Eighteen months ago Panasonic's first digital SLR caused quite a stir at an otherwise lackluster PMA 2006, due in no small part to its unique Leica-inspired styling and Vario Elmarit 14-50mm optically stabilized lens. But ultimately the DMC-L1, failed to translate all that launch interest into actual sales. This was thanks in part to its high price (the kit lens accounting for half the $2000 ticket) and rather slender feature set. But the other problem - shared with the Olympus E330 (on which it was based and with which it shared many components) - was that the bulky unconventional styling, dismal viewfinder and clunky Live View Implementation sent potential purchasers scurrying back to the 'safe' choice of an SLR from a more mainstream manufacturer.

And now we have the second Panasonic Lumix DSLR, the DMC-L10, a far more conventional affair (it actually looks a lot like a reflex version of the FZ50) that offers some significant new features including a fully articulating LCD monitor, user interface improvements, a resolution hike to ten megapixels and the ability to use contrast-detect autofocus in Live View mode using the sensor itself (though only with compatible lenses - basically the two new zooms announced today). There are also several features that have migrated from Panasonic's compact Lumix range, including Intelligent ISO mode, quick 'FUNC' menu and a sprinkling of scene modes.

Like the L1 the new model is the fruit of the partnership between Panasonic and Olympus, and once again it features a Live MOS sensor and SSWF dust removal filter, (we don't have definite information yet, but the mirror box and sensor are, we suspect the same as the E-410). Once again the kit lens is a Panasonic/Leica collaboration, complete with optical image stabilization, though (presumably to keep costs down) it is a lighter, slower zoom (F3.8-5.6) and it doesn't have an aperture ring. The L10 also does away with the L1's traditional shutter speed dial in favor of twin control dials.

Compared to the DMC-L1, feature and specification differences

The L10 is a very different beast to the camera that came before it, and is obviously aimed at a very different segment of the market. Where the L1 was a solid, heavy lump of a camera with a semi professional build, traditional 'shutter speed and aperture dial' operation and styling that owed more than a nod to Leica's rangefinder models, the L10 is a lightweight, conventionally styled SLR with a control interface and feature set that matches mid-range models from the bigger players in the market. You don't get the L1's tank-like build, and some users will bemoan the loss of the unique 'bounce' 2-position flash and aperture ring, but I think it's safe to say that the L10 is going to be a far easier camera for Panasonic to sell.

The main spec differences are shown below, but first let's start with a summary of the important stuff:

  • New lightweight compact body.
  • Resolution increase (from 7.5 to 10 megapixels).
  • Slightly brighter viewfinder (with optional 1.2x magnifier eyepiece included) .
  • Articulating screen (180° swing and tilt).
  • New smaller, lighter kit lens (around a stop slower max aperture too).
  • All-new control interface.
  • Contrast detect autofocus in live view (mirror stays up) - with compatible lens
  • Less expensive than L1 at launch (though recent L1 price drops may reduce gap in store).
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1
Image sizes (4:3 • 3648 x 2736
• 2816 x 2112
• 2048 x 1536
• 3136 x 2352
• 2560 x 1920
• 2048 x 1536
File Formats • Raw
• Raw + JPEG
• Raw + JPEG
JPEG compression • Two level
• Three level
ISO sensitivities • Auto
• Intelligent ISO (Live View only)
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
• Auto
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
Kit lens LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14–50mm/ F3.8–5.6/ASPH. LEICA D VARIO-ELMARIT 14-50mm/ F2.8-3.5/ASPH.
Shutter speed Via control dial Shutter speed dial on top of camera
Aperture Via control dial Lens aperture ring (with kit lens)
DOF preview No Yes
Focus • Phase detect (3 point)
• Contrast detect (9 area), Live view only
• Phase detect (3 point)
Focus modes • S-AF
• C-AF
• MF
• AF & MF
• Face Detect (Live View only)
• S-AF
• C-AF
• MF
• S-AF & MF
WB fine tuning Yes No
Quick 'FUNC' menu Yes No
Continuous • 3.0 / 2.0 fps
• RAW: 3 frames
• JPEG: Unlimited with fast card
• 3.0 / 2.0 fps
• RAW: 6 frames
• JPEG: Unlimited with fast card
Self timer • 10 sec
• 2 sec
• 10 sec / 3 frames
• 10 sec
• 2 sec
Param presets 9 preset modes ('film')
2 user modes
7 preset modes ('film')
2 user modes
Flash • Manual pop-up
• Fixed position
• GN 11 (ISO 100, m)
• Manual pop-up
• 2 position (straight ahead / bounce)
• GN 13 (ISO 100, m)
Scene modes Yes (9) None
Viewfinder • Eye level penta mirror type optical view finder
• Eye point 14 mm at -1 dioptre
• 1.2x Magnifier Eye Cup supplied
• Eye piece cap supplied (no shutter)
• Eye-level TTL Optical Porro Finder
• Eye point 18 mm at -1 dioptre
• Eye piece shutter built-in (activated by lever)
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD monitor
• Tilt and swivel
• 207,000 pixels
• 2.5" TFT LCD monitor
• 207,000 pixels
Dimensions 134.5 x 95.5 x 77.5mm 146 x 86 x 64 mm
Weight • No battery: 480 g • No battery: 530 g
Launch price (kit) US: $1299 US: $1999
Other Slight changes to viewfinder info  

Kit lenses compared

Although both L1 and L10 are standard Four-Thirds bodies like any Olympus model it's impossible to talk about them without also talking about the supplied lens. For one thing the lens isn't an option; you cannot buy either camera (officially) without the lens. For another these are no ordinary kit lenses; designed in collaboration with Leica and featuring Panasonic's much lauded MEGA OIS stabilization system these are not 'cheap' zooms at all; each accounts for the best part of half the price of the kit. The 28-100mm range is also longer than most kit lenses.

The L10's Vario-Elmar covers the same range as the L1's Vario-Elmarit, but is over a stop slower at the short end, and a stop and a half slower at the long end (in case you're wondering, Leica uses different names to indicate the maximum aperture of the lens, hence the Elmar/Elmarit difference). The new lens also uses a slightly simpler construction (11 elements vs 16 elements).

Key differences:

  • Smaller, lighter
  • No aperture ring or focus distance scale
  • Larger zoom ring
  • Slower maximum aperture
  • Supports L10 contrast detect AF in live view
Lumix DMC-L10 Kit Lens

Lumix DMC-L1 Kit Lens
Name Leica D Vario-Elmar 14–50mm/
Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm/
Live View AF (Contrast detect) Support? Yes No
Focal Length • f=14mm to 50mm
• 28mm to 100 mm equiv.
• f=14mm to 50mm
• 28mm to 100 mm equiv.
Aperture type • 7 leaf shutters / iris diaphragm
• 7 leaf shutters / iris diaphragm
Distance Scale? No Yes
Aperture ring? No Yes
Aperture range F3.8 (Wide) to F5.6 (Tele) F2.8 (Wide) to F3.5 (Tele)
Minimum Aperture F22 (tbc) F22
Lens construction • 11 elements in 15 groups
• 2 aspherical lenses)
• 16 elements in 12 groups
• 2 aspherical lenses
Filter Diameter 67mm 72mm
Closest focus 0.29m (0.95 feet) 0.29m (0.95 feet)
Max. diameter 74mm (2.91 inch) 78.1mm (3.07 inch)
Overall length Approx. 93mm Approx. 103 mm
Weight Approx. 434g Approx. 490 g

Lumix DMC-L10 compared to Olympus E-510

An interesting comparison - and one that is bound to be drawn - is with is the Olympus E-510. We imagine the cameras share some components (though we're also almost certain they have different sensors). The L10 is slightly bulkier and marginally heavier than the E-510 (much more so once you've got the kit lenses attached), and of course offers an articulating screen and the new Hybrid AF (phase detect and contrast detect) system in Live View mode. We'll compare the cameras in more depth later (there are myriad smaller feature differences), but here's the key areas where the L10 differs from its Olympus cousin:

  • Fully articulated screen (E-510 has slightly higher resolution, however)
  • Hybrid AF system (contrast detect AF in Live View)
  • Lens based optical IS (E-510 uses body based CCD-shift IS)
  • Front and rear control dials (E-510 only has rear dial)
  • 3 frame (RAW) buffer in burst mode (E-510 has 6 frame buffer)