The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 says "Put down that point-and-shoot 'cause it's time to get serious!" Read our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Micro Four Thirds digital camera review here.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Overview
That fixed lens point-and-shoot has run its course and you long for an interchangeable lens system with much better image quality, advanced manual controls, and highly impressive 720p HD video. But most DSLRs are so expensive! That's where the 12-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 comes into play. We loved the company's first Micro Four Thirds camera, the Lumix DMC-G1, and the G10 is simply a watered-down version of the originator. It's an exceptional bridge camera, providing a solid path into the land of advanced photography while still maintaining a very attractive price tag. In addition to the aforementioned features, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 includes Panasonic's Intelligent Auto suite, which has been migrated from the company's point-and-shoot line. We shot side-by-side with the Olympus E-PL1, so if you're uncertain on which model is right for you, we'll give you the skinny right here.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Construction
We're greeted by the same buttery micro-texture body we liked on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, though the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 is noticeably smaller. It's a portable alternative to a DSLR, though the G10 does not hide its size as well as the Olympus E-PL1. As a result, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10's battery is twice the E-PL1's size, and we're willing to sacrifice a little extra junk in the trunk for a little extra juice. The G10 has a fixed three-inch LCD compared to the E-PL1's 2.7-incher, and the G10 also goes the extra mile to include a built-in electronic viewfinder, which was missing on the E-PL1. Even though we're glad Panasonic included an EVF, beware: its 202,000-pixel resolution ranks nowhere near the awesomeness of the G1's 1,440,000-pixel resolution. On top we get a pop-up flash and accessory shoe for a flash and other accessories like the Panasonic DMW-MS1 stereo microphone.
The best part of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10's outward appearance is that it is chock full of handy external controls. When you stack this camera up against the E-PL1, the latter just can't compare. We had an independent Drive mode switch, Focus mode dial, selection dial, and Intelligent Auto button. The only main control the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 lacks is a dedicated Video record button, but its bounty of external controls make up for that minor loss. The G10 is comfortable to hold and buttons are easy to access. RAW and JPEG images and 720p Motion-JPEG videos are recorded to SD/SDHC cards—the slot is located with the battery. If you're concerned about the lack of an audio jack, don't be, because the G10's remote jack doubles as a mic input compatible with Panasonic aftermarket mics.
Now the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10's interchangeable lens system was great because we actually swapped with Olympus lenses during our shoot. So, in addition to that burgeoning spectrum of Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses on the market, we're not limited to the brand. We got a 14-42mm lens and 45-200mm telephoto with Mega OIS. However, The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 relies on the lens for Image Stabilization while the Olympus E-PL1 has image stabilization built into its body. All in all, we were very impressed with the Lumix glass and distortion was kept to a minimum at wide angles.
Shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10
This camera's firmware must have been designed by the Roadrunner. We haven't bolted through options so quickly on a digital camera until we picked up the G10 (specs). It's just lightning quick. This is a definite bonus when you're in the field and need a quick shot. For beginners, that Intelligent Auto button will come in handy when that butterfly hits that flower and there's no time to fool with the shutter speed or exposure. However, most of our shooting was done in Program AE, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority. Though the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 has a treasure chest of manual controls, including a Shutter Speed that reached 60 seconds and Bulb, Aperture that hit f/22 and sunk to f/3.5 (with the included 14-42mm glass), and ISO that went up to 6400. We even got White Balance with a customizable Kelvin meter, like Pentax cameras, and a suite of Art modes to compete with the E-PL1.
Art modes are nice to have for beginners, but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10's Art modes could not match the coolness level of the Olympus E-PL1's. Of course the G10 had scene modes, but they were seriously limited. That was one of the clues that the G10 is more of an advanced camera than the E-PL1. You get plenty of growing room with the G10 while the E-PL1 will allow you to dive right in with its Live Guide and Shooting Tips. We did get the same 4:3, 3:2. 16:9, and 1:1 aspect ratios to shoot in and Manual Focus gave us a magnification assist for fine-tuning edges. In the world of camera control, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 offered a bit more than the Olympus E-PL1, but it required a more seasoned shooter to grab onto its coattails. One thing was for sure—the G10 offered a much better control adjustment system, as the selection dial really came to our aid in tight spots.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Still Image Quality
It's a G-series Micro Four Thirds camera, so of course image quality is going to be great. Outdoor shooting is exceptional, and even higher ISO shots are impressive. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 specializes in natural tones and organic image reproduction without excessive noise and other assorted abberations. Compared to the Olympus E-PL1, it's neck and neck. Both cameras excel in their own individual ways, and glass plays a large part in the equation as well. In a race this close, we'd have to say that both cameras will make you happy. Check out our sample images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 and compare them to the Olympus E-PL1.
Here's where the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 has a slight edge over the Olympus E-PL1. And we mean slight. Both cameras record the less favorable Motion-JPEG file format, but Panasonic's image just seemed more natural. To put the G10 to the true test, we made a short film, "SYTYCD Audition Tape," to see if the camera was capable of making a short film. Stacked up to the Olympus E-PL1's "UHL: PowerPlays for Life" short film we made, the G10 looks slightly better. Of course, if you're planning on shooting YouTube shorts, then either camera would work just fine. Budget filmmakers, you're going to want to look elsewhere for theater-grade video quality from either camera.
Also, we had a hell of a time with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10's video files. They're recorded as .MOVs while the Olympus E-PL1 records .AVI files. Even though we had to convert the E-PL1's .AVI files, they played nicely with Premiere while the G10's files gave us a heck of an adventure, causing crashes every other minute. That partly excuses how lame our short video is, but we'll take the rest of the blame. Check out our samples below to see what else the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 is capable of.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 or Olympus E-PL1?
This is one of the most popular questions in this price range. Both the G10 and the E-PL1 have identical price tags. Image quality is equally excellent, both cameras are portable, and they support each other's lenses, in addition to the plethora of Micro Four Thirds lenses hitting the market. So where do they differ? The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 is faster in terms of menu navigation and control, has a built-in EVF (which is better than nothing), a slight edge in 720p HD video quality, a bigger LCD, and more intuitive external controls.
The Olympus E-PL1 has built-in OIS, better Art modes, nifty retro style, a dedicated Video Record button, and a much more friendly shooting mode (Live Guide) that promotes the gradual adaptation of advanced shooting. In that case, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 is suited for shooters who have a little more miles on their odometers compared to bonafide novices who are really in left field when it comes to adjusting Shutter Speed or Aperture. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 will offer more while the Olympus E-PL1 will welcome beginners with open arms. Now, you'll just have to figure which category you fall under.
Price and availability
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 will be available in June / July 2010 for approximately $600.