Panasonic DMC-L10 Preview

The L10's main party trick is its fully articulated flip-and-twist LCD monitor with full live view, including autofocus in live view mode. There's absolutely no doubt that this is a fantastically useful feature, and a big improvement over the static live-view monitors on the latest Nikon, Canon and Olympus cameras. It can be used when holding the camera overhead, such as shooting over a crowd, or as a waist-level finder. It is also very useful for tripod photography, especially if combined with the optional remote cable release. The monitor itself is also very good. It is 2.5 inches diagonally with 207k dots. It is nice and bright, with good colour and contrast. Like all the other Four-thirds cameras I've seen, the viewfinder is a bit small, dark and tunnel-like, and anyone used to a digital SLR with an APS or even full-frame sensor will find its 4:3 aspect ratio a bit of a novelty.

Like Canon, Panasonic has opted for lens-based optical image stabilisation, and the kit lens sold with the L10 has the MegaOIS system built in. There is a manual switch on the lens to turn the image stabilisation on and off, but it is controlled from the camera menu, and has three modes, much the same as the FZ18. In the first mode the OIS is turned on all the time, but doesn't work as efficiently. In mode two the OIS operates when a picture is taken, and is more effective. In mode three only vertical vibration is damped, for use with panning action shots. Even on my pre-production camera the system was extremely effective, and I was able to take hand-held shot at shutter speeds as low as 1/8th of a second with minimal camera shake.

One curious feature is the autofocus system. While most other digital SLR manufacturers have been fitting complex AF systems with up to eleven sensors including multiple cross-shaped sensors, in order to give the L10 full autofocus in live view mode Panasonic has fitted the camera with two completely different AF systems. When using the optical viewfinder the camera has a three-point phase difference system, which is slightly quicker and works a little better in low light. However in the live view mode the camera switches to a nine-point contrast detection AF system, similar to the one used in Panasonic's compact cameras.

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