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Timings & File Sizes

Overall performance was unsurprisingly a slightly mixed bag; a lot better than the L1 in most respects, and almost identical to the Olympus E-510. There are a few aspects of operation that take a little longer than we've become used to with a digital SLR (start up and some playback operations) - and of course the live view introduces its own delays, but overall it feels snappy and responsive in normal use. The only serious issues are the poor raw buffering (3 shots) - if you like to shoot quickly and like to use raw we'd suggest looking elsewhere - and the regrettable decision to use USB 2.0 'Full Speed' (i.e. USB 1.1 speed) on a $1300 digital SLR. This effectively makes direct camera to computer transfers of more than a handful of files so painfully slow that I can't imagine anyone actually using it.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3136 x 2352 JPEG *** (approx. 3,200 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 1 GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 133x SD card
Action
Details
Time, secs
(1 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(4 GB Lexar)
Power Off to On *1   1.0 1.0
Power Off to Shot   1.0 1.0
Sleep to On   1.0 1.0
Power On to Off   1.9 1.9
Record Review *2
RAW+JPEG
0.9 / 1.2 0.9 / 1.0
Record Review *3
JPEG
1.0 / 1.2 1.0 / 1.0
Play
RAW+JPEG
0.5 / 0.6 0.5 / 0.6
Play
JPEG
0.5 / 0.6 0.5 / 0.6
Play Image to Image
RAW+JPEG
0.3 0.3
Play Image to Image
JPEG
0.3 0.3

*1 This is the time from power on to the recording information display being shown on the LCD monitor.
*2 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor. First figure is in Viewfinder mode, second in Live View mode
*3 First figure is in Viewfinder mode, second in Live View mode (a 0.3 second penalty).

Live View vs Viewfinder

As with all DLSR live view systems there is a significant performance hit associated with the use of live view - all that mirror up and down activity increases shutter lag (the time from pressing the button to the picture being taken), though Panasonic has done a pretty good job of minimizing the delay. Interestingly, as shown above, there are a couple of areas where the L10 is actually fractionally faster in Live View mode, though you'd need Matrix-style senses to notice.

Shutter Lag

With live view off shutter lag is insignificant, and in line with other cameras in this class. With live view on the L10 has to drop the mirror before taking the picture, and by our measurements this increases the shutter lag to around 0.4 seconds (so not for action photography).

Focus speed

The L10 offers two focus options in live view mode (provided you're using a compatible lens, such as the 14-50mm kit lens); phase detect (the same as used in viewfinder mode) and contrast detect (focusing using the sensor). Contrast detect AF is far more user-friendly - it's just like using a compact digital camera) - and is very accurate. it also gives the advantage of more focus points and the ability to choose your own focus patterns (the phase detect AF is the same three-point system used in the L10, and in Olympus' entry-level DSLRs). The disadvantage is speed, as the table below shows.

Shooting using live view adds around 0.3 seconds to the shutter lag, irrespective of the focus system being used, adding in contrast detect AF brings a further delay and extends the shot-to-shot time to nearly three seconds. Because the L10's mirror box (like the Olympus E-410 and E-510) actually moves pretty quickly the delay caused by live view is significantly reduced if you switch to phase detect AF in live view mode - despite the fact the mirror has to be dropped and raised twice for each shot you'll still get considerably shorter shot-to-shot times.

All measurements below were taken using the 14-50mm Leica kit lens at wide angle (using a standard test target) and using JPEG / Fine setting with a 4 GB Lexar Pro 133x SD card. As focus speed on any camera is highly variable and differs from lens to lens and by subject distance and scene brightness / contrast the figures below are not intended as a definitive measurement, but to show the relative speed of the various focus options under controlled conditions.

 
Live View Contrast Detect AF (secs)
Live View Phase Detect AF (secs)
Viewfinder Phase Phase Detect AF (secs)
Focus time *1
0.7 - 1.2
~ 0.4
< 0.2 *4
Shutter lag *2
~ 0.4
~ 0.4
~ 0.09
Full press lag *3
1.7
0.9
~ 0.5
Shot to shot AF *5
2.9
1.6
0.9
Shot to shot MF *5
1.4
1.5
0.8

*1 Half Press Lag (0>S1) - the time taken to focus after a half-press
*2 S1>S2 - The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
*3 0>S2 The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
*4 At best Phase AF is virtually instantaneous, but can hunt in low light or with low contrast subjects
*5 Shot to shot times will vary widely according to how quickly the camera can focus.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/320 sec, F5.6), ISO 200. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 3.0 fps (+/- 0.5 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How soon after the burst it is fully written to the card (indicator goes out)

Burst of JPEG Large/*** images

Timing
1 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
4 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 3.0 fps 3.0 fps
Number of frames Unlimited Unlimited
Buffer full rate n/a n/a
Next burst - -

Burst of RAW+JPEG Fine images

Timing
1 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
4 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 3.0 fps 3.0 fps
Number of frames 3 3
Buffer full rate n/a n/a
Next burst 4.9 sec 4.6 sec

In JPEG mode the L10 does very well indeed - as long as you're using a relatively fast card you can shoot at three frames per second until you've filled the card. Raw performance is far less impressive (and firmly at the bottom of the budget SLR league), allowing only three shots to be captured in a single burst, with a 5 second or so delay before you can do it again. Few people are likely to be bothered by this as extended sequential shooting and Raw mode are rarely used together, but given that even the Olympus E-410 can manage twice as many shots per burst it's a slight disappointment.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity indicator on the LCD monitor disappears (note that this is unlikely to be as accurate as an LED lamp). Media used were the same as above.

Image type
Time, secs
(1 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(4 GB Lexar)
Approx.
size
3136 x 2352 RAW + JPEG *** 2.6 2.6 16,800 KB *1
3136 x 2352 JPEG FINE ~ 0.7 ~ 0.7 4,200 KB
3136 x 2352 JPEG Standard ~ 0.5 ~ 0.5 1,600 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and JPEG files added together.

It's fair to say that the DMC-L10 has respectably short write times and good throughput to fast SD cards. Unfortunately due to its lack of an LED lamp to indicate SD card activity we could not be confident enough to actually measure write speed, for RAW+JPEG at least we can estimate around 6.0 MB/sec. The L10's rather weedy buffer means that if you like to shoot rapidly you're better using continuous mode (in single shot mode it's possible to 'choke' the buffer even shooting JPEGs) - and staying away from raw.

USB transfer speed

To test the L10's USB transfer speed we transferred approximately 156 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III 1 GB SD card.

Method
Transfer rate
Panasonic DMC-L10 (PTP device) * 0.7 MB/sec
Panasonic DMC-L10 (Mass storage device) 0.9 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV USB 2.0 card reader 17.5 MB/sec

* Remarkably in PTP mode none of the RAW files on the SD card appeared or could be copied.

As mentioned at the top of the page Panasonic has obviously got some kind of aversion to USB 2.0 High Speed (which at nearly seven years old can hardly be described as cutting-edge technology) - either that or it has a huge stockpile of old USB chips. Like its compact Lumix cameras, Panasonic has equipped the L10 with what is euphemistically known as 'USB 2.0 Full Speed', which is marketing speak for 'USB 2.0 compatible, USB 1.1 speed).

Thus the L10's direct connect transfer speed is around 1/10th that of all its competitors, and is basically unusable for anything but getting you out of a tight spot when there's no alternative. A full 2.0GB card takes nearly three quarters of an hour to copy using the supplied USB cable. It's safe to say a card reader is an essential accessory for the L10 (our Sandisk reader is a whopping 25x faster than the camera). This is all particularly disappointing given that the first Panasonic DLSR, the L1, had 'proper' USB 2.0 transfer.

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