Note: This preview is based on a pre-production camera, so all performance estimates are subject to change before final release, and the sample pictures are presented in low resolution only at the request of Panasonic.
I've been lucky enough to get hold of a pre-production sample of Panasonic's newly-announced digital SLR, the Lumix DMC-L10, to try out for a few days a couple of weeks prior to its official launch date in October. The L10 is only Panasonic's second digital SLR, after launch in February last year of the less-than-brilliant DMC-L1. Fortunately the new model bears little resemblance to its predecessor, and is a much more conventionally-styled Digital SLR camera.
The digital SLR market has developed into three distinct bands of product. In the first band are the entry-level models such as the Sony Alpha A100, Canon EOS 400D, Nikon D40x, Olympus E-410 and Pentax K100D. The best of these are all 10-megapixel models with advanced features including dust reduction systems, image stabilisation, fast continuous shooting and in the case of the E-410, live monitor view. In the next band are the mid-range semi-professional cameras, such as the new Sony Alpha A700, Canon EOS 40D and Nikon D300, as well as the Pentax K10D. At the very top of the tree are the fully professional SLR cameras, which start with the Canon EOS-1 DS Mk3 and Nikon D3 costing several thousand pounds, and include digital medium-format equipment which costs tens of thousands. Any new model will usually fit into one of these bands, but that fit is based as much on price as specification.
In terms of specification, the L10 seems to be heading towards the entry-level band. It has a 10.0-megapixel LiveMOS Four-Thirds sensor measuring 17.3 x 13.0 mm, the same size as that in the Olympus E-410 and E-510, although it doesn't appear to be the same sensor. It has a plastic body over a metal chassis, and is a physically fairly compact and lightweight, measuring 134.5 x 95.5 x 77.5mm and weighing 480g body-only, which is comparable with the other entry-level models listed above. It is slightly larger and heavier than the Olympus E-510, but smaller and lighter than the Canon EOS-400D, although there's only a few millimetres in it.
The camera goes on sale in October as a kit with the lens pictured here. It is a Leica-branded F3.8-5.6 14-50mm zoom with MegaOIS image stabilisation, which is significantly slower than the F2.8-3.5 lens sold with the DMC-L1. There are apparently no plans to sell L10 camera body-only at first.