The 14-megapixel CMOS-based Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 ($400 as of March 29, 2011) kicks off its impressive hardware specs with a 16X (24mm to 384mm) optical zoom lens, which is stabilized by excellent "Power OIS" stabilization. The camera counters movement at full telephoto with a fluid floating motion, so you'll rarely have to struggle to frame a shot.
In manual and aperture-priority mode, aperture settings range from F3.3 at the wide-angle end to F5.9 at full telephoto--that's not exactly a fast lens, but it's not too shabby for a camera with such a long zoom. Manual shutter controls range from 1/4000 second to 60 seconds, not counting the camera's burst modes: You can capture 10 frames per second at full resolution, or 60 fps at a resolution of 3.5 megapixels; and you can shoot 320-by-240-pixel, YouTube-friendly video at 220 fps in the camera's high-speed movie mode (see the sample video below).
The Lumix DMC-ZS10's most significant new feature is touchscreen control, which provides a handy secondary way to focus shots, fire the shutter, zoom, and navigate menus. The ability to focus by touching the camera's 3-inch screen is very useful when you want to highlight off-center subjects or simply want to focus and fire as quickly as possible. This feature is also the closest thing to manual focus on the camera, so the fact that it works so well is important. I also appreciated having the physical controls in the mix for zooming and for menu options, as those settings are generally easier to access via the camera's dials and buttons.
The Lumix DMC-ZS10's Sonic Speed AF system generally snaps into focus instantaneously, though I did encounter about a half-second of searching at the full telephoto end of the zoom lens. Regardless, Panasonic's autofocus system remains one of the best around at locking quickly on subjects, even in challenging shooting situations. And since the auto-focus process doesn't hold the camera up, shutter lag is practically nonexistent. The addition of touch-based focusing shows off the autofocus speed nicely, and it's a very handy way to pick a subject to lock on when you're using the camera's motion-tracking autofocus function.