Panasonic's SV-AS10 combines a 2-megapixel digital camera, a video recorder, a digital voice recorder, and an audio player in one wafer-thin package. But despite this ambitious roster of features and the AS10's elegant design, we can recommend this overpriced ($300 list) device for only casual use.
The AS10, which comes in orange, blue, and silver, measures just 4.8 by 2 by 0.1 inches and weighs only 2.6 ounces with its included 8MB SD card and battery pack installed. Two shutter buttons--one on the back, the other on the side--let you orient the AS10 both horizontally and vertically. There's no viewfinder; you frame your shots with the high-quality, thin-film-diode 1.5-inch LCD. The fixed f/4.0 lens makes it hard to get close to the action, but the lens's rotating design guards against scratches and helps you frame self-portraits. You access most functions using the orange, nublike controller, which got mixed reviews from our editors: some felt that it sped too hastily through options; others found it adequately sensitive. We suggest you try it before you buy.
The AS10's modest still-photo feature set is comparable to that of most point-and-shoot cameras. In addition to basic functions, you get the ability to annotate your images with 10-second audio captions; record 320x240-pixel QuickTime Motion JPEG video with sound in 60-second clips; and play back AAC, MP3, and WMA files. Unfortunately, you have to convert your music tracks using Panasonic's SD Jukebox software, which is a big pain. We wish we could just drag our tunes onto the SD card and go. Sound quality is quite good, but the volume is a bit low for our tastes. The Night mode slows the shutter speed and increases the ISO setting to a noisy 1,600.
The camera got from start-up to its first photo in about 1.9 seconds, which is quick, but then it disappointed us with a relatively slow 1.2-second shutter lag. Shot-to-shot time ran close to 4.5 seconds--definitely on the slow side. We weren't impressed with the life of the AS10's lithium-ion battery, either. On a full charge, we nabbed barely 80 pictures, 60 percent of them with the flash firing. For music playback, Panasonic gives the cell a 10-hour rating, which jibes with our test results. Be sure to budget for a higher-capacity SD card. Though you'll need at least 128MB to get the most out of this device, the AS10 includes only 8MB.
The AS10's output quality is sufficient for low-resolution Web display and quickie e-mail clips. But forget about viewing or printing images at actual size: we saw pretty bad artifacts, including noise and fairly severe chromatic aberration, as well as blown-out highlights. Even at the lowest sensitivity setting, ISO 100, noise levels were high. Like most cameras with such a small battery, the AS10 has a weak flash; many of our scenes were only partially lit. Video was watchable, but we noted color inconsistencies, especially when we panned between light and dark areas. Footage also tended to be really wobbly; we advise Panasonic to add some sort of image stabilizer.
While the AS10 has its problems, it's still a cool entry in the all-in-one arena. There's no doubt that the device sacrifices quality for style, but some gadget fiends won't care.