Despite coming into the market relatively late (launching its first camera in 2001), Panasonic has proved to be one of the most versatile digital camera manufacturers, with a range of models covering pretty much every type from cheap pocket compacts to high-spec digital SLRs. Sitting about as close to the middle of this wide and varied range as it is possible to get is this, the 10.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-LZ10, and its 8.1-megapixel sibling the LZ8.
Priced at an affordable £160, the LZ10 is a half-metal, half-plastic medium-sized compact camera powered by two AA batteries. Nevertheless it has enough features to stand out from other similar compacts. With a Leica-branded 5x zoom lens equivalent to 30-150mm, a 2.5-inch 230k monitor, Mega OIS optical image stabilisation and optional manual exposure, its closest match is probably the Canon PowerShot A590 IS (£150), although that camera is physically larger and only 8MP, criticisms which also apply to a comparison with Nikon's CoolPix P50 (£150). There really isn't another camera on the market that closely matches the LZ10's specification.
The initial impression of the LZ10 is a good one. The front of the camera body is aluminium, while the back is plastic, but the build quality is up to Panasonic's usual high standard. The battery hatch las a locking latch, and there is a separate hatch on the side for the memory card, handy if you are using the camera on a tripod. The overall shape is much more square and functional than many of Panasonic's other more stylish compacts. It is a fairly large camera by pocket compact standards, measuring 97.5 x 62 x 33.3mm, but it is quite light, weighing only 141g minus batteries. Of course using two AA alkaline batteries for power means that the loaded weight goes up to around 190g, but using Lithium batteries can shave about 25g off that figure.
The batteries live inside a prominent handgrip on the right of the body, complete with a textured pad. A small raised lip on the back of the camera provides a thumbgrip, and overall the LZ10 is very comfortable and secure to hold. The control layout is sensible and unsurprising, with a rotary bezel zoom control, a standard D-pad and a few other buttons. The on/off and record/playback controls are small slider switches, so you're very unlikely to move them accidentally. Some of the other buttons and the D-pad are a bit small, but not annoyingly so, and they are at least very clearly labelled.