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Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 is a great DSLR for newbies, but at a price

DP Review posted it's full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 on Friday and comes to the same conclusion as most other existing reviews: It's an easy-to-use, entry-level DSLR with some truly unique features that's capable of superb image quality (when shooting in RAW mode), but it's too expensive for the low-end DSLR market and not well featured enough for high-end users.

[Updated: December 17, 2007 @ 10:10 am] DP Review posted its full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 on Friday and comes to the same conclusion as most other existing reviews: It's an easy-to-use, entry-level DSLR with some truly unique features that's capable of superb i

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 is a great DSLR for newbies, but at a price
image quality (when shooting in RAW mode), but it's too expensive for the low-end DSLR market and not well featured enough for high-end users.

The 10-megapixel DMC-L10 is a great camera for someone upgrading to a DSLR from a compact camera for the first time (and for whom money is no object). As the DP Review folks put it "...the L10 has perhaps the most compact-like operation and user interface of any SLR to date (and if you were being cruel, the most compact-like JPEG image quality too)." The user interface is much like Panasonic's popular megazoom model, the Lumix DMC-FZ50, which is one of my top picks for this holiday season. But the main reason it shoots like a compact camera is that unlike most DSLRs (but like most compacts), it offers a live-view mode which means you can frame, autofocus, and shoot using the 2.5-inch LCD. The LCD flips out and swivels for maximum framing flexibility and in live-view mode the contrast detection autofocus system has nine focusing points.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 is a great DSLR for newbies, but at a price
The L10 also offers face detection for up to 15 faces in a scene--a first for a DSLR--but it only works in live view mode with the LCD, not when you use the optical viewfinder. To take full advantage of the live-view mode, you have to be using the image stabilized Leica 14-50mm f/3.8-f/5.6 D Vario Elmar kit lens that comes with the camera. It's this lens that makes the package as overpriced as it is (over $1,200). The L10 is compatible with Olympus' Four Thirds system lenses (there are over 30 other compatible lenses from Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, and Tamron), but for now Panasonic isn't selling the L10 with a body-only option, which is a shame since that would make the price much more appealing for its target market. Still, the included lens is better than most kit lenses, so you won't be disappointed with it.

Most reviewers found performance to be good when using the viewfinder (though understandably slower in live-view mode) and most also found the image quality to be good. CNET says, "The DMC-L10's image quality is nice, with accurate colors and a very effective automatic white-balance system, which was able to neutralize colors well in incandescent lighting, natural daylight, and even the perplexing fluorescent psychodrama that is the New York City subway system." But most agree that Panasonic's JPEG compression algorithms could be better, so you'll only get the best quality shooting in RAW mode.

To get a nice hands-on view of the L10, check out this video tour, posted by U.K.-based Camera Labs.

[Updated: Panasonic just released a firmware update (v1.1) for the L10 that includes the following performance boosts according to the company:

  1. Improved the performance of AF(Auto Focus) with Panasonic lenses. (Model Number L-ES014050,L-RS014150).
  2. Improved the performance of AE (An accuracy improvement of Auto Exposure at night scene).
  3. Improved the performance of AWB(Auto White Balance).
  4. Shortened the minimum shooting intervals on the single shooting mode.
  5. Enabled the Front/Rear dial operations in the fine white balance adjustment and the change of magnifying position on the MF Assist in Live View mode.]