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This camera has come quite a way since its predecessor, the GH1, appeared over a year ago and the breed is fast becoming a thoroughbred.
The compact camera body has the same width as the GH1 but is overall 1.5x larger and a few grams heavier. To my mind, the camera is still enjoyably compact and, even the with 10x lens attached, little larger than some upper level, fixed lens compacts … but this ‘un is just like a DSLR but with a turret LCD finder instead of an optical pentaprism viewfinder.
With this camera I again appreciated the excellent f4-5/14-140mm zoom that was used in my time with the GH1. Besides this, there is a total range of 11 lenses for this camera, including an aspheric 14mm pancake lens and a 3D optic to capture stereo pictures viewable on Panasonic Viera TVs.
The GH2 depends on image stabilisation built into its OIS lenses: you can turn off the stabilizing function (button on the lens) or choose any of three modes in the viewfinder menu.
Exposure options include intelligent auto, Program AE, aperture and shutter priority and manual; added to this are three custom setting, selectable via the mode dial; then there’s a bunch of scene modes (night portrait, sunset, sports, etc).
The swinging LCD screen has been widened so that shooting 16:9 stills and movies is given a considerable boost … but of no help with 4:3 shooting! And it’s touch sensitive.
This time around we have a Live MOS sensor capable of capturing 16.05 megapixels and shoot a maximum picture size of 4608×3456 pixels, or 39x29cm as a print.
Movies are extremely well-served: Full HD with 1920×1080 pixels resolution as an AVCHD file with a choice of 24p, 50p or 50i frame rates; Motion JPEG video can also be recorded at 1280×720 pixels and 30 fps. A dedicated button kicks off the movie record function.
There are three more options: manual control of aperture and shutter speed; 24p cinema; variable frame speeds from 80 to 300 per cent. You can also shoot stills while recording video.
Exposure control and auto focus is well taken care of both in stills and video mode, with the latter working particularly smoothly. Added to this you can enjoy touch screen focusing. The video record button is now on top of the camera and immediately behind the stills shutter button.
Most noticeable for movie makers is the stereo mic sitting on top of the flash unit and you can add an auxiliary mic via an external input.
Half a second and 20 frames of a 40 fps burst. ‘Mazing!
There’s lots to marvel at, not the least of which is the GH2’s burst speed: if you want full size images, choose from a firing range of 2-5 fps or settle for a smaller final image of 2336×1752 and then bang away at an amazing speed of 40 fps … and let me remind you that this will easily print out to larger than 6×4 inches (15x10cm). Calling all sports fans!
Selectable via the finder menu is a tele conversion function that extends the lens range by 2x (stills) or 4x (movies. I presume this is a digital enlargement.
The camera is available in a choice of black or silver styling.
The images were as clear as a bell up to ISO 1600, only at ISO 3200 did noise start to appear but definition still held up.
At ISO 6400 noise was stridently obvious but definition still holding up quite well.
At ISO 12,800 we’re well over the hill in terms of noise and falling definition. Not a useable setting IMHO.
Quality: excellent image quality with sharp detail.
Why you would buy it: you need Full HD video with continuous exposure monitoring and AF; the 10x is a deal maker.
Why you wouldn’t: you’re a newbie to advanced digital photography and cannot grapple with the multiple options.
This is a very sophisticated camera, with a bevy of external controls and a big pile of finder menu options. It would suit those with previous experience of DSLR useage.
One sour note: you may, as I did, grow increasingly annoyed at the rear control buttons which are nearly flush with the camera body surface and hard to activate with certainty.
The 200 page manual is comprehensive but sadly marred by the absence of an index … finding your way around is tricky.
Image Sensor: 16.05 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multiple, centre-weighted and spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 17.3×13.0mm Live MOS.
Lens Factor: 2x.
Compatible lenses: Micro Four Thirds.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: Bulb, 60 to 1/4000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/160 sec.
Burst Speed: 2, 3, 5 fps (4608×3456); 40 fps (2336×1752).
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4608×3456 to 1744×1744. Movies: 1920×1080 to 320×240 at 24/25/30fps.
Viewfinders: Turret LCD (1,530,000 pixels); 7.5cm LCD screen (460,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, RAW, AVCHD/QuickTime Motion JPEG.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 160 to 12,800.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, HDMI mini, DC input, external mic, remote.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 124×83.6×75.8 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 371g (body only).
Price: Get a price on the GH2 Body and Lumix G Vario f3.5/14-42mm OIS lens and GH2 Body and Lumix G Vario f4/14-140mm OIS lens at Amazon.