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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 - Performance and Verdict

By Gavin Stoker

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Flick the on/off switch that encircles the shooting mode wheel, along with a second switch allowing for the swapping of its drive modes, and the GH2 powers up more or less instantaneously. And as mentioned earlier, autofocus is exceptionally fast, while shutter lag is non-existent, and switching to continuous mode gets you 5fps. In singe short mode, full resolution JPEGs are committed to memory in a second, with Raw files barely slower, the bleep to indicate focus and exposure has been determined shrill but reassuringly audible, whilst sound of the shutter release firing is just loud enough to indicate the camera has done its job. In terms of performance this really is a rival to a decent DSLR.

We enjoyed the almost head spinning array of My Color and Film mode options, each of which effects a change to the look and feel of the image. Thankfully, whilst some cameras can over do these effects, the GH2 always seems to result in usable photos.

Video can be captured at up to Full HD (1,920x1,080 pixels) with stereo audio and files stores in the AVCHD format. Alternatively, a slightly lower 1,280x720 pixel option is available in more widely compatible Motion JPEG format. This matches the GF2 as does the inclusion of a wind cut function for shooting outdoors. Plus, as we've noted, one press of the provided red button and the user is immediately recording video, black bands cropping the screen top and bottom, no matter which mode might have been previously in play. Thanks to the specially designed lens, adjust your framing whilst filming, and focus will automatically and silently adjust with it.

As we've found with all Panasonic cameras, colours are naturalistic with a tendency to veer toward the warm side of the spectrum on default settings, which makes the GH2 especially suited to the most popular subjects, such as portraits and landscapes. We got great results with both the 14-140mm and 100-300mm lenses supplied, with the latter our particular favourite for sharpness, clarity and subject definition, though of course the lack of wide angle means it's not best as your only choice.

In terms of low light performance, at the lower settings this was pretty much on a par with the GF2, so noise/grain doesn't really start to become prominent until ISO1600, and even then we'd argue this setting is still usable. However, despite offering an ISO range further expanded up to the rarefied heights of ISO12800, we didn't find ourselves straying in that direction as image quality becomes noticeably affected. Again, nice to have at a push, but no match for the same settings on Canon and Nikon DSLRs. If it's competent low light performance you want, the D3100 and D7000 still knock spots off the GH2. It's as a multi-faceted, general purpose photographic tool then that this Panasonic really comes into its own, and of course there's always the integral pop up flash and vacant hotshoe at your disposal if extra illumination is required.

Verdict

The GH2 is an incredibly versatile camera, offering image quality that comes close to a DSLR but in a body that's lighter and more compact. What's more, the flip out touchscreen, mass of manual controls, and instant-on video capabilities make it not just a jack but nearly a master of all. However, there is one whopper of a stumbling block, and that's price. At around £700 for just the body and £1,000 with the versatile 14-140mm lens, it's put in competition with some very capable DSLRs, such as the Canon 550D that do outstrip it on image quality, performance and lens options. Ultimately, it comes down to which you prioritise; all-in-one ease of use, or a more powerful photographic tool.

joose

February 14, 2011, 2:53 pm

Please improve your iso tests. They let down the reviews.

PoisonJam

February 14, 2011, 6:18 pm

14mm at the wide end is excellent for a kit lens :)





Lets face it, a lot of people that buy DSLRs never upgrade from the kit lens so the greater its range the better. On the other hand, are they giving people less reasons to upgrade their lenses this way (shooting themselves in the profit foot)?

Ed

February 14, 2011, 8:13 pm

@PoisonJam: This is 14mm on micro four thirds which equates to 28mm.

Geoff Richards

February 14, 2011, 8:31 pm

Yes, Micro Four Thirds has a crop factor of roughly 2, so the 14-140mm f/4-5.8 zoom as reviews has a full-frame / 35mm equivalent of 28-280mm. If you own a Canon dSLR with a crop factor of 1.6 (essentially everything from 7D all the way down to the 1000D) then this lens is the equivalent of roughly 18-175mm (the closest Canon lens would be the Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens)

PeterB666

February 15, 2011, 6:35 am

I agree that the ISO tests are poor in this review. It may be better to have a standardised subject and use it unfailingly. Some people would like to compare images from different cameras and this cannot be done when the subject and ligting differ.





Other than that, another very good review.





Cheers, Peter

Jimi

February 15, 2011, 7:23 am

I agree, the ISO sample is a tad on the poor side. I know Cliff used to use his own which would be useful to replicate in newer reviews. Maybe a bit more contrast (in colour and lighting) in the shot to show ISO performance over darker and lighter areas respectively?

tulipfield

February 17, 2011, 2:56 am

I dont see why the image quality should be good for 9 points, its a bit hazy, think these are no better then Canon G12

Kartman

February 18, 2011, 9:41 pm

I enjoyed this review and found it pretty comprehensive. My only criticism is that you said how good your shots of a swan in flight were but did not show these. I think some good action shots would show more of the camera capability than a static object like the house.

captain

March 7, 2012, 1:47 pm

I bought Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 after I read this review. However, I never knew the AVCHD MTS videos from this cam could not be edited directly in my Avid Media Composer 5.

I then searched on the Internet and found a video converter program called Aunsoft Video Converter. This program can convert the AVCHD files to the Avid DNxHD codec in MOV format. The converted MOV file can then be supported very nice in MC 5.

Just share this information here and hope this could help others somehow.

A good cam though.

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