Panasonic Lumix G10
Affordable; lightweight; good build quality; decent metering; extra-wide lens as standard
Dull colour performance; noisy ISO unusable in upper ranges; no dedicated movie button; records in inferior Motion JPEG format; no dial for AF Pattern; non- articulated screen; poor quality EVF; no external mic plug
$899 (single lens kit with G Vario 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH); $1199 (twin lens kit with G Vario 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH and 45-200mm/F4.0-5.6 ASPH)
Over the past few years, Panasonic – in a partnership with erstwhile competitor Olympus – has pioneered a new species of camera, Micro Four-Thirds.
By removing the dSLR’s mirror, reducing the size of its sensor and fiddling about with focal distance, Panasonic created a smaller, lighter camera that still did much of the same stuff.
This totally freaked out the rest of the industry, so competitors rushed to bring out similar EVIL (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens; not a value judgment) cameras.
Despite the competition, Panasonic’s had the jump on contenders – even its pal Olympus, whose cameras are prettier but generally not as good. Its line of G-series Lumix cameras have typically been high-spec affairs with quality electronic viewfinders, the inclusion of HD video and decent optics and imaging capabilities.
Last year, Panasonic released its higher-end G2, of which the G10 is a scaled-down version. Lighter in both features and weight, the G10 unabashedly shoots for first-timers. It’s also aided in its goal by being lighter on the wallet: at $899 for the single lens model, the G10 is not significantly more expensive
But, as always, cost- comes at a price.
To keep size and cost low, the G10 has forgone a number of components found on the G2: Gone is the articulated LCD screen, which is difficult to begrudge, as is a dedicated ‘movie mode’ button that’s a little less so.
More serious is the downgrading of the G10’s electronic viewfinder (EVF) from the G2’s resolution of 1.4 million dots to a wildly inferior 202,000. Since EVF is a technology at the core of the Micro Four-Thirds rationale – and one that’s a compromise to an optical pentaprism viewfinder anyway – it’s especially troubling when it doesn’t work well.
In the G10’s case, the EVF gives such a paltry representation of the scene you’ll just use the LCD screen instead.
The G10’s video offerings present another issue, using an older Motion JPEG video codec instead of AVCHD (or even H.264) and ditching any connection for an external mic.
Anybody who really wants to shoot video won’t be looking to the G10.
Other problems, unconnected to slimming down from the G2, also arise. While the automatic metering is good, overall image quality is less so. Compared to its closest competitors from Canon and Nikon – and even Olympus’ E-PL1 – the G10’s colour representation is less vivid. Likewise, ISO performance is notably worse, with noise creeping in at ISO 800 and making the upper registers of 3200 and 6400 practically unusable.
That said, many photographers are willing to sacrifice some degree of image quality for convenience. On this front, the G10 does indeed make a compelling case. Well-built, snug in the hand and covered in a rubberised grip, the G10’s as ergonomically pleasing as it is light. Photographers more concerned with a camera’s portability could certainly do worse.
Also in its favour are the G10’s kit lenses, with both models sporting a fantastically wide 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 lens, the perfect focal length for wandering about and snapping.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
With so much quality competition in the entry-level end of the camera market – and excellent contenders in the high- end point-and-shoots – portability isn’t really enough.