The Panasonic ZS10 is a 14.1MP camera with a rather 16x optical zoom (21x if you count Panasonic’s “Intelligent Zoom” as a feature) in a rather compact offering. The ZS10 also features Panasonic’s signature Power O.I.S. Image Stabilization, which is quite necessary for such a long zoom reach.
Shooting with the Panasonic ZS10
The Panasonic ZS10 packs a lot of features into a tiny package, which starts off with a proper camera mode dial featuring PASM shooting modes, as well as Panasonic’s iAuto and 3D modes (among others). The ZS10 has a seperate still image button and video record button. So if you want to record video, you hit the red video button and if you want to capture a still image, you hit the standard shutter release. Good layout there.
There a couple of switches on the ZS10′s body that I’m not a huge fan of. To turn the camera on and off, you have to slide a switch on top of the camera. Likewise, if you want to review images, you have to flip a switch between camera mode and review mode. To me, this is not as simple of an operation as the standard preview button found on most cameras.
The start-up and power-down times are a little slow thanks to the sluggish lens movement. Other compact superzoom cameras (like the Sony HX-9V or Olympus SZ-30MR) are much quicker at getting the lens in and out.
As far as shooting images goes though, the ZS10 delivers a lot of features and fun. It works well and it is plenty quick enough as you move from shot to shot. Image stabilization works well to steady shots at longer zoom ranges and slower shutter speeds.
The biggest quirk in shooting with the ZS10, however, is the touchscreen. It’s like Panasonic decided to put it in there as an afterthought. After using the camera for several days now, I’m still not quite sure what I’m supposed to be getting out of the touchscreen experience other than frustration.
You can touch to take a photo and use on-screen zoom controls; however, neither of these options offer a better solution to the shutter release or zoom rocker switch. Turning off the touch-to-shoot command lets you touch the screen to select your focus point; however, I often-times end up accidentally selecting my focus point. Frankly, the ZS10′s touchscreen is just not useful.
The Panasonic ZS10 has a built-in GPS for geotagging your images, which you can later use with mapping software in programs like iPhoto or in online services like Flickr. Just be careful to consider which locations you include if you don’t want all the images taken in your backyard published and mappable to your house.
Another trendy feature that the Panasonic ZS10 offers is 3D image capture. I don’t own a 3D TV or any other 3D-viewable device, so I have no way of judging the utility of this feature. As these features go, they seem a bit gimmicky to me; however, I would be interested to hear from any big 3D photo fans out there who have different opinion.
Panasonic ZS10 Image Quality
For all the bells and whistles in the ZS10, the camera underwhelmed me with its overall image quality. I generally cut point and shoot cameras quite a bit of slack in the image quality arena due to the tiny image sensors and anticipated uses. The ZS10, however, just seems to crush detail with its processing. Even at ISO 100, there was quite a bit of detail lost with most images produced by the camera.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t capable of delivering competent images for small-to-medium prints or sharing online. Just keep it at lower ISOs though. ISO 400 or below is pretty safe with this camera, and can probably do fine with up to 8×10 prints. I wouldn’t push the ISO or print size much past that though.
I’ve included several images from the ZS10 below for your consideration. Feel free to right-click and choose “Save file as…” in order download the full size images for your personal inspection (not for republication).
Even without looking at the images at full resolution, it’s pretty easy to see that things really start to break down after ISO 400. The images are rather soft throughout the ISO range as well. I think Panasonic has gone just a bit too far with this 14MP sensor.
As far as features are concerned, the Panasonic ZS10 is a pretty slick camera; however, if you are stickler for fine detail in image quality, I think you will find that there are other cameras in the same price range that will do a better job.
As a result, if there are must-have features in the ZS10, then it could be worth your while. However, I would also urge you to look around at some of its competitors. Specifically, the Sony HX9V is looking like the camera to beat among the current long-zoom compact cameras on the market.
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