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 100Panasonic G10 ISO 100Canon Rebel T2i ISO 100
Panasonic G2 ISO 200Panasonic G10 ISO 200Canon Rebel T2i ISO 200
Panasonic G2 ISO 400Panasonic G10 ISO 400Canon Rebel T2i ISO 400
Panasonic G2 ISO 800Panasonic G10 ISO 800Canon Rebel T2i ISO 800
Panasonic G2 ISO 1600Panasonic G10 ISO 1600Canon Rebel T2i ISO 1600
Panasonic G2 ISO 3200Panasonic G10 ISO 3200Canon Rebel T2i ISO 3200
Panasonic G2 ISO 6400Panasonic G10 ISO 6400Canon 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…”


ISO 100 – f/2.2 – 1/50s


ISO 250 – f/1.7 – 1/50s


ISO 400 – f/1.7 – 1/8s


ISO 1600 – f/1.7 – 1/640s


ISO 800 – f/1.7 – 1/60s


ISO 1600 – f/2 – 1/50s


ISO 1600 – f/1.7 – 1/50s


ISO 6400 – f/1.7 – 1/50s


ISO 1600 – f/4 – 1/50s


ISO 3200 – f/5.6 – 1/50s

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.

Conclusions

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.

The Panasonic G10 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Panasonic G10 at B&H Photo

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Comments

  1. forkboy1965 says

    I still have a hard time trying to figure out what is the purpose behind the four-thirds market.

    Clearly a step above the average point-n-shoot, but not so far behind the entry-level dSLRs, which begs the question: Why not spend the extra couple of dollars and go entry-level dSLR?

    I applaud the overall design of this Panasonic model as I have a hard time understanding how it can be at all comfortable to use the Sony model displayed at the top of the article. With hardly any body one must resort to holding only the lens to some degree.

    I guess I’m wondering if this is a design in search of a niche as opposed to an existing niche looking for a better product.

    • says

      @forkboy – I think size and simplicity is the biggest advantage for the mirrorless market (be it Micro Four Thirds, NEX, or Samsung’s variation). Some of these cameras, especially with a pancake lens (such as Panasonic’s 20mm) attached, can rival point and shoot cameras in size. The live view system also helps the novice user make adjustments from a compact point and shoot camera. Throw in the great image quality and you’ve got a great combo in a small package.

      The Sony NEX cameras are really quite nice. I miss a built-in flash, but they handle pretty well (again, especially with the Sony 16mm pancake) and have great image quality. I see your point though, and wouldn’t mind if the cameras were just a little bigger. Look for a full review soon.

  2. Max says

    One thing common with the Four Thirds series from Panasonic and Olympus that I really like is the fully articulating LCD panel. Without having to put your face in the mud, you can compose and take extremely low angle shots that give you another perspective when taking pictures. Ditto with the various angles that are either not possible or difficult with fixed displays. I agree, however, that a jump to APS-sized sensor in a mirrorless system like the Samsung’s latest model and Sony’s EX5 are a step in the right direction. I like the Four Thirds innovations, but not the sensor size. If you’re serious about photo quality, it’s gotta be at least an APS sensor. They are getting cheaper anyways. I can see the hesitation from the Four Thirds group because of the investments already made in the lenses, etc.

  3. nicled says

    I have been using the Nikon D40x and it is very light, a DSLR. The frame is small, just a little bit bigger than the GF1. I’ve tried printing canvass size prints up to 6 feet and pictures are still clear. Will the mirror less cam’s give the same clarity at 6 feet sizes?

    • says

      @nicled – I think the GF1 and G10 will hold up well against the Nikon D40x. I haven’t compared them side-by-side; however, having used all three cameras, I wouldn’t hesitate to use one of Panasonic’s mirrorless cameras in the same situation where I would use a D40x.

  4. nicled says

    @Eric- Yes, i agree. Especially if the enlargements you’d need are not as large as canvas prints, then the GF1 or 10 would suffice. How i wish they’d come up with a more variable lens for the LX3 which can even be a better alternative except for the availability of lens extensions which are not as sharp.

  5. Phiroze B Javeri says

    Whatever superiority the DSLR’s have over the Micro Four-third cameras has nothing to do with having a mirror-and-prism or not having it. The current superiority of DSLR’s lies in their larger sensors. that’s all. Just as the Leica pioneered the 35 mm format when everyone was using large plate cameras, the micro four-third system will come into its own when sensor technology improves. In fact, the mirror-less Sony NEX-5 (which has followed the concept pioneered by Panasonic and Olympus) has a larger APS-C sensor, as in entry-level DSLR’s, and there is no reason why the Sony NEX-5 should not be as good as a DSLR with an APS-C sensor. I do believe that the mirror and prism are just a force of habit that we refuse to leave off. With cameras having gone digital, this is now a bad habit.

  6. nicled says

    The Sony NEX-5 is an exception because of its larger sensor. THAT might be the ideal “light” carry around digicam. With bigger sensors on mirror less, camera’s the trend might just be the future for all digicams.