, which is equivalent to
35 - 420 mm. While the lens itself is not threaded, you can attach
the lens hood to use 72 mm filters, and the FZ10 also supports
the two conversion lenses that I already mentioned.
above that lens is the FZ10's pop-up flash. The flash has a working
range of 0.4 - 4.0 m at wide-angle, and 1.2 - 2.1 m at telephoto.
If that's not good enough for you, add your own flash using the
hot shoe that I'll show you in a minute.
items on the front of the camera include the microphone and self-timer
lamp. Unfortunately, there's no AF-assist lamp or passive AF
system as seen on some other cameras. At this point in time,
the majority of ultra zoom cameras are still lacking either of
the back of the camera, you'll find a large 2.0" LCD display
-- up from 1.5" on the FZ1. Unlike some other big LCDs,
this one is high resolution, with 130,000 pixels. Images on the
LCD are bright and fluid, and you can adjust the screen brightness
in the setup menu.
the upper-left of the LCD is the FZ10's electronic viewfinder,
or EVF. This is essentially a small LCD display that you use
as if it was a regular optical rangefinder. Like the main LCD,
the EVF shows 100% of the frame. It's also high resolution, with
114,000 pixels, and everything moves smoothly. I did find it
very difficult to see anything on the EVF in dim lighting --
Panasonic does not boost the gain like some other manufacturers
(such as Minolta) do. The EVF has a diopter correction knob,
to help focus the image on it.
are several buttons to the right of the EVF. These include:
- toggles between the two
- choose what is shown on LCD/EVF
- adjust the aperture/shutter speed when in manual mode; also
used for program shift (described later)
those is the button which pops up the flash.
the right of the LCD are two buttons (menu, delete photo) as
well as the four-way controller. In addition to its menu navigation
functions, the controller also does the following:
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) +
exposure bracketing (3 shots in a row with different EV values)
+ flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced on, slow sync
w/redeye reduction, forced off)
- Review (jumps to playback mode)
- Self-timer (2 or 10 sec)
the right of the four-way controller is the FZ10's speaker.
of the new additions to the FZ10 can be seen right here -- a
hot shoe. You can attach any standard flash to it, and Panasonic
sells a few of their own. The shutter speed range available when
using the flash is 1/60 - 1/250 sec.
the right of that is the mode dial, which has the following options:
mode - aperture, shutter priority, and manual modes; see below
mode - more on this later
- capture the subject sharply, but with a blurry background
mode - more later
mode - more later
mode is the "auto" mode on the FZ10. The camera picks
both the shutter speed and aperture for you. However, a feature
called program shift will let you choose from several combinations
of shutter speeds and apertures. This comes in handy in situations
where you want a smaller aperture (for more depth of field) or
a fast shutter speed (to freeze the action), but the camera isn't
giving it to you.
aperture priority mode, you choose the aperture, and the camera
selects the appropriate shutter speed. The range of apertures
is F2.8 - F8.0.
priority mode is exactly the opposite. You can select from a
shutter sped range of 8 - 1/2000 sec.
manual mode, you choose both the aperture and shutter speed.
The ranges are the same as above. Do note that the faster shutter
speeds are only available at the smaller apertures: 1/1300 requires
the aperture to be F4.0 or higher, 1/1600 sec wants F5.6 and
above, and 1/2000 sec needs F8.0.
zoom controller, wrapped around the shutter release button, (very)
quietly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.6 seconds.
The controller is also very precise, so you can get the lens
exactly where you want it. As I mentioned before, I wish that
Panasonic placed it a little more toward the top-right of the
body -- but that's just my opinion.
the zoom controller is a button for continuous shooting. The
FZ10 has a very impressive burst mode, thanks to the "Venus
Engine" LSI that powers the camera. In low speed mode, you
can take 5 or 7 shots in a row (depending on the image quality
setting) at 2 frames/second. But the real action is in high speed
more, where you can take the same number of shots at 4 frames/second
are several things to see on this side of the FZ10. The first
is the manual focus ring around the lens, which the FZ1 lacked.
When in manual focus, turn the ring to make precise adjustments
to the focus. It seemed a little oversensitive to me, but that's
of manual focus, to the right of the ring is the switch to put
the camera into manual focus mode. If you press the switch down
all the way, the camera will autofocus, giving you a head start.
As you can see above, the camera enlarges the center of the frame
for you, so you can make sure your subject is properly focused.
I would've really liked to have seen some kind of display of
the current focus distance, though.
the far right of the above picture, under a plastic cover, are
two of the FZ10's I/O ports. These include A/V out and USB. The
FZ10 doesn't support the USB 2.0 standard -- then again, neither
do the majority of cameras.
the other side, also under a plastic cover, is the other I/O
port: the one for DC-in. By plugging in the included AC adapter,
you can power your camera without draining your battery.
bottom of the camera is where you'll find the tripod mount, battery
compartment, and SD/MMC card slot.
metal tripod mount is oddly placed, neither centered on the body,
nor inline with the lens. Its placement means that you cannot
swap memory cards or batteries while the cameras is on a tripod.
included battery and memory card are shown at left.
the Panasonic DMC-FZ10
takes about 4.8 seconds for the FZ10 to turn on and "warm
up" before you can start shooting. Most of that time is
taken up by the lens moving to the wide-angle position.
speeds were about average, with the camera taking a little under
a second to lock focus in most situations. Focusing in low light
wasn't wondrous, which is typical for cameras without an AF-assist
lag was low at fast shutter speeds, and noticeable (but still
brief) at slower shutter speeds (where a tripod is advised anyway).
mode now features a histogram
speed is excellent, with a one second delay between shots (assuming
the post-shot review feature is off). You cannot delete a shot
as it's being recorded to memory, but you can enter review mode
(using the four-way controller) to do so.
here's a look at the image size/quality choices on the FZ10:
photos on included 16MB SD Memory card
HDTV option is an interesting one -- it's actually shoved to
the back of the list in the menus. You'll essentially get a "widescreen" photo
in this mode -- perfect for display on a 16:9 TV!
is no TIFF or RAW image format on the FZ10.
are named Pxxxyyyy.JPG, where x = 100 - 999 and y = 0001 - 9999.
The numbering is maintained as you erase and swap memory cards.
move on to menus now.
FZ10 has a very basic (in terms of appearance and operation)
menu system. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done. Here's
what you'll find there:
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, flash, white set)
- the last one there is manual WB; shoot a white or gray card
for perfect color in any lighting
size (see chart)
mode (on/off) - focus and metering measured on a spot in the
center of the frame
sensitivity (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
recording (on/off) - record a 5 second voice clip with each
autofocus (on/off) - when on, camera is always trying to focus;
puts extra strain on batteries
zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will reduce photo
effect (Off, cool, warm, black & white) - cool means "bluish",
while warm means "reddish"
adjustment - much improved over the FZ1
stabilizer (Off, mode 1, mode 2) - see below
animation - see below
are two types of image stabilization on the FZ10 (versus just
on and off on the FZ1). Mode 1 keeps the stabilizer on at all
times. Mode 2 only turns on the stabilizer when the picture is
taken -- Panasonic this has a "higher stabilizing effect".
animation" feature is new, and is rarely seen (except on
some Sony cameras). It allows you to make stop-motion animation
using your camera. First, you take up to 100 pictures, moving
your subject a little bit each time. When you're ready to put
them together, you use the "create motion image" option,
choose a frame rate (5 or 10 frames/sec), and away you go. The
stills are then assembled into a 320 x 240 QuickTime movie.
is also a setup menu on the FZ10, which is another "tab" in
the record and playback menus. The setup options are:
brightness (-3 to +3)
review (Off, 1, 3 sec, zoom) - see below
(Off, low volume, high volume)
save (Off, 2, 5, 10 min)
assist (on/off) - enlarge the center of the frame in manual
number reset (on/off)
mode (Mass Storage, PTP)
(English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese)
on LCD (on/off) - always use the LCD in playback or review
out (NTSC, PAL)
The "zoom" option
in auto review is a little bizarre. After you take a picture,
it's shown normally on the LCD for about a second. But then it
automatically enlarges by a power of four, and that is shown
for 2 seconds. I suppose this is a way to check the focus.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
FZ10 did a fine job with our usual macro test subject (who stands
about 3" tall). Detail and color both look good.
annoyance about macro mode: you can only select it as an item
on the mode dial. This may not sound like a big deal, but it
also means that you can't take a macro shot while in A/S/M mode.
I ran into this myself when taking the above shot, which I couldn't take in
macro mode, because the slowest shutter speed available is 1/2
here's what I had to do to take a macro shot in A/S/M mode. First,
I went into macro mode, had the camera lock the focus. I then
flipped the focus switch to MF, and moved back to A/S/M mode.
Another thing you can do is to just adjust the focus yourself
while in A/S/M mode.
I was in a good mood, I took an extra macro shot. This one was
taken really close to the subject -- practically up
against it. It was, of course, taken at wide-angle, hence the
barrel distortion. You can make out plenty of detail in this
macro mode on the FZ10 allows you to get as close to your subject
as 5 cm / 0.16 ft at wide-angle, and 2 m / 6.6 ft at telephoto.
wide-angle, I was able to get a subject as small as 50 x 35 mm
to fill the frame. (I'm still learning how to do this one, so
bear with me for a while).
big complaint of mine about the FZ1 was its lack of shutter speed
control. That's no longer an issue on the FZ10, thanks to its
full suite of manual controls. That allows you to take nice night
shots like the one above (though I suppose I could've done a
slightly longer exposure). Noise and purple fringing (chromatic
aberrations) are not an issue at all in this 4 second exposure.
give you an idea about the relationship between ISO sensitivity
and noise, here's the same night shot taken at each of the available
you can see, noise is low until ISO 200, where it starts to pick
up. ISO 400 is quite noisy.
having a flash that pops up and away from the lens, there's still
some redeye to be found on the FZ10. It's not horrible by any
means, but it's still noticeable. You can usually get rid of
it using software.
(Notes: Test photo shot at auto ISO, with redeye reduction on. Crop slightly
distortion test (taken at wide-angle) shows very noticeable barrel
distortion, and no vignetting (dark corners).
I was very happy with the quality of the FZ10's photos. They're
colorful, sharp, and generally well-exposed. Noise levels may
be a tiny bit above average, but that did not bother me. Nor
did the purple fringing, which is "par for the course" on
ultra zooms. I did notice some "jaggies" on edges in
the photos I took, which could be attributed to either JPEG compression
or the in-camera sharpening system (I vote for the latter). All
of those are minor quibbles, though -- I rank the FZ10's photo
quality at the top of the class, along with the two Olympus models.
always, don't just take my word for it -- please view the photo
gallery and see what your eyes tell you!
movie mode has been improved a bit on the FZ10. On the FZ1, you
could record 320 x 240 video (with sound) until the memory card
is full. That was nice, but the 10 frames/sec frame rate was
not. Fear not: there's now a 30 frames/second mode, which produces
much smoother video!
included 16MB card can hold 25 seconds of 30 frames/sec video,
or 75 seconds at 10 frames/sec. A 512MB card can hold 1020 and
2950 seconds, respectively.
cannot use the zoom during filming, but you can position it wherever
you want before you begin filming.
are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec.
a very exciting sample movie, taken at the 30 fps setting:
Click to play movie (4.0MB, QuickTime format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
FZ10 has a pretty nice playback mode. Panasonic covers all the
basic features, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail
mode, image protection, voice captions, and zoom and scroll.
The camera is PictBridge-enabled, as well.
zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom 2, 4, 8, or 16 times into
your photo, and then scroll around. I do wish that the scrolling
are a few advanced playback features as well, including image
rotation, resizing and trimming (cropping). In both cases, you
can choose to save or delete the original photo.
photos is a snap: just use the button on the back of the camera.
You can delete one, multiple, or all photos. I appreciate the
ability to delete a group of photos -- this is a rare feature.
first glance, the FZ10 doesn't show you much about your photos.
But press the "display" button and you'll get some
exposure information, including a histogram.
camera moves through photos at an average pace, with a delay
of a little more than a second between photos.
Does it Compare
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 has a lot going for it. It has a 4 Megapixel
CCD, F2.8, 12X optical zoom lens with image stabilization, full
manual controls, and support for both conversion lenses and an
external flash. Put it all together and you've got a camera that's
at the top of my list for ultra zoom cameras, along with Olympus'
C-750 (which offers more manual controls in exchange for a smaller,
unstabilized lens). The FZ10 has great photo quality, it's fun
to use, and both its movie and burst modes are better than average.
The large 2" LCD is a nice touch. Speaking of large, the
FZ10 is a big camera -- the biggest ultra zoom model out there.
While some may disagree, I see the FZ10 as a "serious" camera,
rather than a "take anywhere" camera.
camera is perfect, and that includes the FZ10. Luckily most of
my issues with it are fairly minor. For one, it didn't really
offer standout performance, except for its great burst mode.
I don't like how the memory card slot is inaccessible while the
camera is on a tripod. And while there is an easy workaround,
I'd prefer to activate macro mode via a button, rather than a
spot on the mode dial. There were a few image quality issues,
but none of them bothered me: some redeye, purple fringing, and "jaggies" were
all apparent. And finally, I found the electronic viewfinder
to be nearly useless while shooting in dim light (where the camera
didn't focus terribly well anyway).
with those issues, I still really like the DMC-FZ10, and I highly
recommend it to those looking for a top-notch, fun-to-use ultra
that lens: F2.8, 12X, optical image stabilization
good photo quality
and fun to use
frames/sec movie mode (though still 320 x 240)
sharp LCD and EVF (though the latter is not useable in dim light)
in both record and playback modes
conversion lenses and filters
like a tank
I didn't care for:
purple fringing and "jaggies" in images
- Poor low light focusing / no AF-assist lamp
mode can't be used in A/S/M mode (unless manual focus counts)
difficult to use in low light
bulky, hard to hold
access battery or memory card while camera is on tripod
zoom cameras are quite popular now, and there are many choices.
Here are some other models to consider: Fuji FinePix S5000 and S7000, HP
Photosmart 945, Kodak
EasyShare DX6490, Minolta DiMAGE A1 and Z1, Nikon
Coolpix 5700, Olympus C-740 and C-750 Ultra
Zoom, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717 and DSC-F828,
and the Toshiba
PDR-M700. Of those, only the Minolta A1 has image stabilization
-- though it works in a different manner than on the FZ10.
always, I recommend a trip down to your local retailer to try
out the DMC-FZ10 and it's competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample
photos in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
out the review of the FZ10 at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.
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