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DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 14, 2007
Last Updated: February 5, 2008

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 is the second digital SLR from the Japanese consumer electronics giant. The L10 is the follow-up to the DMC-L1, which didn't end up in the hands of that many photographers (apparently), and I think it's ~$1700 price tag had a lot to do with that. The biggest reason for the L1's high price was it's excellent 14 - 50 mm kit lens, which sells today for $900. Panasonic created a new, less expensive kit lens for the DMC-L10, which brings the price down to a more reasonable $1300.

Here are the big differences between the DMC-L10 and its predecessor:

That's not too shabby! What hasn't changed? The L10 retains the live view, manual controls, dust reduction system, and expandability of its predecessor. Its kit lens may be cheaper, but it still has optical image stabilization built into it.

The original DMC-L1 got a mixed review from yours truly. Will the L10 do better? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The DMC-L10 comes in just one "kit", and it includes the following:

As you can see, Panasonic threw some extras in the box with the L10, including a 1.2X magnifier eyecup, lens hood, and lens storage bag. I can't think of a digital SLR that comes with any of those as standard accessories.

There's also the kit lens which, as I mentioned earlier, isn't quite as nice as the one that came with the DMC-L1. Both lenses are 14 - 50 mm (equivalent to 28 - 100 mm), but the L1's F2.8 - F3.5 lens is a heck of a lot faster than the F3.8 - F5.6 lens that comes with the DMC-L10. This lens is a lot closer to what's offered on other entry-level D-SLRs, though none of them have built-in optical image stabilization. The lens' OIS system lets you shoot at shutter speeds that would be unavailable on an unstabilized camera/lens, and I'll have an example of it in action later in the review.

As with all digital SLRs, no memory card is included with the DMC-L10. That means that, unless you already have one, you'll want to buy a large and fast SD, SDHC, or MMC card right away. I'd suggest starting out with a 2GB card, and it's worth paying the extra bucks for a high speed model.

The DMC-L10 uses a different battery than its predecessor. This model (known as the DMW-BLA13) packs a powerful punch, with 9.5 Wh of energy inside its plastic shell. Now let's see how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, live view off
(CIPA standard)
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 500 shots
Canon EOS-40D 800 shots
Fuji FinePix S5 Pro 400 shots
Nikon D40x 520 shots
Nikon D300 1000 shots
Olympus E-510 650 shots
Olympus E-3 610 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 450 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 450 shots
Pentax K10D * 480 shots
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 650 shots

* Equivalent to the Samsung GX-10

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

There a few things to cover before we move on. First, the L1's battery life is the same as the L10 before it -- even with the different battery. In the group as a whole, the L10 comes in about 30% below average, and that's with live view turned off. If you turn it on, look out -- the L10's battery life drops down to 280 shots per charge. Thus, you may want to think about getting a spare, which isn't going to be cheap -- Panasonic's batteries are traditionally quite expensive.

While none of the cameras listed above support AA batteries straight out of the box, many of them do via their optional battery grip. Since there's no battery grip available for the DMC-L10, you won't be able to use AA batteries (which some people prefer) with the camera.

When it's time to charge the L10's battery, just slide it into the included charger. Unlike most of Panasonic's chargers (which plug directly into the wall), this one requires a power cord. It takes around 140 minutes to fully charge the battery. The charger also doubles as an AC adapter, though you'll need to buy the DMW-DCC1 DC cable (price unknown) in order to actually take advantage of it.

One of the nice things about D-SLRs is they support virtually any accessory that you can imagine. The L10 supports the usual suspects, except for a battery grip. Here's what accessories are available:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The L10 supports all FourThirds lenses, with a 2X focal length conversion ratio
MC protector DMW-LMCH67 ?? Protect the kit lens from dust, water, and yourself
Circular polarizer DMW-LPL67 ?? Reduce reflections and glare, darken the sky, and more
External flash

DMW-FL360
DMW-FL500

From $270
From $519
You'll get more flash power and less chance of redeye with an external flash. These two models fully integrate with the camera. You should be able to use the Olympus equivalents (FL36/FL50) as well.
Wired remote control DMW-RSL1 From $70 Basically a shutter release button on a 1.5 meter cable.
DC cable DMW-DCC1 ?? Power the camera without using your batteries
Leather camera case DMW-BAL1 From $170 Protect your camera and accessories from the elements with this pricey case
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Unfortunately, I don't have the pricing for most of those accessories. For some bizarre reason, Panasonic accessories seem harder to get your hands on than most.


Lumix Simple Viewer for Windows

Panasonic includes several software products with the camera, and the first one is Lumix Simple Viewer, which is for Windows only. This does just what its name implies: it imports photos from the camera and then lets you view, e-mail, or print them. And that's it. It cannot view images recorded in the RAW format.


PhotoFunStudio for Windows - main window


PhotoFunStudio for Windows - edit window

Next up we have PhotoFunStudio, which is again Windows-only. This adds a few basic editing features, including brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness adjustment, plus redeye removal. There's also a one-touch image enhancement option. If you're looking for RAW editing (or even viewing) capability, you won't find it here -- keep reading.


SilkyPix for Mac

Panasonic provides SilkyPix Developer Studio 2.1 SE for all your RAW editing needs. This full-featured software for Mac and Windows lets you adjust virtually any RAW property, from white balance to noise reduction to color. The interface is archaic (to say the least), but SilkyPix gets the job done. Another option for RAW editing is Adobe Photoshop CS3 (with the latest Camera Raw plug-in), which has a much more sensible interface and superior performance.

The RAW format, by the way, is a lossless image format consisting of raw image data from the CCD. Thanks to this, you can change things like white balance, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction without lowering the quality of the original image. So if you screwed up the white balance you can fix it -- it's like taking the shot all over again. The catch is that RAW files must be first processed on your computer before you can export them into more common formats such as JPEG. In addition, RAW files are considerably larger than JPEGs -- taking up more than twice as much space on your memory card.

Something you can't do with this camera is control it remotely from your computer. Most of the competition allows you to do this, though sometimes it requires purchasing extra software.

Long time readers of this site will know that I'm not a big fan of Panasonic's camera manuals. While the one included with the DMC-L10 covers everything in fairly good detail, the layout is cluttered and confusing, making for a rather unpleasant reading experience.

Look and Feel

In terms of design, the DMC-L10 is a mirror image of its predecessor, the DMC-L1:

The boxy L1 versus the more traditional L10 (photos not to scale). Images courtesy of Panasonic.

As you can see, the original L1 looked like a combination of a Leica and a brick. The L10's looks less "Rangefinder-ish", but it's a lot easier to hold in my opinion. While the L10's build quality isn't quite as good as the L1's, it's still comparable with other D-SLRs in its price range. The frame of the camera is made of a magnesium alloy, and it's covered with a sturdy plastic shell. Ergonomically speaking, the L10 is very good. The only things that really bothered me were the dual switches under the mode dial (one for power, the other for drive mode), which was confusing. Otherwise, the L10 is easy to hold, with controls that are fairly easy to figure out.

Now, here's a look at how the L10 fares against the competition in terms of size and weight (body only, of course):

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in. 48.1 cu in. 510 g
Canon EOS-40D 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in. 69.4 cu in. 740 g
Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in. 74 cu in. 830 g
Nikon D300 5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in. 75.7 cu in. 825 g
Nikon D40x 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 46.3 cu in. 482 g
Olympus E-3 5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in. 74.7 cu in. 810 g
Olympus EVOLT E-510 5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in. 52.5 cu in. 470 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 5.7 x 3.4 x 3.1 in. 60.1 cu in. 530 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 5.3 x 3.8 x 3.1 in. 62.4 cu in. 480 g
Pentax K10D 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in. 62.7 cu in. 710 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 5.6 x 4.3 x 3.3 in. 79.5 cu in. 690 g

The volume numbers above for the L1 and L10 are a bit misleading, as the boxy design has a smaller volume than the more rounded L10. However, compare both side-by-side and I think you'll agree that the L10 is a lot less clunky-looking. In the entry-level and midrange D-SLR category, the L10 is one of the smaller and lighter cameras.

Alright, enough jabbering on my part, let's tour the camera now:

Here's the front of the DMC-L10, sans lens. The L10 uses the same FourThirds lens mount as the DMC-L1, as well as all Olympus digital SLRs. That means that you can use any FourThirds lens, whether its made by Panasonic, Olympus, or Sigma. There is a 2X focal length conversion ratio, so a 50 mm lens has a 100 mm field-of-view. To release the lens, you simply press the button located to the right of the lens mount.

Unlike its close relative, the Olympus EVOLT E-510, the DMC-L10 does not have sensor-shift image stabilization built in. That means that you'll need to buy lenses with OIS built-in, if you desire this feature. The L10's kit lens has image stabilization, as does the new Leica F3.5-5.6, 14 - 150 mm lens that I unfortunately didn't get a chance to try. I'll give you a demo of the 14 - 50 mm kit lens' image stabilization capability later in the review.

One feature that the L10 has in common with the E-510 (and the DMC-L1) is the Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system. When you turn the camera on, this filter (positioned in front of the Live MOS sensor) vibrates at 30,000 vibrations/second, literally shaking dust out of the way. As someone who's had problems with dust on my own D-SLRs in the past, I'm glad to see this feature here.

Getting back to the tour now: directly above the lens mount is the L10's popup flash, which is released manually. The flash is actually a bit more powerful than the one on the L1, with a guide number of 11 meters at ISO 100 (versus GN 10 before). That's still a bit weaker than the flashes you'll find on the competition, which have guide numbers of 12 or 13. If you want more flash power, and less of a chance of redeye, then you may want to consider adding an external flash via the hot shoe that you'll see in a bit.

The L10 has not one, but two AF-assist lamps, which are used as focusing aids in low light situations. The first is located right above the Panasonic logo, and it's used when the camera is using contrast detect focusing in live view mode (it also doubles as the self-timer lamp). If the flash is raised, then the camera will use that for AF-assist (except when using contrast detect AF), which is more effective (but less subtle) than the regular lamp. Do note that you are committed to taking a flash photo if you're using the flash-based AF-assist.

The last item of note on the front of the camera is one of two command dials on the L10. You'll use this for adjusting manual exposure settings.

One of the big additions on the DMC-L10 is a flip-out, rotating LCD display. The camera is one of only two D-SLRs to support this feature, the other being the Olympus E-3. The LCD can rotate 270 degrees, from facing your subject all the way around to facing the floor. It can also be put in the "traditional" position (see below), or closed entirely.

Rotating screens may sound a little gimmicky, but they allow for easy over-the-head or ground level shots, not to mention self-portraits. Add in the L10's live view feature (discussed in detail below) and you've got the closest thing to a compact camera experience that you'll find on a D-SLR.

Here's the LCD in the more traditional position (it can also be closed entirely). The screen seems to be the same one that was on the DMC-L1: 2.5" in size, with 207,000 pixels. The resolution is very good -- no complaints here.


Live view, complete with histogram and 9-point autofocus

Now it's time to talk about the L10's live view feature, which is arguably the most capable on the market. Lots of D-SLRs these days can let you preview your photos on the LCD in real-time, but the L10 goes a step further by allowing for contrast detect autofocus during live view, which lets the camera focus without having to flip the mirror down and back out of the way. Since they're using contrast detect AF, Panasonic has also added numerous focus modes, face detection, a live histogram, and grid line overlays. The catch is that you can only use contrast detect AF with the kit lens and the new 14 - 150 mm Panasonic lens -- otherwise it's the same old mirror-flipping three-point phase difference AF that you'll find on other live view SLRs. I'll have more on the camera's autofocus options and performance later in the review.


Manual focus (no idea why it's so green here)

Regardless on what lens you're using, you can enjoy what I consider the biggest benefit of live view: manual focusing. Not only can you compose your shot perfectly (thanks to the 100% field-of-view that live view brings), but you can "zoom in" to make sure your subject is properly focused. The L10 lets you select what area of the enlarged frame you're looking at, too, as the example above illustrates.

The quality of the live view is quite good in most cases. Outdoors the screen is fairly easy to see, especially with the Power LCD feature turned on. Low light viewing is alright, but still pales in comparison to a good fixed-lens camera. In low light situations you may be better off using the optical viewfinder.


This screen is shown on the LCD when you're not using live view

When you're not using live view, the LCD shows a info screen, similar to what you'll find on other D-SLRs these days. Unlike its Olympus counterparts, you cannot quickly change camera settings via this screen -- you'll need to use the direct buttons instead.

Returning to the tour now, our next stop is the optical viewfinder, which is located directly above the LCD. The viewfinder is a bit smaller than the one on the L1 (0.92X magnification, versus 0.93X), but it shows the same amount of the frame -- 95%. The viewfinder is definitely brighter than the L1's though, since it doesn't have the "split viewfinder" that was made to accommodate a secondary CCD which was used for live view (which the L1 didn't actually have, but that's another story). There's a column of data inside the viewfinder just right of the field-of-view which displays current exposure settings, shots remaining, focus lock, and more. You can use the diopter correction knob on the right side of the viewfinder to focus what you're looking at.

To the right of the viewfinder is the AE/AF lock button, which has the focus mode switch beneath it. The three focus modes are single (focus is locked when you halfway press the shutter release), continuous (where the camera continues to focus with the shutter release halfway-pressed), and manual. In manual focus mode you'll be able to take advantage of the frame enlargement feature that I just mentioned.

Moving down from there, we find the playback and display/LCD mode buttons. The latter is used to toggle the information shown on the screen (including the shooting info screen shown above) and turn on the Power LCD (brightening) feature. You can set the Power LCD feature to come on automatically (as needed), or you can turn it on manually.


Quick setting menu

To change settings quickly you can use the Function button, which is the next item to talk about. Pressing this options up the "quick setting" menu, which has these options: white balance, ISO sensitivity, picture size, quality, OIS mode, and flash setting. I'll discuss all of those in detail later in the review.

Below the function button is the delete photo button. To the right we find the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation, as well as:

The DMC-L10 has the same Intelligent ISO mode as many of Panasonic's compact cameras (yes, I'll be saying that a lot in this review). The camera will boost the ISO as high as needed in order to get a sharp photo, and it takes subject movement into account. For example, if you're shooting a soccer game, the camera will use a higher ISO than it would for a still life, as that's what's needed to freeze the subject's motion. Intelligent ISO mode can only be used with live view activated.

One other ISO-related item before I move on: you can only adjust the sensitivity in full stops, which is surprising on a $1300 D-SLR.


WB fine-tuning

The L10 has plenty of white balance options available, though I couldn't help but notice the absence of a fluorescent option. There are two custom modes available, which let you use a white or gray card to get accurate color in unusual lighting conditions. You can also set the color temperature manually, with a range of 2500K to 10000K in 100K increments. If that's still not good enough for you, then you can fine-tune the white balance in the amber-blue and/or green-magenta directions (see screenshot).

Selecting focus areas in multi-point and spot focus modes
Images courtesy of Panasonic

If you're shooting in live view mode with contrast detect AF, then you'll have a number of focus modes to choose from, many of which will look familiar to owners of Panasonic's compact cameras. In multi-area, 1-area, and spot mode, you can move the focus area around using the four-way controller. If you're using phase detection focus, then you can select from 3 focus points: left, center, and right. Yeah, the L10 is a little behind the times in the focus point department.

Jumping back to contrast detect AF for a moment: the DMC-L10 supports the same live view feature as Panasonic's compact cameras. The camera will detect up to fifteen faces in the frame, selecting one as the "primary" face. In my test scene (which, unfortunately, I cannot illustrate here), the camera locked focus on four or sometimes five of the six faces in the frame, which is quite good.

The last item on the back of the L10 is its second command dial.

The first thing to see on the top of the DMC-L10 is its hot shoe. It'll work best with Panasonic's two external flashes (or their Olympus counterparts), fully integrating with the camera's metering system. If you use a third party flash, there's a good chance that you'll have to adjust the flash settings manually. The camera can sync as fast as 1/160 sec with an external flash.

Moving to the right, we find the mode dial, with two switches (for drive and power) beneath it. As I mentioned earlier, I wasn't a big fan of the dual switch arrangement. The DMC-L1 didn't really have a traditional mode dial, so the one here is quite a bit different. Here are the options found on the dial:

Option Function
Auto mode Point-and-shoot, with many menu options locked up
Program mode Point-and-shoot, with full menu access. A Program Shift feature lets you select from various shutter speed/aperture combos by using the command dials
Aperture priority mode You choose the aperture and the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. The aperture will vary depending on what lens is attached to the camera. For the kit lens, the range is F3.8 to F22
Shutter priority mode Just the opposite: you choose the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture. Shutter speed range is 60 - 1/4000 sec.
Full manual (M) mode You select both the shutter speed and aperture. Same ranges as above. A bulb mode is also available, allowing for exposures as long as 8 minutes.
Custom mode Save up to three sets of camera settings here
Scene mode You choose the situation and the camera uses the proper settings. Choose from sunset, food, baby, and pet
Night portrait [advanced] Choose from night portrait, night scenery, illuminations, and creative night scenery
Sports [advanced] Choose from normal sports, outdoor sports, indoor sports, and creative sports
Macro [advanced] Choose from normal macro, intelligent ISO macro, creative macro
Scenery [advanced] Choose from normal scenery, nature, architecture, and creative scenery
Portrait [advanced] Choose from normal portrait, outdoor portrait, indoor portrait, and creative portrait

Not surprisingly, the L10 has a full set of manual exposure controls on its mode dial. There's also a custom spot, which can store up to three sets of your favorite camera settings.

The scene menu... ... and available help screens

The L10 has quite a few scene modes for a D-SLR. The baby and pet modes let you set the birthday of your child or animal, and their current age is recorded along with a photo. There are five "advanced" scene modes as well, which remind me of what Nikon has offered for a number of years on their compact cameras. Each of the advanced scenes has several choices available that activate certain features on the camera. For example, the architecture scenery mode puts guide lines on the LCD, while the indoor sports option boosts the shutter speed and the ISO sensitivity. Naturally, you could do all these things yourself, but if you want an easier way, here you go.

Once again returning to the tour: under the mode dial are the power and drive switches that I've mentioned twice already. The drive switch offers four options: single-shot, burst, AE bracketing, and self-timer. I'll talk about the burst mode first. In high speed burst mode, the camera took three RAW or RAW+JPEG shots and an unlimited number of JPEGs at just over 3 frames/second. In live view mode, things slowed down quickly -- the camera took about six JPEGs before the frame rate dropped noticeably (RAW was the same). Putting the camera into low speed mode drops the frame rate to 2.1 frames second with the same shooting limits as before (minus the live view speed drop off). While the unlimited JPEG shooting is comparable to the competition, other D-SLRs in this price range can take more sequential RAW photos.

The other drive mode to mention is AE bracketing. Here, the camera takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure. You can select an exposure interval of 1/3EV, 2/3EV, or 1EV via the record menu.


Film mode

To the right of the switches is the Film Mode button, which is pretty much the same thing as Picture Styles on Canon's D-SLRs. There are nine presets plus two custom settings available. Here's the full list:

Each of those modes can be tweaked to your hearts content, and you can save two of your own film modes to those "my film" spots. The settings that can be adjusted include:

The last item on the top of the camera is the shutter release button. Next!

There are just two things to mention on this side of the camera. First up is the on/off switch for the kit lens' image stabilization system. You may want to turn OIS off when the camera is on a tripod, where it can do more harm than good.

Up at the top-right of the photo you can see the release for the pop-up flash.

On this side of the L10 you'll find its I/O ports and memory card slot. The I/O ports are under a plastic cover, and are for USB+video out and for the optional remote shutter release cable. The door covering the SD/SDHC/MMC memory card slot is of decent quality.

Panasonic seems to have an aversion to supporting the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol on their cameras -- even the expensive ones. The L10 uses the USB 2.0 Full Speed standard, which is marketing-speak for "slow".

The kit lens is at the full telephoto position in this shot.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount (in-line with the lens, of course) and the battery compartment. The plastic door over the battery compartment is well put together, and features a locking mechanism. The included lithium-ion battery can be seen at the lower-right.

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10

Record Mode

The DMC-L10 is ready to shoot a fraction of a second after you flip the power switch -- just as you'd expect on a D-SLR.

Focus speeds depend on a number of factors, including what lens you're using. Perhaps the most important one is whether you're using contrast detect or phase difference AF. While having contrast detect AF in live view is certainly nice, don't expect compact camera performance. It takes more "hunting" than you'd expect for the L10 to lock focus in this mode, and it was easily surpassed in speed by the Panasonic FX55 that I had on my desk as well. Expect focus times starting at 0.7 seconds and going up from there when using contrast detect. If you're using the more traditional phase difference AF with live view, a slightly longer wait is possible, due to the required mirror-flipping. For fastest AF speeds you'll want to forget about live view and stick to the viewfinder -- it'll be nearly instant then. Low light focusing was best when the flash was used as the AF-assist lamp, otherwise it was pretty sluggish.

Shutter lag won't be an issue unless you're using live view, which adds a brief (but noticeable) delay before the photo is taken.

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal when shooting in JPEG mode. In RAW mode I noticed that I could only take 2-3 photos quickly before the camera paused (briefly) to write them to the memory card. Adding the flash into the mix didn't seem to make much of a difference.

You can delete a photo immediately after taking it by pressing -- guess what -- the delete photo button.

Now let's take a look at the numerous image size and quality options on the L10:

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 1GB SD card (optional)
4:3 10M
3648 x 2736
RAW 12.7 MB 79
Fine 5.1 MB 195
Standard 2.6 MB 380
6M
2560 X 1920
Fine 3.1 MB 320
Standard 1.6 MB 640
3M
2048 X 1536
Fine 1.7 MB 600
Standard 800 KB 1180
3:2 9M
3648 x 2432
RAW 11.2 MB 89
Fine 4.8 MB 210
Standard 2.3 MB 430
5.3M
2816 x 1880
Fine 2.8 MB 360
Standard 1.4 MB 710
2.8M
2048 x 1360
Fine 1.5 MB 680
Standard 800 KB 1310
16:9 7.5M
3648 x 2056
RAW 9.5 MB 105
Fine 4.0 MB 250
Standard 2.0 MB 510
4.5M
2816 x 1584
Fine 2.3 MB 430
Standard 1.2 MB 850
2M
1920 x 1080
Fine 1.1 MB 900
Standard 600 KB 1720

I've simplified this chart a bit, taking out the RAW+JPEG options. The camera lets you take a RAW image plus a JPEG at the size and quality of your choosing. To figure out the file size and number of shots for those, just "do the math" using the information provided in the chart above. If you have no idea what RAW is, then I suggest reading the software section earlier in the review.

The DMC-L10 has the same "extended optical zoom" feature as Panasonic's fixed-lens cameras. By lowering the resolution, you can use digital zoom without reducing the image quality. The lower the resolution goes, the more zoom you can use. For example, if you select the 3 Megapixel setting then the focal range is boosted by a factor of 1.8X. You can, of course, do the same thing on your computer, by cropping the center of a full resolution photo.

The camera saves images with a name of PXXXYYYY.JPG, where X = 100-999 and Y = 0001 = 9999. The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as you erase and switch memory cards.

The DMC-L10's menu system hasn't changed much (in terms of design) since the DMC-L1. It has more in common with menu systems found on compact cameras than digital SLRs. The menu is divided into four tabs: record, custom, setup, and playback. Keeping in mind that some of these options aren't available in the auto shooting modes, here's the full list of menu options on the L10:

Record menu

  • Film mode - discussed earlier
  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9) - option only available when live view is on
  • Picture size (Large, medium, small)
  • Quality (Fine, standard, RAW+fine, RAW+standard, RAW)
  • OIS mode (Mode 1, 2, 3) - see below
  • Extended optical zoom (on/off) - described above
  • Digital zoom (Off, 2X, 4X)
  • Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash on w/redeye reduction, slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
  • Flash sync (1st, 2nd curtain)
  • Flash adjust (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Multiple exposure - combine up to three exposures into one
    • Start
    • Auto gain (on/off) - adjusts brightness between the three shots
  • Burst rate (High, low) - described earlier
  • Auto bracket - described earlier
    • Step (1/3EV, 2/3EV, 1EV)
    • Sequence (0/-/+, -/0/+)
  • Self-timer (2 sec, 10 sec, 10 sec / 3 shots)
  • Mirror up (on/off) - mirror lockup when using the self-timer
  • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
  • Long shutter NR (on/off) - removes noise long exposures

Setup menu

  • Clock set
  • World time (Home, away)
  • Monitor brightness (-3 to +3, 1-step increments)
  • LCD auto (on/off) - whether the shooting info display turns off when you halfway-press the shutter release
  • Auto review
    • Review (Off, 1-3 secs, hold) - post-shot review
    • Zoom (Off, 1-3 secs, hold) - frame enlargement in post-shot review
  • Power save (Off, 1, 2, 5, 10 mins)
  • Beep (on/off)
  • File no. reset
  • Reset camera
  • USB mode (Select on connection, PC, PTP/PictBridge)
  • Highlight (on/off) - blink highlights in post-shot review
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect (4:3, 16:9)
  • Language
  • Version - shows firmware version of body and lens
  • Scene menu (Auto, off) - whether the scene menu opens automatically when you select that mode
  • Format memory card

Custom menu

  • Custom settings memory (C1, C2, C3) - save current settings to memory
  • AF/AE lock (AE, AF, AE/AF) - what this button does
  • AF/AE lock hold (on/off) - whether you need to keep the above button held down to maintain lock
  • ISO limit set (Off, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - maximum value for Auto ISO
  • Dial set (Bottom/exp comp, top/exp comp, bottom/aperture, bottom/shutter speed) - define what the command dials adjust
  • Focus priority (on/off) - whether focus lock is required for shutter release
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off) - covers both the lamp and the flash
  • AF+MF (on/off) - lets you use manual focus after autofocus has finished
  • AF-LED (on/off) - whether AF points are illuminated in the viewfinder
  • Live view AF (Contrast detect, phase difference) - the former only works with the 14-50 and 14-150 lenses at this time
  • Pixel refresh - gets rid of hot pixels
  • Display set - what's on the LCD in live view
    • Rec info (on/off)
    • Histogram (on/off)
    • Guide 1 (on/off)
    • Guide 2 (on, off, position) - you can adjust this cross-hair style grid
  • Menu resume (on/off) - whether you return to the last place you were in the menu system
  • Shoot without lens (on/off)

Playback menu

  • Slide show
    • Start
    • Duration (1, 2, 3, 5 secs, manual)
  • Favorite (on/off) - tag photos as favorites
  • Rotate display (on/off) - auto rotate photos shot in the portrait orientation
  • Rotate image
  • DPOF print mark
  • Protect image
  • Resize image
  • Trimming
  • Aspect convert (3:2, 4:3) - for 16:9 photos only

Believe it or not, the only thing I want to discuss in more detail is that OIS mode option. Mode 1 activates the OIS system as soon as you halfway press the shutter release button, which lets you compose the shot without any shake. For more effective image stabilization you'll want to use mode 2, which doesn't activate the OIS until the photo is actually taken. Mode 3 is for panning -- it only prevents up and down shake, so you can track a moving subject from side-to-side.

Alright, now it's time for our photo tests. All of these tests were taken with the 14 - 50 mm kit lens, except for the night shot, which was taken with the Olympus F3.5-4.5, 40 - 150 mm lens.

The DMC-L10 did a great job with our macro test subject. The thing that jumps right out at you is the color saturation -- it really pops. The camera captured plenty of detail, but still retains the "smooth" look that you'd expect from a D-SLR. Being able to compose the shot and check the focus using live view made life a little easier. I should also note that I got better results with auto white balance than I did with custom WB. Who knows?

The minimum focusing distance will depend on what lens you're using. For the kit lens, you can get as close to your subject as 29 cm. If you want to get closer you may want to consider buying a dedicated macro lens (Olympus makes a few).

The L10's rendering of the SF skyline is gorgeous (too bad this wasn't one of those nights with the nice reflections on the water). The photo is super clean, without the slightly hint of noise. The buildings are sharp and detailed, and there's no purple fringing to be found.

There are two ISO tests in this review, and this first one uses the night scene above to illustrate the L10's low light ISO performance. Have a look:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

The photos at ISO 100 and 200 are quite clean, with minimal noise and plenty of detail. At ISO 400 noise picks up a little, but not enough to keep you from making a mid-to-large print of the photo. Only at ISO 800 and above do we see detail loss, due mostly to noise reduction. While the ISO 800 image is usable (especially after noise reduction), I wasn't able to do much with the ISO 1600 one -- even if I shot in RAW and ran the result through NeatImage. If you have a look at the Canon EOS-40D review you'll see that there are D-SLRs which can do a better job than the L10 in these situations.

I'll show you how the L10 performs in better lighting in a bit.

The was absolutely zero redeye in our flash test photo. I'd say that the big pop-up flash on the L10 has a lot to do with this!

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the 14 - 50 mm kit lens. There were no issues with vignetting or blurry corners here, which I can't say for some kit lenses.


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

Speaking of the kit lens, I wanted to throw in a quick example of its optical image stabilization system in action. The above photos were taken near the telephoto end of the lens, at a shutter speed of 1/4 second. As you can see, the OIS system did a good job of producing a sharp photo. If only my vacuum worked as well...

Here's our "normal light" high ISO test. This shot is taken in the studio, and can be compared between cameras. While the crops below give you a decent idea as to the noise levels at each settings, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. Here we go:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

Everything's buttery smooth at ISO 100 and 200. At ISO 400 we see a bit of noise, but nothing major. At ISO 800, noise reduction starts kicking in, softening the image a bit. There's also a loss of color saturation and a darker exposure, too, but none of these should prevent you from making a good-sized print. The effects of noise reduction become more pronounced at ISO 1600, with noticeable detail loss. The difference between the DMC-L10 and the EOS-40D are pretty glaring at this setting, with the latter having a lot less noise. Even the similar Olympus E-510 looks better at ISO 1600, in my opinion. The good news is that, with a little work, you can dramatically improve the L10's high ISO image quality.

After seeing the heavy noise reduction in the ISO 1600 image above, my first thought was "turn down the noise reduction". That didn't do the job, in my opinion. Instead, I found that shooting in RAW (which has no noise reduction applied) and running the image through noise reduction software got me much better results. Here, have a look (mouse over the links to change the setting):

Getting the most from the L10
Default NR -1 NR -2 NR RAW conversion RAW conversion + NeatImage

As you can see, there's a HUGE improvement when shooting in RAW mode. You get your detail, color saturation, and exposure back, plus a whole mess of noise. Thankfully, you can run it through something like NeatImage (my noise reduction software of choice) to get rid of the noise, without taking away nearly as much detail as the camera's Venus Engine III does. Yes, I know that post-processing is a pain in the rear, but if you want to get the most out of the L10, it's the best way to go.

Aside from above average noise (and too much noise reduction) at high ISOs, the news is good when it comes to the L10's photo quality. Exposure was generally on-target, with pleasing, vibrant color. Images are a bit soft for my taste, and if you agree you can take advantage of the film mode feature. Purple fringing wasn't a problem at all, as the camera's image processor removes it automatically.

Now I invite you to have a look at our extensive photo gallery. Print a few of the photos if you can, and then decide if the DMC-L10's photo quality meets your needs!

Movie Mode

Digital SLRs do not have movie modes.

Playback Mode

The DMC-L10's playback mode is almost exactly like the ones found on Panasonic's compact cameras. Basic playback features include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view (in many sizes), and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge the image by as much as 16X (in 2X increments), and then move around the enlarged area. By using the top command dial, you can move from image to image while retaining the same zoom and location.

The L10 offers in-camera cropping, rotation, and resizing tools. You can also change the aspect ratio from 16:9 to 4:3 or 3:2. If you have to delete photos, you can do so one at a time, in groups, or all at once.

The camera offers a calendar view of your photos, in addition to the usual single-shot and thumbnail views.

By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. But press the display button and you'll see a lot more info, including a whole bunch of histograms.

The L10 moves from one image to another in a fraction of a second.

How Does it Compare?

With their new Lumix DMC-L10, Panasonic has created the closest thing to a point-and-shoot experience on a digital SLR that I've seen yet. The L10 has live view with contrast detect AF, face detection, a rotating LCD display, scene modes, and an easy-to-use interface. Some of those features come with tradeoffs, though, and I'll discuss those below. Even with all those consumer-friendly features, the L10 is still a full-fledged D-SLR, offering full manual controls, generally robust performance, and superb photo quality. Some have called the L10 expensive, and it is -- compared to the Olympus EVOLT E-510 and Pentax K10D. At the same time, it costs hundreds less than the newer D-SLRs, such as the Canon 40D, Sony A700, and Olympus E-3. The DMC-L10 isn't perfect by any means, but it's an interesting one, and worth a look if you want a D-SLR that won't be a huge change from your compact camera.

The DMC-L10 is a traditionally styled digital SLR, unlike the brick-like DMC-L1 that came before it. The camera is well designed, well built, and easy to hold. My only complaint from a design standpoint is with regard to the dual switches under the mode dial, which I found confusing. The L10 includes Panasonic's new lighter/slower/cheaper 14 - 50 mm Leica lens, which is still better than most kit lenses that I've tested. The lens has built-in image stabilization, allowing for sharp photos at shutter speeds that would be unusable otherwise. The camera supports all FourThirds lenses, though certain features (that I'll mention below) may not work with them. The L10 has the same Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system as the DMC-L1 and Olympus' various D-SLRs.

On the back of the camera is something you'll rarely see on a digital SLR, and that's a rotating LCD display. This 2.5" screen flips to the side and can rotate 270 degrees, allowing for ground-level and over-the-head shooting. Like most D-SLRs these days, you can compose photos on the LCD in real-time. Unlike most of those cameras, the L10 allows for contrast detect autofocus while in live view mode. In layman's terms, this means that the camera can focus without having to flip the mirror down and back each time. It also allows for things like 9-point autofocus (instead of the regular 3-point phase difference AF) and face detection. The catch is that (as of right now) these features only work on the kit lens and the upcoming Panasonic 14 - 150 mm lens. Regardless of what lens you're using, you'll be able to take advantage of easy manual focusing, white balance preview, and a live histogram.

The DMC-L10 has features for both beginners as well as enthusiasts. For those moving up from a compact camera, you'll feel at home with the L10's numerous scene modes, Intelligent ISO boost feature, and easy-to-navigate menu system. If it's manual controls you're after, the L10 has those too, and then some. You've got manual control over exposure, white balance (with fine-tuning), and focus (which works well with the live view feature). There's also a custom spot on the mode dial for three sets of your favorite camera settings, and customizable "film modes" that contain preset sharpness/contrast/color/noise reduction values. And naturally, the L10 supports the RAW image format, and Panasonic includes you some capable (but clunky) software to work with those images.

Camera performance was generally good, though the L10 disappointed in a few areas. The camera starts up in less than a second, which is typical for a D-SLR. If you're not using live view, you can expect snappy focusing performance. However, if you do use live view, prepare to wait a bit. Contrast detect AF is slower than on a compact camera, and if you're using phase difference AF in live view, the mirror-flipping adds a noticeable delay as well. Low light focusing was very good if you're using the flash as an AF-assist lamp, but sluggish otherwise. Shutter lag isn't an issue normally, but there is some in live view mode due to the mirror movement. Shot-to-shot speeds were good when shooting JPEGs, though I found that I could quickly fill up the buffer by quickly taking 2 or 3 RAW photos in succession, causing the camera to pause for a moment. On a related note, the L10's burst mode is decent if you're shooting JPEGs, but the buffer fills after just three RAW or RAW+JPEG images. The 3.1 frame/second frame rate in high speed mode isn't terribly impressive compared to newer D-SLRs, either. Battery life is below average with live view turned off, and it nears ultra-compact territory when using live view. A battery grip is not available for the DMC-L10.

Photo quality was very good. The L10 took well-exposed photos, with pleasing color. Images were a tad soft, and if you agree, adjusting the in-camera sharpening is easy. Redeye and purple fringing were not problems in the slightest. The camera's Live MOS sensor is slightly noisier than some other D-SLRs, and Panasonic applies a fair amount of noise reduction at higher ISOs, which reduces their quality. If you look side-by-side at the test scene shots at ISO 1600 from both the L10 and the Canon EOS-40D, you'll see what I mean. If you're willing to do a little post-processing, you can shoot in RAW mode and get much better results from the L10 at high ISOs.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 finds itself in an awkward position. It's priced well above entry level models, coming in closer to the midrange models like the 40D, E-3, and A700. It's a very good digital SLR with some neat treats (mostly related to live view), but is it worth $500 more than the similar Olympus E-510 (with two lenses and sensor-shift image stabilization) or the very capable Pentax K10D? I would say probably not, unless you absolutely must have the rotating LCD and contrast detect AF. Still, the DMC-L10 is absolutely worth a look if you're looking for your first D-SLR, or are upgrading from another FourThirds-based SLR.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other entry-level and midrange D-SLRs to consider include the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and EOS-40D, Fuji FinePix S5 Pro, Nikon D40X and D300, Olympus E-510 and E-3, Pentax K10D, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A700.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DMC-L10 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

If 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 or technical support.

Want a second opinion?

You'll find another review of the DMC-L10 at CNET.com. The preview of this camera at DP Review should turn into a full review shortly.

 

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