Micro Four Thirds With Full HD Video: Panasonic Lumix GH2 Review

Panasonic Lumix GH2 Review
Text, Photos and Video by Jason Thompson

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 is the updated version of its predecessor, the GH1. While still utilizing the same Micro Four Thirds system (see more about Micro Four Thirds here), this new generation camera boasts several upgrades.  Panasonic redesigned the image sensor, increasing the maximum resolution to 16.05-megapixels. The GH2 also has a slightly faster contrast based auto focus, as well as a touchscreen display. The one touch video button allows for instant switches to and from High Definition video recording mode. The combination of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds system and Electronic View Finder allow the GH2 to maintain a very lightweight form. Even when combined with the 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 kit lens (with silent drive focusing) that I tested it with, this mirrorless camera maintains an overall weight below many in its class. The GH2 lens mount is also compatible with the 3D Lumix G 12.5mm f/12 3D-capable lens.


Panasonic Lumix GH2: click thumbnails to enlarge

 

HD Video & Auto Focus

HD video recording on the GH2 rivals many prosumer camcorders currently on the market. Framing the video is easy thanks to the 270 degree 3-inch LCD display. The GH2 offers three aspect ratios and variable frame rate recording. Even in low-light conditions this camera delivers video with excellent color and detail. Panasonic revamped the contrast based auto focus system allowing for better focus tracking of moving subjects. However, I noticed the auto focus does wander a little at lower apertures and when recording during tight shots. The touch screen display does help alleviate some of the focus wandering by allowing the user to choose focus points within the frame. Unfortunately the GH2 does not provide a way of locking the focus via the touchscreen. Stereo microphones produce surprisingly crisp sound although they are sensitive to wind and high frequency.

Electronic View Finder & Low-light Performance


original shot and 100% crop: click thumbnails to enlarge to full size

Due to the mirrorless setup, the GH2 uses an Electronic View Finder, often referred to as a Live View Finder, to display what is seen through the lens. The mirrorless system allows the GH2 to maintain a compact form while still providing 100% frame coverage. This setup does have a few drawbacks though. When compared to a traditional mirrored DSLR, the EFV system will require additional battery power to operate. I found the refresh rate of the display to be a little choppy, and even more so in low-light situations. After capturing an image the EFV system has a slight lag time of roughly 1/3 of a second to display the view through the lens. As expected, framing became an issue during burst mode because the view was completely diminished.

The GH2 offers image capturing in both RAW and JPEG formats, but I would recommend shooting in RAW for post-processing flexibility. The 16MP sensor has decent picture quality up to ISO 1600, but does show some color artifacts and noise around ISO 800. There are 22 different exposure modes and three aspect ratios to choose from when shooting. The iAuto camera mode acts as a “point-and-shoot” function that allows even complete beginners to take well exposed images and video. Fluorescent lights do provide a challenge for the auto white balance function of the GH2, further emphasizing the need to shoot in RAW.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 delivers excellent HD video and high resolution photos in a more compact body than nearly all of its competitors.  Combined with an array of features and flexible shooting modes, this camera provides a shooting experience that photo enthusiasts from the point-and-shoot end to the pro DSLR end can enjoy.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

  • MSRP:
  • $899.95, body only; no longer available as a kit directly through Panasonic
  • Size/Weight:
  • 9.5″ W x 6.75″ H x 11.5″ D; 13.82 oz. body only
  • Image Sensor:
  • 16.05-megapixels, Live MOS
  • Image Sensor Size:
  • 17.3 x 13.0 mm (in 4:3 aspect ratio)
  • Still Recording Format:
  • Still Image: JPEG(DCF, Exif 2.3), RAW, DPOF compatible
    MPO (When attaching 3D lens in Micro Four Thirds standard)
    Motion Image: AVCHD / QuickTime Motion JPEG
  • Memory:
  • SD, SDHC, SDXC memory card
  • Display:
  • 3-inch TFT LCD with Touch panel (460,000 pixels)
  • Manual Exposure Control:
  • Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual, Auto
  • Shutter Speed Range:
  • 60 – 1/4000 sec.
  • Special Features:
  • Micro Four Thirds Mount, free-angle LCD
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • Motion JPEG: [HD] 1280 x 720, 30fps
  • Provided Accessories:
  • Battery Charger, Battery Pack, Body Cap,AV Cable, USB Connection Cable, Shoulder Strap, Stylus pen, CD-ROM
  • Power Source:
  • ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack
  • Contact:
  • www.panasonic.com
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2 Responses to “Micro Four Thirds With Full HD Video: Panasonic Lumix GH2 Review”

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