Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 - Review / Test Report - Shooting
DSLR Reviews -
Sunday, 02 November 2008 04:44
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The following section is organized by the variety of photographic scenarios LANDSCAPE, MACRO, NIGHT, PORTRAIT and SPORTS photography.
Due to the lack of a DOF-Button and "distance scale" on the Leica kit lens it is not possible to evaluate the depth-of-field before the exposure and the small, dark viewfinder doesn't help either. This negative effect increases when attaching the included magnifier eye-cup and renders the DMC-L10 nearly unusable for spectacle wearers.
Because of the high quality Panasonic-Leica kit lens, the DMC-L10 (including battery and SD card) belongs to the heavier consumer DSLR sets. However, generally four-thirds lenses are slightly smaller and more light-weight compared to native APS-C or FF setups. There're also a number of very high quality lenses provided by both Olympus and Panasonic which are ideal for high quality nature photography.
The well-proven “Supersonic Wave Filter” from the Olympus joint venture assures that the DMC-L10 is a reliable outdoor companion. Panasonic promises a battery live up to 450 shots, but when shooting without LCD even more frames are possible. This is pretty useful in regions without a power supply system. However when using Live View Mode regularly the battery live decreases below 150 frames.
Due to the lack of a body sealing the DMC-L10 is less suitable for extreme outdoor missions than e.g. an Olympus E-3. However, most of today's DSLRs are pretty reliable even in difficult conditions.
The articulating display with a field-of-view of 100% is very suitable for the macro photography as low level shots are easily possible. Especially the possibility to zoom in during Live-View mode is a blessing for makes macro photography. The new contrast AF works very well although not overly speedy (nor is this really necessary for macro photography). “It allows subjects to be focused upon more conveniently as the mirror does not need to move to the down position for measurements to be taken […]” and “the effect of auto-focus” can “be seen on the Live View LCD immediately.” Comparing to Live-View on other camera (like e.g. the EOS 450D) Panasonic's version is very intuitive and fun to use although it reduces battery life dramatically.
The four-thirds system offers 3 dedicated macro lenses at the moment (Olympus 35mm f/3.5 & 50mm f/2 and Sigma 150mm f/2.8). This is not an overwhelming amount of lenses to choose from but it's certainly sufficient. None of these lenses support contrast AF though so you either need to use the conventional AF or use manual focusing (which is usually the preferred choice for macro photography anyway). The same applies to ring- or twin-flashes which are only offered by Olympus. The wired remote Panasonic-DMW-RSL1E helps to avoid tripod shake.
Just like most of the competitors the DMC-L10 features bulb exposure but unfortunately the exposure button has to remain pressed during the whole exposure. However, the camera offers 40, 50 and 60 seconds of exposure time which is rather unusual. If you require more than that the wired remote Panasonic-DMW-RSL1E offers release adjustment for bulb exposure.
The DMC-L10 has a TTL controlled flash socket for the use with Panasonic, Olympus and Metz flashes.
There're no surprises regarding the ISO settings on the DMC-L10. You can select ISO 100 to ISO 1600 with a 1EV (~f-stop) stepping. For night photography you shouldn't really go beyond ISO 400 due to the sensor noise problems at high ISO settings.
In low-light situations the DMC-L10 can take advantage of an infrared light for focusing - unfortunately this functionality is available only in Live View mode and with contrast AF supported lenses. When using the viewfinder the build-in flash, which has to be activated manually, will be used for focusing. This is really strange as there is an infrared light available. Nevertheless the AF speed convinces also with bad lighting conditions.
Panasonic doesn’t follow the trend of camera build-in imagestabilizers. They decided to follow Canon and provide 3 of there Panasonic-Leica Lenses with the build-in MEGA OIS imagestabilizer. This works fine but not really better than a build-in imagestabilizer.
The Panasonic DMC-L10 provides all features required for portrait photography. For newbies or casual photography it ever offers a face recognition system that can be switched on in Live View mode - a nice gimmick but not really needed for more serious portrait photography. The flash synchronization is fast enough for the typical focal lengths used for this purposes and Panasonic offers two strong system flash units to overcome the limitations of the internal one.
The selection of special portrait lenses is unfortunately very modest in Four-Thirds land. To date the system offers to no high speed prime lenses between 80-90mm (40-45mm). The Olympus 50mm f/2 is mentioned frequently by four-thirds users but it is equivalent to a "100mm f/3.5" (full format) which is not overly impressive in terms of speed. Sigma has announced to release the 50mm f/1.4 for four-thirds so the situation may ease a little in the future.
The L10 can shoot continuously with up to three pictures per second in JPEG-Mode, but the number of continuous RAW images is limited to only three. This is certainly a limiting factor within this scope. Some may appreciate a rather seldom option: the exposure frequency can be configured to 2 or 3 frames per seconds so you can adjust it to match your action requirements (within its limited scope).
The maximum shutter speed is 1/4000s – noting special here but usually sufficient for most kind of action photography. However, the X-Sync speed of 1/160s is one of the slower implementations today. The AF sensor system of the L10 is fast and reliable for static objects but only 3 AF sensors are sort of slim for AF tracking purposes. If you really require superior AF tracking capabilities better check out the Olympus E-3 (or a different system).
The 4/3 system offers a number of lenses which are suitable for action photography. The Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD is surely one of the key lenses for serious amateurs here. There're also professional grade lenses such as the highly desirable Olympus 300mm f/2.8 or the 90-250mm f/4.