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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 review
|DATE REVIEWED: 31st Mar 2011||Add Camera To Comparison Chart|
|Camera Type||DSLR||Shutter Speeds||60 - 1/4000 sec|
|RRP||£630||ISO Range||100 - 6400|
|Megapixels||12||Focal Length||By lens|
|Dimensions||113 x 68 x 33mm (WxHxD)||Focus Distance||By lens|
|LCD Size||3 inches||Zoom (Opt)||By lens|
|Zoom (Dig)||None||Storage||SD / SDHC|
|Max Resolution||4000 x 3000||Battery Type||Li-Ion|
While nobody expects compact system cameras with their dinky interchangeable lenses to replace DSLRs in every respect, they do presently offer the best alternative if portability is as high on your agenda as image quality. We rated the GF2’s previous iteration, the GF1, as one of the best mirrorless shoot-from-the-hip compact system cameras to date, micro four thirds or otherwise. As the competition included the Olympus PENs, Sony NEX and Samsung NX models – and continues to do so – this second-generation model with the same 12.1-megapixel resolution from a four thirds Live Mos sensor has a lot to live up to.
Aside from the GF2 being competitively cheaper than its forebear by around £200 on launch, at first the improvements don’t seem that obvious. A glance at the spec sheet shows the robust metal build model is 19 per cent smaller and 7 per cent lighter. Its compactness is thanks in part to the fact that the chunky shooting mode dial of the GF1 has been replaced with virtual mode buttons on the GF2’s newly implemented touch screen – a regulation three inches in size, and with 460k dot resolution aiding clarity. What we really would have liked is an angle-adjustable LCD, as free moving as that found on the Canon PowerShot G12 or Samsung EX1. Panasonic also seems to have hedged its bets with this touch screen, as there are enough physical controls alongside it to avoid using it altogether if touch screens aren’t really your thing. That said, the combination of using buttons both virtual and real fortunately proves more of a time-saver than confusing.
As its maker is trying to widen appeal with this model, the GF2 is available in a choice of colours: regulation black, red or silver in the UK, and a fetching white or pink in other territories.
Powering up in a second, the GF2 starts noticeably faster than the GF1 due to the inclusion of a Venus Engine FHD processor, though any speed improvement is only marginal in general use. Hold it and you immediately discover it lacks a decent handgrip too, the subtle curve at the front barely providing enough room for the middle finger of your right hand to curl around, while the thumb rests against a pad at the back. Also, even with the narrowest of its current lens options attached, it’s still too much of a squeeze for all but the deepest of jacket pockets. The accessory port for the attachment of an optional electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been thoughtfully maintained, but because of its proximity to the camera’s hotshoe, accessory flash and EVF can’t be used at the same time.
The GF2 is offered with a trio of lens kits – the body plus a 14mm (28mm equivalent) ‘pancake’ lens for maximum compactness, with an image stabilised 14-42mm (28-84mm equivalent) as a jack-of-all-trades starter option, or both lenses together – there’s no body-only option for anyone thinking of trading in their existing GF1. We also tried the new compatible H-FT012 3D lens, available separately for £250. This creates MPO still-image files, but you need a 3D-equipped monitor to enjoy them; the camera’s back screen display remains resolutely 2D. We viewed pictures back on one of Panasonic’s Viera sets and, though results were hit and miss – composing a 3D image is a different discipline to 2D – with practise the 3D could prove as effective as it is fun. JPEGs can be shot in tandem with 3D files (the same file number maintained yet with a different extension) but detail in the former is softer than when shot separately.
A press of the backplate Q.Menu button, a regular feature of Lumix compacts, and we’re presented with a toolbar of image quality and metering options along the bottom of the screen, revealing that RAW shooting is a further option. Another carry-over from its snapshot range is the competent scene-and-subject-recognising and picture-optimising Intelligent Auto button on the top plate, enabling pure point-and-shoot operation.
A dedicated video record button also features. One press of this and users are instantly filming AVCHD format clips at a high-definition 1920 x 1080 pixels (or Motion JPEG at 1280 x 720), whichever shooting mode was previously selected. The screen display switches to widescreen ratio, black bands cropping top and bottom instead of left and right when shooting in default 4:3 aspect ratio. Stereo sound also features courtesy of twin microphones, again situated on the top plate, and Panasonic has usefully included its wind cut function for shooting outdoors.
Exposures were even and detail sharp and crisp, particularly when using the 28mm equivalent 14mm pancake lens. Colours were also naturalistic with a tendency to lean towards the warmer end of the spectrum by default, which made the GF2 a perfect tool for capturing the colours of autumn and winter, and so it will undoubtedly prove for spring. Despite the by now modest-sounding 12MP resolution, there’s bags of detail in these shots, our lens and sensor combination picking up the subtleties of a liver spot-like patina of moss on a statue for example, or ice crystals forming on a branch. If you do want to leave your DSLR at home occasionally and still return with some cracking shots, the GF2 and 14mm lens combo is arguably the most compact and practical way to achieve that.
Ultimately, Panasonic has made subtle tweaks both outward and inward that feel more like refinements than revolutions. For this reason, its refusal to offer a body-only GF2 at the time of writing makes sense, as in our mind there’s not enough different here to justify junking your still-excellent GF1 (while keeping its lenses).
As it’s possible to achieve quality this good with this compact a camera, we’re also now pondering the shelf life of the traditional 35mm film-based SLR; could it possibly be that we’ll see such cameras in the hands of pros and enthusiasts only, with compact system cameras taking over at the consumer level? If so, Canon and Nikon had better get a shift on with their takes on the mirrorless model.
Though not a giant leap on, the Panasonic Lumix GF2 will maintain the respect shown its precursor, even as the CSC market becomes more crowded
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|Though not a giant leap on, the Panasonic Lumix GF2 will maintain the respect shown its precursor, even as the CSC market becomes more crowded|
Having trained as a journalist and written about photography since the dawn of digital (1998), Gavins career has encompassed being deputy editor and editor of more photo titles than hed care to remember before packing his bags and going freelance in 2004.
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|Average Camera Rating||4.0|
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