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DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 17, 2008
Last updated: April 9, 2012

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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 ($249) is a fairly compact camera offering a 10 Megapixel CCD, a wide 5X, 30 - 150 mm lens, a gorgeous 2.5" LCD display, widescreen movie recording, and more. It, along with its little brother (the DMC-LZ8) are the replacements for the DMC-LZ6/LZ7, which were introduced a year earlier.

Here are the notable features on the LZ10:

  • 10.1 effective Megapixel CCD (compared to 7MP on the LZ7)
  • 5X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 30 - 150 mm (versus 6X, 37 - 222 mm on the LZ7)
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Venus Engine IV image processor
  • 2.5" LCD display with 230,400 pixels and auto brightness adjustment
  • Intelligent Auto mode + full manual controls
  • Face detection (for up to 15 faces) with tracking feature
  • Enhanced slideshow feature
  • Much smaller body

There are some other new features that I'll describe in detail later in the review. And with that said, let's get started!

What's in the Box?

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-LZ10 camera
  • Two AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio, ArcSoft Software Suite, Adobe Reader, QuickTime, and drivers
  • 138 page camera manual (printed)

Most cameras have built-in memory these days, and the DMC-LZ10 is no exception. Panasonic includes 20MB of memory, which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to buy a large memory card, and fast. The LZ10 supports SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards, and I'd suggest starting out with a 1GB or 2GB card. It's definitely worth spending a little more for a high speed card, though there's no need to go overboard.

Like its predecessors, the DMC-LZ10 uses two AA batteries for power. Panasonic includes two alkaline cells in the box, which will quickly end up the trash (or preferably, recycling bin). Thus, you'll want to buy a pair or two of NiMH rechargeables, which will cost you less in the long run, and they're better for the environment as well. Don't forget a fast charger, as well! Here's what kind of battery life you can expect out of the camera once you've got those installed:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS */** 270 shots NB-5L
Casio Exilim EX-Z200 */** 400 shots NP-40
Fuji FinePix F100fd */** 230 shots NP-50
GE E1050 ** 200 shots GB-40
Nikon Coolpix S600 */** 190 shots EN-EL9
Olympus FE-350 Wide ** 170 shots LI-42B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 * 460 shots 2 x 2600 mAh NiMH
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 */** 460 shots 2 x 2600 mAh NiMH
Ricoh R8 270 shots DB-70
Samsung NV24 HD */** N/A SLB-1137D
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 */** 390 shots NP-BG1

* Has optical image stabilization
** Wide-angle lens

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

You don't need a degree in math to see that the DMC-LZ10's battery life is best-in-class, and well above the group average. To top it off, the LZ10 uses AA batteries, which are my favorite.

I like AA-based cameras for two reasons. One, a pair of AA rechargeables is a heck of a lot cheaper than a proprietary li-ion battery. Second, if your batteries ever die, finding off-the-shelf batteries is a piece of cake. The LZ10 is the only camera in its class that uses AA batteries.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 in the hand

As is the case with most compact cameras, the LZ10 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.

There aren't many accessories available for the DMC-LZ10. There's an AC adapter, which requires you to purchase two parts: the DMW-AC6 AC adapter (priced from $40), and the DMW-DCC2 DC coupler (price not available). Panasonic also offers a leather case -- the DMW-CLZ10 -- which costs around $30.

PhotoFunStudio for Windows

Panasonic includes several software applications with the DMC-LZ10. First up, we have PhotoFunStudio 2.0, which is a Windows-only application (Mac users can use iPhoto instead). The first way in which you'll probably use this software is for transferring photos off of your camera. I didn't see a way to select which photos were transferred -- it was all or nothing.

Once on the main screen (pictured above), you'll find a familiar thumbnail view of your photos. Photos can be organized (by date, category, keyword, and scene mode), e-mailed, printed, and rotated from this screen.

Editing in PhotoFunStudio for Windows

Select "retouch" and you'll get the editing window you see above. Here you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Images can be changed to sepia or black and white, and redeye can be removed with the click of your mouse.

ArcSoft MediaImpression for Mac

Also included is ArcSoft's MediaImpression software, for Mac and Windows. This appears to be a more modern version of the old PhotoImpression software that Panasonic used to give you. MediaImpression can be used to import photos from the camera, with the unique option of removing redeye during import. After that's done, you get the usual thumbnail view.

Easy-Fix Wizard in MediaImpression

The software doesn't appear to have as many editing features as PhotoImpression used to, but it does have a handy Easy Fix wizard, which helps you straighten, crop, remove redeye, add brightness/contrast, sharpen, adjust color, and "make the subject stand out", all with one click. You can also add text, borders, and special effects to your photos. Naturally, there are e-mailing, printing, and archiving options available as well.

ArcSoft PanoramaMaker for Mac

Another piece of the ArcSoft suite is PanoramaMaker, which helps you combine photos that you've taken side-by-side into a single panorama. It's easy to use, and the results can be really impressive.

The manual included with the DMC-LZ10 is just "okay". While it's quite detailed, its layout and user-friendliness leaves much to be desired. Expect lots of "notes" on each page, which makes finding what you're looking for more difficult than it should be.

Look and Feel

The Lumix DMC-LZ10 is a fairly compact (but certainly not tiny) camera made mostly of metal. Build quality was generally very good, with only the plastic tripod mount causing some concern. It would've been nice had Panasonic used actual rubber for the grip, instead of slippery plastic. The LZ10 can easily be operated with one hand, with the important controls within easy reach of your fingers.

The camera has also slimmed down a bit compared to earlier LZ-series cameras, which is fine by me.

Images courtesy of Panasonic

Like most of Panasonic's cameras these days, the LZ10 can be found in silver and black colors.

Alright, now let's see how the DMC-LZ10 compares against other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.5 cu in. 155 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z200 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu in. 119 g
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 170 g
GE E1050 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 145 g
Nikon Coolpix S600 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.6 cu in. 130 g
Olympus FE-350 Wide 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.4 cu in. 138 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 11.9 cu in. 141 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.3 in. 12.7 cu in. 184 g
Ricoh R8 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 9.2 cu in. 168 g
Samsung NV24HD 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.7 in. 6.6 cu in. 146 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 142 g

Excluding its predecessor, the DMC-LZ10 is the largest (but not heaviest) camera in the group. While it's not the smallest camera out there, the LZ10 still fit comfortably into my back pocket.

Okay, enough about that, let's start our tour of the camera now!

Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

The DMC-LZ10 features an all-new F3.3-5.9, 5X optical zoom lens. Yeah, that's on the slow side in terms of maximum aperture. The focal range of the lens is 5.2 - 26.0 mm, which is equivalent to 30 - 150 mm. Many cameras in this price range (and size) start at 35mm or higher, so this is a nice change. If you want to expand the focal range, forget about it -- the LZ10 doesn't support conversion lenses.

Inside the lens is Panasonic's "Mega" optical image stabilization (OIS) system. Tiny movements of your hands can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. Sensors inside the camera detects these movements, and one of the lens elements is shifted to compensate for it. The OIS system won't work miracles (so you won't be taking 1 second handheld photos) and it can't freeze a moving subject, but it will allow you to use slower shutter speeds than you could otherwise. Want proof? Look at this:

Image stabilization off

Image stabilization on (mode 2)

Both of the above photos were taken at 1/5 of a second. The difference between the two shots is clear -- the one taken with OIS is much sharper. You can use image stabilization in movie mode as well, and this brief video clip shows you how well it works.

Directly above the lens is the LZ10's flash. The flash is quite powerful, with a working range of 0.5 - 6.8 m at wide-angle, and 1.0 - 3.8 m at telephoto. Keep in mind that those numbers are with the ISO set to Auto, and that the range will drop when you have the ISO fixed at a lower sensitivity (which is always a good idea). You cannot attach an external flash to the DMC-LZ10.

Immediately to the right of the flash is the AF-assist lamp. The camera uses this as a focusing aid in low light situations. It also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

Back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

The main event on the back of the DMC-LZ10 is its 2.5" LCD display, which has 230,000 pixels. As you'd expect from a screen with that spec, everything is nice and sharp. The LZ10 has some of the best outdoor visibility that I've ever seen. I don't know how they did it, but you'll have no difficulty viewing the screen outdoors (assuming the Power LCD feature is turned on). Low light visibility was very good as well, with the screen brightening automatically in those situations. The LZ10 also offers a "high angle" option, which makes the LCD easy-to-see when the camera is held above you. They're the only manufacturer to offer this feature, and it works very well.

As you may have noticed, there's no optical viewfinder on the DMC-LZ10. In fact, they're not available across Panasonic's compact line-up. Whether this is a problem is up to you: some people want their viewfinder, while others could care less.

At the upper-right corner of the LCD is the switch for moving the camera between record and playback mode. Under that is the exposure button, which is used for adjusting the shutter speed and/or aperture when you're in one of the manual shooting modes.

Underneath those items is the four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, adjusting manual settings, and also:

  • Up - Backlight compensation, exposure compensation, auto bracketing, white balance fine-tuning -- see below
  • Down - Macro (on/off)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 secs)
  • Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync w/redeye reduction, flash off)
  • Center - Menu/Set

I want to talk about those options that appear when you press the "up" button on the four-way controller. Backlight compensation is something you can toggle on and off while in the Intelligent Auto mode. You may want to use it when your subject has a bright light source behind them. Exposure compensation has the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments range. Auto bracketing takes three shots in a row with each shot having a different exposure. The increment between each shot can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV or ±1EV.

White balance fine-tuning

The white balance fine-tuning feature lets you adjust the WB in the blue or red directions. This is in addition to the custom white balance feature that I'll discuss later in the review.

Quick Setting menu

Below the four-way controller are the Display and Quick Menu/Delete Photo buttons. The Display button toggles the information shown on the LCD, which includes a histogram and composition grid. The Quick Menu button opens up a shortcut menu that lets you adjust the following:

  • Image stabilizer
  • Burst mode
  • AF mode
  • White balance
  • ISO sensitivity
  • Picture size
  • LCD mode

I'll discuss all of those in more detail when we get to the menu discussion later in the review. And that's it for the back of the camera!

Top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

The first item of note on the top of the LZ10 is the microphone. Next to that is the mode dial, which has these options:

Option Function
Movie mode More on this later
Scene mode You choose the situation and the camera uses the proper settings. Choose from food, party, candle light, self portrait, sunset, baby 1/2, pet, high sensitivity, beach, starry sky, fireworks, snow, aerial photo, high speed burst; see below for more
Night portrait These are "advanced" scene modes; see below for more
Intelligent Auto mode Point-and-shoot, automatic scene detection mode; see below for more
Program mode Still automatic, but no auto scene selection; full menu access available
A/S/M mode Aperture priority mode lets you select the aperture from a range of F3.3 - F8.0;
Shutter priority mode lets you select the shutter speed from a range of 8 - 1/2000 sec; the fastest shutter speeds are only available at smaller apertures
Manual mode lets you select both the aperture and shutter speed, same ranges as above

There's a LOT to talk about before we continue the tour. First, look at those manual exposure controls -- that's a new addition to the LZ-series. The only manual control you won't find is for focus.

Don't want to deal with manual controls? Then check out the Intelligent Auto mode, which is also new to the LZ-series. In this mode, the camera will automatically select a scene mode for you (based on what's in the frame), selecting between portrait, scenery, macro, night portrait, and night scenery. The camera does a good job of picking the right scene, and there's no delay while it does so. The face detection system is active here as well, and I'll tell you how well that works later in the review.

Scene Menu Help screen

The LZ10 has a ton of scene modes, some of which are a bit unusual. The high sensitivity mode cuts the resolution to 3MP or less, and boosts the ISO to somewhere between 1600 and 6400. As a result, photo quality isn't very good, so I'd avoid using this one.

A photo taken in Pet mode

The baby and pet modes let you set the birthday and name of your two children or one animal. When you take a picture in either of these modes, the current age of the child/pet is saved, along with their name. This information is available both in playback mode and in the PhotoFunStudio software, so you can print it on your photos.

Starry sky mode lets you select super long exposures: 15, 30, or 60 seconds -- it's similar to "bulb mode" on more advanced cameras.

The hi-speed burst mode takes up to 100 photos in a row at a blazing 5 frames/second. The catch is that the resolution is lowered to just 2 Megapixels. Don't worry, you can do full resolution continuous shooting too -- I'll tell you about that a little later.

Scenery Advanced Scene Mode Help screen for Architecture option

The four scene modes that have spots on the mode dial are more advanced than the ones I just mentioned. For each of the scenes (night portrait, sports, scenery, and portrait) you can select various sub-modes. For example, in scenery mode, "normal" sets the focus to infinity, "nature" probably boosts the saturation (Panasonic doesn't say), "architecture" turns up the sharpness and provide focusing guides, and "creative" lets you adjust the shutter speed.

As my screenshots have illustrated, help screens are available for each and every scene mode, which is a nice touch.

Getting back to the tour, the next item on the top of the camera is the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.4 seconds. I counted around twenty-four steps in the camera's 5X zoom range. I like how the camera prints the current focal range on the LCD, so you know how close you can get to your subject.

To the right of that is the power switch, with the "easy zoom" button above that. The first time you press the easy zoom button, the lens zooms all the way to the 5X position. Press it again and the camera lowers the resolution (to 3MP at the normal aspect ratio) and gives you full extended optical zoom (8.9X in this case). Pressing it a third time returns both the resolution and the zoom to their default positions.

Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

On this side of the LZ10 you'll find the speaker, and the main I/O port. This port, for both A/V and USB output, is covered by a plastic door of average quality. The DMC-LZ10 supports the USB 2.0 Full Speed standard, which is marketing-speak for "just as slow as the old USB 1.1 standard".

Side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

On the other side of the camera you'll find its memory card slot (with a decent quality plastic door covering it). As I mentioned at the start of the review, the LZ10 supports SD, SDHC, and MMC media.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

Our tour ends with a view of the bottom of the DMC-LZ10. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo, hiss) as well as the battery compartment. The battery compartment is protected by a plastic door of average quality, with a locking mechanism.

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10

Record Mode

It takes around 2.4 seconds for the LZ10 to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's on the slow side these days.

A live histogram is available in record mode

While focus times were generally very good, the LZ10 did seem a bit slower than other Panasonic cameras I've tested recently. At the wide end of the lens you'll wait between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds to lock focus, with telephoto numbers about twice that. Low light focusing wasn't impressive: focus times were well over a second, and the camera often failed at locking the focus. One word of caution: watch your fingers, as its easy to block the AF-assist lamp.

On a more positive note, I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue on the LZ10, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

Shot-to-shot delays were brief. Expect to wait about 1.5 seconds before you can take another photo.

There is no quick way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.

Now let's take a look at the image size and quality options on the LZ10. Since there are three different aspect ratios available, it's a pretty lengthy list.

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality # images on 20MB onboard memory # images on 1GB SD card (optional)
4:3 10M
3648 x 2736
Fine 3 195
Standard 7 380
3072 x 2304
Fine 4 270
Standard 10 540
2560 x 1920
Fine 7 390
Standard 15 770
2048 x 1536
Fine 11 600
Standard 23 1180

1600 x 1200

Fine 19 970
Standard 37 1830
640 x 480
Fine 95 4640
Standard 155 7550
3:2 9M
3648 x 2432
Fine 3 210
Standard 8 430
3072 x 2048
Fine 5 300
Standard 11 600
2560 x 1712
Fine 8 440
Standard 17 860
2048 x 1360
Fine 13 680
Standard 26 1310
16:9 7.5M
3648 x 2056
Fine 4 250
Standard 9 510
3072 x 1728
Fine 6 360
Standard 14 710
2560 x 1440
Fine 10 520
Standard 20 1000
1920 x 1080
Fine 17 900
Standard 34 1720

When it comes to resolution, Panasonic says that you can have it all on the LZ10. Just make sure you get a large memory card, as that built in memory isn't good for much.

The DMC-LZ10 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats.

Like all of Panasonic's cameras, the LZ10 has an "extended optical zoom" feature. 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 (at the 4:3 ratio), you can get a total zoom power of 8.9X. The Easy Zoom button makes it very, well, easy to activate this feature.

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.

Panasonic's menu system has received a bit of a facelift on the LZ10, and I have to say, I like it. It's a little more colorful and animated than before, yet still remains easy to use. My only wish is that Panasonic added help screens for the menu options, like they do for the scene modes. Keeping in mind that some of these options may not be available in the automatic shooting modes, here's the full list of items in the record menu:

  • Picture size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9)
  • Intelligent ISO (Off, max 400, max 800, max 1600) - see below
  • Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - the auto mode is different than the one above; it tops out at 400 without the flash, and 1000 with it
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, white set) - see below
  • Metering mode (Multiple, center-weighted, spot)
  • AF mode (Face detection, 9-area, 3-area high speed, 1-area high speed, 1-area, spot) - see below
  • Quick AF (on/off) - see below
  • Burst (Off, normal, infinite) - see below
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - this is not the same as extended optical zoom, so it's best to keep it turned off
  • Color effect (Off, black & white, sepia, cool, warm)
  • Picture adjust
    • Contrast (-2 to +2)
    • Sharpness (-2 to +2)
    • Saturation (-2 to +2)
    • Noise reduction (-2 to +2)
  • Stabilizer (Mode 1, mode 2, off) - see below
  • Minimum shutter speed (1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 sec) - slowest shutter speed the camera will use in Program mode
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • Clock set

I want to quickly mention the Intelligent ISO feature, which is used in the auto shooting modes, and optional in manual mode. The camera will take a look at what's going on in the frame, and adjust the sensitivity accordingly. If there's nothing happening, it will only boost the ISO enough to produce a sharp photo. However, if the subject is in motion, it'll boost it even higher, in order to freeze their motion. The user can select how high the sensitivity will go, and my suggestion is to use ISO 400.

The DMC-LZ10's "white set" option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting conditions. If that's still not accurate, you can use the fine-tuning feature which I mentioned earlier to tweak things even further. Strangely, the camera does not offer a fluorescent preset white balance option.

While hard to see here, the LZ10 locked onto five of the six faces

The LZ10 has numerous autofocus modes, and I want to mention a few of them. The face detection feature will find up to fifteen faces in the frame, making sure that they're in focus and properly exposed. Panasonic's face detection system performed well, finding five out of the six faces in our test scene. The camera can track the "primary" face (highlighted in green) as it moves around the frame. What's the difference between the two 1-area AF modes? As its name implies, the high speed mode locks focus, though the image on the LCD will freeze briefly during that time. The regular mode is slower, but has no freeze-up.

The Quick AF feature is essentially continuous autofocus, with a twist. When activated, the camera is always trying to focus (when there is "not much jittering", according to the manual), which reduces focus times a bit. The Intelligent ISO feature is turned on as well, so keep that in mind if you use this feature.

I told you about the high speed (but low resolution) scene mode earlier, and here are the details on the full resolution version. There are two speeds to choose from: normal and infinite. At normal speed, the camera takes three shots in a row at 2.2 frames/second. Not a bad frame rate, but that's hardly any photos. If you want to shoot for a while, choose infinite mode, which keeps firing away until your high speed memory card fills up. At fine quality, the frame rate is 1.3 fps, while that number jumps to 1.9 fps at normal quality (both of which are lower than the advertised 2 fps rate). The LCD keeps up fairly well with the action while you're shooting.

There are two image stabilization modes to choose from on the LZ10. Mode 1 activates OIS as soon as you halfway-press the shutter release button, so you can compose the shot without any camera shake. For more effective stabilization, you'll want to use mode 2. It doesn't activate OIS until the photo is actually taken, but it does a better job at reducing shake. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable if the camera is on a tripod.

There's also a setup menu, which is accessible via the record or playback menu. The items here include:
  • Battery type (Alkaline, oxyride)
  • Clock set
  • World time (Home, travel)
  • Monitor brightness (-3 to +3 in 1-step increments) - these can be set separately
  • LCD mode (Off, auto power LCD, power LCD, high angle) - power LCD increases brightness for use outdoors; the auto mode turns it on for you in those situations
  • Beep
    • Beep level (Off, soft, loud)
    • Beep tone (1, 2, 3)
    • Shutter volume (Off, soft, loud)
    • Shutter tone (1, 2, 3)
  • Volume (0-6)
  • Guide lines - put a composition grid on the LCD
    • Rec info (on/off)
    • Pattern (3 x 3, complex)
  • Histogram (on/off) - live histogram for record mode
  • Travel date (on/off) - when set, records what day of your vacation a photo was taken (e.g. day two)
  • Economy
    • Power save (Off, 2, 5, 10 mins)
    • Auto LCD off (Off, 15, 30 secs)
  • Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 2 sec, hold, zoom) - the zoom option shows the picture for a second, then enlarges it by a factor of four for a second
  • File number reset
  • Reset camera settings
  • USB mode (Select on connection, PictBridge/PTP, PC)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect (16:9, 4:3)
  • m/ft (Meters, feet)
  • Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you turn the mode dial to the scene mode position
  • Dial display (on/off) - whether a "virtual" mode dial is shown on the LCD as you rotate the real one
  • Language
  • Demo mode (Jitter/subject movement, auto demo) - this is intended for retailers rather than end users

All of those should be self-explanatory, so let's move on to our photo tests now, shall we?

The Lumix DMC-LZ10 did a pretty good job with our macro test subject. Colors are fairly accurate, and the subject is tack sharp. My only complaint is that there's some visible noise here, and this is at ISO 100. You could increase the noise reduction in the record menu, but that may not be the best idea.

The minimum distance to your subject in macro mode is 5 cm at wide-angle, and 1.0 m at telephoto.

The night scene also turned out well, though I wish the lens was faster at the telephoto end (so more light would've been brought in). The LZ10 lets you select a shutter speed manually, or you can use the night scenery mode if you prefer something more automatic. The buildings all look nice and sharp, with a good amount of detail captured. I do spy the effects of noise reduction here, and this may be a time where you want to turn down noise reduction a notch. Purple fringing wasn't a problem, nor would I expect it to be -- the Venus Engine IV removes it digitally.

I have two ISO tests for you in this review, and the first one uses the night scene you see above. Each of the crops below was taken at a different sensitivity, starting at 100 and going up to 1600. Here we go:

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The ISO 200 shot looks a lot like the one at ISO 100, except for more noticeable noise reduction. The noise reduction really starts smudging away details at ISO 400, and this is as high as I'd let the camera go in low light. As I mentioned above, turning the noise reduction down a notch or two is a good idea here. The ISO 800 and 1600 shots have way too much detail loss to be usable for printing, in my opinion.

We'll see how the camera performed in better lighting in a moment.

Compact cameras nearly all have big problems with redeye, due to the close proximity of the flash to the lens. The DMC-LZ10 is no exception, with some serious redeye in our flash photo test. There's no redeye removal tool on the camera, though you can get rid of it with the included software.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the LZ10's 30 - 150 mm lens, which is impressive. While the test chart shows some mild vignetting (dark corners), I didn't find this to be a problem in my real world photos. I did, however, see some minor corner blurring a few times.

Here's that second ISO test I promised you. Since this test is taken under controlled lighting, it can be compared with cameras that I've reviewed over the years. 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.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The first two crops are both very clean, with minimal noise or noise reduction artifacting. Making a large print at these settings is a piece of cake. At ISO 400 we pick up a bit of noise and artifacting, but it's still good enough for midsize prints. ISO 800 is still very good (all things considered), and is usable for 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 inch prints. Only at ISO 1600 do we pick up a lot of noise and detail loss from NR, so this setting is best left alone.

I used to knock Panasonic pretty hard for using too much noise reduction on their most recent cameras. With the new Venus Engine IV, they've done a good at reducing the destructive effects of noise reduction. Have a look at this comparison:

DMC-LZ10, ISO 800, downsized to 8MP

DMC-FX55, ISO 800

Above you can see two photos taken at ISO 800. The one at the top was taken with the LZ10, and downsized to 8 Megapixel, so it would be comparable to the image at the bottom (click here to see the 10 Megapixel version). The bottom image was taken with the 8MP DMC-LX55, which used the Venus III engine. As you can see, the LZ10 and the Venus IV engine did a much better job at retaining detail here.

Overall, the DMC-LZ10 produced very good quality photos. They were well-exposed, with pleasing, vivid colors. Images were a bit softer than I would've liked, and if you agree, increasing the sharpness just takes a trip to the record menu. While Panasonic has definitely reduced the amount of noise reduction applied to photos (at least in normal lighting), it's not gone entirely, with fine details still looking a bit soft and mushy. Another effect of the decrease in noise reduction is an increase in noise levels, especially in shadow areas (having a tiny 10MP sensor doesn't help matters, either). This won't matter if you're making small to midsize prints, but if you're doing large prints or viewing images at 100% on your computer screen, then you'll probably spy both the noise and the NR artifacting. Panasonic has always done a good job at controlling purple fringing, and the DMC-LZ10 continues that tradition.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, maybe printing a few of the photos if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the LZ10's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The DMC-LZ10 has the standard Panasonic movie mode. You can record video with sound at resolutions of 848 x 480 (16:9) or 640 x 480 (4:3), at a frame rate of 30 frames/second, until you hit a 2GB file size limit. It takes about 19 minutes to hit the limit at 848 x 480, and 22.5 minutes at 640 x 480.

For longer movies, you can drop the resolution, frame rate, or both. At the 320 x 240 resolution, you can record for over an hour at 30 frames/second before you hit the file size limit. Dropping the frame rate will extend recording time too, but the 10 fps frame rate will result in some VERY choppy videos.

As is usually the case, you cannot operate the optical zoom while recording a movie. The image stabilizer is available, and it'll help smooth out your clips a bit.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec. A capture of the first frame of the movie is saved as JPEG along with the movie.

Here's a sample movie for you, recorded in widescreen:

Click to play movie (11.9 MB, 848 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The Lumix DMC-LZ10 has a nice playback mode with a few unique features. The basic playback features include slideshows (now with music and special effects), 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.

Calendar view Selecting a category of photos to view

The camera offers a calendar view of your photos, in addition to the usual one-at-a-time and thumbnail views. A category view option lets you jump directly to photos taken in certain modes (scene or movie), so if you want to find all your pet photos, this is the fastest way.

Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. If you want to change the aspect ratio, you can do that too. If you're viewing a movie, you can grab a single frame, or create a collage consisting of nine frames. There's no way to trim your movies on the camera, unfortunately.

Text stamp feature Entering a title to be used with the text stamp feature

The LZ10 has a rather unique date printing feature. You can print the date and time, the age of your baby or pet, and even a title of your choosing onto your photos, either one at a time, or in a big group. Do note that the camera will downsize the image to 3 Megapixels or less when using this feature, which is fine for what most people will be doing with them (printing them at 4 x 6).

The camera lets you delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all -- a feature I always appreciate. Lastly, as you'd expect, you can copy images between the internal memory and an optional memory card.

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

The DMC-LZ10 moves though photos fairly quickly, with a delay of under one second between each photo.

How Does it Compare?

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 is a compact, easy-to-use camera with a plethora of useful features. They include a wide-angle 5X zoom lens, optical image stabilization, a beautiful 2.5" LCD display, both auto and manual controls, and a widescreen movie mode. Image quality is very good in most situations, with noise reduction being less of a problem then on previous Panasonic cameras (in most situations). All is not perfect, though -- the camera is a bit slow to start up, low light focusing isn't great, and the camera does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard. Still, if you're looking for an inexpensive camera with a wide-angle lens with a little extra zoom power, then I'd definitely recommend looking at the DMC-LZ10.

The DMC-LZ10 is a compact (but not tiny) camera that comes in your choice of silver or black. The camera is made mostly of metal, save for a few plastic doors and the tripod mount. The camera is easy to operate with one hand, though I'm not a huge fan of the slippery faux-rubber grip on the front of the camera. The controls are logically laid out, so you should be able to pick up the camera without having read the manual first. The LZ10 features an all-new 5X, 30 - 150 mm lens, though its maximum aperture of F3.3 - F5.9, this is on the slow side. Like all Panasonic cameras, the LZ10 features optical image stabilization, which allows you take take sharp photos at slower-than-normal shutter speeds. Flip around the camera and you'll find a 2.5" LCD display (but no optical viewfinder). At first glance, the LCD doesn't seem like anything special, but put the camera into "Auto Power LCD" mode and you'll enjoy some of the best outdoor LCD visibility of any camera on the market. Low light viewing is very good, as well.

While previous models in the LZ-series were point-and-shoot only, Panasonic wisely added manual controls to the DMC-LZ10. The available manual controls are for aperture, shutter speed, and white balance (including fine-tuning). Don't want to bother with those? Then you can take advantage of the numerous scene modes available on the LZ10, or simply use the Intelligent Auto Mode. This last feature will automatically select the scene mode for you, and includes Panasonic's effective face detection system (also available separately). In playback mode, you'll find some notable features, including slideshows with music, searching by category, and the ability to print the date/time, birthday, or a title on your photos. In the movie department, the LZ10 can record around twenty minutes of continuous video, in both 16:9 widescreen or traditional 4:3 format.

While camera performance was generally good, the LZ10 was lacking in a few areas. On of those areas is its startup time which, at 2.4 seconds, is slower than average. Focus times were about average in good light, but in low light, watch out -- the LZ10 is both sluggish, and not terribly good at locking focus in those situations. On a more positive note, shutter lag wasn't an issue, shot-to-shot delays were minimal, and the camera interface was responsive. The camera can shoot continuously at 1.3 fps (fine quality) or 1.9 fps (normal quality) until the memory card fills up. Battery life was superb -- best-in-class, in fact -- when using NiMH rechargeables.

Photo quality was very good, though there's definitely room for improvement. The LZ10 took colorful photos, with accurate exposure and minimal purple fringing. Images are a bit soft for my taste, but not enough for me to actually list it as a negative. The biggest problem that plagued previous Panasonic cameras was heavy noise reduction, which smeared away details. That's still present, but it's been toned down considerably, at least in good lighting. Photos are a bit noisy in the shadows (even at ISO 100), but that's almost expected on a 10 Megapixel compact camera. Still, for typical users of this camera, this shouldn't be an issue. Something that will definitely be an issue is redeye -- it's pretty bad, and there's no tool on the camera to remove it.

Two final things before I wrap up this review. First, the camera only comes with 20MB of built-in memory, which is hardly anything for a compact camera. Thus, you may need to factor a memory card into the initial cost of the camera. Second, the LZ10 doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard (it only supports "Full Speed", which is marketing language for "slow").

Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ10 is a pretty nice camera. You get a wide-angle lens, more zoom than a typical compact camera, image stabilization, manual controls, and more, all for about $230. It does have some flaws, but they're really no worse than the other cameras in this class. The DMC-LZ10 easily earns my recommendation -- it's well worth a look.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, less noise reduction than previous models (though see issues below)
  • Wide-angle, 5X optical zoom lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Compact, generally well constructed body
  • Sharp 2.5" LCD display with excellent outdoor visibility
  • Full manual controls (well, except for focus)
  • Tons of scene modes; Intelligent Auto Mode can pick one for you
  • Impressive continuous shooting modes
  • Widescreen movie mode
  • Some handy features in playback mode: calendar and category view, enhanced date stamp, multi-photo delete
  • Best-in-class battery life; uses AA batteries

What I didn't care for:

  • Images a bit noisy, especially in shadows; noise reduction still very present in low light
  • Redeye a big problem
  • Poor low light focusing
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Not much built-in memory
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • No USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Camera manual could be a lot better

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, Casio Exilim EX-Z200, Fuji FinePix F100fd, GE E1050, Nikon Coolpix S600, Olympus FE-350 Wide, Ricoh R8, Samsung NV24 HD, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Lumix DMC-LZ10 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned out? 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.

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