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Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Reviews

I've been writing about and reviewing consumer technology since before the turn of the century. I'm also a photographer and cat herder, frequently at the same time.

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7 min read

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Panasonic's entry-level interchangeable-lens model, the Lumix DMC-G10, is a moderately de-featured version of its big brother, the G2. Based around the same Micro Four Thirds-standard sensor and lens mount, the G10 is a solid ILC model, but one that has a few weaknesses compared with similarly priced competitors.

OVR
7.5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10

The Good

Fastest in its class thus far; well-built; intelligent design for enthusiasts, with lots of direct-access controls.

The Bad

Mediocre EVF; no dedicated record button; overly noisy JPEG photos.

The Bottom Line

How the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 stacks up to its competition depends upon your priorities: it's the speed king, with the best design for manually oriented shooters, but its image quality lags the field.

The displays seem to be where Panasonic cut corners to get the G10's price down. It has a fixed, instead of articulated, LCD, though that's par for the course in the entry-level models. But the company also went with a low-resolution, low-magnification EVF. When I first picked up the G10 to shoot, my initial response was "what a horrible EVF." Not only did it look coarse and small, but the eye cup felt uncomfortably rigid. Though I subsequently got used to it, and found it just about adequate for manual focus, it's probably the worst of the interchangeable-lens models. Still it's better than some of the EVFs I've seen on megazoom cameras and certainly better than none at all. It also lacks an automatic sensor that toggles between the LCD and EVF when you bring the camera up to your eye, but I generally prefer manual control over that and tend to turn the off the sensor.

Overall, the G10 has intelligently laid out and easy-to-understand controls that will likely be understood by anyone who's used a relatively sophisticated compact camera (off Auto, of course). Though a few of the buttons and controls are different, the G10 uses basically the same body and layout as the G2 and earlier G1. I generally like the overall design and it's solidly constructed and comfortable to grip and shoot--even one-handed with a heavyish lens. One of my least favorite changes between the G1 and G10 (and G2) is the relocation of the SD slot from the grip to the battery compartment. Yes, it's a very common location in point-and-shoots (and the Olympus models), but it's annoying if you use a tripod and awkward if you take the card out frequently.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
Sensor (effective resolution)
Processing engine version
Sensitivity range
Focal-length multiplier
Continuous shooting




Viewfinder
(effective magnification)




Autofocus
Metering
Shutter
Flash
LCD




Image stabilization
Video (max resolution at 30fps)
Audio
Battery life (CIPA rating)
Dimensions (WHD, inches)
Weight (ounces)
Mfr. Price



More than any other manufacturer, Panasonic's models retain a plethora of direct-access controls. The focus mode options (single, continuous, manual) sit on a small dial on the top left of the body; the drive modes (single, continuous, bracket, and timer) are switch-selectable on the top right. The mode dial contains the usual suspects: PASM, movie, custom settings (which holds three slots), a handful of scene modes, and a slot leading to the entire selection. As with the G2, it's a bit hard to decipher which settings can be saved, even with the help of the manual; for example, it seems like it won't save shutter speeds in still-photo modes, but it will in video mode. Though that's not uncommon, in my book it's aggravating and counterintuitive that you can save all the settings surrounding a shutter-priority mode except for the most important one: the shutter speed.

I really miss the dedicated movie record button that's on the G2, but otherwise the mode dial and drive mode options, as well as the dedicated Intelligent Auto button, are identical. You have less manual control during movie capture than with the G2--just a limited ability to change shutter speed, which requires a slog through the manual to find. You press the button labeled with aperture and garbage icons, which then brings up text that says "flicker red. cancel," at which point the scroll dial lets you choose a yellow-highlighted number from 50, 60, 100, and 120. I'd never have guessed that as the way to set shutter speed.

On the back is a smallish thumb rest. Above that are the jog dial and AE/AF lock button; the jog dial, which could really use a label for better discoverablity, controls exposure compensation, aperture, and shutter speed. Below the thumb rest sits the Quick menu button, which brings up the interactive display for adjusting the most commonly used shooting settings: flash, Film Mode, image stabilization, image/video quality and size, Intelligent Contrast/Resolution, AF mode (single, 23-area, tracking, and face detection), metering, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, and white balance. ISO sensitivity, white balance, and AF mode all have dedicated buttons on the four-way navigation, whereas the fourth, Fn, can be programmed to directly pull up settings for film mode, aspect ratio, quality, metering, Intelligent Resolution, Intelligent Exposure, extended zoom (a form of digital zoom), and guide lines.

You rarely need to go into the menu system, but my one frustration with its design is that instead of letting you create a custom menu of potentially frequently needed options, such as Format or monitor brightness, it simply lists the most recently accessed options.

Olympus E-PL1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Samsung NX10
Sensor (effective resolution)
Color depth
Sensitivity range
Focal-length multiplier
Continuous shooting


Viewfinder
(effective magnification)



Autofocus
Metering
Shutter
Flash
LCD


Image stabilization
Video (max resolution at 30fps)
Audio I/O
Battery life (CIPA rating)
Dimensions (WHD, inches)
Weight (ounces)
Mfr. Price

The G10 isn't big on novel capabilities. Like the G2, the most notable is the bracketing, which supports up to seven frames and two stops in either direction. As with its line mates, you can register up to six faces in the camera memory with names and birthdays, priority (for AF and exposure), and a custom focus icon. During playback, the person's name appears. However, you can't use this information to search during playback, and it doesn't seem to appear anywhere in the EXIF data for the photo. Panasonic's Intelligent Resolution feature sharpens distant details that its image processing would normally render kind of smeary. I found it kind of hit-or-miss; after testing in a variety of scenes in both the G2 and the G10, I only saw useful improvements in one set of shots.

With one exception, the G10 ranks as the fastest camera in its class thus far, though it still can't match competing dSLRs like the Pentax K-x. It wakes and shoots in a zippy 0.7 second. Time to focus and shoot in good light is 0.5 second, a hair behind the Sony NEX-5's 0.4-second speed; in dim light, it matches the rest of Panasonic's crew at a relatively zippy 0.6 second. It takes about 0.7 second for two sequential shots, regardless of file format (raw or JPEG), and flash recycling brings that up to a full second. Its 3fps burst speed matches the G2 and sits in the middle of a fairly tight pack, but that just means that you've got a slightly better change of accidentally getting the shot.

With the G1 and G10 announcements, Panasonic also introduced a new kit lens. It has a slightly shorter range of 14-42mm (28-84mm equivalent) compared with the older model's 14-45mm range, but it retains most of the same optical characteristics: 12 lens elements in nine groups with a single aspherical element, f3.5-5.6 maximum aperture, 7-blade aperture, 52mm filter, and closest focus distance of about a foot. It's a hair longer physically--2.39 inches compared with 2.36 for the older 14-42mm, but about an ounce lighter.

Notably different, though: the 14-42mm lens uses an internal focus (the lens doesn't extend as you zoom, instead shifting the lens elements within the barrel). An internal focus system can be quieter than a standard focus system, which is important when shooting video; however, this lens isn't as quiet as the video-optimized and expensive 14-140mm lens that ships on the GH1. Panasonic also dropped the stabilizer switch on the barrel of the lens.

The two lenses I shot--the 14-42mm kit lens and the 46-200mm supplementary telephoto--are pretty nice. The kit lens has some distortion at its widest, but not a lot, is fairly sharp, and only displays fringing in extreme conditions. There's almost no distortion for the telephoto lens at 40mm; if Panasonic's performing in-camera control, it's doing a very good job. (The distortion samples, shot with the G2, are here.)

Unsurprisingly, given its similar innards, the G10's photo quality is about the same as the G2's. It delivers accurate color and exposures, even on its defaults. Though several of the preset options do induce some color shifts, they're not as egregious as I've seen on many consumer dSLRs. Panasonic manages to produce exceptionally bright, saturated colors without significantly shifting the hues.

But the photos are also pretty noisy. Panasonic's aggressive default noise reduction can smear detail in JPEGs as low as ISO 200. The camera simply has a poorer noise profile than most of its competitors. At ISO 100, the default settings don't introduce artifacts as they do at higher ISO sensitivities. They have cleaner edges and lack noise patterns. I was able to get significantly better results by processing the raw files instead. Videos look reasonably good, though they use the inefficient Motion JPEG codec and a mono mic.

The $200 price difference between the G2 and G10 will probably shrink as the months go on, and I think it's worth paying a little extra for the better EVF, articulated display, and better video capabilities of the G2, even if you're not into touch screens. How the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 stacks up to its competition depends upon your priorities: it's the speed king, with the best design for manually oriented shooters, but its image quality lags the field.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Sony Alpha NEX-5
1.7
0.9
0.9
0.8
0.4

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5


0.7
0.7
0.7
0.6
0.5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
0.8
0.9
0.7
0.6
0.5

Samsung NX10
0.8
1.2
1
0.7
0.5

Olympus E-PL1
1.8
2.1
1.9
1.4
0.9

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

OVR
7.5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Image quality 7