Panasonic SZ10 review

A 12x optical zoom, inbuilt Wi-Fi and a selfie-screen make this a neat and versatile little camera

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Our Verdict

The SZ10 has a wide range of features, including a selfie screen, Wi-Fi and an impressive 12x zoom range, but it's let down by its indifferent image quality, especially at higher ISO settings in poor light.

For

  • Optical zoom
  • Inbuilt Wi-Fi
  • Creative modes

Against

  • Poor performance in low light
  • No manual control
  • No touch screen

This entry-level point and shoot camera features a 16 million pixel sensor, which is accompanied by a 12x optical zoom. It's been designed with those who like to shoot selfies in mind, with a 180 degree tiltable, 460k-dot, 2.7-inch LCD screen.

Other features include inbuilt Wi-Fi, 720p video recording and a group of digital filters.

Build and Handling

The SZ10 is sleek and slim, and has been coated with a matt finish which makes it feel surprisingly luxurious in the hand. It also helps it to feel secure, which is useful because there's no grip or rest for your finger on the front of the camera.

Panasonic SZ10

Panasonic SZ10

Panasonic hasn't gone for a particularly revolutionary design with the SZ10. On the top of the camera is the shutter release button, which is surrounded by a zoom switch which feels fairly rugged and able to withstand repeated use.

Just next to this switch is a dedicated video record button, which has helpfully been indented into the body slightly to prevent accidental video recording.

On the back there are quite a few buttons for a small camera, but these are needed because the screen is not touch sensitive. You can alter the camera's exposure mode by pressing the dedicated Mode button, but there's not a huge number to choose from, just Intelligent Auto, standard Auto, Scene Modes, Creative Control and Panorama Shot.

While in Intelligent Auto mode, the camera will control pretty much everything, while if you use standard Auto, a couple of options, such as sensitivity can be changed if you wish.

Panasonic SZ10

Flipping the screen up through 180 degrees automatically activates the selfie mode.

Also on the back of the camera is a dedicated Wi-Fi button, and a four way navigational pad, with each of those directional buttons controlling a specific function, such as exposure compensation. There's also a playback button, and finally a quick menu button, which is useful for making rapid changes when you don't want to scroll through the full menu.

Performance

If you're only looking at images at standard printing or web viewing sizes, then the impression of detail created by the SZ10 is relatively good, but it's evident if you zoom in that image smoothing occurs throughout the sensitivity range.

Therefore, it's best to use the camera only in good light – in lower light conditions, more image smoothing and noise appears. Night time or low light landscapes aren't really worth shooting with this camera unless you use a tripod and set a low ISO.

Panasonic SZ10 sample image

Panasonic SZ10 sample image

These two shots show the SZ10's full 12x zoom range, from wide-angle (top) to telephoto (above).

On the positive side, if you can use the camera in decent light, colours have a good level of saturation and look nice.

If you like to get creative with your shots, there's a good range of options such as Cross Process, Dynamic Monochrome and Toy Effect. Some are better than others, and it will be mostly down to personal preference whether you would want to use some of the wilder options. You can also create panoramas, but although they are fun they don't stand up too well to close scrutiny.

Most of the time, the all-purpose metering mode creates well balanced exposures, while the automatic white balance setting also does a decent job, if erring a little towards warm tones when shooting in artificial lighting conditions.

This is a very basic camera which is a good option for those who don't have or don't want to use a smartphone to take their images – perhaps on days/nights out or for your holiday camera.

Panasonic SZ10 sample image

The SZ10 delivers its best results in bright light, but it's possible to see some image smoothing across the whole ISO (sensitivity) range.

Click here for a full size version.

If, however, you are happy to use your smartphone, you probably won't find too much to appeal here, aside from the fact that you can use an optical zoom.

Image quality is decent in good light, but image smoothing is visible throughout the sensitivity range. The low light performance leaves a little to be desired, but the flash is reasonable for close subjects (like your friend's faces).

We liked

Inbuilt Wi-Fi is useful when you want to take selfies and group shots – and it's also handy when you want to share images you've taken quickly, say for tagging on Facebook and the like.

We disliked

If you're trying to take photos in low light of landscapes, indoor scenes or night shots, the image quality leaves a lot to be desired, which is a shame.

Final Verdict

The SZ10 is very simple and delivers some decent images in the right lighting conditions, but your mobile phone probably does that too. If you need a back up camera for when your phone runs out of juice though, or if you particularly want a long zoom range, this is a decent option.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

News Reporter

Amy (Twitter, Google+, blog) is a freelance journalist and photographer. She worked full-time as the News Reporter / Technical Writer (cameras) across Future Publishing's photography brands and TechRadar between 2009 and 2014 having become obsessed with photography at an early age. Since graduating from Cardiff Journalism School, she's also won awards for her blogging skills and photographic prowess, and once snatched exhibition space from a Magnum photographer.