Design and features
The GF2 is Panasonic's upgrade to the successful Lumix DMC-GF1: a compact, interchangeable lens camera that uses the Micro Four Thirds specification. This means that lenses are interchangeable with those from the Olympus Pen cameras. The GF2 uses a Four Thirds-type 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor and the image processing engine has been upgraded to the Venus Engine Full HD, hinting at the HD video capabilities of this camera at 1080i.
At the back of the camera the look and feel has evolved. Buttons are now made of a gentle, rounded plastic and there's no mode dial to be found. Instead, most selections are made from the 3-inch 460,000-dot touchscreen, which, we're pleased to report, is a lot better than any of Panasonic's previous versions found on its compact range. It's a similar touch menu system that we first saw on the G2, but tweaked to provide something called the "Touch-Q-menu" which lets users drag and drop icons on the interface.
The mode dial selections are now accessed from the touchscreen interface. (Credit: CBSi)
That said, the gradual shift away from physical buttons means that more advanced photographers have to go hunting to change settings or set the exposure manually — making this a camera that, at first glance, appears more well suited to point-and-shoot users. This is reinforced even more so by the addition of colour modes (accessible from the recording mode menu in the top left corner), with selections that include such quaint names as "expressive", "pure" and "elegant".
An example of one of the colour modes on the GF2 called retro. (Credit: CBSi)
Other design cues include the continuation of the pop-up flash that extends over the frame of the camera, though only about halfway over the 14mm pancake lens (which is razor thin itself). The GF2 is compatible with a range of accessories such as a Live Viewfinder that attaches via the accessory port, external flash and a mount adapter that allows Leica M/R lenses to be used on the camera. A record button sits alongside the shutter button, while the intelligent auto button glows blue when the mode is active. It's also worth noting that the GF2 is also compatible with the 12.5mm 3D lens from Panasonic.
Connectivity options include an HDMI port and AV-out port which uses a proprietary connector found in the box. The GF2 is lighter and more compact than the GF1, shaving 19 per cent of the thickness and 7 per cent of the weight, in an overall package weighing just 265g.
Like other Panasonic cameras before it that make use of "intelligent zoom", the GF2 uses "intelligent resolution" which attempts to make images look like they were taken at a higher resolution. Like intelligent zoom, this mode determines the outlines of objects, detecting detailed texture and soft gradation areas within the image, then enhancing them to add clarity and accentuate this detail.
Click through for images of the white GF2. (Credit: CBSi)
This camera brings a new meaning to "shoot from the hip", a mantra obeyed by lomographers everywhere. Because of the touchscreen and tap-to-shoot feature, if you hang the camera off your body with the strap, and keep it switched on, the GF2 will snap photos as it comes into contact with you. While not an issue for those photographers who turn the camera off all the time, it's amusing to look back through your images after a day's shooting and find several unexpected photos.Flippin' some pancakes
The kit option for the GF2 includes the 14mm f/2.5 lens, which we're affectionately dubbing the pancake lens after the 20mm f/1.7 that coupled the GF1. It's deliciously thin and hardly protrudes at all from the camera body, meaning it can easily slip into a large pocket or handbag with ease. However, the decision to bundle it with a prime lens (fixed focal length) as the only configuration available is a curious one on Panasonic's part. Many users will be upgrading to this camera from a compact, used to the flexibility of zoom lenses, and might find the prospect of no zoom rather irritating. That said, shooting with a prime lens is one of our favourite ways to take photos, but we know it's not for everyone — especially beginners.
|Panasonic GF2||Sony NEX-5||Olympus E-PL2||Samsung NX100|
|12.1-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type)||14.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS||12.3-megapixel Live MOS (Four Thirds type)||14.6-megapixel APS-C CMOS|
|3-inch, 460,000-dot touchscreen||3-inch, flip-down 921,600-dot screen||3-inch, 460,000-dot screen||3-inch, 610,000-dot AMOLED screen|
|Pop-up flash||Optional flash attachment||Pop-up flash||Optional hotshoe flash|
|Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD)||Full HD video (1080i, AVCHD)||HD video (720p, Motion JPEG)||HD video (720p, H.264)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- RAW shot-to-shot time
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Panasonic Lumix GF21.01.30.80.2
- Panasonic Lumix G184.108.40.206.5
- Panasonic GF10.80.90.70.5
- Samsung NX1001.13.71.30.3
- Sony NEX-220.127.116.11.4
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Panasonic GF23
- Panasonic G23
- Panasonic GF12.8
- Samsung NX1002.5
- Sony NEX-52.6
Panasonic rates the battery at approximately 300-320 shots.
With the supplied 14mm lens, the GF2 produces very good quality images. Exposures are excellent, though the 14mm lens does tend to blow-out highlights at times when in program or intelligent auto mode. The automatic white balance tends to be a tad warm, specifically with indoor shots. It's also worth noting that the minimum focusing distance of the 14mm isn't particularly great, so don't think about using it for any detailed macro work.
Sharpness across the centre portion of the frame when using the 14mm lens is decent, with slight drop-off towards the edges. There are some issues elsewhere, too, particularly in regards to high ISO performance. It's not as strong as it should be, particularly at ISO 800 and above for low-light photography, though Panasonic is undoubtedly counting on most photographers using the flash in these situations.
JPEG processing is better than that on the GF1, though from our tests it seems that the GF2 really saturates purple and blue hues much more than is found on original RAW files.
What's particularly nice about the touchscreen implementation on the GF2 is the ability to easily flick through images. The motion and response just feels a lot more fluid than on previous versions.RAW vs. JPEG
For capturing relatively static subjects, the GF2 does a good job. For those serious about video quality, it's likely you will be disappointed. Though the recording resolution has increased from the GF1, video output is now interlaced — which we've seen on other Panasonic cameras like the FZ100. The GF2's video presents similar problems, with difficulty capturing smooth motion due to interlacing. We shot the video below on continuous autofocus and, like other cameras that employ this feature such as the Nikon D3100, the lens attempts to refocus even when the focusing distance to the object in question hasn't changed.
The stereo microphones at the top of the camera do a decent job of capturing ambient audio, though our test videos were a bit too noisy for our liking, picking up plenty of wind noise.
Click each image for full-sized samples from the GF2. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/640, f/2.5, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/2500, f/4, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/50, f/3.5, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/125, f/2.5, ISO 3200
Panasonic's second compact interchangeable lens camera won't disappoint new users with its sleek footprint and very good image quality. It's those looking to upgrade who might be left feeling a tad disappointed, particularly compared to the strong offerings from other manufacturers in the same space.
Editor's note: since this review was published, Panasonic Australia released pricing for the GF2. The twin lens kit with 14-42mm and 14mm f/2.5 will sell for AU$1199 and the single lens kit with either the 14mm f/2.5 or 14-42mm will sell for AU$999.