The Bottom Line
If you like the latest "gadgets" built into your digital camera, Panasonic has provided exactly the model for you with its Lumix DMC-ZS10. The ZS10 includes:
- A 3.0-inch touch screen LCD
- A built-in GPS unit
- A 16X zoom lens in a small, point and shoot camera
Finding one of these features in a camera is always nice; finding all three in a camera -- that carries a sub-$250 price tag -- is pretty rare. Throw in really good image quality and sharp focus, and the ZS10 is a very powerful camera.
It is a little chunky, especially if you're used to looking at the extremely thin beginner models that are so popular now. But, if you can live with a little larger camera, the ZS10's feature list is among the best you'll find in its price range.
The ZS10's image quality is outstanding, both indoors and outdoors. Exposure, especially indoors without the flash, is really good. Colors outdoors are realistic, and you will have good exposure results outdoors, too.
The top feature on the ZS10 is its 16X optical zoom lens, and it creates very nice images throughout the zoom range. Most of the time, the ZS10's autofocus mechanism is extremely accurate, although you may notice a few "soft" photos at the maximum zoom, especially when shooting indoors. Of course, few cameras can match a 16X optical zoom in a point and shoot camera measuring less than 1.5 inches in thickness, so there aren't many other models to which to compare the ZS10.
Unfortunately, the flash tends to fire in some situations where it isn't needed, resulting in some photos that are overexposed or that have glare spots. You may have to manually turn off the flash from time to time. Using the flash doesn't seem to cause much shutter lag, though, which is good.
One other problem you may notice when shooting with the flash is that the lens housing extends from the camera body just enough that it will cause a shadow in your photos, if you shoot a close-up photo that requires the flash. When shooting a close-up, you'll probably just need to turn off the flash. The good news is the ZS10 performs pretty well indoors without a flash.
When shooting in macro mode, the ZS10 focuses very accurately and shoots great photos, but, again, you'll probably have problems if you need to use the flash.
When shooting in the movie mode, you can start the recording with the dedicated movie button. The zoom lens does work in movie mode, but it moves very slowly. In fact, the overall movie quality isn't as good as I'd like to see, as the recorded motion is uneven.
You can shoot in fully automatic or partial manual settings with the ZS10. When shooting in program mode, you can manually set the ISO and the white balance, among other items. You also can select full manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority from the mode dial.
For easier point and shoot photography, you can select from 30 different scene modes with the ZS10. Beyond the typical scene modes, you'll find a film grain mode and a high dynamic mode. You can store two customized scene modes for quick access through the mode dial, which is nice.
Several color modes are available, if you want to use some additional effects, including vivid, black and white, sepia, cool, and warm. A 3D mode is available, too, where the camera has you shoot two photos back to back from slightly different perspectives.
To speed up your selection of the various settings, you can press the "Q Menu" button, and the ZS10 will open access to some of the basic settings across the top of the screen. There's also a "custom" setting on the Mode dial, through which you can set up three different collections of manual-control settings, and then pick them again later. This type of customization is really nice.
Compared to many of the cameras currently on the market, the ZS10 is a bit "chunky," measuring about 1.3 inches in thickness. I thought it was still a good size and easy to hold and use, but those who are on the lookout for a really thin, stylish camera will probably look elsewhere.
The ZS10 has one primary body color -- black, blue, brown, red, and silver -- and the lens housing is silver.
The mode dial is on the top panel of the camera, making it easy to access. As you turn the dial, explanations of each feature appear on the LCD screen. The power slider switch, which toggles between on and off, is on the top panel, too. The playback/shooting mode button is a toggle switch that slides, too, meaning both of these switches are impossible to bump by accident, which is nice.
The 16X zoom lens moves pretty quickly through it's zoom range, using the typical zoom ring. Or, you can use the touch screen LCD to make the zoom move even faster from the minimum to the maximum zoom, and vice versa.
The ZS10's 3.0-inch LCD allows you to shoot photos or select a focus subject by touching the screen, as long as you activate that mode. You have the option of using the touch screen or the four-way button to make your selections, and it's rare to have both of those options with a touch screen camera.
The menu structure with the ZS10 is pretty easy to understand. However, depending on which mode you're shooting in, some of the basic menu options will disappear, which is a little odd. For example, you cannot adjust the brightness of the LCD when shooting in iAuto mode.
This camera's playback menu is nice, as you'll have several options for editing the photos or setting up a slide show, for example.
Finally, Panasonic included GPS capabilities with the ZS10. With the GPS unit, Panasonic has included information for 1 million pre-loaded landmarks, making it easy to tag your photos taken during trips. The GPS in the ZS10 includes the standard latitudes and longitudes of each photo, too.