Panasonic G10 Review
The Panasonic G10 is a 12.1MP Micro Four Third camera. As you may know, Micro Four Thirds cameras like the G10 operate without the bulky mirror between the image sensor and lens.
Unlike the Panasonic GF1, the G10 features a traditional hand grip and body styling similar to what you see on DSLR cameras (like the Canon Rebel T2i and Nikon D5000). Don’t be fooled though, the G10 is no brick. To the contrary, it is light, nimble and easy to carry.
Packaged with a 14-42mm kit lens, the Panasonic G10 delivers a lot of power at a sub-par price of under $600. (Note: At the time of this review, the G10 is well under that mark from B&H Photo thanks to a $100 instant rebate.)
Panasonic G10 Key Features
- 12.1MP Sensor
- 14-42mm Kit Lens w/ Image Stabilization
- ISO 100-6400
- 3-inch LCD (460k dot res)
- Electronic Viewfinder (202k dot res)
- Full-time Live View and Autofocus
- 720p HD Movie Capture
- SDXC Memory Card Compatible
Panasonic G10 Handling, Ergonomics and Control
The Panasonic G10 looks and feels a lot like a compact DSLR with the traditional grip, viewfinder and button layout. So, if you are accustomed to using a DSLR, you’ll feel right at home with the G10. It’s a whole lot more traditional than other new mirrorless cameras like the Sony NEX-5.
The G10’s body has sort of a rubberized coating applied, which gives the camera a surprisingly rugged feel for what you might expect to be a plastic-like consumer body. This, combined with the DSLR form factor makes for a overall great feel.
The G10 carries the solid trend through with its button layout, with a mode dial that offers a number of settings for both beginners and advanced users. The quick access to P/A/S/M modes will be a boon to experienced users, while novice photographers will appreciate the ability to shoot with the G10’s Intelligent Auto mode that’s accessible via the red “iA” button next to the mode dial.
One of the things I love about Panasonic’s recent Micro Four Thirds series cameras is the bevy of user controls available on the external parts of the camera. I hate menu diving on a powerful camera, and the G10 goes a long way to keep me out of the menu and moving to my next image capture. Along with the mode dial on the G10, you will find a focus mode selector switch that gives options for single focus lock, continuous focus, and manual focus. Additionally, there is a small lever embedded around the mode dial that gives you access to your drive mode – for choices of single frame, continuous frames, exposure bracketing and self-time. Good stuff Panasonic.
On the back of the G10, we get a nice 3″ LCD with a decent 460k dot resolution. While it would be nice to have a higher resolution screen any day, the G10’s LCD is actually a pretty good one that even works ok outdoors thanks to its ability to kick up the backlighting automatically. Of course, the G10 forgoes the tilt/swivel LCD as a budget-oriented camera, and this affects the ability to effectively capture video at various angles. But, again, we’re talking about a very wallet-friendly camera.
One thing I really missed on the G10 though, was a direct record button, which is found on the G10’s bigger brother – the G2. Instead, on the G10, you have to move the mode dial to video capture mode and use the shutter button to start/stop recording.
The G10 has a savvy menu system that’s very easy to dive right into via the Menu/Set button and 4-way control buttons on the rear of the camera. These 4-way control buttons double as quick access buttons for ISO, white balance, AF mode, and a function button, which is set to bring up Film Mode selections.
A Quick Menu button on the rear of the camera brings up access to common settings that are already overlaid on the LCD while in live view anyway. It’s a really smart way to access a number of settings with a couple of pushes of a button.
Also on the back of the camera is a button for toggling between the LCD and EVF. The EVF is not the best, at 202k dot resolution, but it actually works pretty well. You definitely experience some blur in the image when you move the camera too quickly, but it is pretty effective in most normal shooting situations.
The scroll wheel near the thumb rest on the back of the camera is used primarily for changing exposure settings depending on the given mode. In Program mode, you can shift the aperture and shutter together as the camera maintains a proper exposure, or you can press the scroll wheel in (like a button) and switch to exposure compensation adjustments where you can dial the camera up or down in 1/3 stop increments up to +/- 3EV.
Likewise, in Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority, the scroll wheel adjusts the aperture and shutter settings, respectively. Again, you can also push the wheel to toggle over to the exposure compensation settings. In manual mode, pushing in on the scroll wheel toggles back and forth between shutter and aperture settings. Hit the ISO button in any of these modes and you can use the scroll wheel to run up and down from ISO 100-6400.
Big kudos on the scroll wheel functionality Panasonic!
In everyday shooting, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about the G10. Autofocus is amazingly snappy for a contrast-based AF system. You really won’t notice much, if any, difference between the G10’s AF speed and that of entry-level DSLRs.
Shutter response is great, and shot-to-shot speed is very respectable – though even entry-level DSLRs will outshine the framerate of the G10. If you shoot a lot of sports and action, then this may not be the right camera – but you should be ok with ordinary shots of active kiddos.
The 14-42mm lens that comes with the G10 is a decent kit lens. It covers the an 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 28-84mm thanks the to 2x crop factor of the Micro Four Thirds system.
If you have the change to spare though (or even if you have to save some pennies for while), I highly recommend adding the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens to your kit. This lens is great walkaround lens due to the nice focal length and bright max aperture, which aids in low light, indoor photos.
Panasonic G10 Image Quality
The G10 isn’t quite up to the same level as some of the top entry-level DSLRs like the Rebel T2i and Nikon 5000; however, it is a big step up for those who are using a point and shoot camera. And, still yet, it’s not too far off from what those solid, entry-level DSLRs can deliver. The G10 really delivers a solid image for the price.
I put the G10 and G2 against the Canon Rebel T2i to see how the noise control holds up. In order to do so, I put the cameras on a tripod and captured a number of images of the same scene at various ISO settings. I left the cameras in their default settings for noise control and such. I also left the cameras in auto white balance to demonstrate the cameras’ different interpretation of white under tungsten lights. Exposure times and aperture settings were the same across all cameras.
Below is a full view of the captured scene to give you an idea of what you are looking at in the close-up crops further down.
Panasonic G2 and G10 ISO Comparison to Canon Rebel T2i
Since the G10 and G2 only go up to ISO 6400, I placed those crops next to the Canon Rebel T2i at ISO 12800 again for comparison purposes.
Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can download the full size images by right-clicking on the images below and choosing “Save link as…”
Panasonic G2 ISO 100 – Panasonic G10 ISO 100 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 100
Panasonic G2 ISO 200 – Panasonic G10 ISO 200 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 200
Panasonic G2 ISO 400 – Panasonic G10 ISO 400 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 400
Panasonic G2 ISO 800 – Panasonic G10 ISO 800 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 800
Panasonic G2 ISO 1600 – Panasonic G10 ISO 1600 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 1600
Panasonic G2 ISO 3200 – Panasonic G10 ISO 3200 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 3200
Panasonic G2 ISO 6400 – Panasonic G10 ISO 6400 – Canon Rebel T2i ISO 6400
Canon Rebel T2i ISO 12800
Below are several more shots captured with the G10 and processed as RAW files through Lightroom 3. No adjustments were made to the following images other than exporting them at 100% quality to JPEG file format.
Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”
Panasonic G10 Accessories
Panasonic DMW-BLB13 Battery – The Panasonic G10 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Lens – I love this lens and think that it is probably the best walkaround lens for the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras right now. It is a little pricey given what you pay for this camera, but if there were a second lens to buy, this is it for me.
Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the Panasonic G10, which worked just fine. Faster cards may provide a little faster frame-to-frame recovery though. The Panasonic G10 is compatible with all SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.
Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the Panasonic G10. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.
For the price, the Panasonic G10 is tough to beat. It misses out on some of the features of its bigger sibling, the G2, (like a swivel LCD, auto EVF/LCD switching, AVCHD recording, external mic, etc.), but it hits the nail on the head for an affordable consumer model. The Panasonic G10 does the essentials well: solid image quality, HD video capture, quick/reliable autofocus and live view image composition.
If you are looking to make the switch from a point and shoot camera to something with better image quality that also won’t break the bank, the G10 deserves a serious look.
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