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Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Digital Camera Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Digital Camera Review - Micro Four Thirds is proving itself a worthy adversary to APS-C sensor DSLRs and Panasonic are still on the offensive with the Lumix DMC-G10.

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Category : Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera
Product : Panasonic Lumix G10
Price : £479
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification


Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 front view
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 is a similar specification to the G1 with a few cunning upgrades. The £479 price tag is quite tempting.

With Micro Four Thirds looking to take over the world, Panasonic have added to their arsenal with the Lumix DMC-G10. Priced at £479 with the 14-42mm lens, the camera isn't available body only. Is this a faux pas or a clever marketing ruse? Released along with the G2, the G10 is the little brother of the two.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10: Features
Despite being a newer model, there are a few areas that the camera is a similar specification to the original Micro Four Thirds camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1. This is a camera that's 18 months old and there are only small features that are an improvement. Typical upgrades include the a new Venus Engine HD II, extra 1:1 aspect ratio, video mode, additional sensitivity to ISO6400, a higher continuous shooting rate and SDXC compatibility. An obvious drop down is the lack of an articulating screen although the G2 does provide this and it's a touch-screen at that.

Improvements have been made to the new Venus processor to decrease the possibility of noise by separating chromatic and luminance noise and applying independent noise reduction to each. Remaining at 12Mp, the LiveMOS sensor appears to be the optimum resolution for the Four Thirds sensor as this is a resolution that Olympus have also adopted in their Four Thirds cameras.

One disappointing difference on the G10 is the lack of the high resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF). The G10 only has 202,000 dots (67,000 pixels) compared to the G2 and G1 which both have a much higher 1.4 million dots (460,000 pixels). But does this really matter? The obvious improvements are in the processor and aside from the new noise reduction features, it also gives independent gradation control to the three R,G & B values.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 back view
The rear display lacks the flip out touch screen of the G2.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 command dial
The command dial sits on top if the drive and power switches.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 focus dial
Focusing modes have their own dedicated dial.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 oblique view
The 14-42mm standard kit lens isn't Leica spec but does have Mega OIS.

A brand new feature has been introduced called I.R or Intelligent Resolution technology. It analyses each picture and zones out edge detail, texture and gradation. Edges are then sharpened, texture is defined to show more detailed and gradations are smoothed out to give a smoother result to your picture.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10: Handling
The Micro Four Thirds DSLR style cameras from Panasonic are well styled, ergonomic and comfortable to use and the G10 retains the same size and styling. The rubbery covering feels soft on my skin and this makes the picture taking task more appealing. The camera is lighter than the rest of the range at 336g and it hardly feels as though there's anything there but what weight there is, is well balanced. Switching the camera on using the power switch under the command dial, the screen bursts into life and despite initial reserve about the screen not being up to the task, it's ultra bright and sharp.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the EVF, it's quite small and duller than the nice 1.4 million dot viewfinder found on the G2. It reminds me of looking through a colour viewfinder on a camcorder which was never a pleasant experience.

The Lumix G10 now takes SDXC cards, which is the new extreme capacity with theoretical capacities of up to 2Tb (2048Gb). The memory card is now located in the bottom of the camera with the battery instead of having its own slot on the side of the camera. This means that changing cards when you're set up to a tripod is tiresome although if you have one of those SDXC cards in, it should never be a problem. Ever.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10: Performance
All images were taken in Raw/JPEG at the highest quality setting. Raw files were converted to JPEG in Silkypix software supplied with the camera. No other adjustments were made.

Exposure
There are three metering modes on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10; spot, centre-weighted and multi metering which uses 144 zones to get the most balanced result. I tested the Panasonic G10 in various light conditions and I was pleased with the overall performance of the camera. I found that in diverse lighting with highlights, shadows and mid-tones, the images come out balanced with plenty of detail in the shadow areas and without the highlights washing out.

I found the camera struggled with really high contrast areas. In this scenario, the camera prefers to let the highlights blow out and bring in detail from the shadows. I also found that if I shot directly at the Sun, even with it in the frame, the image was under exposed. A small flash of fill-in flash soon put paid to the problem. There was only a small amount of flare when I did shoot into the light, in fact I'm pleasantly surprised with how well the kit lens performed in the test.

Panasonic Lumix G10: Exposure Click on thumbnails for larger images.
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 differing light conditions
The camera copes well with a scene that has lots of varied light from dark shadows of undergrowth to the bright sky of a spring morning. Strong shadows cutting in are dealt with nicely by the Panasonic.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 balanced light
A relatively simple shot but susceptible to a degree of silhouetting due to the amount of sky in shot.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 direct light
Only a small amount of flare and underexposure when in direct light.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 high contrast
With high contrast, there's a little burn out in the highlights.

Focusing
I love the speediness of the focusing system on the G10. It has the odd occasion where it has to hunt through a wide area but after doing that I found it always got the right area to focus on when it was in multi-mode.

In manual focus, rotating the focus ring will magnify the centre of the frame to aid focus. I found it helped a lot but looking around on forums, some people dislike it and you can turn the function off if you prefer and while there's an MF distance assist, it only has the macro and landscape icons to show you a relative distance as opposed to a numerical display. One point I did find that it annoyed me was if I accidentally caught it. While it can be turned off simply by half pressing the shutter release button, if I'm half way through doing something on the camera, I don't want a close up of the centre of the frame popping up because I nudged the lens slightly. On the other hand, it serves as a warning that you've nudged the focus.

Noise
Panasonic have taken an interesting approach to the layout of the noise menu. When it's set up for 1/3 step increments, the increments are separated into a different section below the prime settings. It's unusual but I like it and I think it could be popular enough to catch on with other manufacturers.

Low ISO settings start off remarkably well with lovely smooth results across the board and not an ounce of distortion coming through.

The noise does start to creep in from around ISO400 although it's minimal and I can only see it when I magnify the images to 100% size in Photoshop. Coloured pixels break through at ISO800 with blue and green spots scattering the darker images.

There's no high speed noise reduction on the G10 so the noise escalates from this point getting slowly worse until the image is pretty bad at the top end of ISO6400.
Panasonic Lumix G10 inside Noise test: Click on thumbnail for the larger image.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 ISO testing
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO100
ISO100
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO200
ISO200
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO400
ISO400
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO800
ISO800
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO1600
ISO1600
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO3200
ISO3200
Panasonic Lumix DMC G10 ISO6400
ISO6400
 
Panasonic Lumix G10 outside noise test: Click on thumbnail for larger images.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO testing
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO100
ISO100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO200
ISO200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO400
ISO400
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO800
ISO800
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO1600
ISO1600
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO3200
ISO3200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 outside ISO6400
ISO6400
 

In natural light, the camera still gives good low ISO results with smooth images from ISO100 through to ISO800 where I start to see small red dots of noise start to interfere with the picture. These red dots start to multiply through the range at first only seen in the shadow areas but eventually by ISO3200, they break through into the mid range settings.

The fine detail of images starts to break down until the final ISO6400 setting where the image is awash with coloured dots and most detail is long gone.

Colour reproduction
I've always had a good colour result from Panasonic cameras such as the LX3, GH1 and GF1. The G10 is no exception, producing lovely saturated colour. In the test of the LX3, I noticed a bias towards the cooler colours in the range but I'm happy to see a more evenly balanced colour range from the Live MOS sensor and Venus Engine processor. Bold colours such as red, blue and green look really good, especially when they're out in the natural world. Sky blue comes out especially nice and can make a shot look like a lovely Summer day even if it's bitterly cold like a lot of the days I was testing the camera. Skin tones are smooth and realistic and despite what we'd all class as a relatively low 12Mp resolution, the amount of detail present is great.

Panasonic Lumix G10 colour test: Click on thumbnails for the larger image.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 colour test
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 blue and green
Landscapes work well with blue and green in the same shot.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 saturated red
Saturated reds are rich if not a little darker than real life.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 sky blue
Despite the cold, it looks like a summer day thanks to the rich blue colour.
Panasonic Lumix G10 portrait image
Skin tones look good and there's plenty of detail in the shot. The camera has thrown the background nicely out of focus.

Subtle hues still get a mention despite this burst of bright colours oozing out of the camera and tricky colours such as purple are recorded accurately.

Natural colours such as green and brown are rich and realistic while recording foliage with sky produces deep colour that makes you wish you were on holiday.

Dynamic range
The standard dynamic range of the Panasonic G10 is very good. I found in extreme light conditions that had high contrast, the camera did very well. Sure it burnt out some highlights but this ensured that plenty of detail was available in shadow areas and I think this is the right way to do it. After all, not being able to see the sky is better than not seeing some detail of the subject on the ground. Unless you're photographing the sky of course, but then there's ways of working around that.

Panasonic use a dynamic range compensation system called Intelligent Exposure and it works by capping highlights to prevent burn out while boosting shadow detail. It's not a replacement for HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography but it helps if you're in a situation that requires a slight boost and you don't have a tripod to hand. There are three steps of low, medium and high which will add a little more each time and it does the process in one shot. The effect is only very subtle and in most cases I didn't even notice a difference except in extreme areas of light or dark.

White-balance
Panasonic are a bit unusual when it comes to the white-balance settings on their cameras. They don't put a fluorescent mode on the cameras as though photographs aren't taken in fluorescent lighting. It's a little odd coming from a Japanese company when Tokyo is practically built on fluorescent tubes. The auto setting does its best to work around the colour cast but ends up giving a slight yellow cast to images.

There are two custom setting options for presetting your favourite white-balance casts so if you shoot a lot in fluorescent lighting, you could do a manual reading and reuse the same setting each time. However, there are more than one fluorescent casts, so your preset would have to be under the same lights each time.

Auto white-balance copes really well with the stronger tungsten colour cast and I actually got a better result from the auto setting than the preset tungsten mode. In natural light, the casts are a lot softer and sunlight barely registers its warmer cast on the images I took. I did notice a slight cooling in the image when I selected the sunny mode in the white-balance menu.

Likewise when I chose the shade or cloudy setting, the image warmed ever so slightly. The change is so small, you can be forgiven for thinking no change has been made at all but it is there. The manual setting for white-balance can be accessed by selecting the Q-menu button and going to the white-balance settings from there or you can press the WB button on the pad on the back of the camera. The odd part is that you can only set the white-balance from the WB button, if you go in via the Q-menu button, it has to be sorted out already.

Panasonic Lumix G10: White-balance Click on thumbnail for larger images.
Tungsten  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 auto white-balance tungsten
Auto white-balance tungsten
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 white-balance tungsten
White-balance tungsten
Sunny  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 auto white-balance sunny
Auto white-balance sunny
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 white-balance sunny
White-balance sunny
Cloudy  
Panasonic Lumix G10 auto white-balance cloudy
Auto white-balance cloudy
Panasonic Lumix G10 white-balance cloudy
White-balance cloudy

Battery life
The Panasonic G10 takes a dedicated Lithium-Ion battery DMW-BLB13E which comes with good news and bad news. The good news is for the investors of the Micro Four Thirds system because this battery is the same as used in the Panasonic G1, GH1 and GF1. The downside is that the new one costs £54.99 which is pretty expensive.

The battery showed full when I received the camera so I didn't charge it up. I took around 200-300 shots in total and found that by the end of my test I'd got one bar of the three available. This was with regular use, using the screen or EVF to take pictures and I had to review every picture I'd taken on the screen.

Buffer read/write times
Continuous shooting is selected using the drive switch located under the command dial on the top plate. There are three drive options; high, standard and low. They're located on page four of the Rec tab in the main menu. Shooting in Raw and JPEG, the high setting takes a quick succession of images at around 2fps (frames-per-second) before having to download to the buffer. It then managed another frame at three seconds and another at eight seconds. Just Raw files managed a few extra shots before slowing down to download to the card. It took seven images before slowing down. I took my finger off the shutter release at 10 seconds and the camera finally finished downloading the pictures at 25 seconds. The low setting still takes seven images consecutively but simply takes longer to do it.

In JPEG, the camera can take far more pictures and manages to keep a pretty constant shooting speed without really slowing down.

Lens performance
Despite the unfortunate lack of a Leica lens on the camera, the Lumix version found on the G10 is very good. There's little flare present even when shooting directly into the Sun although it is present. What gets me, though, is the complete lack of chromatic aberration or purple fringing. Seen as a thin purple line down the side of the subject indicated a problematic lens but the one that comes with the G10 doesn't suffer at all. The lens does feature two aspherical elements to remove this type of fringing while the multi-coating helps to reduce ghosting and flare.

The 14-42mm lens sports the Mega O.I.S. Image stabilisation system that uses a gyro sensor to detect hand shake. A small selection of lenses in the middle of the lens barrel move to let light light straight through onto the centre of the sensor which gives a sharper image.


DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10: Verdict
It's another winning camera from Panasonic, I love the brightness of the screen, the colour reproduction and sharpness of the lens. It's easy to use and small so isn't a chore to take on long days out. The only real problem I see is that it's not much of a push forward in terms of innovation. There are a number of mitigating factors for this such as the G2 having so much going on, the G10 can't steal its limelight. Also, the G series were so innovative in their concept that they've set a precedent and when another camera doesn't hit that bench mark, there's a feeling of disappointment.

That's not to say that you shouldn't buy the camera if you're looking for a micro interchangeable lens system, Panasonic are a firm favourite throughout the photographic community. There are a lot of features on this camera to keep you busy and I know if I had this camera I'd be perfectly happy with it.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10: Pros
Lovely colour rendition
Good noise control for a smaller sensor
Good dynamic range
Fast focusing

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10:Cons
Not a massive upgrade
No fluorescent preset on white-balance
No high speed noise reduction

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
OVERALL









Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10: Specification
Price £479.99
Contact www.panasonic.co.uk
Resolution 12.1Mp
Sensor size 17.3x13mm
Sensor type Four Thirds Live MOS
Max. Image size 4000x3000
Aspect ratio 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1
Focusing system Contrast AF system
Focus points 23
Focus type AF-s, AF-C, MF, face detect, AF track, 23-area, 1-area focusing
Crop factor 2x
Lens mount Micro Fourt Thirds
File types Raw, JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO100-6400
Metering system 144 zone multi pattern sensing system
Metering types Intelligent multiple, centre-weighted, spot
Exposure compensation +/-3EV in 1/3 step increments
Shutter speed range 60sec - 1/4000sec & Bulb
Frames-per-second 3.2fps
Flash sync speed 1/160sec
Image stabilisation Lens based
Live view Yes
Viewfinder Electronic 202,000 dots (67,333 pixels)
Monitor 3in TFT LCD 460,000 dots (153,333 pixels)
Media type SD, SDHC, SDXC
Interface USB 2.0
Power Li-Ion
Size 124x83.6x74mm
Weight 558g (inc. lens)

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 costs £479.99 with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 & 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6

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Photographs taken using the Panasonic Lumix G10

Above and BelowNapolionic pistolBar Lighthouse boatBursting Water BalloonStained glassExploding party poppersmoke and mirrorsSteam train working hardshady day illuninationslaser legobenforest of deanAustralian BullantRomantic SunsetAnd so, summer begins...Stroll on the Beach
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Comments


2 May 2010 9:43AM
That's funny - so a used G1 will be the better choice because of the better viewfinder.

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MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
2 May 2010 10:03PM
It's a worthy thought. Although it's a little premature to say until the full review is finished. The other features and picture performance could sway you to the new camera. Time will tell. Smile
MikeBe 7 United Kingdom
10 Oct 2010 12:14PM
Given this camera with kit 14-42mm lens is available for 335 it makes it a better choice than the Olympus E-P1 as in terms of weight there is barely 50g between them! Given you get a flash and viewfinder with the G10 it is a good buy.

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