The Micro-Four Thirds genre is growing up.
No longer the pricey young upstart, the format is expanding its reach to the budget-conscious masses. Case in point: Panasonic’s Lumix G10.
The G10 is meant for a shooter who wants to escape from the point-and-shoot world and play with interchangeable lenses, but who doesn’t want a bulky, prism-bound DSLR. Built around the larger 12-megapixel Micro-Four Thirds sensor, it delivers a bump in image quality and creative control.
The G10 looks and feels like a mini-SLR. Its pleasingly tactile, rubberized body is easy to hold and shoot with just one hand, because all the key controls (except the pop-up flash release) are within the reach of the right thumb and forefinger.
Panasonic’s two marquee features, Mega Optical Image Stabilization (Mega OIS) and Intelligent Auto (iA), are prominent parts of the G10. Mega OIS is built into the Lumix lenses like the 14mm-to-42mm, f/3.5-to-f/5.6 we used in our tests with the G10. The three modes — constant, shutter-activated and panning — do an excellent job of compensating for low-light and longer-shutter-speed shooting.
Intelligent Auto is Panasonic/s full-auto mode, and the G10 gives it a dedicated button next to the mode dial. When you’re too flustered to focus, just press the red iA button and fire away.
Consistent with its forbears, the G10’s unaltered stills are balanced and well-exposed with even tones and good saturation. Lower ISO enlargements were quite sharp and satisfying.
But like most of its peers in this price range, the G10’s high-ISO performance is iffy. Larger prints of images shot above ISO 800 get noisy and are noticeably fringed.
If there’s any situation where the G10 really struggles it’s definitely low-light focusing. It’s unrealistic to expect this camera to do the work of a faster-focusing, higher-frame-rate DSLR, but the shortcoming is still disappointing.
On the moving-image side, high-definition video tops out at 1280 x 720 at 30 fps, and the performance was good although not great.
For us, Panasonic’s biggest blunder with the G10 is the electronic viewfinder. The tiny, low-resolution peeper is grainy and frustratingly superfluous.
That said, the G10 ably proves itself in the field like its Lumix G brethren. Apart from a couple of obvious shortcomings, it should satisfy the budget buyer with the burning desire to make better pictures.