Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

The Lumix DMC-GH2 is a great way to shoot high-quality video and stills without having to fork out the money for two cameras.


8.0
CNET Rating
7.5
User Rating

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Design and features

At first glance, it's hard to see any visual differences between the GH2 and its predecessor, the Lumix DMC-GH1. Panasonic has essentially kept the same compact design, but with a couple of additions. The adjustment dial and the quick menu button have been moved to the back of the camera, and the video record button has been promoted to its rightful place next to the shutter release. However, while the GH2 looks and feels comfortable overall, when shooting quickly, the clutter of buttons and dials can sometimes be a tad overwhelming.

The main developments over the previous model include the new sensor; while it's still the Four Thirds size, its resolution has been upped to 16.1-megapixels. This camera also features a 3-inch free-angle touchscreen, and overall the body is shaped like a miniature digital SLR with the same faux-prism hump over the lens, a pop-up flash, hotshoe and a mode dial that's similar to that found on any consumer SLR.

Compared to

GH2 vs. 600D
Panasonic Lumix GH1 Panasonic Lumix GH2 Canon EOS 600D
12-megapixel 4/3 type Live MOS 16-megapixel 4/3 type Live MOS 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS
3.0-inch, 4,60K-dot articulating LCD screen 3.0-inch, 4,60K-dot articulating LCD touchscreen 3.0-inch, 1,04K-dot articulating LCD screen
Full AVCHD video (1080p, 24fps) (1080i, 50fps) (720p, 50fps) Full AVCHD video (1080p, 24fps) (1080i, 50fps) (720p, 50fps) Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps)
Stereo internal mic Stereo internal mic Mono internal mic

Sitting in the same price range, the Canon 600D is a sizeable opponent to the GH2. The GH2 is smaller, lighter and has the advantage of an in-video autofocus system, but the 600D has a larger sensor and is compatible with an enormous library of lenses.

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Panasonic GH21.20.50.70.3
  • Canon 600D0.20.40.70.1
  • Panasonic GH11.90.90.90.4

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Panasonic GH25
  • Canon 600D3.7
  • Panasonic GH12.1

Image quality

The GH2 generates stunningly sharp images with colours that can pack a punch. RAW photographs are filled to the brim with an impressive amount of detail. They contain enough information to create a reasonable pseudo-HDR image from just one RAW file.

GH2 HDR

An HDR image created from just one RAW file from the GH2. (Credit: CBSi)

The GH2 continues to shine by producing excellent JPEG images. The camera manages to compress each photo down to a reasonable file size without dramatically crushing the shadows or blowing out the highlights. JPEG images have a slightly warmer colour temperature when directly compared to RAW, although it is quite tough to spot the differences when compared side-by-side.

GH2 RAW

(Credit: CBSi)

The GH2 that we tested had a 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds lens; however, there is a second kit option available with a 14-140mm lens. These lenses suffer from the same disappointing drawbacks that are found with most SLR kit lenses. When photographing outside where there's plenty of light, they take sharp vibrant images, but when used inside or in a dim light situation, they force you to ramp up your ISO or add a harsh flash. Another pesky little problem for manual shooters is that these lenses have a variable aperture limit. This means that, as you zoom in, the lens stops down the light and the images will become darker — and no one wants to take gloomy-looking photographs.

GH2 ISO

(Credit: CBSi)

These drawbacks, from using such slow lenses, are compensated for by the GH2's high ISO performance. At a 100 per cent crop, destructive grain can be glimpsed at ISO 3200 but fortunately isn't really noticeable until you get up to around ISO 6400. As expected, if you push the ISO further up to 12,800, the grain invades the entire photograph, turning the blacks into an insipid grey-ish colour, and rendering most of the images completely useless.

GH2 ISO

(Credit: CBSi)

Video quality

One of the most interesting features of the GH1 was its exceptional ability to record extremely high-quality HD video. It is no surprise, then, that the GH2 has inherited this same feature that makes independent film-makers foam at the mouth.

The video quality is superb and matches that of almost every SLR available at the time of this review. The GH2 does, however, bring a few different features to the table that will fill the frustrating void that some videographers experience between traditional camcorders and SLRs. Most importantly, it offers a continuous auto-focus system that can seamlessly shift focus mid-video.

Panasonic really nailed this feature, and although Nikon tried to match it with the D3100, the GH2 has, by far, the best continuous auto-focus system that exists in a hybrid camera to date.

Another feature that sets the GH2 a step above most dSLRs is its inbuilt stereo microphone. The video below compares the sound quality of the GH2 to that of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

The GH2 has two channels and covers a wider range of bass frequencies. The Canon's microphone, however, is mono and therefore cannot add direction to any audio it picks up. The one downfall of the GH2's seemingly flawless video is that it records in AVCHD format, and for many film-makers this will be a major pain. The majority of mainstream editing software is not compatible with AVCHD, and this forces film-makers to re-encode their raw footage.

Image samples

Click each image for a full-sized sample from the GH2.

Exposure: 1/200, f/5, ISO 160

Exposure: 1/60, f/5.2, ISO 200

Exposure: 1/250, f/6.3, ISO 160

Exposure: 1/320, f/8, ISO 160

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

The Lumix GH2 is a jack-of-all-trades, and master of none. If you need a quality stills camera, there are better SLRs. If you need a video camera, there are better camcorders. That said, if you're going to buy the GH2 to avoid breaking the bank, it's a superb way of meeting all of your needs in one camera.

The GH2 is available for AU$1699 with the 14-42mm lens, with the body in black or silver, and AU$2299 with the 14-140mm lens with the black body only.



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H posted a comment   

The Good:Camera

The Bad:Can't find a store who has stock

The price is expensive, but a price i am willing to pay for right now. Unfortunately, in Australia, no one has stocks of it. So as the camera gets older and older, it becomes less appealing. I think i will wait for the next generation micro-four thirds cameras (probably will come from olympus) now.

downunder
9
Rating
 

downunder posted a review   

The Good:One camera to do everything

The Bad:Price

Best combo of stills and video out there.

MG788
6
Rating
 

MG788 posted a review   

The Good:Good review. Good camera.

The Bad:The price!!!

I've ordered mine from ADORAMA (US Camera Store). Total of A$1100-00 for the 14-42mm version, including express freight, insurance and international warranty!

 

Arnie posted a reply   

Could you do some video of fluorescent lights looking out for the tubes flickering. It's the only thing stopping me from buying the American version.
Thanks in advance Arnie

 

NittO posted a comment   

The Good:Camera?

The Bad:Price

This priced higher than the canon 60D even the 7D and these have a huge range of lenses in all price brackets. Why would you price this camera so high don't you want to sell it?

 

bennito42 posted a comment   

The Good:like the review

The Bad:hate the price

probably won't get to do one if the "expected price" is for real.
Have a Canon 5D and wanted something a bit smaller for general photos, but at that price ($1499 body only ), I'll probably look elsewhere.




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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

  • H

    H

    "The price is expensive, but a price i am willing to pay for right now. Unfortunately, in Australia, no one has stocks of it. So as the camera gets older and older, it becomes less appealing. I ..."

  • downunder

    downunder

    Rating9

    "Best combo of stills and video out there."

  • MG788

    MG788

    Rating6

    "I've ordered mine from ADORAMA (US Camera Store). Total of A$1100-00 for the 14-42mm version, including express freight, insurance and international warranty!"

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