Compared to...

As with the majority of our studio image quality comparisons we selected the nearest competition by category, specification, price and feature set (though as mentioned on the last page the L10's very pricey kit lens actually pushes it a lot closer to EOS 40D/Sony Alpha 700 territory). In this case the L10 goes up against the Olympus E-510 and the Canon EOS 400D (Rebel XTi). We've also included later in the review some comparisons to the Pentax K10D - a slightly higher level of camera, but one that actually costs a lot less.

Camera Kit price Kit lens
equiv. FOV
(effective pixels)
Panasonic L10 $1299 28 - 100 mm equiv. 10.0 MP LiveMOS; 17.3 x 13 mm (4/3 format)
Olympus E-510 $649 28 - 84 mm equiv. 10.0 MP LiveMOS; 17.3 x 13 mm (4/3 format)
Canon EOS 400D $669 28.8 - 88 mm equiv. 10.1 MP CMOS; 22.2 x 14.8 mm (1.6x crop)
Pentax K10D $750 27 - 82.5 mm equiv. 10.2 MP CCD; 23.5 x 15.7 mm (1.5x crop)

Lenses used

For direct comparisons we always use sharp prime lenses stopped down, typically to F9 for 35 mm lenses and F6.3 for Four Thirds lenses. Here we have used the Olympus 50 mm F2.0 Macro, Pentax 50 mm F1.4, and Canon EF 50 mm F1.4.

Studio scene comparison (Kit lens vs Olympus 50mm F2.0 macro)

The L10 is unique amongst digital SLRs in that (like the L1 before it) you cannot buy it as a body; it is only available in a kit with the Leica Vario Elmar 14-50mm lens. Given that by our estimation the lens accounts for a good half the ticket price we thought we'd better start by seeing how it performs in our standard studio test (note that all the gallery samples were also taken with the kit lens). We'll use our standard 50mm F2.0 Olympus for all subsequent comparisons (with other cameras).

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Panasonic L10 (Leica 14-50mm D Vario Elmar) vs
Panasonic L10 (Olympus 50mm F2.0 macro)

Camera settings:

  • Panasonic DMC-L10: Olympus 50 mm F2.0 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100, film mode standard,
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Mirror Lock Up, 2 sec self-timer

  • Panasonic DMC-L10: Leica 14-50 mm F3.8-5.6 Vario Elmar lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100, film mode standard, JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Mirror Lock Up, 2 sec self-timer
Panasonic DMC-L10 + 50mm F2
Panasonic DMC-L10 + kit lens
4,538 KB JPEG (3648 x 2736)
4,225 KB JPEG (3648 x 2736)

We already know that the Olympus 50mm F2.0 macro is a superb lens, and the L10 is really making use of it here, capturing a superb level of detail right across the frame. We'll look a little more closely at the camera's output on the next page; for now let's see what kind of contribution - positive or negative - the kit lens it making. Anyone expecting miracles simply because the 14-50mm has the word Leica stamped on the front is in for a bit of a disappointment; it's good, but we're not talking 'spit out your coffee' or 'rewriting the kit lens rule book' wow factor here.

To be fair, we're comparing it to one of the sharpest lenses available for any digital SLR, and no kit lens is going to look particularly impressive. And as kit lenses go the new Vario Elmar is very good, with excellent edge-to-edge consistency, good contrast and relatively low distortion - and of course it has Panasonic's well regarded image stabilization system built in. More importantly, as we'll see in a few pages, the L10's rather clumsy JPEG processing is producing a result that does the kit lens no favours; shooting in raw is the only way to reveal its full potential.

That all said, the question must be asked; will the typical user of such a consumer-orientated DSLR really find the L10's kit lens to be significantly better than, for example, the 14-42mm kit lens that's supplied with the E-410 and E-510? The Olympus lens costs maybe a third what the Leica lens costs, and is perhaps half the size, and it is surprisingly good. I know which I'd rather have: the Olympus lens and a healthier bank account.