Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 DSLR Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 DSLR Review
April 2013, Carl Garrard
Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: Yes another time machine review. This time we look at the Panasonic DMC-L10 10.1MP DSLR originally announced late August 2007 (can you believe that was 5 1/2 years ago?). First I must say that one of the great things about reviewing cameras- is that I have a very good excuse to try any camera that I find interesting, and report it. I've always been very curious to try the Panasonic DMC-L10 out first hand. This review is a summation of my time with the discontinued DMC-L10 and how much it met (or didn't) meet my expectations.


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Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: Introduction

Quick run down on the L10 and what you get. The L10 sports a half frame 4/3 sized 10.1mp sized sensor, and is a true DSLR with a Pentamirror Optical finder . It comes equipped with live view and two kinds of focusing types (depending on the lens you use), PDAF and CDAF. There is no video option on the L10. It's considered to be an enthusiast level camera, and initially sold for $1,299.00 retail with a very nice Leica branded 14-50mm f/3.8-5.6 kit lens (probably $300.00 too high realistically). It sports a 3 point AF system (no double cross center point), 3 frames per second shooting, 2.5" tilt and twist LCD panel, SD card slot, a plethora of external controls, massive menu customization, supersonic wave filter anti-dust system, and much more. Here is a tour of the camera and its controls and features:



First of all, the reader must know that one of my favorite cameras in my top ten list is the Panasonic L1, the only other DSLR besides the L10 that Panasonic ever built. Although the L1 is technically a ...DSLR, it was designed on its exterior to be shaped like a rangefinder camera with its looks and its controls. The L10, is a traditional DSLR. Although the two cameras are radically different in design, there are some similarities too. I won't be able to help but compare the L10 to the L1 because they came from the same era and manufacturer.

Because I like the L1 so much (there is a review of it here on this site), the L10 will have a lot to live up too. Unfortunately I'd love to remove my prejudices I have of the L1 from my memory, but we know that's not how the mind works. Anyways... that out of the way (and thanks for staying with me), here are my thoughts. Note that this review was conducted using two lenses, the Zuiko 14-42mm Kit lens, and the 25mm Zuiko pancake prime lens. During the review I had to return the first kit lens because it was horribly decentered and extremely soft on the lower left hand corner of the frame. KEH gladly refunded me for the kit lens with a hurried return and paid postage. They are a great retailer if you have time to take a look at them.

My second 14-42mm  kit lens is phenomenal and represents the high praise and quality Zuiko lenses are noted for. It's got excellent contrast and it's tack sharp from corner to corner. A great lens to demonstrate the resolution potential of the L10 that I will demonstrate to you.

Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: First Impressions Day One

Day one with the L10 was easy going. After charging the battery, resetting the menu to my personal preferences, and setting the time zone and clock, I was ready to go. I noticed that the L10's menu is very much like the older DMC-L1's in many respects. I felt immediately familiar with this camera in less than 15 minutes of serious use. Not only did I feel comfortable with its external controls, but also with its menu system just as I do with the L1. And, had I not been familiar with the L1 prior to using the L10, its external controls and menu system are very natural and logical to use anyways. This camera is set up for a working photographer and is not a complicated camera to use, even for the beginner.

Panasonic DSLR Auto Link


Handsome, well sorted, comfortable- Pana's Rebel it is...

Right away I saw a small DSLR with big camera controls - but not too small, and also, not too large. This is an excellent backpacker or travelers DSLR in terms of size and weight. Such that the L10 won't weigh you down or take up much room at all, especially when fitted with the above 25mm Zuiko, or the kit lens. However, it still affords a full suite of advanced features for serious photographers. Kind of reminds me of the Minolta Maxxum 5 SLR in that it's a smaller but full featured camera serious enthusiasts going light would appreciate. This is no dumbed down entry level model DSLR. In a way, it is Panasonic's version of Canon's Rebel DSLR in so much that it gives you more control than other manufacturers for the price.


Day one impression overall? So far, so good.

Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: First Impressions Day Two
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Doesn't take me long to know a camera these days, that happens when you see and use so many cameras like I do. So getting to know the L10 was going to be easier for that reason, but also because it shares so many features in common with the L1 (its predecessor) that I know almost intimately. So today was mostly about getting to understand its metering and focus habits, as well as how quickly the camera responded and was ready for the next shot. The metering (multi-segment) I found to be a bit more temperamental than the L1.

Compared to the L1 t's raw files were a little less forgiving in the highlights, but the shadows were improved greatly in terms of recoverability. Overall though the metering is excellent and pretty easy to adjust too keeping its habits in mind. Focusing is another subject, I'll need to evaluate that more, and of course lenses have a lot to do with accuracy and speed as well. So far though, so good. No big problems, consistent like the rest of the camera seems to be so far.

Other mentions include the sound of the shutter cycle. I much prefer it to the L1's that sounded too whiney, and also sounds a bit like it is struggling to get through it. The L10's is very snappy, a bit high pitched, and you can hear the soft snap of the shutter despite the high pitched drive motor flipping the small mirror up and down. It's a quick and snappy reassuring shutter cycle that gets business done quickly. The viewfinder black out is pretty short as well, which helps a bit when making action photographs. Basically, I really like the sound of the L10's shutter cycle.

Paried up with the 25mm f/2.8 Zuiko the L10 is wonderful. This is a 50mm f/2.8 equivalent field of view for a full frame DSLR, and I find it nearly the perfect focal length as a one lens carry around 'solution'. I'm a big fan of 50mm lenses on SLR and DSLR (FF) cameras so I might be partial here. I particularly like that although the L10 and 25mm f/2.8 Zuiko have no image stabilization, I'm able to hand hold the L10 down to 1/10th of a second and not get any image blur.

That's quite excellent even with image stabilization- let alone without. The small lightweight mirror, focal length of the lens, and the almost hefty weight of the L10 contribute to its steadiness. Overall I'm impressed and don't miss image stabilization- if at all here. I did not expect that surprise at all, quite the contrary I was expecting to write the lack of such in the con section of this review. Nope.com.

Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: In Depth Thoughts
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Handling:  

Here, the L10 makes me smile. It has a spacious grip for its size, and the rubber is just right (not to sticky not too hard) and covers into the body so your finger nails don't hit hard camera shell. The divot for your middle finger means confident one handed camera control, which is very important when using the swivel LCD screen. Someone at Panasonic was really thinking this camera through. Also, the thumb rest (very important) is large, comfortable, and reassuring in its shape and density which also aids in one handed shooting, and this makes for a pleasurable camera to shoot with overall no matter how many hands (or feet) you shoot with.

Nice big divot for the middle digit
Excellent thumb rest, large and sculpted for off angle one handed shots

One pet peeve of mine is strap lugs. I absolutely, positively, hate those hard metal D-Ring type strap lugs that stick out of a camera like accupuncture. The type the L10 has, is the flat recessed type that are flush with the body so that you cannot feel them. All cameras should have these, they are superior in every way. D-rings scratch cameras, make noise, and when they are removed the metal mount sticks into the bone of your hand. I don't know why Panasonic started putting those type on its newer cameras, but I don't care why. They are horrid. Thankfully the L10's are perfect, and it makes me smile knowing some hard metal thing isn't going to dig into the bones of my hands when I shoot with the camera in awkward conditions (as I often do!).

I should include more in this section of the review, but I don't know what else to say. The L10 handles like a dream, how a proper photographers camera should handle. It's comfortable, full of well placed controls with a comfortable grip, and built extremely well. It's well balanced, not too heavy, and small enough where I'd consider taking it with me anywhere. I can't say that about my other DSLR's. Handling on the L10 is simply fantastic.


Viewfinder (w/a Short Story): 

It must have been fate. Long ago I went through a phase of using Olympus DSLR's, of which my favorite was the E450 for backpacking. I bought both available eyepieces from Olympus and Panasonic (the L10's that is included with a new camera purchase). I ended up selling those Olympus DSLRS and on one sale I was going to include the L10's magnifying eyepiece for free and forgot. However on another sale, I thought I included it for free, but didn't. Somehow it got buried in one of my sealed cabinets in a box, for at least a couple of years. While doing some organizing recently, I found it on day 3 of using the L10 and remembered it was the exact model I needed for the L10! What a find! My used L10 purchase did not include the eyepiece- how serendipitous indeed.

If you buy a new L10, or used one, you should get this eyepiece with it.

Since I have the eyepiece, I have to say using the magnifier on the viewfinder of the L10 helps considerably and the eyepiece will not vignette the view as long as you aren't wearing thick eyeglasses. It's not anywhere close to my full frame DSLR view, but it's definitely better than not having it on for most circumstances. It helps with manual focusing a bit too. Because it's thicker than the standard eyecup, it helps you keep your face away from smudging the LCD screen as well. The difference in magnification goes from .92x to 1.10x, which is approaching the view you see with the E3/5 DSLRS, and surpasses the E30 Olympus magnification. Not bad.

Live View Implementation: 
Panasonic DSLR Auto Link

Panasonic's Page: http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/systemcamera/dslr/l10/live_view01.html

If you don't want to travel to Panasonic land, the above summarizes the live view options/type pretty well.

After updating the firmware to version 2.1, I was able to tap into the L10's contrast detect auto focus in live view mode using other lenses than it's standard kit lens that I don't currently have. Auto focus options are plentiful, and include face detection as well. Focus speed is snappy using this mode, with a slight accuracy payoff vs. it's other phase detection mode. It's fast enough in fact, that when using live view, this is definitely my preferred choice of focusing as there is no mirror flip up or down just to get focused.

Compared to today's cameras some of you might think that it lags in the dark ages with it's type of live view system. I don't see it that way, because those other cameras don't have an optical viewfinder. Practically speaking its like having two different cameras in one. A DSLR with phase detection, and a point and shoot, with contrast detect AF in live view. I rather like that set up quite a bit personally, and both types work fantasically actually. Accuracy in focus is one area the L10 simply exceed. And it does this well without micro AF lens adjustments in the menu system. Quite impressive.

Overall the live view experience is just what I'd expect from a modern DSLR. There are a plethora of options and on screen guides to do the duty you want, and the L10 handles tasks well. From image magnification, rule of third grid options, live histogram, and live image simulation, the L10 leaves little to desire in its live view implementation.

Bar the flip flop mirror in settings when I need a quiet camera, of course.


Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: Neat Tricks
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This is the section of the review I really enjoy writing. Here, I attempt to reveal interesting facts about the camera the reader might not find right away, or read in other reviews on the net. Also, it's a sort of journal of fun moments with the camera during the review process as I dissect it's capabilities and take notes.

  •  If you close the LCD so you cannot view it, and then make adjustments to the metering, red lights in the viewfinder indicate which of the three AF points you are using when you make the adjustment (after simply pressing the metering button on the 5 way controller).
  • It was reported in another review (I wont mention which) that the viewfinder of the L10 does not display the ISO setting, only showing "ISO" in manual ISO mode only. This is totally incorrect. The L10 displays the ISO setting in the viewfinder as soon as you press the ISO button, and you can use the rear thumb control wheel to change it very quickly.
  • Multi Exposure- This has several key advantages, and I'll name just three of them off the top of my head. First of all you can shoot in raw in this format, so if you want to do a 3 stack shot on one raw file- you can. This is an advantage for multiple reasons in itself. First of all, since noise is random, taking 3 shots on one raw file means less noise per file (each shot fills in noise "gaps" over the next). Also, you can shoot a greater range of light and put it on one raw file instead of shooting three then stacking later- this saves time and headache.

3 shot multi-exposure mode raw processed ISO 1600

Not being limited to a Jpeg means much more control over the post processing. To my knowledge, Pentax and Olympus are the only other two companies that allow this kind of control with multi-exposure (single raw file stacking that is). Here is the same shot with a single raw file, note the difference in noise.


1600 Single shot raw, more noise less color depth etc..

Another advantage is that you can take much longer exposure images on one raw file, 3x as long in fact, and you'll reduce noise at the very same time. This gives raw files even greater latitude and control in many circumstances, and takes some time to master. Well worth the time I might add!

The creative control allowed is also welcome for those who like to overlay images on top of one another, and the camera lets you see the preview at the same time while shooting (what the 1st, then 2nd, and lastly the 3rd shot all look like stacked). You can take two or three shot stacks too, whatever is best for you.

  • When using live view and contrast detect AF, the lamp that normally is used during self timer mode when you're not using live view, is suddenly used for an AF assist lamp! So this is the first camera that I know of to incorporate two types of AF assist- the internal flash, and a separate AF assist lamp depending on what type of focusing you use. This is an excellent system in use overalL. Bravo to Panasonic for this! However, ideally I'd like to be able to use a more powerful AF assist lamp for phase detect AF also, as it is less intrusive and startling to subjects in low light (including the photographer). Not perfect, but excellent never the less.
  •  In the menu, the LCD can be set to be turned off automatically as soon as you half press the shutter release. And indeed this is how I have the LCD set. I find a bright LCD in my peripheral is a distraction when using the optical finder. Having control on when the LCD is on or off when the camera is pressed to my eye scores another point for the L10. So far, the L10 is scoring a lot of points with me.
  •  And last but certainly not least is a biggie. The L10, like the L1 that came before it, can use just about any manual focus lens with aperture control on the market with an adapter because of the flange distance from sensor to mount. This makes the 4/3 mount valuable in its own right, but the L10 has another even better trick up it's sleeve.

The L10 will also confirm focus with any lens whether or not the lens or adapter has lens contacts on it. Rare in cameras indeed, it has a true TTL PDAF focusing system that isn't reliant on lens contacts for distance information like most other cameras do. This feature alone may endear lens collectors to the L10.

One of my favorite budget manual focus lenses to use on the L10 is the Minolta MD Rokkor 45mm f/2. The L10 does a superb job showing focus confirmation (the little green light in the viewfinder) when using the viewfinder. Matched with the viewfinder magnifier, the system works pretty well for manual focusing if you have good eyesight.  This lens is essentially a 90mm f/2 lens in 35mm format terms, at least in terms of field of view and brightness of aperture. Depth of field is another story, which is about twice that of full frame for any given aperture. However the lens is very sharp and you can get one for $40.00 plus the price of an adapter (I use photodiox's $15.00 jobber with the allen key locking mechanism).


Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: Image Quality
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In this section of the review I'm going to separate Jpeg image quality from Raw image quality. This way users who are used to both can just skip right to that section in the review if they prefer. The L10 can shoot both raw and jpegs at the same time, with the Jpegs taking any various settings that you prefer (different color, noise reduction, aspect ratio's, etc..).

Jpeg Quality- Panasonic has a nice way of rendering Jpegs in it's DSLR's, but I've never been a fan of the Jpegs in their compacts. The Jpeg quality of the L10 overall is very good to excellent, with lots of control given to the user for the output of the final image. Dynamic range is very good for a Jpeg, detail as well. Noise reduction can be set at 5 different levels but there is no off setting. This is disappointing to me but not a deal breaker. Its low noise setting is very decent, but I prefer using raw for the most detail- when detail really counts. Otherwise, there's a lot to like about the Jpeg rendering especially with the black and white settings which are very customizeable as well.

Excellent detail, color, contrast, and noise control for ISO 400

Auto white balance out of camera tends to be shifted a bit to the green side which isn't to my taste. I prefer blues to be blue, and greens to be naturally green- not overly so. Fortunately Panasonic allows the user to adjust the hue even on automatic white balance so as to overcome Panasonic's standard preference for color. That's what I like, more control over the output not less. A camera should be designed to let the end user decide how they want their images to look, not the designers choice.


ISO 400, auto white balance (adjusted for preferences in camera as noted in Jpegs summarized section below)

After changing the color output to your choice/preference, the Jpegs can be relied upon to be excellent print and sharing material. In some respects I like how the black and white images come out of camera better than what I end up doing in post processing simply because it takes longer for me to process a black and white than a color image (I'm very picky with b/w) and I find that Panasonics idea of what monochrome images should look like mirrors much of my own taste (in the dynamic b/w category especially).

Jpegs summarized- ISO 100-400 images are really nice, up there with 12mp DSLRS in detail, and color and contrast. 800 ISO is good for low light using a fast lens, and 1600 can be decent if you expose properly, and especially good for monochrome photographs. Keep the NR set to -2 for the most detail. Even +2 NR will not remove banding I've seen in high ISO's in the shadow regions shot in low light scenes. Setting recommendations: Keep your saturation set to 0 or +1 and contrast to 0 or +1 for the most natural looking images. Skew the auto white balance one to the right (blue) and three down for magenta.

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Raw Quality- Here's where I get a bit more excited though. The L10 has a tremendous amount of detail available for a 10mp camera for three reasons. First of all it has a weak anti-aliasing filter which has less initial blur off sensor. Secondly, the L10 does not do a lot of NR on raw files, if any at all on the luminescense channel (I believe there is none on this channel). And lastly, Zuiko lenses are superbly sharp, even down to the kit lenses. The L10's detail matches or exceeds another 10mp DSLR I like a lot, the Sony A100. Considering how much I have trumpeted the A100's low ISO image quality, this is a huge compliment to the L10. I find the entire ISO range useable, including ISO 1600 as seen below.

ISO 1600 with chroma NR slider set to 30, and luminescence set to 10. Very decent here.

Dynamic range, tonality, color rendition, are all very good even when compared to today's best cameras. Considering most shooters will never even print a 13x19" photograph, and the L10 makes a superb one, I don't see that high megapixel counts will really be all that important to most shooters. On top of that, the L10 has enough detail to make an excellent 16x24 print. So detail isn't an issue.

Dynamic range is an area I think should still continue to be improved in digital camera development as a whole, as well as color depth and tonality. In my opinion, all digital cameras worth using should have at least 10.5 stops of total measured DR in raw to make good looking prints. Fortunately, the L10 has about a stop above that in the raw files, which is skewed more into the shadow detail than the highlights. You have to be a bit careful about over exposing with the L10, but it's not a big issue that needs to be constantly babysat. Just something to remember. Below is a sample of extreme light and what the L10 can do.


Plenty of shadow detail with minimal noise surprisingly, and nice mid tones. Color depth lacks though, and was difficult to work with in ACR for this image. Fortunately that's not the case for a majority of the images.

Color is good overall, but not that it did take some getting used too when processing in ACR. At first images seemed flat and skewed to green a bit overall in color. But now that I've got an idea of what to expect, the L10 is capable of producing some good color in its images. Notice I didn't say excellent. I find that color depth is lacking in the L10 and it takes some extra saturation in the ACR saturation slider to get the look I want. Note that I am not a big fan at all of overly saturated images. I prefer natural color images almost 100% of the time, and I process my photos to capture the scene as naturally as I can/remember it. Here is an excellent sample of how I process my images and how they should look from raw.

After some work in post, good tonality, color, and detail from this candid shot (no it was not set up)

Therefore when I have to add saturation to the images, it doesn't make me happy to do so. But, if you want more accurate colors from the L10 you better be prepared to so it in post, or rely on out of camera Jpegs with settings that match your taste. To me, this is the biggest weakness of the L10's image quality, and I didn't have that issue with the L1- quite the contrary in fact. Overall though, it's not a huge issue, its just the biggest weakness of the L10's image quality- does that make sense?

In Raw, I prefer using Adobe RGB because it's a wider color gamut that looks better on prints. The L10 can be set to an Adobe RGB color gamut mode in the menu. I made a series of prints during this review with my Canon printer and I'm very impressed with 13x19" images after I've processed them in ACR. Although the raw images are a bit trickier to get "right" than other DSLRS I've used, the L10 is still highly capable of making beautiful images- just crack the code and don't give up on it.

Tonality is one of the pleasing aspects of the L10. It's probably the second best 4/3 sensor I've used to date in tonality (bar the L1's). Keep in mind I haven't used the OMD-EM5's 16mp sensor yet, but I'm sure I will at some point. Falling second place to the L1 is pretty good considering I've even used the E5, E620, E450, and EP1 quite a bit. Here is a sample of what I find pleasing tonality.



One note/warning to shooters about the L10 who plan on shooting in very dimly lit scenes: The L10 will show some minor horizontal banding (mostly color banding) at the highest ISO setting of 1600. It's not major at all, I've seen a lot worse from Canon DSLRS and Panasonics L1, so keep that in mind. It's just that you have to remember that it will. Topaz DeNoise (a plug in for Photoshop) will get rid of all the banding on the L10 quite easily (and yes use Topaz personally, and recommend it). See below.


This is a 1600 ISO shot processed in ACR with no noise reduction at all. You can just make out some banding in the golden scotch above, just above "The Glencairn Glass" logo in the center of the frame. This is a very low light scene, about as extreme as you can get with the L10 and expect to make a decent photograph.

Overall though, I found the L10's image quality to be better than expected from a 4/3 size sensor. It rivals and exceeds another 10mp camera I adore- the Sony A100. Albeit it does so with a bit less DR in the highlights, and, lacking the gorgeous color depth of the A100- but similar in tonality and in fine detail because of its weak anti-aliasing filter over the sensor and the superb Zuiko lenses. While the L1 consistently blew me away in terms of color and tonality at lower ISO's, the L10 I found to be a notch below but still quite good overall, and the L10 has much better fine detail capable of larger prints than the L1.

Raw summarized- Almost verbatim what I said about Jpegs, so Panasonic have an excellent Jpeg engine in this camera, unlike others I've seen from them. ISO 100-400 images are excellent, up there with 12-14mp DSLRS in detail, color, and contrast. 800 ISO is surprisingly good for low light using a fast lens, and 1600 can be good to decent if you expose properly and especially good for monochrome photographs. ACR will not remove banding I've seen in high ISO's in the shadow regions shot in low light scenes, but Topaz DeNoise will- an excellent plugin I endorse. Prints at base ISO up to 400 ISO look fantastic at 16x20". A real gem of a 10mp camera here, and a great traveler camera.

Tip: Tripod shooters should use the multi-shot feature of the L10 at base ISO. You can get even greater image quality out of your raw files because each overlaid exposure fills in noise gaps from the previous exposure, for up to 3 shots total- on one raw file. You can also bracket your exposure on one raw file manually. Recommended!

Panasonic DSLR Auto Link



L10, General Disappointments- Not many to list here but certainly I have some. First of all the lack of a depth of field preview button knocks the L10 down a point for me. I don't use it often but when I pick up a DSLR I expect there to be one in the event I wish to use it. It should be a standard feature on every DSLR - period. The saving grace of the L10 is it's live view, however.

The front control wheel is a bit difficult to engage, it should be located behind the shutter release with the shutter release moved forward a tad. My description is a much more natural position to use practically. Since the L10 isn't a large DSLR though, my medium sized fingers can reach it ok enough- not a huge deal for me.
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10- Pro's (in no particular order)
Obviously the list of pro's outweighs the list of cons, so you could say this review is very favorable towards the L10. This is an honest assessment, I've got no reason for bias and consider myself a brand agnostic photographer to the core. No camera is perfect of course but I prefer using ones that mostly get things right.
  • Fast AF, reliably accurate
  • Excellent battery life
  • Fun factor is high, begs you to shoot with it
  • Zero show stopper issues
  • Organized on the outside and the inside
  • Feature rich
  • Excellent Jpeg Engine at most ISO values
  • Superb detail in the raw files- 10mp or not, very impressive
  • Very good dynamic range
  • Every ISO setting is useable in raw
  • Excellent external manual controls, and all are adjustable with the right hand
  • Good flash metering
  • Versatile (small but full featured, rotating LCD etc.) package
  • Tilt and swivel LCD screen, low glare
  • Excellent ergonomics
  • Goldy lox would approve- not to heavy, not too light, just right
  • Comfortable grip and thumb rest, reassuringly stable even for one handed shooting
  • Custom mode on main mode dial
  • Dual customizable control wheels film mode switch is more useful than I imagined (instant live view too)
  • 5 way controller is excellent
  • Great customization- Excellent options for Jpeg images, controls, and the menu systems
  • Menu system is easy to navigate and well sorted, fully featured without being cluttered
  • Ultrasonic dust removal is the best in the business, and works like a charm
  • High grade build quality and density, no flexing, creaking, or rattling
  • Fairs surprisingly well without in-body image stabilization
  • Mirror lock up mode
  • Up to 60 seconds exposure time available without having to go into Mirror Lock Up mode (twice the exposure time of competition)
  • Panasonic matching/included magnifying eye cup does a good job
  • DNG format Raw files (why Panasonic went away from them, is beyond me)
  • True manual focus confirmation with any lens mounted in manual focus using any kind of adapter


Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10- Cons (also in no particular order)
My list of con's is pretty short, which is a good thing for Panasonic. Personally I think Panasonic ought to make one more DSLR for 4/3 shooters with the new and lovely 16mp sensor, and improved optical finder and AF system. One camera would be good for the mount and not break Panasonic's financial back. The short list of con's below is testament that Panasonic are highly capable of making excellent cameras when they want too.
  • Viewing angle on LCD isn't as good as newer cameras
  • Color on LCD is slightly off, but not badly
  • No DOF preview
  • Final images are slightly different than the advertised WYSIWYG marketing on its color modes
  • If the optical finder magnification were just a bit better, this camera would have been MUCH more popular, as is, its useful still, but a bit underwhelming (however better than most EVF's I've used)
  • No NR off setting for Jpegs
  • Max ISO 1600 limit
  • Minor banding in very low light images only at ISO 1600 (panasonic are notorious for banding, but this one isn't bad enough to leave me sour)



Panasonic DMC-L10 DSLR Review: In Conclusion
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A simple and elegantly designed DLSR that doesn't leave the experienced shooter wishing for more external controls, and won't weigh you down.

Panasonic has another winner with me, but sadly my winner list is short with Panasonic. I'll be outright in saying that I'm not a fan of Pansonics micro four thirds cameras, but both of their DSLRs are quite good, and the LC1 digicam was absolutely fantastic. It's a pity they didn't continue to make DSLRs, but it's understandable as that market is very crowded. I think Panasonic had a winner with the L10 when it was announced, but its price initially was too high and turned me off as well considering the options at that time.

Even now, I'd enjoy using this camera if I paid up to $800.00 for it (with a lens included), but more than that would seem way too steep of a price for what you get. Even better, I got mine used for $200.00 near new from KEH camera online (granted without a box or anything else, just the camera body, body cap, battery, and charger). So I find it a REAL bargain at that price, and you can rest assured I recommend 4/3rds shooters to grab one up near that price range.

Because the L10 is superior to the L1 in many respects- specifically with its live view implementation and variable angle screen (which by the way doesn't impede handling on this camera like they do on m4/3 cameras), I'll likely get another or have this one converted for full spectrum photography so that I can shoot color or IR however and whenever I like using filters instead of getting a permanent filter over the sensor. I'll never quit my love affair with the L1, but practically speaking, I think the L10 is a better camera for more tasks than the L1 is. Better is a subjective matter of course, and that doesn't mean I won't hesitate to continue to use the L1 for my photographic tasks- it's just a different experience than the L10 and fits a different and more practical style of photography.

Rarely these days am I taken by new cameras. I find that hype often supercedes the actual experience with them in hand, and trust me, I've tried many of the cameras on the market and continue too. I have a background of solid photographic technique and experience which permeates itself into my opinions of cameras. Specifically I mean that cameras should act like cameras, and not step on the toe's of a working photographer because of bad designers. Still cameras should be designed for the greatest amount of control and that control should be intuitive and quick to find and adjust for the photographer. That should be the foundation and basis for good camera design, and my opinion of cameras is always compared to that ideal.

So how does the L10 hold against that ideal? Remarkably well in fact. This is a camera that I really enjoy using for several simultaneous reasons. It's not just a pretty camera that makes me feel good when I brag about it at parties. And btw, I never do that, I'm just making a point here. Quite the contrary, the only time I brag about a camera is after I've used it in demanding conditions alone from others and come away from a photographic session with a smile. It takes a lot to impress me, and the L10 has done just that.

More specifically this camera covers many areas that I expect a camera design to have, such as: Good controls, a good organized menu system, lots of user control, good image quality, a vast amount of customization, excellent ergonomics, top notch build quality, and many useable features. The L10 achieves.

Overall not only do I think the L10 is a great camera, but I think it's Pansonic's best interchangeable lens camera they've made yet. Handling isn't sacrificed by trying to be too small, yet I can take it anywhere with me and not feel weighted down. I'd much rather have this camera than a micro 4/3 Panasonic (at least over any I've tried yet, and there have been several), because if I want to go really small, I'll just bring a premium enthusist compact with me. Otherwise, I don't want a DSLR I shoot with to be compromised by being too small - just because a few camera makers want to have the crown of 'smallest camera' to brag about in some meaningless sales propaganda pamplet or press release. Let me tell you how I really feel.

I like to make photographs, I like tools that do what I need them to do. I have no affiliation with any particular brand (I call myself brand agnostic) so this isn't brand worship at all. I own and have reviewed many different brands of camera. The Panasonic L10 is now one of my all time favorite cameras I've ever used.

Because of its excellent menu system, external controls, comfortable feature rich body, the L10 easily fits itself somewhere in the lineup of my top 10 list of best cameras of all time.

Be safe and happy shooting...

Carl Garrard

If you like this review, please... yeah you know what to do. Thanks in advance.
Panasonic DSLR Auto Link

6 Comments:

Anonymous Chuck said...

Hi Carl:

Excellent review, and it mirrors my own impressions of the L10. In fact, I have two of them which I got a while back at bargain used prices - one came from KEH. I do have the companion lens for the L10 - the 14-50mm D Vario-Elmar Leica, and I do recommend this lens. I have had Oly dSLRs for years - E-5, E-3, E-620, etc., and I must say that the L10 stacks up very well against them. Of course, this allows me to use my many Oly 43 lenses on the L10 too.

There is just something about this camera that makes you want to shoot with it. The way it looks, the way it feels, the snappy/hypnotic sounding shutter, and the great colors you get when you shoot. It really does hold its own against today's cameras. Your review nailed it.

Oh, and I admit that I also have the L1 (and LC1). Like you, I have this special fondness for such "older" cameras as these, that got it right but were just not appreciated enough at the time.

Keep up the great work!

- Chuck

April 28, 2013 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger C.GARRARD said...

Thank you very much Chuck, much appreciated :). There was something about the era of these Panasonic cameras that made them very likeable and I'm not sure what it was there at Panasonic that made the magic, but it's worth sharing and repeating I think.

C

April 28, 2013 at 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Carl,

eee....the Dynax 5D is slighty better as the L10 Lumix here, and that DSLR is even
from 2005, not 2010. ;) Indeed, APS-C, the Sony Alpha 100 still have a higher Sensor
Score, please check out DxOMark in Sensor Terms, check this Link here -

http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/%28appareil1%29/268|0/%28brand%29/Panasonic/%28appareil2%29/216|0/%28brand2%29/Sony/%28appareil3%29/279|0/%28brand3%29/Konica%20Minolta

What is bad, not only the L10 is the worst of all three (L10, Dynax 5D & Sucessor Alpha 100 compared), but the 5D also have got a better ISO Score than the A100 Sony.

Apart from that, a very good review, and i also still like my old Nikon D40 much,
as well as my D90, but the 5D for occasional Shootings does have bracketing,
and DoF preview button, which the D40 lacks, even it's 1.5 years older, both share
a 6 MP APS-C Sensor.

Keep up the great work.

Cheers,
Marc

April 30, 2013 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Carl,

about Photography: sure, i have some gear, 4 DSLRs, and over a dozen compacts,
collected during the past 12 years when i started with digital...apart from that,
i like it much more to stand behind the lens and take pictures, then refering
about gear, but the truth is, it makes so much fun to get the most out of relative
cheap equipment, rather than using highend gear & stuff. i really like to see someone
like you here to review older gear, and listing their pro & cons, because i don't
need the "cat's ass" as it's being said, for instance.

Keep the reviews going. ;)

greetings from germany,
marc

April 30, 2013 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Brian Murphy said...

I was curious if you felt the same way about Olympus micro 4/3 cameras as you do about the Panasonic models? While I wasn't completely sold on the idea by Samsung, Sony or Panasonic models, I do actually like the Olympus implementation.

June 9, 2013 at 7:58 AM  
Anonymous John Osterholm said...

I just got my L10 kit with the Vario Elmarit 14-50 F2.8-3.5 and in the few hours I have played it, I am impressed. This lens will no doubt prove to be stunning.

May 27, 2014 at 7:16 PM  

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