capsule review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10S

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 Bridge Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10S
Photograph: Rick Rizner

At $600, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10S is more expensive than most 4-megapixel cameras; but you get a lot for your money, including an amazingly powerful 12X Leica zoom lens that has built-in image stabilization and a fairly good selection of advanced creative controls. Leica's influence on this camera goes beyond the lens: The Lumix's retro styling and attention to detail are typical of Leica models. The molded alloy body is surprisingly light; and though the camera is fairly large, you can grip the camera with one hand remarkably easily for single-handed shooting.

Still, the Lumix has some design shortcomings. Its mode dial, for example, has a single setting for aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and full-manual shooting modes. You have to delve into the menus to select among the three. Most vendors dropped this arrangement two years ago. The Lumix has an old-style hot shoe, too, with the most rudimentary connections--in other words, no through-the-lens metering with an external flash, and camera and external flash settings must be matched manually. Finally, if you use the zoom control frequently, it can be somewhat rough on your index finger.

The DMC-FZ10 has five automatic scene modes selectable from the mode dial, and it includes an unusual panning mode that lets you achieve a sense of motion by blurring the background as you track a moving subject, such as a racecar. We took the camera out onto the street on a sunny day to snap the passing cars, with somewhat disappointing results. The manual says that this feature works better out of bright sunlight.

We got better panning results when we used shutter priority at a slow speed. Once you've discovered the exposure button, you can adjust the aperture and shutter settings easily with the arrow buttons. We liked the Lumix's smooth manual focus ring, located on the lens. In a darkened setting, we had fun playing with low aperture settings at a high ISO sensitivity, with and without flash.

The DMC-FZ10 received excellent image quality scores. We saw natural colors and good skin tones in flash photographs of our mannequin. In our resolution test, the Lumix compared favorably with 5-megapixel cameras, rendering easily readable small fonts and fine parallel lines. Colors and details looked accurate in the still life and in outdoor shots.

Battery life is quite impressive: We took 277 shots, half with flash, on a single charge. The charger for the camera's lithium ion battery is rather large, but it's still easy enough to stow in your bag. Unlike most cameras we've seen that have separate lens caps, the Lumix does not come equipped with a cord to attach the cap to the camera. Panasonic throws in a plastic lens hood to minimize lens flare and ghosting in sunlight or strong backlight. For $600, Panasonic could have provided more than a 16MB SD card.

We received a preproduction manual for the FZ10 that was obviously a work in process, but the PDF version we downloaded from Panasonic's Web site was complete and well-organized, with plenty of pictures, examples, and tips.

Our original Lumix unit developed a fault during testing in which both the LCD display and the electronic viewfinder acquired a magenta cast, though photos still came out fine. The replacement unit we received functioned perfectly.

The Lumix's most attractive feature is its 12X optical zoom lens with image stabilization. It would make an ideal camera for low-cost sports photography.

Paul Jasper

This story, "Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10S" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ10 Bridge Camera

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