Fast and easy action for getting up close

, posted: 7-May-2004 23:05

The outstanding feature on Panasonic's new Lumix FZ-10 is the Leica aspherical zoom lens with a maximum aperture of 2.8 throughout the focal range.

That's quite a range. The 6-70mm is equivalent to 35-420mm on a 35mm film camera, an amazing feat of optical engineering. If 12X optical isn't enough, and you don't mind some image degradation, the FZ-10 can zoom digitally up to 36 times.

Wisely, Panasonic included image stabilising in the FZ-10 to cope with shakes when the lens is at long tele settings or in low light.

At the back, you will find a two-inch LCD with a sharp and bright picture for composing and reviewing shots as well as displaying camera information. The FZ-10 has an electronic viewfinder that presents the same information as the LCD and gives a through-the-lens view of the shot. No parallax issues, in other words.

The rear also has the usual controls for camera and exposure, and a traditional wheel dial for setting the shooting modes on top of the case, next to the shutter release. Although you get used to the controls quickly, they could be more ergonomic. In particular, the important zoom wheel needs to be bigger and put somewhere more natural. Ditto the dioptres adjustment wheel for the electronic viewfinder - it's fiddly to use, and moves easily.

The USB 1.1 port on the side for uploading pictures is PictBridge capable, so you can link the camera directly to a printer.

The Lumix FZ-10 comes in black or silver casing and feels solid and well made. Bigger than average, the camera sits nicely in your hands and the weight makes it stable without being tiring to hold. A supplied 16 megabyte SD memory card gets you started with snapping, but the FZ-10's 4 mega-pixel sensor produces
2304 by 1728 pixel images up to 1.5 megabytes in size, so budget for a larger one when you buy the camera. The "sweet spot" for SD cards currently seems to be 256 megabytes, which will set you back about $120 and provide ample room for pictures.

Also, buy an external flash for the FZ-10's hot-shoe: the pop-up one is convenient, but reaches only 2.1 metres at ISO 100. Panasonic's flash is expensive at $300.


The FZ-10 is ready to shoot in about four seconds with a fast and accurate auto-focus that doesn't hesitate often. Thanks to the fast lens and image stabilisation, the FZ-10 excels at quick point-and-shoot photography, producing great results even in tricky situations.

The long zoom is definitely what you buy the FZ-10 for. It lets you get close up and crop out unwanted detail in the picture with ease. Shooting in either auto-mode or one of the pre-set programmes (day/night portrait, macro and sports), it handles most picture-taking with aplomb. However, the FZ-10 gives you full manual control over exposure if you need it.

A four-frame burst mode is great for capturing fast-moving objects and the FZ-10 can also shoot 320-by-240 pixel Quicktime movies, the length of which are limited only by the SD card storage capability. Although the output format is JPEG only, with two quality settings, image quality is excellent. A little red fringing appears with the lens at full tele, but it doesn't disturb much.

More noticeable is the noise in images when shooting at ISO sensitivity above 100; however, at ISO 400, the images are quite grainy.

Panasonic Lumix FZ-10
Price: $1299 (shop around and you should be able to pick up the FZ-10 for under $1000).

Herald Rating: 8/10

Pros: The 12X Leica zoom lens makes the FZ-10 uniquely versatile. Very good image quality, easy to use, yet versatile enough for advanced users.

Cons: Noticeable image noise in sensitivities above ISO 100, controls could be more ergonomic, pop-up flash weak.

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Sony Tablet S reviewed
Nokia N9 reviewed

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