We've provided this printable version of our review for your convenience. Please remember that your shopping clicks support this site. If you think this camera is a good choice for you, please consider returning to the link below to check prices and make a purchase via our shopping links.

Also note that this is just one of the pages from this review. Full reviews have several pages with complete analysis of the many test shots we take with each camera. Feel free to download and print them out to see how the camera will perform for you.

Full Review at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/ZS10/ZS10A.HTM

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 Overview

by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 04/11/2011

The pocket-friendly body of the Panasonic ZS10 couples a 14.1-megapixel MOS image sensor to a Leica DC Vario-Elmar branded 16x optical zoom lens. The Panasonic ZS10's lens is equivalent to a 24-384mm. When recording movies, a stronger focal length crop results in a 29-464mm, still a reasonably useful wide-angle, and an extremely powerful telephoto. As you'd expect with this much telephoto reach, there's a Power O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) system included, and when shooting movies, an Active mode allows a greater degree of correction. Continuous shooting is possible at a rate of around 3.3 frames per second, and a burst mode allows 10 full-resolution, fine-quality frames per second for as many as 15 frames.

There's a 3.0-inch LCD display with 460,000 dot resolution. This panel includes a touch screen overlay, allowing the Panasonic ZS10's display to act as an input device, with a tap of the finger enough to set the point of focus and metering. The Panasonic ZS10's lens has a maximum aperture that varies from f/3.3 to f/5.9 across the zoom range.

Like the ZS7 before it, the Panasonic ZS10 includes a built-in GPS receiver, allowing automatic geotagging of images with the location at which they were shot. The Lumix DMC-ZS10 can also be programmed to recognize specific individuals' faces, and prioritize these over other detected photos when capturing photos, or search for photos containing a specific person's face in playback mode. The Panasonic Lumix ZS10 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required.

ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 100 to 1,600 equivalents, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6,400 equivalent in High Sensitivity mode. Shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 60 seconds are possible. The Panasonic ZS10 can also capture 3D images in MPO (Multi Picture Object) format, by processing data from a number of sequentially captured images.

As well as JPEG still images, the Panasonic ZS10 can capture movies with stereo sound at up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution or below, using either AVCHD or QuickTime Motion JPEG compression for high-def movies, and Motion JPEG for standard-def movies.

The Panasonic ZS10 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCards, including the newer SDHC and SDXC types. There's also a not-so-generous 18MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, plus standard definition NTSC / PAL video output. The Panasonic ZS10 can also output high-definition video via a mini-HDMI connection.

Power comes from a proprietary lithium-ion battery with ID-Security feature that prevents use of counterfeit or third-party batteries, and is rated as good for 260 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO 6.1 HD Lite Edition, and a trial version of the Super LoiLoScope video editing package.

Pricing for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 (or DMC-TZ20, depending which area you are in) is set at US$399.99. Five body colors are available: black, silver, red, blue, and brown.

 

Panasonic ZS10 User Report

by Mike Pasini

The Panasonic ZS10 mystified me. The first time I turned it on, the lens poked out from the camera body so slowly I thought something was wrong. Nothing was wrong. The long lens just takes its sweet time, particularly if you last used it at a telephoto setting and it resumes that position (a feature you can turn off).

Then, walking around in Intelligent Auto mode, it seemed to take pictures at random. Strangest thing. I was sure I didn't have a finger anywhere near the Shutter button. And yet, just after taking a shot, I would lower the camera to my side and it would fire off one or two more. Not all the time, but regularly.

It turns out the Panasonic ZS10 has a touch screen (although it isn't your ordinary touch screen) and there was a little Shutter button icon right where my thumb would rest when I lowered the camera.

And then there was the GPS radio. Why was it only finding half the satellites of other GPS devices I've used in exactly the same location? And what did that green LED on the little bump mean?

Oh, the little green LED was reminding me (quite helpfully, in fact) that I'd left the GPS radio on. Even though the camera itself was off, the radio was still monitoring the satellites, updating its position, so the next time I turned the camera on I wouldn't have to wait five minutes to get a location.

And anyway, the ZS7, its predecessor, only found six satellites. Testing with a Macsense Geomet'r GPS mounted on a Nikon digital SLR, I was only able to find five satellites. The weather has been cloudy even when it wasn't overcast, which would explain the difference between these results and the 11 satellites I was finding with the Casio H20G. Except on a perfectly clear day, the Lumix ZS10 was still satisfied with six.

So there were scientific explanations for this paranormal behavior. I only had to look for them. And pass them along to you here.

Look and Feel. The Panasonic ZS10 bears a very close resemblance to the ZS7 that preceded it a year ago. On the front, the grip flares away at the top on the ZS10. And the Movie button has moved from the back to the top panel with the Exposure button moving over to the spot the Movie button vacated.

The discrete buttons of the navigator on the ZS7 have been replaced by a chrome ring on the Panasonic ZS10, but otherwise you have the same controls. I'm particularly grateful for the Power and Mode switches, which I greatly prefer over the more common buttons (which are really no more than recessed pinheads without any angels at all). The only disadvantage is that when looking at your pictures, you have to remember to flip the switch back to Record mode before you can take a picture, whereas with a Playback button, a half-press of the shutter usually returns you to Record mode.

If you don't have a ZS7 handy for reference, let's just take the tour.

The front of the camera has a useful grip accented with a chrome bar. The flare actually follows the curve of your finger (quite comfortably, too).

On the other side of the front panel is the lens, which extends out an outrageous two inches from the camera body. It isn't quite as slow to pop out as it first seemed to me. But it does resume the last position (and the LCD tells you it's doing it every time) just after it pokes its head out. And that did take an extra beat or two.

Between the grip and the lens is the flash. You can actually block this (at least partially) with your right index finger if you have large hands. But where else could they put the thing?

The Self-Timer/Autofocus Assist Lamp is tucked into the top right corner of the front panel.

The top panel is pretty busy. From left to right: the speaker grill, the GPS antenna (the bump), stereo microphones, the Mode dial, the Shutter button with the Zoom lever surrounding it (just the way I like it), the Movie shutter button, and the Power switch.

Slip down the right side to find the eyelet for the wrist strap and a cover hiding the HDMI socket and the AV Out/Digital socket.

The back panel holds the 3.0-inch LCD to the right of which you'll find (from top to bottom) the Mode switch (Record or Playback), the Exposure button (for accessing aperture or shutter speed controls), the navigator surrounding the Menu/Set button, and the tiny Display and Quick Menu buttons.

On the bottom panel there's a metal tripod socket and the battery/memory card compartment, the cover to which has a DC coupler cover built-in for the dummy battery used by the AC adapter.

It's not an ultracompact design but its bulk and weight aren't burdensome either. It fit in my jeans pocket but I wouldn't want to put it in my shirt pocket. Coats and purses are no problem and Panasonic offers a nice camera bag as an accessory, too.

Controls. If you routinely skip this section because you are tired of the reading about the same old buttons and dials and levers, Panasonic has a surprise for you. But first you have to read about the same old buttons and dials and levers.

You power the camera on with the Power switch, which has a nice little knob that does not get in your way but is easily found by touch. It's a short slide and the ideal power mechanism.

When the camera powers up it's either in Record mode or Playback mode depending on how you've set the Mode switch on the back panel.

The Mode dial has a full circle of options, a comforting thought when you've just spent $400 for the camera. We'll detail them below, but briefly they include Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Custom, Intelligent Auto, two buttons you can store frequently used Scene modes on, 3D Photo mode (for recording 3D stills), and Scene mode. Gone is the ZS7's Clipboard mode, which was probably more useful but is less fashionable than 3D.

No Movie mode? Well, yes, there's a Movie mode but it has its own button, independent of the Mode dial, so you can grab a clip whenever the fancy strikes you. And if you happen to be in a Scene mode, you get that with it too.

To capture a still, you just press the Shutter button after composing with the Zoom lever. Expose adjustments like changing the aperture in Aperture Priority mode are made by first pressing the tiny Exposure button and then using the arrows on the navigator to adjust the setting (the aperture in this case).

You can adjust settings that might change from shot to shot with the Quick Menu button. For more general camera behavior you dip into the Menu system with the Menu/OK button. Getting out of the Menu system can be tricky. You use the Quick Menu button of all things (which is also the Delete button).

And if you want to change what you see on the LCD, you just tap the Display button to cycle through the familiar options of no overlay, grid only or info only.

Now about that surprise.

There's a little stylus included with the Panasonic ZS10. That's your hint. You don't actually need it (and I never resorted to it, having enough things to carry). A finger will do. Just touch it to the screen.

Touch Screen. Note the two icons in the bottom right corner for the Shutter and Zoom controls.

It isn't obvious what your finger is doing, unfortunately. Mine, for example, took some of the worst photos I've ever seen. Yours might scroll through them with a swipe from left to right or vice versa.

In fact, I found the touch screen interface so confusing and unintuitive, I just avoided it. It seemed, like 3D mode, more gimmick than gold. An offering to the cellphone Philistines. It just doesn't work as well as a cellphone's touchscreen.

Zoom Control. Top and bottom buttons go all the way, H is for fast and L for slow zoom. The Zoom lever on the top panel needs no explanation.

Oddly enough, the touchscreen on the Lumix ZS10 does not get you into the menu system or let you in any way adjust camera settings. It's quite limited in Record mode to snapping the shutter, moving the autofocus target and zooming the lens. Which reminds me of some sort of remote control, except there you are with the camera right in your hand so why not use the buttons?

Granted, swiping is nice on Playback. But not much nicer than pressing an arrow key. In fact, pressing an arrow key keeps your screen free of smudges.

Panasonic provides a plastic stylus, as I mentioned, but cautions not to use your fingernail. I used my fingernail prior to reading that caution and Ohio State, the number one seed in the NCAA tournament, did lose to Kentucky shortly after, but otherwise I detected no damage. I am not Edward Scissorhands, though. Fortunately, my fingernails are ground down by typing reviews like this.

There is a slight disconnect between the PDF manual's instructions for using the touchscreen and the camera itself. The manual I had did not actually display the graphics for the icons to enable or disable functions. On the LCD itself, I could see an icon for the Shutter and another for the Zoom control (which was quite complex with fast and slow zooming options as well as full wide and full telephoto options) but the Autofocus Target just seemed to be enabled. Touch the screen anywhere and focus would be set there.

Or so it appeared. As I said, it's a surprise.

Lens. The Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens has 12 elements in 10 groups, including three aspherical lenses and six aspherical surfaces, plus one ED lens. The optical range starts from a wide 24mm and extends to a long 384mm in 35mm equivalents. That's a 16x range. There is also 4x digital zoom. But wait, there's also Extended Optical Zoom and i.Zoom (Intelligent Zoom).

Intelligent Zoom. Full 21x zoom (16x optical plus 1.3x intelligent).

Extended Optical Zoom or EZ zoom can extend zooming to 33.8 times depending on the image size. The smaller the image size, the more zoom. So that 33.8x is only available with image sizes under 3-Mp and at 10-Mp it's 18.9x. i.Zoom increases the zoom ratio 1.3x higher than optical with almost no loss in quality using Panasonic's "super resolution technology." That gives you the 21x zoom Panasonic claims for the ZS10.

To handle all that, Panasonic include its Power O.I.S. image stabilization.

Apertures range from f/3.3 to f/6.3 at wide-angle and f/5.9 to f/6.3 at telephoto, via a multistage iris diaphragm.

Modes. The Lumix ZS10 has so many shooting modes, you'd better get something to eat before continuing with this review. I actually took a nap.

Still modes include the indispensable PASM set and a Custom setting to preserve favorite combinations:

Program mode gives you access to almost all of the Lumix ZS10 options while selecting an aperture and shutter speed for the metered exposure.

Intelligent Auto optimizes camera settings based on a scene recognition but also takes away a good deal of control. Data from face recognition, movement detection, brightness and distance are all used to configure camera settings. The Lumix ZS10 recognizes people, babies, landscapes, night scenes with people, night scenes, night scenes without a tripod, close-ups, sunsets, and moving subjects.

There are, as you suspected, a number of Scene modes for both still and video captures, too. Still modes include:

Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform (distort the length or width of the capture), Self Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2 (the baby options use a weak flash), Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial Photo, Pin Hole, Film Grain, High Dynamic (more of an effects setting with Standard, Art, B&W), Photo Frame, Underwater, and High Speed.

If you fall in love with a couple of these, you don't have to dig through the Scene menu to get to them. Instead, the ZS10 has two My Scene settings on the Mode dial to store them. Select either MS1 or MS2 on the Mode dial, pick the Scene mode you want from the display and you're done.

If you have a 3D HDTV or think they will eventually be more fondly thought of than Betamax VCRs, you might be interested in the 3D mode. In 3D mode, you have to take two shots, so moving subjects are not a good idea. You take the first slightly to the right side of center and the second slightly to the left. Getting too close to the subject (or too far away) spoils the fun. Bright outdoor sun is recommended. You get a JPEG rendering so you can see what you shot and the 3D image is restricted to a 2-Mp image size.

Movie modes are Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self Portrait, Scenery, Low Light, Food, Party, Candle Light, Sunset, Beach, Snow, Aerial, Pin Hole, Film Grain, Underwater, High Sensitivity, High Dynamic (Standard, Art, B&W), and High Speed.

Full HD Movie. 1,920 x 1,080 video with optical zoom. Click the image to download the 9MB M4V rip of the AVCHD original

Movie mode options in the Setup menu include:

One Movie mode option that isn't immediately obvious (because it isn't a menu option) is the 220 fps feature of QVGA video. You'll find it as the last Scene mode option.


Menu System. The menu system has changed since the ZS7 with large buttons introducing the available options depending on which mode you're in.

The Quick Menu is still displayed across the top of the LCD when you press the Q.Menu button in Record mode. Options vary depending on which shooting mode you're in.

But it isn't a perfect system. Aspect ratio, which I often change from one shot to another, is on the Record button in the Setup menu. Panasonic sometimes uses a switch on the lens for this but not on this class of camera, unfortunately.

Storage & Battery. The Panasonic ZS10 includes 18MB of built-in memory (although the manual says its about 20MB), available for image or video storage. But writing to built-in memory may be slower than writing to an SD card, Panasonic warns.

You'll want a large card anyway because built-in memory will only hold two 14-megapixel Fine JPEGs (and won't hold any HD video). On the other hand, a 1GB SD card will hold 165 of those JPEGs and 3 minutes 30 seconds of HD video. You'll need a 4GB card to capture 15 minutes of video. Panasonic recommends cards with at least Speed Class 4 for AVCHD video capture, and Class 6 for Motion JPEG.

The Lumix ZS10 is powered by a small, 3.6 volt, 895 mAh lithium-ion battery, which Panasonic says will last for 260 shots using CIPA standards (which exercise the zoom and flash more than I do).

Last I checked, CIPA standards didn't say anything about using GPS radios, though. That quickly eats up your battery. So if you see the little green LED on by the antenna when you put your camera away, remember to turn off GPS.

Panasonic says the Lumix ZS10 includes a function to check whether the battery can be safely used in the camera. Third party batteries must be certified by Panasonic to work in the camera, apparently.

There is an optional AC adapter with a dummy battery that plugs into the battery chamber of the Panasonic ZS10.

Intelligent Features. Panasonic touts a number of "intelligent" features on the ZS10. We've already discussed Intelligent Zoom and Intelligent Auto (which we'll recap here for reference), but there are others.

Intelligent Auto. i.Auto optimizes camera settings based on a scene recognition but also takes away a good deal of control. Data from face recognition, movement detection, brightness and distance are all used to configure camera settings. The Panasonic ZS10 recognizes people, babies, landscapes, night scenes with people, night scenes, night scenes without a tripod, close-ups, sunsets, and moving subjects.

Intelligent Resolution. Thanks to the new Venus Engine HFD image processor, the Panasonic ZS10 can enhance detail without adding noise in flat areas like skies. Intelligent Resolution looks for three kinds of things in an image: outlines, texture, and gradations. It applies a different sharpening setting to each area it defines to ensure that outlines are sharp while gradations are smooth and texture enhanced.

It works in both still and movie modes and is automatically enabled in Intelligent Auto and some Scene modes. You can toggle it on or off from the Menu system in other modes.

Intelligent Zoom. This adds 1.3x to the 16x optical zoom ratio for 21x total -- with almost no loss of quality.

Intelligent ISO. The Venus Engine FHD detects subject movement and automatically adjusts the ISO setting and shutter speed to accommodate any movement in the available light. When it detects subject movement, it raises the ISO and increases the shutter speed to prevent motion blur. When no movement is detected, it reverts to a low ISO setting. It's enabled in Intelligent Auto and available in PA modes.

Intelligent Exposure. Intelligent Exposure "increases the exposure only in underexposed areas by detecting the brightness level part-by-part in the image. If the background includes the sky, which tends to be easily washed out, the Lumix ZS10 automatically adjusts the aperture and shutter speed to keep the setting slightly underexposed to prevent wash-out while brightening the darkened area by increasing the ISO only in that area. If the background of an indoor portrait receives insufficient lighting from a flash and becomes dark, the ISO sensitivity is raised in only the low-lit area to make it brighter without causing graininess in the subject's face."

Intelligent Burst Mode. The Burst mode frame rate is adjusted according to the speed of subject movement. The faster the subject moves, the faster the frame rate.

The problem with these intelligent options is that they're, well, options. You have to enable them. And you have to enable them because, frankly, they manipulate the data. Often that's fine (why wouldn't you want Intelligent Resolution and Intelligent ISO on?) but there's no going back. Once the image is processed with these intelligent options, you're stuck with them.

Sensor & Image Processor. With a 14.1-megapixel resolution, the 1/2.33-inch RGB MOS image sensor is designed to reduce image noise, according to Panasonic. Analog-to-digital conversion is now integrated into the sensor itself, along the edge of the array. The same technology is used in the Lumix GH1, one of Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens cameras. And the same sensor is used in the Lumix FZ100.

Noise v. Detail. ISO 200 with low noise but this guy's just praying for a little detail on his fur.

The pixel structure has minimized wiring area, and uses a new "Micro Light Tube" structure that increases transmission efficiency from the micro lens to the photo diode below, minimizing signal loss and crosstalk between adjacent red, green and blue pixels. Image results, unfortunately, show that though this effort might improve what a MOS sensor can do, it's not quite as good as a CCD can do at this resolution. But few 14-megapixel CCDs of this size do very well either.

The Lumix ZS10 also includes the Venus Full HD image processor, the latest generation of Panasonic's Venus technology, incorporating three processing cores. With more power, the Venus Full HD image engine can handle more sophisticated image processing, like high-speed video (60i fps at full HD, as the name suggests, and 10 fps 14-megapixel stills) and improved noise suppression.

There's enough horsepower to look at luminance (brightness) noise and chrominance (color) noise both separately and together. Panasonic engineers found chroma or luminance variations that corresponded to legitimate subject detail tended to be correlated with each other. That is, the color and tone changed simultaneously. Pure noise showed little correlation. By looking for this correlation, they can theoretically eliminate noise without also killing subject detail.

Shawn found detail was lost on the FZ100 despite this, particularly fine detail like hair and fur, even at the lowest ISO setting. And my shot of a stuffed animal confirmed that on the Panasonic ZS10 as well.

GPS. One of the more significant features of the ZS7 retained in the Lumix ZS10 is the GPS radio. The feature remains essentially unchanged. And while it was state-of-the-art last year, it isn't this year.

The Casio H20G, for example, does more with the GPS data it captures than the Panasonic ZS10. They can both record the location name by looking up the coordinates in a table stored in camera memory, and both can find landmark names too. But the H20G also shows images of the landmarks, uses GPS in Playback by mapping your images and records a log so you can later map your trip on your computer as well.

Panasonic says the data includes 203 countries or regions and landmark information for over a million locations 82 countries or regions. You can even register your own landmarks, entering a text description for the current location. Location name can be used to sort images in Playback as well.

Accuracy. Accuracy was another issue with the Panasonic ZS10. To be fair, it takes a while to connect to the satellites from a cold start (see the sidebar on getting an accurate reading). Give your camera about five minutes, even though it will tell you it's ready in a couple. The difference gives your camera the time to be able to sync with more satellites and get a more accurate location.

Then just leave GPS on, even when you turn the camera off. The GPS radio will keep looking for the satellites, updating position. The little green LED on the bump on the top panel will remind you that GPS is on.

The most satellites the Lumix ZS10 ever synched over several days of various weather conditions (included a perfectly clear day) was six. It records that number in the Exif header. Under cloudy skies that is about the best we can do. But on one occasion when it hit just four (during a hike), a Macsense Geomet'r on a Nikon D200 found eight. Consequently location data was much more precise on the Nikon shots than on the Panasonic shots taken at the same location.

Sometimes six was enough for the Lumix ZS10 to get our position. But usually it was only approximate and in one case it wasn't updated for about half a mile, despite five minute positioning intervals. So the data was wildly off.

In fact, the intervals between updates is indicated on the LCD with five icons ranging from ~5 (within five minutes), ~60 (from five to sixty minutes ago), ~120 (between one and two hours ago), and 120~ (over two hours ago).

When you're walking around, you want frequent updates. Panasonic claims the Lumix ZS10 updates its position every five minutes, but that wasn't our experience. On longer walks, with GPS on and the camera power cycled on for shooting and off in our jacket, we would see the ~60 icon after half an hour or so. Subsequent readings would be way off.

You can force the camera to sync from the GPS menu, fortunately.

The check the data, we imported the images into Lightroom 3 and mapped them on Google Maps. We also looked at various file's Exif headers using Phil Harvey's ExifTool.

GPS Fields. Here are the GPS-related fields captured by the ZS10:

	Location: 
	Country: UNITED STATES
	State: CALIFORNIA
	City: SAN FRANCISCO
	Landmark: ---
	
	GPSVersionID: 2.3.0.0
	GPSLatitudeRef: North
	GPSLongitudeRef: West
	GPSTimeStamp: 20:58:52
	GPSSatellites: 6
	GPSStatus: Measurement Active
	GPSMeasureMode: 2-Dimensional Measurement
	GPSDOP: 0.8
	GPSMapDatum: WGS-84
	GPSProcessingMethod: GPS
	GPSAreaInformation: 
	GPSDateStamp: 2011:03:25
	
	plus
	
	GPSDateTime: 2011:03:25 20:58:52Z
	GPSLatitude: 37 degrees 44' 35.47" N
	GPSLongitude: 122 degrees 28' 9.73" W
	GPSPosition: 37 degrees 44' 35.47" N, 122 degrees 28' 9.73" W

The Lumix ZS10 does not report altitude or heading information.

Finally, just a warning that if you post your photos publicly, you may not want to reveal location data. Turn off GPS when you don't want location data written to the Exif header.

Image Quality. It's tempting to be swayed by the argument that the Venus FHD processor can save image detail by detecting pure chroma and luminance noise. The images are certainly smoother.

But there's a real problem with detail. I couldn't really see it in lab test Still Life images. But I couldn't avoid seeing it in the gallery shots.

ZS7 Image
ZS10 Image

Let's look at just one: the row of logs on Twin Peaks. My shot of them in 2010 with the ZS7 is notably sharper than the Panasonic ZS10 shot. At the same f/4.0 aperture and with Intelligent Resolution on for both images, there is more detail further up the hill in the 12-megapixel image than in the 14-megapixel image. And detail in the foreground is sharper in the older image, too.

The only Panasonic Lumix ZS10 images that held onto detail were closeups. The green leaves show their raindrops nicely and the exotic red blossom looks good. But even a high-contrast shot like the fern leaf (YP1010419.HTM) is soft at the 800p size, let alone the full resolution image.

Zoom Range. 24mm to 384mm to 4x digital zoom.

I've cautioned against viewing the 14-megapixel full resolution image at normal distances because that's not normal distance for seeing the whole image. But the 800p image should impress. And it just doesn't.

Color was a bit duller than I like (and I prefer "natural" color settings to the saturated color you typically see captured by digicams). And at telephoto settings, contrast seemed to flatten out a bit at first. The zoom series was taken under cloudy skies but in sun (as the shadows on the Pyramid show) but the second shot looks like we were fogged in. There may have been more atmospheric haze that day, however, because under a clear sky later, telephoto shots didn't look bad.

Of course, there was always "Happy" color, Panasonic's version of saturated or vivid color. But it really ruined my poppies.

Happy Color

Natural Color

Shooting. Frankly, the first time I turned the Panasonic ZS10 on, I didn't like it. It just took too long for the lens to crank itself out of the thick body.

And when I turned it off, I was just as unhappy. It crawled slowly back into its hole. I had to keep my finger lightly against the barrel to tell when it had closed up so I could safely slip it into my jacket pocket. The lab measured a whopping 5.2 seconds.

Not a good start.

Bad weather persuaded me to take a lot of indoor shots at first. And these natural light shots were not well lit with the storms passing through.

But there are a lot of bright flowers around the house so I shot some closeups of the arrangements. And this is where I first wondered what happened to the detail. It's a subtle thing. I don't mean sharp edges, although edges were pretty soft. What bothered me was a lack of texture. I could see indications of the weave of a fabric but that was all.

I did not see the usual noise in these shots, ISO ranging upward from 100 to 400 (with the mandolin at 1,600 that I set manually). But I also didn't see the usual detail. They resembled noise-suppressed images of ISO 800. That took the fun out of it.

When I first got outside, the rain had stopped but the sky hadn't cleared. Still, the sun poked through now and then, so I was able to get some brighter shots.

As a travel camera, I did appreciate the long zoom lens. I was able to get quite close to faraway objects. And the image stabilizer made it feasible to frame them handheld, too. But still the detail was soft.

On the same day I took a walk to the local deli and took a fairly sharp shot of bare branches against the mottled sky. But a closeup I took of some moss on a tree dampened the detail. Yet just a few blocks later, a red blossom of an exotic plant came through fine.

I took the Lumix ZS10 to dinner one night and was just astonished that the Lumix ZS10 set an ISO of 200 for the very dim light (it was one of those romantic restaurants), relying on a shutter speed of 14 seconds. That's just crazy. Program mode, nothing fancy. But not a very "intelligent" choice.

I did get one good shot with detail. Go ahead and pixel peep the full resolution image, too. It holds up. It's the fig leaf. Like the leaves with raindrops in the gallery, it's predominantly a green subject.

It was interesting to play around with a few of these images in Lightroom 3 where the noise reduction tool is heavy duty. I couldn't recover any detail but I could make things a lot worse in a hurry.

Description

Original   Edit

A 100 percent crop showing Lightroom 3 noise tool used to exaggerate detail and texture. Not the real thing.

The exercise persuaded me I was looking for detail that had already disappeared.

The gallery has a couple of black and white shots so I played around with the door shot in Lightroom 3, too. No chroma issues here. And detail wasn't as far gone, it seemed. The chipped metal bannister looked good. And detail on the hardware was clear.

Compared to its excellent predecessors, the Panasonic ZS10 was a disappointment, with a high-tech, higher resolution sensor that produces softer images even at the lowest ISO setting. See the printed results section below to decide whether it will nevertheless serve you. Note that we did find the Panasonic ZS10's noise processing to be better than the FZ100.

 

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft at upper right
Tele: Sharper at center
Tele: Blurry, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10's zoom shows noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame compared to center, though blurring doesn't extend far into the image area. At telephoto, however, blurring is stronger and extends further into the frame. In fact, the overall image is somewhat soft and blotchy, even at center.


Wide: Average barrel distortion
Tele: A small amount of pincushion distortion, slightly visible

Geometric Distortion: There is an average level of barrel distortion at wide-angle (~0.7%), which is noticeable in some shots. At telephoto, pincushion distortion is fairly low (~0.1%). This distortion will mainly be noticeable in room views and architectural subjects, and though present, the effects aren't too distracting.


Wide: Fairly low
Tele: Moderate

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is fairly low in terms of pixel count, and pixels really aren't that bright. Distortion is a little stronger at telephoto, with brighter purplish pixels, though some blurring in the corners of the frame most likely exaggerates the effect.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10's Macro mode captures a reasonably sharp image with strong detail at center, though blurring in the corners extends far into the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Color balance is a bit warm and yellow, and exposure a little uneven. Minimum coverage area is 1.56 x 1.17 inches (40 x 30mm), which is quite good. The camera's flash is really useless at this close range, as the lens creates a strong shadow over most of the frame.


 

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10's LCD monitor showed just under 100% coverage at wide-angle and just over 100% at telephoto. Very good results here.


 

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10 Image Quality


Color: Overall color looks near dead-on accurate in some hues, and a little oversaturated in others. Strong reds and blues are pumped a little high (blues more so than reds), though bright yellow and aqua are somewhat muted. Hue is also a little off for colors like yellow, orange, red and cyan. Dark skintones are noticeably shifted toward orange, while lighter skin tones are much more accurate. Still, pretty good overall performance.


Auto WB:
Pinkish-red cast
Incandescent WB:
Too warm
 
Manual WB:
Very good

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting much better than the Incandescent setting, which came out too warm. Auto produced a strong pinkish-reddish cast.


Horizontal: 1,700 lines
Vertical: 1,700 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,200 lines per picture height.


Wide: Fairly bright
Tele: Good but slightly dim
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) showed fairly bright results even though the reported distance of 16.4 feet takes the camera out of the main lab area. (Though the DMC-ZS10 raised ISO to 640, causing more blurring.) The telephoto test came out good but just a little dim, despite a large ISO increase to 800.

Auto flash produced bright results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining very little ambient light at the 1/60 second shutter speed, raising the ISO to 320. At this speed, you shouldn't need to worry about blurring from typical camera or subject movement. The trade-off is that the exposure is a little harsh. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
1,600

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is already a little broken up by some visible image noise at ISO 100, though still easy to discern. More visible softening begins at ISO 200, and increases from there. Chroma (color) noise is present, though not very strong. By ISOs 800 and 1,600, detail is so blotchy that the entire image appears soft and more illustrative. See Printed results below for more on how this affects printed images.


Printed: Normally with a camera of the ZS10's 14 megapixels, we'd be able to start printing ISO 100 images at 20x30 or 16x20. But the detail really doesn't become as sharp as we like to see at such a low ISO until 11x14 inches. They're usable at 13x19 inches, but with soft detail.

ISO 200 images are also pretty good at 11x14 inches.

ISO 400 shots are soft but usable at 11x14 inches, though I prefer 8x10-inch prints at this setting.

ISO 800 prints are also pretty good at 8x10.

ISO 1,600 images print too soft at 8x10, but are pretty good at 5x7.

Overall, the Panasonic ZS10's images are disappointing, especially for a 14-megapixel camera with the pedigree of the ZS line. Detail in hair is also disappointing, with most hair not looking right printed larger than 11x14, unless you like "helmet hair." As we found with the Panasonic FZ100, forget about taking the ZS10 to the zoo, as all your furry animals won't look so furry at all. Still, you can get good prints at the sizes shown above, so those printing only full-frame 5x7 or smaller need not worry about the ISO anyway.


 

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10 Performance


Startup Time: The Panasonic ZS10 takes about 1.9 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's quite good for a long-zoom camera.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is quite fast, at 0.25 second at wide angle and full telephoto. Enabling the flash increased lag to 0.43 second, which is still good. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.014 second, also very quick.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is also very good, capturing a frame every 0.78 seconds in single-shot mode. The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10 features Burst modes that include 60 fps at 2.5 megapixels (4:3), and 10 fps at full resolution. At 60 fps, the camera performs as it boasts, capturing 60 frames at 60.6 fps. However, we noticed slightly slower performance in the 10 fps mode when shooting at ISO 200 (our standard test setting) versus ISO 100: 8.63 fps for 13 frames at ISO 100 and 5.28 fps for 14 frames at ISO 200. Still, this is much faster than average.


Flash Recycle: The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10's flash recycles in about 4.5 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is good.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was only able to focus down to just above the 1/4 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS10's download speeds are moderately fast. We measured 6,964 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The retail box for the Lumix ZS10 includes the following items:

 

Panasonic ZS10 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • 16x wide-angle zoom lens with Power O.I.S.
  • Onboard GPS
  • 460K-dot, 3-inch LCD
  • Up to 10 fps in full-resolution continuous mode
  • Full HD movie modes
  • Optical zoom during movies
  • Stereo audio recording
  • Dedicated Movie Record button
  • Mini-HDMI port with Viera Link remote control
  • Good fit and finish
  • Includes touchscreen for taking pictures, setting autofocus point and more
  • Full range of exposure modes
  • Multistage iris
  • Extensive feature set
  • Large set of Scene modes
  • 3D still capture mode
  • Chromatic aberration is well controlled
  • Fast AF and shutter lag performance
  • Good shot-to-shot cycle time
  • Slow shutdown thanks to lens
  • Touchscreen can fire camera unexpectedly
  • Touchscreen implementation seems unintuitive
  • Even low ISO images have soft detail
  • Unusually small starting print size (11x14 for good detail)
  • Noise reduction is not adjustable
  • No RAW mode
  • Full-res burst mode slows significantly at ISO 200+
  • GPS is unreliable, finding fewer satellites, updating less often
  • GPS does not report altitude
  • Unimpressive battery life (260 shots) not including GPS use
  • Soft detail at telephoto
  • Soft corners at telephoto and wide-angle
  • Noticeable barrel distortion at wide-angle
  • Auto white balance renders tungsten lighting pink, while Tungsten setting is too warm
  • Auto flash raises ISO to 640 and 800 at wide and tele

 

There's no doubt the Lumix ZS10 represents several important technological advances over last year's ZS7. GPS hasn't changed, but the 14-Mp MOS sensor and Venus FHD image processor do bring new capabilities to the small travel camera, most notably Full HD video capability and high-speed continuous modes.

But my experience with the Lumix ZS10 wasn't a happy one. Most of my images were flat and fuzzy. And I quickly grew annoyed with it.

The touchscreen interface seems emblematic of the Panasonic ZS10. I wouldn't have suspected it had one if I hadn't seen the stylus in the box. And I wouldn't have given it another thought it if I didn't accidentally fire the shutter. But when I used it to set focus, snap the shutter or zoom, I couldn't convince myself anyone would actually use these functions where they had an equivalent button.

Panasonic has employed the MOS sensor in its recent cameras for the express purpose of achieving Full HD 1080 video capture, and the tradeoff for now is in still image quality. We compared the image quality of the Panasonic ZS10 with that of the FZ100, reviewed late last year, and the ZS10's quality was better, despite using the same sensor technology. So we're happy to report that Panasonic's still image processing has improved, but its printed output is still limited to about 11x14, especially where hair is present in the photograph. We recommend printing no larger than this at lower ISOs, but you can also get a 5x7 from the highest ISO setting of 1,600, so it's not all bad news. The good news is that you can get better still image quality in the Panasonic ZS8, which uses a CCD sensor, but the main tradeoffs there are: video is limited to HD 720p, full-res burst speed is only 1.9 fps, and there is no GPS or touchscreen. Given that the ZS10's image quality is still significantly lower than its predecessor's (the ZS7), we can't recommend it highly.

Click here to read our Travel Zoom Shootout 2011!