Mirrorless system cameras are the new hot sector of the digital camera market. Panasonic's mirrorless format is its G Micro system, based around the Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount jointly developed with Olympus. Panasonic launched the first camera in this new format in 2008, the critically acclaimed and deservedly popular Lumix G1, and followed it up in 2009 with the Lumix GH1, equipped with high-definition video and stereo audio, and the compact and lightweight Lumix GF1. These three models have sold very well, so naturally this has prompted the other manufacturers to launch their own mirrorless system camera formats. Olympus has already got two models available, the stylish Pen E-P1 and its successor the E-P2, both of which have sold well. Last week we took a look at Samsung's entry into this market sector, the excellent NX10 using a larger APS-C sensor in combination with a smaller lens mount, and Sony has just announced its NEX system, the smallest mirrorless system camera so far, also using an APS size sensor.
Panasonic wants to hang on to its early market lead, so it has just launched the second generation of G Micro system cameras, the entry-level Lumix G10 and today's review camera the new G2, which takes over as the flagship model of the range. In terms of overall specification it is only a fairly minor upgrade over the G1, but it does add several new features, including the must-have HD video recording, improved maximum sensitivity, Intelligent resolution technology and a fully articulated touch-screen monitor. It also comes with a new standard zoom kit lens, a very high quality 14-42mm f/3.5-f/5.6 image stabilised unit equivalent to 28-82mm.
The G2 is quite an expensive piece of kit. It is currently selling on the high street for around £640 body-only, or £700 with the 14-42mm kit lens, although it is available for quite a bit less from some online retailers. This compares with around £490 for the kit price of the Samsung NX10, or around £480 for the 12.3MP Nikon D5000 with an 18-55mm VR lens, or £570 for the 15MP Canon EOS 500D kit. By pricing the G2 to compete with these highly regarded mid-range DSLRs Panasonic is taking a big chance, gambling that the appeal of the smaller Micro Four Thirds format will outweigh the advantage the full-size models have in specification and performance.
Externally the G2 is almost identical to the G1, with only a few minor detail changes. It has the same compact SLR-style body with a small but comfortable rubberised handgrip, pop-up flash and electronic viewfinder, and the build quality is every bit as good. The body is made of high-impact resin plastic, and is available in red, blue or the classic matt black seen here. The overall fit and finish is excellent, although the plastic plugs covering the various ports are surprisingly flimsy. One rather odd difference is the position of the SD card slot. On the G1 this was positioned beneath a metal-hinged hatch on the side of the camera, which is where you'd expect to find it on a digital SLR. However on the G2 the card slot has been moved into the battery compartment, which makes it very difficult to change the memory card when shooting on a tripod.