The Pansasonic G2 Digital Camera Review
By Steve Huff
Man oh man! The past few days I have been out of town in Chicago and shooting with a Panasonic G2 camera, which I is a camera I never thought I would enjoy for many reasons, but mainly due to its styling and form factor. Who would have guessed that after a couple of weeks with the G2 that I would grow to love it so much that I would decide to purchase it along with a 20 1.7 and 45-200 lens set! Yep, after two weeks of shooting with this camera and the two lenses I decided that I HAD TO HAVE ONE for myself. Now, don’t stop reading thinking this is a slam dunk for the camera because there are still some things I do NOT like about it and I will go over these things (see the “cons” section) in this jam packed review.
If there is one thing I enjoy it is writing about camera I really like, which is how this blog started almost two years ago with the Leica M8 review. I do not dig writing tech reviews on cameras that bore me, nor do I enjoy writing negative reviews on cameras that suck… and well..also bore me. Nope, I enjoy writing about cameras that I really enjoy shooting. The cameras that have character, a great usability factor, and put out really great image quality. The G2 is one of those cameras so this is why I decided to review it and write about it.
The Panasonic G2 is a mirror less semi-small camera made by Panasonic and it uses the Micro 4/3 format which is the same as the Olympus E-p1, E-p2 and E-Pl1. It’s also the same size sensor as the Panasonic G1, GH1 and the upcoming GH2 and they all have a 2X crop factor which means if a lens is a 20mm lens on Micro 4/3, that lens becomes a 40mm equivalent, so it is like using a 40mm in regards to magnification. This also means a lens like the 45-200 becomes a 90-400mm, which can be quite useful.
The G2 is an improved version of the popular G1 which lacked video. The G2 now includes 720P HD video capabilities and a new touch screen LCD. Micro 4/3’s has quite a few fans and probably an equal number of haters. The format has its fans because most of the M4/3 cameras are very small but put out superb image quality that is ALMOST up there with most APS-C DSLR’s. I SAY ALMOST because there are a couple of areas where the M4/3 format is lacking, and one of those is dynamic range. The other is high ISO noise.
Me, I have been a fan of Micro 4/3 since the start with the Olympus E-P1. There are those drawbacks though, like limited Dynamic Range (which can lead to blown highlights) and dodgy high ISO performance (usually up to 800 is good on M4/3) but with each generation of camera, Micro 4/3 seems to be getting better and better and for me, the G2 is probably the best of the bunch that I have tried to date. I just love this gorilla picture I snapped with the G2 and 45-200 lens, fully zoomed to 200mm and handheld at 1/15th of a second…
Panasonic G2 and 45-200 at 200mm – 1/15s, ISO 400, handheld, f/4.3 – Click image for larger and better version
This review will go over the cameras features, the cameras capabilities, and the cameras strengths and weaknesses. It will not include and B.S. charts, graphs or technical tests but will feature loads of real world photos shot with the camera and the Panasonic 20 1.7 and 45-200 lenses. The entire cost for the camera and these two lenses is UNDER $1300 and this gets you into a system that can produce beautiful photographs without breaking the bank, or having the weight of a large DSLR and pro lenses. I have to say, the little $250 Panasonic 45-200 is one hell of a lens for the money. It may be slow but its results are terrific. The shot of the gorilla above was handheld at 1/15ths at 200mm!! (which is the equivalent of 400mm on a full frame camera). Not bad huh?
I have read a couple reviews of this camera and as usual, came away disappointed in the reviews. Why? Well, why is it that most reviewers these days seem to rush out the review with mediocre images that look like they ran out in and grabbed some snapshots in one hours time? They then write a short review saying the camera sucks. Unreal. Are there any reviewers out there these days that care about TAKING PHOTOS and really pushing the camera to see what it can do? I put up my fair share of “snapshots” but when I write a review I usually have a couple of weeks of daily use under my belt. Usually. 🙂 So do not expect this review to mirror all of the rest as this one is based on taking photos, not testing for sharpness and speed. Therefore, it may be a little more positive than others. When I snap photos I do not worry about the super geeky details, I just love it or I do not. If the quality is there, and everything else is there then I enjoy it. Again, if I try a camera that I hate, I usually do not review it or write that much about it.
Panasonic G2 with the 20 1.7 lens at f/1.7 – ISO 250 at 1/60s – Click for much larger version that looks MUCH better!
The Panasonic G2 and why to choose it over a cheaper G1
The previous model of the G2 was the G1 and I can honestly say that I never really owned that camera or used it for more than a couple of shots in a store. I always dismissed it as I was a fan of the Olympus PEN series for their cool styling and sleek bodies, but now the G2 has converted me to Panasonic and mainly due to the swivel LCD and the EVF, which really rock! I also seem to prefer the color I have been getting out of the G2 over the E-P2, which is saying quite a bit as Olympus are known for their color.
The newer G2 is not perfect though as it does not give you manual control over video like the higher end GH1 and soon to be released GH2 BUT it does record really good HD video as is, where the older G1 did not even do that. The G2 also has a new touchscreen control system which to many seems like a gimmick but I have to say that I used it several times over the course of the last two weeks. It’s awesome for focusing. It also uses the same 12.1 Megapixel sensor as the G1 so in theory, the IQ should be the same.
But the facts here are that the G1 is about $500 right now (if you can still find one new) and the G2 is $700. Why should you buy the G2 over the G1? Well, you shouldn’t if you do not want an HD Movie mode or a touch screen! Yea, save yourself $200 if you just want a really good camera that gives you DSLR quality in a MUCH smaller package. The G2 seems like it may have better dynamic range that the G1 but others have reported that the IQ is the same. I can not say as I did not use the G1 much at all. I can say that the G2 is giving me better IQ than the Olympus Micro 4/3 offerings, which is saying a lot as I really enjoy the E-P2.
Here are three shots I took in the Zoo with the 45-200 lens. The 1st at 200, the next two at 45…
All three shots above taken with the Panasonic G2 and 45-200 lens at 45mm, f/4 and ISO 100. The last one was converted to B&W using Silver Efex Pro. You can see that the Dynamic Range is limited with Micro 4/3 as his nose ended up blown out in image #2. Still, I like the image. Click on any of them for a larger view.
FEATURES OF THE PANASONIC G2
(taken from the feature list at B&H Photo)
Double Live View
Full-time Live View works with both the LCD and the Live View Finder. This means that, no matter which way you shoot, you see before you shoot how adjusting the exposure compensation, white balance, aperture and even the shutter speed will affect the image. On the G2, both the LCD and the Live View Finder boast true Full-time Live View capability. The Live View Finder has large, approximately 1.4x (0.7x in 35mm format), magnification and an approximate 100% field of view. This combines with 1,440,000-dot equivalent resolution to make it easy to get the exact image that you see through the lens.
3.0″ Free-Angle LCD
The large 3.0″ (7.6cm) LCD rotates 180° horizontally and 270° vertically, making it easy for you to capture dynamic shots from extreme angles without getting into an awkward position. And when the lighting around you changes, the LCD backlighting level automatically changes too, so you get comfortable, easy-on-the-eyes viewing at all times.
The Lumix G2 is the system camera with touch-control shooting. Just touch the LCD to indicate the subject, and the G2 focuses on it instantly. Choose from four AF modes to match the conditions. You can also operate the auto focus and shutter release at the same time with just a touch, for a completely new way to shoot.
Adjust Exposure Meter with a Touch
You can adjust the exposure compensation by sliding your finger on the aperture and shutter speed settings in the exposure meter shown on the LCD. The range in which appropriate exposure is not possible is shown in red, so you can intuitively grasp the corresponding aperture and shutter speed combinations.
One-Touch HD Movie Recording
The hybrid Lumix G2 lets you take both high quality photos and HD movies. You can shoot breathtaking HD (1280x 720) movies in AVCHD Lite (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264). You can record for a longer time without running out of memory because AVCHD Lite stores less data than Motion JPEG while maintaining stunning image clarity and detail. A dedicated button on the top lets you instantly start recording movies while shooting photos, without having to make any extra settings.
Motion Picture P Mode
Motion Picture P mode makes it extremely easy to shoot beautiful HD movies. You can freely set the degree of soft focusing in the background to capture rich, emotionally expressive HD movie images.
Intelligent Scene Selector
The Intelligent Scene Selector function automatically selects the most suitable Scene mode for the shooting situation you are in. These scene modes include: Portrait, Night Portrait, Scenery, Night Scenery, Close-up or Sunset.
This function recognizes the faces of up to three people that have been pre-registered in the camera, and displays their names on the LCD. The Lumix G2 then optimizes the focus and brightness of the recognized faces and captures them clearly and beautifully.
Touch the screen, and the G2 locks on and automatically “tracks” the subject as it moves. Once you focus on your subject, AF Tracking automatically and continuously tracks it and keeps it in focus, even if it moves, until you press the shutter release. This feature is ideal for shooting sports or fast-moving children.
In the Intelligent Exposure mode the camera can correct the brightness in parts of the image that are too dark due to insufficient lighting, backlighting or use of the flash.
Intelligent ISO Control
If the subject moves as you shoot, the Intelligent ISO control automatically adjusts the ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to help prevent subject blur.
My Color Mode
While taking photos the My Color mode makes it easy to capture creative images. Just aim the camera and select any of seven preset effects, including Silhouette, Expressive, Pure and others, while checking the image in Live View. The Custom setting lets you adjust the color, brightness and saturation to your liking, to further expand your creative palette.
The touch screen operation excels not only for shooting but also during playback. Users can touch one thumbnail viewed among many to quickly and easily see the full size of the desired photo. Also, to view images one-by-one, photos can be dragged across the screen to browse as though flipping the pages of a book.
HD Photos and HD Movies with Viera Link Networking
The Lumix G2 is equipped with an HDMI output terminal for direct transmission of digital image and sound signals. Just connect it to an HDTV using a single HDMI mini cable (optional). It’s also easy to enjoy slideshows in which both photos and movies are played according to the recorded timeline. If you have a Viera TV, you can control the camera’s playback functions with Viera’s remote control unit.
Videos with Sound
To complement its high-quality video capabilities, the LUMIX G2 features advanced audio options, as sound is recorded with Dolby Digital Creator (included) and an optional accessory stereo microphone can be attached. A Wind Cut function further enhances the sound as it helps reduce noise caused from background wind.
The Venus Engine HD II incorporates two CPUs. This not only boosts image processing speed, it also helps achieve an exceptional noise-reduction performance. Also, the two CPUs of the Venus Engine HD II allow long-time movie recording in AVCHD Lite while maintaining low power consumption. And the Venus Engine HD II features a new circuit that makes Intelligent Resolution Technology possible too.
Intelligent Resolution Technology
In iA mode, the Lumix G2 automatically identifies parts with outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation areas, and optimizes the edge emphasis on the outlines and detailed texture areas while using the Venus Engine noise reduction process to make the soft gradation areas smoother. You can capture stunning images with details you’ve never seen before in both photo and movie recording.
Dust Reduction System
If dust or other foreign matter gets inside the camera when you’re changing lenses, it could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in photos. The G2 helps eliminate this possibility by placing a Supersonic Wave Filter in front of the Live MOS sensor. Vibrating around 50,000 times per second, the filter repels dust and other particles. This keeps the image sensor clean at all times and eliminates the need for cumbersome maintenance procedures.
Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5 Asph./Mega O.I.S.
The Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5 Asph./Mega O.I.S. lens incorporates Panasonic’s Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), using gyro sensors built into the lens, to suppress the blur caused by a shaky hand and make it easy to shoot clear photographs even in low-light situations. Adopting an inner-focus system driven by a stepping motor, the superior optical design realizes outstanding smoothness to support the high-speed AF (Auto Focus) system of Lumix G cameras.
Panasonic G2 and the 20 1.7 lens. I shot this as we drove by a church (I was not driving)
OK, so what do all of these features mean for me and my photography?
So let me talk about the features of the G2 that I like.
- Double live view – Well, this feature is cool as it basically means you have TWO live views on the camera. One in the beautiful EVF and one on the swiveling swing out LCD. The EVF is brilliant and the only camera where I have seen better is on the new Sony A55 (review soon). I like how you can use the LCD and if you move your eye to the EVF the LCD turns off and automatically switches on the EVF.
- Touch Screen – This may seem like a gimmick but it is actually useful. You can touch the LCD to set your focus point and even use it to focus and shoot. When viewing images you can swipe them Iphone style. Great addition to the camera IMO.
- HD Video – The G1 may not give you total control over the settings with video like the GH1 and soon to be released GH2 but the video quality is very good (see my sample below) and the only complaint I have is that it records only in mono. For most users this is not an issue as for those who really want great video can move to a GH1, GH2 or something like a Canon 5DII. The G2 has very good HD video quality though.
- AF modes and speed – The AF speed of the G2 is very quick and I have not missed any shots due to it being slow or sluggish at all. I am hearing the GH2 is twice as fast meaning it will be instantaneous. The G2 does good with AF and AF Tracking. No complaints!
- My Color Modes – I LOVE the Silhouette and Retro color modes on the camera. The Silhouette adds some deep black and a rich color to the image and the retor setting gives your images a 70’s feel. Love them both!
- Size and BANG FOR THE BUCK – You guys know I love Leica but I have to give credit where credit is due…this G2 is a FANTASTIC little camera and comes in at $6300 cheaper than a Leica M9 and $1300 cheaper than a Leica X1 which is much less versatile. As for IQ…the M9 beats the X1 and the X1 will beat the G2 but when it is all said and done, at the end of the day the G2 can get close and in some cases produce a nicer looking file than even the X1. With the 20 1.7 lens, the G2 is an amazing tool. I have gotten better images with the G2 and this lens than some of my M9 and 50 Summicron images.
Silhouette mode deepens the black and deepens up the color…
The color is bold and bright – G2 and 20 1.1 lens in Silhouette mode.
Feature wise, the Panasonic G2 has everything the average and even advanced hobbyist could ask for. It does have some weaknesses though so let’s get on with the review with some full size JPEGs, ISO testing and video samples.
The Camera in Real World Use
To some shooters, the #1 thing in a camera and lens combo is the sharpness. Personally, I feel sharpness is over rated and do not judge a camera by how many lines of resolution it can resolve. Some of my fave photos are unsharp and sometimes a picture that is too sharp can not only look harsh, it can be unflattering in portrait situations. The G2 and 20 1.7 lens is a “sharp” combo but it is not over sharp and at f/1.7 it is actually very nice. I reviewed this lens on its own a while ago (can see it here) on the Olympus E-P2 and loved it so I knew I would love it on the G2. This is my fave lens on ANY Micro 4/3 system camera. If you own a M4/3 ca,era, you owe it to yourself to BUY THIS LENS!
Panasonic G2 and 20 1.7 – Shot in Silhouette mode, then converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro
FULL SIZE SAMPLES. Low ISO and high ISO…
Here are a couple of full size out of camera JPEGS you can download to check the quality. Keep in mind, these are JPEGS, just out of the camera. One is at ISO 100, one at 400 and the other at 1600!
CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE – ISO 100 – 20 1.7 at 2.2
CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE – ISO 400 – 20 1.7 lens wide open at 1.7
THE NEXT ONE WAS SHOT WITH IN CAMERA DYNAMIC B&W AND ISO 1600 – CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE
and a 100% crop
So to these eyes, ISo 100-1600 looks pretty damn good. ISO 1600 does get a little “mushy” especially as the light gets dimmer and darker but in most scenarios it looks really good. I shot hundreds of images with this camera over the last two weeks and not one of the images looked too noisy or bad in any way. For me, the ISO is fine and is all I really need in a camera. Sure, the crazy ISO of some of the newer cameras are great but usually this is never ever needed. The Panasonic G2 delivers great IQ at its base ISO and good IQ up to ISO 800 and even 1600.
The Panasonic G2 comes in Three Colors…Red, Black and Blue.
Yes, I am buying this camera for myself!
The Panasonic G2 is such a fun camera to use I decided to buy this one for myself to have on hand for those times when I need a DSLR style camera. I love the size (which is small), I love the build (which is surprisingly better than you would think) and I love the versatility with its video, interchangeable lenses, and DSLR type abilities. I touched on this in my Panasonic GF1 review (see that here) but when viewing images shot with the G2 I sit here and ask myself if these expensive cameras are really worth the money. This G2 is so good for the money that I HAD TO BUY ONE FOR MYSELF! The ease of use, the output of all of the JPEGS I shot, and the way the camera is made with the controls on the BODY instead of in the menus, and the gorgeous EVF made me jump. I considered waiting for the GH2 but it will be quite a bit more and from what I understand the huge jump in quality will be in the video and not so much in the image quality. The G2 is in the “sweet spot” of the Panasonic Micro 4/3 mount cameras. It is easy to use and easy to get great results. I will review the GH2 though…soon.
VIDEO VIDEO VIDEO!
How about some fun video? The first one is a commercial for the G2 by Panasonic and the second is a video I put together with some quick clips I recorded while in Chicago this past weekend. Enjoy!
Here is a cool TV commercial on the G2. Gotta love it!
and now some of my video samples from this camera…
THE PROS and CONS of the Panasonic G2
- The Build and Size is just right.
- The EVF is AWESOME and a step above just about anything else out there (besides the new Sony A55)
- The Swivel out LCD works great.
- The Image Quality is up there with the best of Micro 4/3
- Battery life seems good, about 400-450 shots on one charge
- Controls are on the body, not hidden inside of a menu
- The AF is very speedy and fast and the AF tracking works well
- Video quality is very good and has AF while shooting
- There are some great m4/3 lenses on the way like the Voigtlander 25 f0.95 which on an M4/3 cam becomes a 50mm.
- EVF/LCD switching via the eye sensor. Works very well.
- Has a DSLR shape, though it is much smaller (may be a pro to some)
- HIgh ISO at 1600+ can get a little smudgy
- Dynamic Range is not as good as APS-C DSLR’s but it,s close
- AF sometimes misses its mark
- No Aperture control in video mode (though there is a “defocus” control in Movie P mode)
- Only records movie audio in MONO. External Mic needed for stereo.
- No 1080P video, only 720P
THE BOTTOM LINE CONCLUSION
Panasonic has won me over with their G2. The camera is nice to hold, nice to shoot and looks much nicer in person than it does in the photos online. It’s got a great build and the AF is speedy, the HD video is great (but not the best) and when the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens is attached it does a great job in all kinds of light. HIgh ISO is not as bad as it is generally made out to be and EVERY IMAGE you see in this review was shot as a JPEG. I did not shoot ANY of them as RAW so the JPEG engine is decent.
The G2 is a solid camera and would be perfect for the advanced hobbyist or even not so advanced hobbyist. I would not want to use it in a pro situation as I know that M4/3 is not suited for pro situations (I’ve tried) but for those who want to just get out and have fun shooting or even get serious shooting, the G2 makes for a kick ass camera that will give you some of the best quality of any Micro 4/3 camera available today. The image quality is superb up to ISO 800 and the color is also very nice.
If I had to choose right now as to what Micro 4/3 camera to buy it would be this Panasonic G2. Ive tried or owned them all and this is my favorite Micro 4/3 camera to date. Compared to the E-P2 and E-PL1 I like the G2 better for its swing out LCD, its super clear EVF, its faster AF and its IQ even seems a but richer. I also like the color modes of the G2 better than the PEN series. The RETRO and Silhouette are nice and they can even be used with video mode.
The Panasonic G2 comes with the 14-42 kit zoom but that lens did not seem to be that great. I can easily recommend the G2 and 20 1.7 lens as well as the 45-200 zoom. WIth that setup, you would have a very nice and small high quality digital camera setup. Truth be told, this is as much quality as 95% of hobbyists out there would need. I love the Leica M9 and X1 but have to give credit where credit is due… the Panasonic G2 is a winner IMO. The proof is in the pics, and I think the quality is damn good for the money that this kit costs. I enjoyed this camera more than the older GF1.
One more very cool thing with Micro 4/3 is that Voigtlander is now making lenses in the M4/3 mount and they will be releasing their 25 0.95 lens VERY soon. This will give you a 50mm equivalent lens for your M4/3 camera with a super fast aperture. Since i will be buying that lens, I will review it as soon as I get some use with it.
As for future Micro 4/3 cameras I will be reviewing the new GH2 next sometime in November. Until next time!
WHERE TO BUY?
I highly recommend B&H Photo for buying a Panasonic G2 and lenses. You can buy it in black, red or blue and they stock them all along with the lenses, the Panasonic 20 1.7 and the 45-200, which is a GREAT buy at $250. I have shopped with B&H for 14 years and LOVE them. If you use my links here, it helps to support this website, so if you do use them, I thank you!
I will leave you with more images from the Panasonic G2 and 20 1.7 lens. Enjoy! PS – These are all straight from camera JPEGS using various color modes of the G2. I dod not shoot RAW at all for any of the images. I kept it simple and the results were great.
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Awesome blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
Any ideas? Thanks!
Id recommend against starting a website today. The future will head to video as most today have short attention spans and do not read much. Sounds weird but its true. Future generations are all about the video. If you do start a website, WordPress is fantastic as are other options but WordPress is pretty easy to get going.
I love the gorilla shot! Which brings me to one thing I’m struggling with. It seems like every long shot I take — especially when there’s action involved — with my Olympus 45-150mm Micro 4/3 lens is soft. no matter how high I dial up the shutter speed. I know Micro 4/3 is not the format for shooting action, but I’m just a hobbyist so my E-PL5 is my “best” camera. It’s what I have to work with. Anyway, I want to know if you really think the Panasonic 45-200mm is better and would help me with this problem and whether it’s worth selling off my Olympus lens and trading up to the Panasonic.
I’ve purchased this camera months ago and I’m a little disappointed. Espacially that I cannot get sharp photoes, I struggle so much to get them right. Then I read a review like yours, see a few proffesional photoes and I know it’s me not the camera that is doing something wrong. The question is – what??
Any GH2 reviews or interest coming from you this year?
Read your excellent review on this camera and lenses. Purchased from B&H through your site the next day. I am really thrilled with the setup and found it very easy to transition from a Canon DSLR setup. The image quality is impressive and the camera is very easy to handle. I have only used the EVF so far but will start to use the LCD as I become more familiar with the Panasonic way… I will report back with my experiences and some photos. thanks for a great website and the review of the G2.
First off, I want to tell you how much a thoroughly LOVE your reviews and your website. The reviews or honest and REAL.
For years I owned an M6. Took it with me everywhere. When it became apparent that digital had finally crossed the threshold where the IQ was on a par with film I made the leap with the Digilux 2. (I sadly sold my M6 when the morons at Leica kept INSISTING that there was NO WAY they could make a digital rangefinder! I’m still pissed at those Huns!)
The Digilux 2 as you (and many of your readers will know) was a terrific camera with a terrific lens (a Vario SUMMICRON no less that gave you the perfect Leica range of 28mm – 90mm equiv. in 35mm-speak). I was probably one of the few who actually LIKED the EVF. The camera was a bit ‘blocky’ for me so after a while I explored other digital cameras that were more compact. Notably, a Ricoh GR DIgital (a fixed 28mm equiv. lens which got fried in the misty environs of the Canadian Rockies on a Heli-hiking trip I took it on) and later a Lumix LX 1 (good Leica optic and as far as I was concerned a bargain over it’s uber-priced Leica badged equivalent which I felt, despite the rantings on some forums claiming different firmware, from what I could tell from the images was the identical camera). I really liked the LX1 and fashioned an optical viewfinder for it by mounting a Voigtlander accessory holder that fit PERFECTLY between the mode dial and the flash to hold a 28mm Voigtlander OVF.
While I lusted from time to time for a DSLR I was always put off by the idea of carrying a ‘rock’ around my neck. And seeing photo-denizens out and about with their DSLR’s that SCREAMED photographer really put me off. I wanted something as unobtrusive and svelte like my beloved M6.
Then, three years ago I saw the Lumix G1, a novel approach to digital photography with a twist. Here was a mirrorless camera with in a body that was about the SAME thickness as the M8. WOW.
Smaller than a typical DSLR with an articulating screen you could flip out in just about every direction (that allowed one to shoot portraits the same way one would have used a Hasselblad or Rollei TLR engaging in your subject while glancing down at the bright, electronic ‘ground glass’ screen as you fired away!). Even off angle shots were possible where you could avoid getting on all fours like a salamander to shoot something crawling around at ground level. Or stealthily taking shots by angling your camera in a direction your subject had no idea you were looking. THAT was cool.
Yeah, there were drawbacks. The ISO got noisy but I got around that by shooting mostly at ISO320 or less for color. And if I shot at higher ISO’s I went BW which had, in my opinion, the SAME dreamy quality as the TMAX films of yore. So even that wasn’t a problem.
And while the 12 MP sensor allowed for prints up to 12 x 18 without working up too much of a sweat, and while I did consider the G2, which your review heaped total praise on, NOW I’m intrigued by the newest G’ offering on the horizon, the GH2. THAT may be yet another game changer.
I have to disagree with your initial perception that the improvements will be for video fans. The sensor MP count has been upped DRAMATICALLY by 4 MP to a whopping 16 MP putting it in nearly the same league as the new D7000 from Nikon in terms of potential image size. What’s more ISO is now up to 12,500 (although I’ll probably still shoot most of my shots at ISO 800 or less). The noise, may have been addressed big time by Panasonic’s incredibly insightful decision to integrate the D/A circuitry onto the sensor which they have already started claiming has had a dramatic result of serious reductions in upper ISO noise due to the fact that induced noise won’t be initiated elsewhere in the circuit path as has been problematic in the past, thus creating the first generation of Lumix with their oft derided 4/3’s sensor (as compared with the mighty, established APS-C) to compete on a whole new level with the big boys.
Next step….weather sealing.
Thanks again, Steve,
Best review so far for this camera – thought out photographs as oppose to happy snaps show what it can do to a tee and was the main factor that helped me to decide which way to go. I look forward getting mine soon
Tim, Oxford, UK
One thing to keep in mind when assessing GF1/G1/G2/GH1 noise levels is that they are all more sensitive than the stated ISOs would suggest. According to DxOMark measurements, ISO100 in G-series is actually the same as ISO200 in eg. Sony NEX5 and G-series ISO400 is more sensitive than ISO800 of NEX5 (ISO400/598 vs. ISO800/524).
Steve, Do you feel like you got better pictures with the G2 over the Gf1 or is the EVF and the touch screen that won you over to the G2? thanks JI
so i just ordered the 20 1.7 lens so any tip you can give me i would appreciate as i am leaving on a trip next week
I’ll jump in here, only with the disclaimer that I am a true photography novice.
I received ~1 week ago the Olympus E-P2 (with kit zoom) as well as the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens.
Without question, the Lumix pancake has been my lens of choice for the first week. It has fast/sharp autofocus, the pictures (though by no means professional) have a great quality/lighting capture about them, and, at the end of the day, the portability of the pancake is very attractive.
I have particularly enjoyed playing around in the Aperture priority setting . . . setting the f stop wide open and capturing shallow DOF snaps. Even for a novice, this feature really shows off right away. Finally, I have been experimenting with settings to capture great shots in low light (and especially campfire light). I don’t know that I’ve found the right recipe, but the shots are better than decent, and I throw the idea out in case others have some tips for me, too.
what number did u set the f stop at
I’ve experimented broadly. But lots of shots that have produced interesting photos at f 1.7. If I could figure out how to include images, I would post a few to show you.
also i bought the 45 200 zoom it is fabulous
Ok. Maybe I figured out how to add photos. Here are two snaps I took while waiting in line for coffee yesterday morning. Both on aperture priority setting at f 1.7.
Would love advice on how to improve. (Please be kind. Remember this is my first week with a camera)
the photos u sent did not come through i have found to improve u have to keep taking pictures and try and find a class or two with a good instructor
Thanks for the review Steve. I have enjoyed all of your reviews that you post.
Currently own a GF1 and love the size and capabilities of this camera.
I took a look at the G2 at a local camera shop and it did feel like there was a change in the material used in the manufacturing of the G2. With the kit lens changing from metal to plastic and camera housing having a noticeable change I decided to pass on this model.
Looking forward to the GF2 and hoping that they put in the GH2 sensor and upgrade the video capabilities. Could be wishful thinking, who knows.
As a side note when I do look to purchase on-line I do connect through your website and hopefully a few pennies, nickels, or dimes have come your way.
Keep the reviews comming . . . . .
I have to echo the comments of latam and Mallory. I read your review of the Olympus E-PL1 and EP-2 and bought an EP-1! Since the sensor is exactly the same as the EP-2 and I didn’t want the electronic viewfinder, I got the EP-1 kit (with prime) for a really great price on Amazon.
I’ve since started pixel-peeping and have been less than pleased with the noise. I thought of getting the Sony NEX-5 instead, since it has great ISO control and you seemed to like that one, but that menu…and those huge, fuzzy lenses…Maybe I shouldn’t look too closely at my EP-1 shots, because zoomed out, the pictures look good. I’m just not sure I’m ready to let go of my Canon T1i.
Glad to see your words of consolation for my friends who are in the same boat. By the way, I got the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 lens. Pretty darn nice!
Love the site, by the way. It’s now my go-to photo site! Would you be willing to offer up more than processing lessons? Like, “How-to-take-awesome-pictures-like-Steve-Huff” lessons? Because I know that the camera plays less of a part in a great image than the person behind it. Help me love my EP-1!
Also, what’s the best m4/3 zoom lens?
my e-p2 supposed to arrive today. i want to love mine too. agree with need for steve huff lessons.
also, i second the question on best zoom lens. Clearly will need one (i have boys who sport). Which one to buy?
You guys did great! Both are great. I am a fan of Micro 4/3 more so than the Sony NEX system really. I think the NEX system will be much better in about a year but we will see. LOTS of goodies coming out in 2011 but you know what? The cameras we have today, right now will still take wonderful images in 5 years. Im at a place now where I am just being happy with what I have 🙂
Steve — thanks. You are like my daily buyer’s reassurance program. 😉
But what about that zoom lens? Do you have experience with the competing telephoto lenses in the m4/3 market?
argh steve! i just bought the e pl1 after reading your review on it, i was deciding between that and the g2 because of the evf/viewfinder, but decided to bite the bullet as i couldn’t wait any longer, im gutted now!
No worries! The E-PL1 was a great choice. You did good 🙂
Great review…I am about to but my first M 4/3 camera and am debating between the G10 and the G2. Costco has the G10 for 399.99 right now. The G2 is about 250.00 more. I could have the 45/200 lens with the difference.
All the reviews say the image quality is exactly the same between the G10 and the G2. I know the differences and the one that bugs me the most is the EVF difference. The articulating LCD is not a big deal to me. I have had cameras with them before and never used them.
The G10 is loaded with features at this price. I still cannot believe that is has a microphone input at this price. Heck even the D3100 at 700.00 does not have this.
Oh no. I had not read this review when I wrote you the other day about the Oly e-p2. (I think our exchange was 1 day prior to your release of the G2 review). Have I made a mistake?
The E-P2 rocks…no worries! You really cant go wrong with any of the current offerings though they are improving!
After using the G2 since mid of June (beside or as addition to a Leica M9 and an Oly EP-2, I have to say, I have sold the EP-2 now already and I am very happy with the Leica M9 + G2 combo. Every of these two cameras has an “advantage” and both have a lovable segment, where I am using them succesfully. O.k., the M9 is the “king” of the absolute quality, but…the Pany G 7-14/4.0 is an amazing good super wide zoom ( I own also a Leica WATE, so I think I am allowed to judge), the fabulous G 20/1.7, the very good G 45/2.8 Macro and the surprisingly good G 45-200/4-5.6 are delivering very good pictures. Can it compare with the Leica pictures: Yes and no. Yes, because I can take it everywhere, without thinking about “dangerous” areas or situations, I keep it in the car, what I never ever do with the Leica, so it means, the pictures you have taken, are best compared with the pictures, you haven’t, because no camera aside.
Directly compared, side by side, with the M9 and the top range of Leica lenses I have to admit, that there is a difference(of course, not only price wise)…but the G2 stands absolute acceptable against.
This is interesting considering that the GH2 has a better sensor than the G2 (more expensive, of course). From what has been shown on the net so far, the high ISO on the GH2 seems to be quite amazing. The possibilities of the m4/3 format appear to be quite interesting, considering that the lenses are smaller than the APS-C sensor cameras.
One of the major benefits of m43 is the ability to use legacy lenses with a suitable adapter (I use Novoflex).
Here in the UK I find the kit zooms to be too slow for nature photography. The improved ISO performance of the GH2 may ameliorate this.
In the interim the purchase of a few Canon FD lenses has done the business. Yes they require manual focus but its a great technique to have in the locker.
Get some of your Leica glass on the G2 and see what you can come up with.
Just discovered your site tonight for the first time, might have glanced at it in the past but not in any depth, a bit weird that it took me so long to check your site out in detail (spent about 2 hours on it tonight) since I’ve been trolling photo sites online for about a year, and what you’ve got going on here pretty much sums up what I love about photography and the mind-set that draws people to this gorgeous powerful visual medium … and you’ve got a really healthy positive groove …
Photography first bloomed for me when I was about 12 years old, got a Canon AE-1 for Christmas 1979 … soon after had a B&W darkroom in the basement where I spent many evenings trying to get it right … I finally got a real job about 2 years ago after about a decade of medical training, and once the medical practice was in full-swing I got into the visual beauty around me with a brand-new E3 with 12-60 SWD. In a pretty brief period of time, accumulated some nice Oly lenses – 7-14 (gorgeous lens!), 12-60, 50-200 (uber-sweet!), and the Sigma 50-500 4/3 mount. Wildlife and landscape mostly, that floats my boat, and here in the southern British Columbia interior, the wildlife photography opportunities are …well, awesome. A bear with her cubs is breath-taking, elk are eery, powerful and majestic, the salmon runs have to be seen to be believed… we have this stuff in our backyard (literally), no shortage of beauty to shoot.
Sad day a few weeks ago, I made the tough call to dump the Oly gear for a 7D and some fine Canon lenses, including the 70-200 f2.8 IS. Felt like losing a friend, lots of great memories with the E3 and those sweet lenses, but gaining a new friend in the 7D.
Still have my EP2 and love it, but hiking with the external EVF has become such an issue (I keep knocking the EVF off) that I have to leave the EVF off until I need it, which is not at all satisfying – if Oly comes out with a similar m4/3 body with internal EVF, I’ll grab it. (But please, no art filters!!)
My lovely Lisa has a G1 that I bought her for Christmas, I know what you mean about the sweet feel of the Panasonic G-series. The rubberized exterior feels right. Used her G1 for a while exclusively while the E3 sat in the bag, the size/weight factor is worth a lot on the go …
Enjoyed your review of the G2, like your Zen video clip –
Like the way you weave in guest photographers and their insights –
Keep it up, really great stuff!
Great approach to reviewing cameras Steve and always interesting to read. It does seem to me though that there’s a great NEW camera almost every week these days. If I buy a new camera or system I really want to be able to get to know it well and use it for a year or two to get the best out of it, but the tech is moving faster than my picture taking time and finances can handle and it seems terribly contra-Eco-friendly to use a product for five months, replace it with a new one for a few months and then buy another one AND another one ad infinitum.This seems to be what is happening. This is why I haven’t bought a Leica D Lux 5 OR a GH1 or a GH3 ( It’s coming after Christmas right? ) etc,
and why I’m STILLusing my Leica M6, dropping off my film at the local store,picking up my negs and a scanned disk after a visit to the coffee shop, and getting great results.
In short the new digital cameras are great but I don’t like that they are rapidly disposable products especially when you consider the cost.
Any thoughts on this???
By the way, different topic but… As an experienced photographer living here in Japan (where I get to see and use a lot of the new optical products) I would say that there is a significant increase in
detail and clarity in the images when using Leica glass compared with the Japanese optics. I see it every time.Another interesting observation. I think consistency is a weakness with mass produced digital products. My experience has been that they all work well out of the box, but after a few months use the focus no longer seems to be accurate or the lens extension mechanisms fail to work smoothly
or whatever. Food for thought for those thinking of buying a new digital camera. You’re buying into something with limited shelf life ( or shooting life) compared to the solidly made cameras we were using..ooh, let’s see. Just twenty years ago. There’s an expensive solution to this of course…It’s called the Leica M9 ( or Leica M10…
coming just after Christmas Steve! ) but there isn’t an affordable one because Leica won’t make the camera that everyone really wants,, a digital version of the Leica CL at a cheaper price. Instead we get the Leica X1 with no interchangeable lenses. Oh well…..
Keep up the good reviews Steve, it’s refreshing to read about cameras without being bored by things like autofocus response timing charts and…well. you know.
Thanks for the review Steve; keep up the good works. Your review is especially relevant for me because I just set off down the Panasonic path by preordering the GH2 (w/14-140). My Oly E-620 (12-60 & 70-300) was a good camera that “just” never resonated with me; so it went to eBay to pay for the GH2. I am curious to hear what you think of the 14-140 lens. Your evaluation of the Pana 20mm makes me think “Street Photography” here I come. I guess I’ll have to cast around for something else to sell & add that little jewel to the mix. — Dave
i have the camera and love it how did u set the camera for the picture taken 1/15 it was fabulous also any tips you can give ma on this camera i would appreciate as i just got it and am in a huge learning curve i did buy the 45/200 lens from bh photo how important or necessary is it for me to get the pancake lens
Steve it was my understanding that the GH2 sensor had increased over the previous incarnation the GH1 being 12.1 mill effective pixels the GH2 being 16.0 mill effective pixels. I would also agree with the comments over quality. Folk get far to anal over this issue, most of the work shot these days ends up on web based systems , the small exception being those pros who do require the hasselblad or phase one systems or the very high end Canon or Nikon.
If you trawl through blogs, websites etc I would think at the resolution you view on, you would be hard pushed to tell what has taken the picture. I would also agree with previous comments regarding the pani 14-45 an absolutely belting lens.
Thanks Steve for the real world review. I’m thinking about jumping into m4/3 when the GH2 is available. I love all my Canon gear & L lenses, but I would also enjoy a small kit for travel work. Appreciate your efforts.
Thank you Bob.
Thanks for the interesting review. As a fan of the Olympus OM camera line, I find the micro 4/3 rds cameras interesting. My Nikons are enormous by comparison to my OM-4.
The timing of your review raises the question of the timing of a purchase for most people who might be considering a GH2 (available next month?), at least in part because of the more recent sensor.
Still, the compact size of the camera/lens combination is nice. That 2x crop factor does have some benefits.
Great review, thank you for your informative articles. I love photography but just didn’t seem to pick up my camera and get out there. When the G2 released, I decided to sell all of my gear and I bought a G1 since they were so steeply discounted. I thought it would be “good enough” for when I did want to go shooting. The unexpected result is that the G1 has completely revitalized my interest and I have begun shooting heavily again. I have shot more this summer than in the last 2 years!
There are aspects about the G2 that make me consider upgrading, but I think I am going to stay with my G1 and add the 45mm macro to my collection instead. Do you foresee third party lenses for the Micro 4/3 platform? I love the Panasonic glass, but think Sigma and Tamron could spur some healthy competition and growth.
Third party lenses for M4/3? Voigtlander is one who will be releasing some very interesting glass for this system. The 25 0.95 will be first, and soon! Thanks for reading…
Another great real world review, though I`ve never been a fan of `baby size` cameras. Think I`ll stick to my Nikon F6 and when needed, the D700 / D3 pair. When I pick up my OM1 or 2 now, all I see is a mass of fingers surronding a tiny piece of metal ! 🙂
All the best from `across the pond`
PS It`s good to see that your life seems to be taking a turn for the better. All the very best for the future, we`re all rooting for you.
Thanks Roger..all is well 🙂
Hi Christine and Elaine
Go for the E-PL1 if you cant afford the M9. Take a look at this site:
put in the e-pl1 and the G2, click at “Still-life 400” on both and another click at the picture and now youi get the details, go down to the bottle Olive Oil “Boletus” and you will find that the e-pl1(it also just won a tittle) is a clear winner by a large margin, and perhaps by the new Panasonic 14 mm lens, to have a nice 28 mm lens that is small and spot on….
or do as I do, save for the M9…..
and Steve, glad your back in town…..:-) (and in business)
Thank you for recommending that great comparison site!! I love it. That was a huge help!
I’d love to save for an M9, but I’d still have to justify to my hubby that huge amount for “just a camera?” (his words). If I did win him over for the M9, I know I’d have nothing left to argue with him when he wants to convince me he needs a M3 (BMW). LOL
Skoda has a superb Roomster with a lovely trunk behind, he dont need anymore…(!)
You will have to convince him that its not only a camera it is THE camera, and its not a wish for a changed lifestyle….it is THAT that wil alter your life completely….and make you such a happy and smiling woman…..(I nearly mean a great bit of it) … (take that…)
I’m selling my Nikon D3 but it will hurt to sell my Hasselblad and the M6(which is why I know you will be that happy woman)
Oh no! Not the Hassie and M6! You are selling them? Ouch!
Thorkil….I checked the site out…I could not find what lens was used on the G2 sample?.
Does the site state this info?
If it is the new kit lens (?) the 14-42mm…that is to be avoided. The old kit lens (14-45mm) is considerably sharper.
At any rate…that is quite a difference..The 20mm 1.7 is sharper still.
Hi Bob, no that I really dont know, wes it ought to be the 20mm, but look at the difference to f.ex. the Nikon D3X, but its not so simply compared I gues, while the Nikon can be sharpened a lot whitout losing anything, nearby..I think.
But even though I wont by an E-PL1 because the lag of a wheel for setting the focus, I think its rather astonishing what that little e-pl1 can offer…
so for me I gues…there are only the M9….even I will get divorced etc.
I would LOVE to get into the world of Leica… I was contemplating asking you experts if there is a Leica (even used if need be) that would be within my 1,000 price range (actually it’s more like 500-700, but maybe I can stretch it to 1,000, I’ll just have to save and wait a bit longer for my overdue bday present) and be still an awesome camera. But, I feared you guys would laugh at me, if I asked…..
🙂 Christine..No not laughing…then there are a long way to go for an Leica M9….then go for the e-pl1 with the standard cheep zoom lens, 14-44mm, and later buy the new panasonic 14mm to put on (=28mm in normal 35mm camera). Then you just got a really fine camera with some jpeg-picture that beats most of the others….And one day if you can find a cheep Leica M6 and a cheap old M 24mm or 28mm lens, then perhaps go for film some years (until you can sell his BMW M3 while his sleeping and buy the M9 then..)
PS two days ago the E-PL1 just won a Diwa-lab. gold-medal for the best advanced digital camera system.
It’s perfectly possible to set yourself up with a Leica kit for under a grand if you’re willing to shoot film. M3 or CL bodies can be had in usable (if rough) condition in the $500-700 range on eBay. Older Leica glass can be gotten in the $300-400 range in decent shape, or new glass from Voigtlander (40/1.4 anyone?).
Yes Christine, do as Cerebus tell..!..but off cource you have to be patient though, to get the films scanned properly (and it also cost a little) but you will then be a little more selective and you will get a little more satisfaction by each picture, but the M3 demand a seperate lightmeter, so its also a sort of mental investment, but satisfieing…..
else the e-pl1 I would think
I was considering going to film, but that wlould be someday
And only as a side kick to my digital. Eventhough others say how great my photos are, I need more confidence in myself to dare go film.
I did how ever make a deal with my hubby, as soon
as he gets an M3 ( BMW), I can have the M9. Anyone have about 70 grand laying around I can have?
Since that deal has been spoken he shows me M3’s nonstop. Loll.
Somehow I have the feeling he’s got the better of this deal.
I stlll love the look of the e-p2, but I did like the e-pl1 first. I’m thinking
thet is the one it wil be.
🙂 yes..do it! the e-pl1…but change the de4al to just at set of rim and tires….
let’s see a picture…
keh.com often has a leica cl in great condition with a 40/2 lens for around 800. I own one and absolutely love it.
One more question, how about in camera stabilization, comparing the e-pl1 and e-p2. I read the e-p2 is a bit better. Will this bring me anything?
Not sure how to share any of my photos.
If you want you are more then welcome to visit my site. Bibaphoto.com
If you click a thumbnail a little slide show will start.
I dont really like showing these anymore since These photos are when I first started getting into photography. I haven’t had much chance to update my site the last few years. Well, I’ve only been doing this for 4 years now.
Any ways to get to the private galleries username is biba password is photo. My ‘6 month’
Photos are me practicing self portraits.
I still have a long way to go to come even close to taking photos like Steve. I love his site and get inspiration from him.
jusat wrote, but forgot to fill the forms…
but, I dont know if stabilization would meen anything for you, when you is going wide or normal it does’nt matter I guess, but with a long tele-shot it can have a point while the camera is light. I’m always going a bit wide. Used 21mm for my M6, but film are a little bit diffucult, processing, scanning by a decent scanner and so on. As you can see at the comparing-site the e-pl1 and e-p2 are nearly the same, but with a little advantage to the e-pl1 I think.
I’m also a bit shy about photos, there are so many brilliant people outthere. And yes Steve take some god photos even when he are in everyday situations, and this site are inspiering, as being a bit anti-snobbish, and its “allowed” to be a normal deadly human being….
I’l take a look later on today..
I am trying to separate myself from two years of gear lust with two expensive hobbies (bicycle racing, photography), so will respond instead to some of the images you posted.
The gorilla shot is gorgeous. Reminds me immediately of the sadness and connection I had to a group of gorillas I observed as an anthropology undergrad student. Warm, glowing, sad, emotive.
Perhaps the best advertisement for this camera is that it has some of the most compelling “test photos” you’ve taken for a review.
Otherwise, great work. I’d be interested to see how much headroom there is via RAW conversion to avoid blown highlights and also how the sensor renders noise, the only real problems with m4:3 cameras.
Oh I forgot to mention the GH2 has an even better EVF than the GH1 or G2
Thanks for the review Steve. I did have one question about your review where you said m4/3 is not suited for pro situations. Could you expand on that remark please as I have used the GH1 for shooting stills in several pro situations.
Secondly, like you I really don’t care about specs but I have found DxO Mark useful in checking on sensor specs. If you check out the GH1 vs every other m4/3 you will see that the GH1 sensor is head and shoulders above the other m4/3 and was very close in dynamic range to DX sensors of its time. The GH2 looks to continue that tradition but I will get to that in a minute. The GH1 is also a screaming good deal right now at $1000. The 14-140mm lens is fantastic.
While you are correct that Panasonic focused most of its effort on video for the GH2, there is some really nice spill over into stills. First, to make the GH2 the most versatile combo cam again (a title the GH1 held) Panasonic included 3 processing chips. This has 2 major benefits for the stills shooter. First, the focusing speed is twice as fast as the GH1. End to end focus is almost instantaneous. Second, all that processing power looks to make iso3200 relatively clean and usable on the GH2. The GH1 offered a clear 1 stop advantage over the G1 and I think the GH2 will do the same at 16mp. Another difference the GH2 has vs the G2 is the multi-apect chip. The GH2 is an 18mp chip because it has 2:3, 4:3, and 16:9 all built in so each of these is separate in distinct with 16mp and not just a crop of 2:3.
The only point I have an exception with is the G2 being the sweet spot. The G2 comes with a crappy lens and the sensor choice was disappointing. I agree with you about G1 and after the G2 came out I bought an open box G1 for $400. SInce the 14-45mm lens is now selling for $400 by itself I thought that was a great deal. I would say right now the sweet spot is the GH1. The 14-140mm is a 10x superzoom with ultra silent focus and step-less aperture for the video. It also features great construction. This is a $750 lens. The 14-42mm is a step down in construction quality and is probably a $150 lens. Take that into account and the GH1 at $1000 is a $250 camera body that is better than the G2 in every way except the touch screen. People can buy the GH1 now and wait a couple of months for the GH2 body only to come down to $700 and walk away with 2 great cameras for only $200 more than the GH2 will cost when it comes out. Something to think about.
I think you will totally enjoy shooting your Leica lenses on the G2. I think having the viewfinder makes a big difference. I love shooting my 50 cron on the GH1. Also, have you checked out the 7-14mm f/4 and 8mm fisheye. The size and quality of the 7-14mm vs the Nikon 14-24mm might make you a believer in using the m4/3 in pro situations.
Finally, I see comments bemoaning the “DSLR” like shape and would like to address that. From purely a functional aspect, the DSLR shape exists because it is really good and it works. Secondly, the size of m4/3 system is really based on the lens it is wearing and not the body. Lastly, because the lens sticks forward, the grip is essentially free space wise. And the grip is exceedingly useful especially when you put on the longer lenses. For anyone who want to see the size difference between the GF1 and GH1 and D40 with 40mm primes can check out the GH1 page on Amazon as I posted pictures there with my review.
I think when you test the GH2 and the 14-140mm lens the G2 will be sold or relegated to a backup shooter because the GH2 is that much better than the G2. Also, the 14-140mm is a great do it all lens. Again thanks for the great review and great site.
Thanks for the words of wisdom. I am excited to test the GH2 soon.
The SLR shape exists for one reason and one reason only: because it’s too damn hard to twist the light path into any other pathway than a simple radial offset from the lens axis. Think about the mirror and prisms you’d need to, say, put the viewfinder in the upper left corner and still view through the lens.
“Goodness” has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s cheaper and less complex to put an optical through-the-lens viewfinder atop the camera light box. It’s the result of simple engineering decisions; no more, no less.
OTOH, electronic viewfinder cameras have no such limitations because a continuous light path isn’t used. You could dangle the EV at the end of a cord and clip it to your hat brim (hmmm… ;). You could transmit it wirelessly across the room–or the planet–with no difference.
Camera makers have stuck with the SLR body style because it’s simply that–style. It’s a shorthand that says “I’m a Serious Camera(tm)” to a casual photographer.
That said, there is one design choice that actually does make a difference–the choice between a viewfinder and an image screen. This actually can impact imagery because it changes how and where the camera is held, forcing the user to use either three-point balance (two hands and eyebrow, invariably at head height) or two-point balance (two hands, at variable height). The difference in camera grip can affect usable exposures by a stop or more. This applies to ground-glass focusing screens (e.g., TLRs) as much as to live-view LCDs.
Why the hostility? When I was referring to the DSLR shape I was talking more than the location of the view finder. While you are correct about the design of the view finder, I don’t agree with you about the design overall. The DSLR design allows for more stability than any other design that I know about. The 3 point contact (sometimes 4) allows me to shoot at ridiculously slow speeds. Far lower than when I am just hand holding. Additionally, the grip and button/dial location allow me to take advantage of the GH1s swivel screen and shoot relatively stable above my head, around corners, etc with one hand. Finally, try adding a Nikon 300mm f/4 to a non-DSLR shape camera and see how much fun you have trying to shoot that. No thank you. The DSLR shape may not be sexy but it works very very well.
Apologies for this query but english is not my primary language. Is the GH1 a better body (performance and IQ wise) compared to the new G2?
That is a tough call. The GH1 was clearly ahead of all the other M4/3 for its time (Check out DXO Mark). My feeling is the G2 is the equal of the GH1 sensor now. (I have no hard data to back that up) However, the GH1 has a multi-aspect chip which simply means whether you shoot 2:3 or 4:3 or 16:9 you get a 12 mp sensor not a cropped 2:3. So IQ wise it is probably about a wash. The G2 is newer and has a newer processing engine than the GH1. According to Panasonic the G2 can do 3D while the GH1 doesn’t have the processing power. I am a little dubious about this claim but I think 3D is a fad anyway. The G2 has touch screen which has been implemented very well and is useful for focusing. Where the G2 falls short is the lens. The 14-42mm is probably the lowliest panasonic lens. The GH1 has the 14-140mm super zoom which is a much better and more versatile lens but also a little bigger. The G2 also has some art filters which the GH1 really doesn’t have.
What lens setup are you planning to get? If the 14-140mm ($750) is anywhere in you future then the GH1 will only cost you $250 ($1000-$750). If you plan to go with 14-42mm, 20mm, and 45-200mm, then the G2 might make more sense. Also, if you don’t need video, don’t count the G1 out. I got an open box special for $400 and that includes the 14-45mm lens (this is a better lens and is currently selling for almost $400). Its IQ is going to be similar to G2 and GH1 up to ISO400 but both the G2 and GH1 will be good up to ISO 800.
In the end you have to figure out what is more important to you as both cameras will take beautiful pictures. No easy answers. What might be best for me might not be best for you.
Great review and lovely shots!
Am looking to get a camera to take out for daily use too, though I still prefer the form factor of the Olympus cameras…
Thank you Kai!
cool little camera, cool review.
Video cameras are becoming a nightmare to use for surveillance work, no view finder, all touch screen or electric manual focus, etc… This might be a great camera set for surveillance, especially with the x2 crop factor. Is there capability for time date display on video for use in court.
I was hoping your video examples were more real world, shakes and bumps and run and walk, etc..
Maybe I will make another and add it next week. Thx!
A few pans and tilts would do…
Outstanding review, Steve. I think that this review shows the promise of m4/3. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the GF1, but gotta say that there were some positive elements there. THe G2 sounds like a dandy, and I will continue to observe how this bracket moves, in terms of large sensor compacts (with and without interchangeable lenses). I can’t wait to see what Olympus offers with a compact large sensor, with fixed zoom.
The issue that I have with m4/3, oddly, is size. It’s not quite small enough for me to put down my M9 and take M4/3 instead. And IQ isn’t close to the M9 with nice glass onboard, so it’s a bit hard for me to justify it, given that I have the M9 system in place. Redundancy, but for those looking for a great compact at a friendly price point, with outstanding IQ (STEVE, YOUR IMAGES HERE ROCK!!!!), then this is the bees knees!!!!
Thanks for the comment Ashwin! You have a GREAT setup – dual M9’s…drool!
I have a Nikon D90 that I took out today (with the 20mm f2.8 and the 50mm f1.4) to take pictures of the Autumn leaves. I had not used the D90 in a long time as I used my GF-1 about 90% of the time. Although the IQ on the D90 is indeed better, I was happy to get home and take that big thing out of my shoulder. It made me realized that the overall feeling that I have with the GF1 (smaller, lighter, less “in your face” style of camera, and the ability to bring a few small lenses in my pockets) is worth the relative sacrifice in IQ over the D90.
Looking at the pics you took with the G2, one obviously realizes that you had a lot of fun, which in the end is why we go out to take pictures. The gorilla picture is a “tour-de-force”! You managed to get a hell of a picture at1/15th of a sec…I wish I was that good.
Have to agree with a previous post that your enthusiasm is contagious!
have you used any R lenses on a 4/3’s camera?
i currently have a digilux 3, and a leica 4/3’s adapter. i can mount my R lenses on the digilux3 and they work fine, but obviously, i would like a better sensor/camera to capture the image.
i’m wondering about a Canon 5D mark III (when it becomes available), versus a micro 4/3’s like the
very different approaches, the micro 4/3’s has the appeal of small size, whereas the 5D has the appeal of using my lens at their original magnification.
Never tried an R lens on M4/3. Any future 5D camera will outperform any M4/3 camera in regards to noise, dynamic range and overall IQ. It will be much larger though.
Retow, I agree that an aps-c DSLR will beat out a camera with an m4/3 sensor, but not by a large margin like you say. I have a nikon d3000 here and the g2 gives me better results. My conclusion is that the g2 is the best m4/3 I hve tested, not that it beats a Canon 7D. It’s weakness is the same as with all micro 4/3. Dynamic Range, high iso noise.
Thanks for your thoughts! I stand by all I say here.
While I look forward to the next generation of m4/3 cameras due in the spring, I still find myself dithering over high ISO performance and depth of field limitations. The only reason I ever put down my LX3 is because of the restricted DoF on the small format, so I worry that I’d find 4/3 too limiting compared to the APS-C I’m currently using. But then that compact size keeps calling to me…
As much as I love this site and your reviews, this time, I have to say, a great weekend seems to have influenced your conclusions and findings on the G2. I had the G1 (and the GF1 and EP2) and whilst I found it to be a nice tool, IQ wise its mft sensor is being bettered by quite a margin by most entry level DSLRs as well as newer EVIL offerings.
Love your site. ‘Cause of you bro I put serious $ into an M8.2 & M9 system and some sweet ass lenses.
I have also own the GH-1. The HD rocks. The real video difference on the G2/GH-2 is the frame rate per second and (supposedly) length of time available for a ‘take.’ That said, I can run continuous based on the size of the card in the cam on the GH-1 and I ain’t doing broadcast video so WTFC on the 24fps?
Not sure on the MP given the size of the sensor that more MP is necessarily better. Why do I say this? Well put on serious glass on m4/3 and you will find that small sensor cannot keep it up. The glass out resolves the sensor.
Hey Steve…Great review! You really do shoot…and you do get “it”. You also have a really good knowledge of cameras and because you are actually a damn good photographer..when you discuss something related to photography it truly does have “real word” value.
I have a G1 and a GF1 also Panasonic 7-14mm, 20mm, 14-45mm, Macro 45mm, & 45-200. Love the stuff. I can’t justify the Leica expenditure so I can have all of the above with a small CF tripod all in one small knapsack and run out the door with it. What fun these cameras are. The old 14-45mm with the metal mount is a really decent offering why Panasonic cheaped-out with the new kit lens with the plastic mount is beyond me?
A friend and I both have G1’s and we do have an occasional problem with focus with the 45-200 in very adequate lighting..sometimes the camera “just won’t focus”. It is relatively rare but when it happens it is REALLY annoying. I never shoot vid, so the G2 is not for me..but I think I may dump my G1 and grab a GH2 when it comes out as the focusing is supposed to be so much better.
..so I look forward to your thoughts on that camera when it comes out.
Sample image: (G1 45-200mm) then worked in PS.)
Great Review enjoyed it. The G1 has a better kit lens than the G2 specifically a 14-45 ASPH lens with the G1 rather than a 14-42 non asph lens with the G2.
Any thoughts over whether the IQ is comparable to the NEX 5? With the 4/3rds system generally, the philosophy is to ensure lens and camera are integrated. The lens is designed so that the light strikes the sensor at 90 degrees rather than at an angle. This makes the image sharper but to achieve the outcome, the sensor size is smaller. APS C sensors still have to deal with light striking the sensor at an angle which it has been said affect image quality. (At least that is what I have read).
Great review. thanks
Thanks. As for the NEX vs G2, personally, I have gotten much nicer results with the G2 over the NEX cameras, but it could be due to the dodgy lenses sony has for the NEX. I like the NEX 5 as well but I like my results from the G2 much better as far as IQ goes.
I use a NEX 5, and Steve is right about the lens, the 16mm is pretty soft wide open, it’s just, well, meh….
The NEX itself is actually pretty sweet, the UI is one of the better ones once you get used to it.
I used to have GF-1 and found that more difficult to use, particularly with adapted lenses, the NEX focus assist is much more accessible and the screen is clearer so it often not even required.
Great review Steve and the gorilla photo is simply awesome. I like your editorial policy of only reviewing worthy cameras and equipment. It’s the same as a magazine I worked for, we’d only hype the good stuff and if something sucked we’d just leave it alone. And as you’re a ‘one man band’ why waste time on gear that doesn’t flick your switch, so to speak?! I come to this site for the passion you and all your readers have for photography, not a nit picking technical whinge fest lol
Oh, and the cam is pretty damn good too!
Nice review Steve,
Glad you like the Panasonic G2. I have been a huge fan of Panasonic/Leica cameras for a while, particularly the L1 which i love, i also own the Leica version Digilux 3 and GF1 plus a slew of other cameras that i barely touch these days. The IQ from Panasonic cameras in my opinion rival many so called high end cameras out there as you have also stated, something i have known for a very long time. I also love the Silhouette filter, my favorite too and have many shots using this mode, it is stunning if shot in the 1-1 ratio as well, i have shot with the 20 1.7 and that we all know the lens is awesome, better yet to me is the 45mm 2.8 macro in this ratio as well, to me it is sick on my GF1 with Silhouette filter, if you do get a chance try it.
The images you show are awesome, but i do think its typical of Panasonic IQ… Try shooting in Dynamic Black and White JPG, another mode i often shoot and barely need to do anything else with the images. Its amazing!
I am sure the more you play with the Panasonic cameras, the more you realize how awesome the IQ is and easy camera to use, just plain fun. I am using my L1 more so than my M8.2 or any other camera i own, recently been trying the Leica R lenses on the L1 and man, this is another story. Just got a used 135mm 2.8 Elmarit R today, from my test shots so far, IQ? Its insane at least to me.
Well, enjoy the G2, though i would rather wait for the GF2 for its compactness : )
Another nice review Steve, keep up the good work!
Thanks for the comments and insights!
I totally agree with the dynamic B&W on the GF1! i just spent a month in Paris shooting exclusively in that mode! And enabling RAW gives you both the B&W jpg and a “negative” full color of the same shot when importing to LR! 🙂
I enjoyed the real world review. I wish there were more sites of non-sarcastic reviews with good pics.
Do you feel like people can learn about photography by using this camera? Or is it too automated? It looks like a SLR, but does it behave like a pocket cam?
Thanks Adam! Sure, this camera would be great for someone wanting to learn photography. You have full auto control but at the same time you can move to Aperture Priority or even full blown manual when you are ready to go. It looks like an SLR but its much smaller and feels great in the hand. It behaves like an SLR more than a pocket cam.
Great review! I have been thinking about buying this camera. The main interesting feature for me is the ability to focus and shoot from waist for street photography. Only if we could have a GF-1 with swivel touch screen and in-body image stabilizer (for using with 20mm lens) 🙂
Thanks! Yes, I am interested to see the “GF-2″…
Hi Steve…Nice those Panasonic cam’s..
And you know what…..it only just begun…there will be so much more the coming 5 years…
I have the GF1 now for 6 months with the 20/1.7 and put with a adapter my 35/2.0 Carl Zeiss on it and it act as a 70mm…. and yes …only in situation with hi-dynamic diffences 4/3 don’t catch up.. butt all the other…just great.
Did you know that Panaosonic adjust on the fly (so what you see in LiveView is what you get) all possible lensweaknesses as distortion, coma, abb’s etc?
This will go on and therefore no need to develop high-end glass as Zeiss or Leica does…
I saw the GH2 on the Kina in Cologne and it’s Super. Of course a 7D or a 5DmkII do bring a better image and DoF, but that’s high en and high bucks…
This month also Nokia comes with the N8 with a 12mp cam (Zeiss lens) optical zoom and real flash… and you can Phone with that one too!
This N8 and all it’s followers will eat the compact camera business (How about that Nikon and Canon?)…and the 4/3 lead by Pana…Olympus and maybe Leica…will eat away most of the consumer DSLR….it’s possible…look at the $$$ for the value.
That leaves the High-end for Leica, Canaon and Nikon,, Hassy etc,,,,, for how long
I spoke to a DoP of Angineux lenses on the Kina, they see it actually happening in the ‘Cine’ world
He spoke that within 10 years Hollywood movies will be shot by something with one (wide angle) lens, the rest will be software….
In 20 years form now Imaging will be 100% dynamic and nothing will be static…
We are in interesting times…the end of classic Photography (the technical site of it), the begining of digital imaging and sofware….
And do we dislike sometimes a camera, sure….there are so many
Do we like sometimes a camera, sure….. many come and go
I like this review, it show that although you like Leica (just like me) you also have an open mind and eye for new systems doing 80% of the IQ for 20% of the price…
Chapeau, well done !
Ps see the 7-14mm and the Cine 14-140 of Pana…. pfff nice, very nice
Thanks for reading and the comment!
🙂 Coming from the game development industry myself (for 15 years), this is what has been said for 10 years about the “awesome power” of playstation 3’s Xbox 360’s, Multicore PC’s etc.. “In 5-10 years there will be no more need for performance”.. But in reality this has proven to simply not be the case.. With each advance in technology, new “needs” or possibilities arise that suddenly void the last “advance” making further improvements valid.
Games still are light years from what can be experienced in the movies. Digital pianos still sound like crap compared to a real steinway and the M9 (IMHO) is still far behind a Leica M3 / MP in size, form factor, speed, image quality.. And CD’s still don’t come close to a good vinyl rig.. Man, I sound like an old guy and I’m just 39 😉 Haha!
All with the greatest respect for others’ opinions! 🙂 This is just my reflection/experience…
This being said, the performance of said gizmos are already way over what mass market consumers really need/want.. Just look at the success of the iPhone. Sony Ericsson and Nokia have sported many of the “features” such as video conferencing for >5 years, had better cameras, more flexible music, file systems etc. etc. but man are they illogical to use and who need all those features when “there’s an app for that”!?…
I still think I take awesome photos with my iPhone 3GS. If that’s the only camera I have at the time, it’s the best camera…
Thanks everyone for making this site a true water hole everyday!!
And thanks Steve for another great review!!! (although I have to admit I think many of the photos look a bit bland color / color depth wise.. My screen? When I compare your M9/M8 images there is such a striking difference in dynamic range. The “river” image is especially evident in this regard..
I can’t really see that this camera produces higher quality than the GF1?? And it looks a lot bigger.. Steve, you have tried both right? Apart from all the new “features”, is the raw output any different given the same 20mm lens?
Thanks for putting up with my ramblings 🙂
I was this close, and had my heart set, to buying the Olympus e-p2. I normally shoot with a nikon d80. I’d love to be able to afford a Leica, but I don’t EVER see that happening.
With that said, I have to find the best bang for my buck. Right now the Oly would be the most I could afford. I love the style of the camera and also the size, along with the photo’s you’ve shown so far.
I do wish it had an EVF though, I’d settle for the attached one, but ehh, i’d prefer in camera.
I’m looking for a “take along” camera, as I don’t want to lug my nikon d80 and lens kit with me. I have a two year old and well, you know how much I have to take with me, I need something handy. As always, the best camera is the one you have with…..
I had an ole point and shot with on a family trip and it just did not cut it, guess I’m spoiled from my D-slr. My iphone took better photo’s.
From what I’ve read, you’ve now replaced the Oly in your heart with the g2?
I know, I know, you stated it in your review. I guess I am just looking for reconfirmation. I’m looking for awesome colors and quality straight from the camera. (again 2 year old at home, not much time to PP)
After I read some reviews online, it seemed like the g2 had some fun gadgets but was eh when it came to the photo’s. I know you’re heart is in the photo’s, that’s why I turn to your site.
I’ve been in the background the whole time soaking in all your articles and reviews, but I have to break my silence and ask, g2 or e-p2?
While I love the E-P2 styling and design and output, I have to give the nod to the G series for its all around design and usefulness, AND IQ, which seems a bit “richer” to me over the E-P2. You cant go wrong with either really and I love both for their strengths but the G2, as a system, seems to be very very good in all areas.
I’m waiting until the rumored E-P3 and GF2 arrive. The GF2 rumors of a built-in EVF in the rangefinder location are making me drool.
But how long till the e-p3?? Any estimates? Rumors!! I was hoping to get the camera now, as it was supposed to be my birthday present which was oct. 2nd. I’d wait if I knew it would be coming soon… Spring 2011 but longer, not so sure.
Happy Birthday, Christine. I’m a Libra too. September 28th here! 🙂
Thank you Elaine, right back at ya!
Ahh yes Libra, are you like me and find it hard to decide?
If I could afford it, I’d get both! Heck, if I could afford it,
the M9 would be mine!
Decisions, decisions!! I’ll check the Ritz near
me tomorrow, I’ve had the e-p2 already in my hand,
got to see how the g2 feels and looks.
Oh, God! Yes! I’m trying to decide between the M9 and a D700. I know the D700 is practical, but the M9 is an artist’s wet dream. LOL!
Elaine… I just switched from my C5D + 4 Carl Zeiss lenses to a M9 (black) with 35/2.0 Carl Zeiss ZM and Leitz 21mm (1991) and summarit 75/2.5…….
Technically: D700 and C5D superior to M9
Photographic: With a D700 or C5D the camera makes the picture, you just hold it in the right direction, with a M9 it’s YOU who done it !
Hans, Yeah, I’ve been using the Leica M6 lately. It’s lovely. I can’t quite swing a M9 yet.
Thanks for a great review. Since buying a GF-1 and some lens adapters along with the really nice 40mm f 1.7 lens (influenced by your review to get the lens as I had a body only deal), I have hardly used my EOS 1 D mk II and have no intention of upgrading my EOS system as the IQ I get from the latest 4:3’s sensor is as good as from my older 1.3 crop on the 1 D mk II. I have sold images from this camera using aged lenses and my clients seem to think I have brought a Leica M9!
The touch screen sounds absolutely great for manual focusing and the flippy screen is ideal for video. I may still wait for the GF-2 as a hacked GF_1 (for HD video and manual control) can do everything this camera can, I think the inclusion of a touch screen on the GF-2 will be a real step forward along with a built in finder (they could drop the silly flash).
Anyway thanks for a great site.
Thanks for reading it!
Don’t forget to review the new Panasonic G 14/2.5. It’s smaller than the 20/1.7, and hopefully has the same IQ.
Good to see you with a woman again! 😉
Its on my list 🙂
What?? The Pany G 14/2.5 or the woman??
You could have waited for the K5. Since you liked the K7. Semi pro sans swivel screen.
I will be reviewing the K5 as well. 🙂
I heard rumor that there may be a EP-3 Olympus camera coming. I’m kind of excited about that. I love what Panasonic is doing in these models though. they seem to know what the customer wants. I wish you threw a picture in there of the size difference between the EP-2, the M9 and maybe a D-SLR. I’d like to see it especially next to a D-SLR. Sounds like a really fun camera.
If feel the same way about my GF1 – fantastic camera and even smaller – the smaller really got me. Coupled w/ the 20mm it is an awesome little device with similar if not identical IQ in the ranges I tend to shoot.
Ps. ALL the Panasonic cameras have better dynamic range at 200 than 100. believe it or not this is similar to most APS-C AND FX sensor cameras which is WHY then all “start out” at 200 ISO and using 100 is “special” in reality most modern digital cameras with larger sensors have a sweet spot of IQ and DR about a stop above the native sensitivity of their sensors. Even Oly knows this which is why their cameras tend to be set to default at “200” in auto ISO. Panasonic is the odd man out in not doing this by default.
Thanks for the tip on ISO 200! Didn’t know that… Anything that can increase the dinamic range! I’ll definitely try it out today on my GF1 + 20mm 🙂
I really enjoyed reading your review,Steve. Are you going to try your Leica lenses on the G2? I would be very interested to see the results. I am looking to move on from my EP-1 to a micro 4/3 with a really good EVF even if I have to compromise on the DSLR shape.
Maybe I will wait for the EP-3.
Great review Steve! I have been thinking of getting and EVIL camera and keep going back and forth, I had almost decided to just save up for another great lens for my m8, however, you really have me on the fence again. I have Leica glass, so I don’t want to use the Samsung or Ricoh, The Sony NEX is very tempting, however, the user interface is aweful and I would want the EVF, so, anyway, maybe I should just save my money.
Anyway, great review, you really give a good even handed feel that tells me what I want to know.
I may just wait for the GH2
nice looking, what’s her name?
is there a camera you HAVEN’T liked?
I take it you did not read the review…:) There have been MANY cameras I have not liked..MANY. But those, i do not like to write about. I only really write about the cameras I like and the cameras that I feel are worth buying, or worth using. For example, I have tried out a couple of Canon and Nikon cameras that I did not care for, so I did not write about them. Its no fun to write about something you do not like, and this blog is about fun, motivation, passion and great photography! Thanks!