The Panasonic Lumix GH2 is Panasonic's highest specification model, and a follow on to the GH1, a popular camera in the video world, due to the ability to improve the camera's video quality by "hacking" or updating the firmware. The GH2 is Panasonic's updated model that provides a new 16 megapixel sensor for higher resolution stills, but also includes updated video quality: manual controls, numerous recording options, and improved quality.
Reviewed here with the Panasonic Lumix 14-140mm f/4-5.8 Asph. lens with built in Mega O.I.S (Optical Image Stabilisation).
Lens off - the camera features a Micro Four Thirds lens mount, this includes an expanding range of lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and others, as well as 3rd party adapters for almost every lens type known to man.
Eye detection automatically switches between the swivel rear-screen and the electronic viewfinder.
The Panasonic Lumix GH2, as Panasonic's flagship camera, is literally stuffed to brimming with every feature known to man, including a 3 inch touch screen, multi-aspect ratio sensor, full HD video, stereo microphone built in, microphone socket, HDMI out, SDXC memory card support, high resolution electronic viewfinder, three function buttons, and more!
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Features
16 megapixel Live MOS sensor
Multi aspect ratio sensor (1:1, 3:2, 4:3, 16:9)
3" free-angle LCD screen, 1.5million dots
Dust reduction system
ISO160 to ISO12800
5fps shooting at full resolution
40fps at 4 megapixel resolution
Full HD Movie in AVCHD format,
1080p 24p cinema mode with 24mbps
Manual movie mode
Stereo microphone, Wind-cut: Off / Low / Standard / High
Lens based image stabilisation
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Handling
Despite the more compact dimensions of the camera compared to standard DSLRs the Panasonic Lumix GH2 provides a good level of grip and control without being too fiddly. The solid body and lens make it feel comfortable and re-assuring in use.
One of the only negatives I could find in the handling department is that the mode dial is quite stiff. I guess this may change with use, and may be seen as a benefit especially if you've ever found yourself accidentally switching modes on a camera.
Side mic / remote socket cover, plus the HDMI, and AV/USB connection cover.
There is an excellent amount of switches and controls, such as the switch next to the mode dial to change the shooting mode to continuous, self-timer, exposure bracketing or single, plus three customisable function buttons (one on top, two on the back).
Despite having the touchscreen, Panasonic has realised that it doesn't mean people want to get rid of buttons, so you can happily use the camera without using the touch screen at all. The touchscreen however, does provide quick access to the "Quick Menu" that is standard on all Panasonic cameras (that I'm aware of), and it's nice that Panasonic are consistent whether you're buying a cheap point at shoot like the S3, a serious compact like the LX5, or one of their high end Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the GH2. The touch screen works well, and is responsive, and it's surprisingly easy to press the virtual buttons even when they're at the edge of the screen.
Battery Life: 320 shots CIPA rating - this is much lower than the main competition, they offer around 500 shots and I found that I could only get around 350 shots from the 1200mAh 7.2v battery, so a spare is definitely recommended.
Menus: Panasonic menus are split into Recording (red), Motion picture (red), Custom (torquoise), Setup (torquoise), My menu (torquoise), and Playback (green). Each scene mode on the dial has a set of scene modes in the menu, for example the scene mode dial features: peripheral defocus, night portrait, night scenery, sunset, party, sports, baby1, baby2, pet, and the close up scene dial features: flower, food, objects, creative. LAndscape scene dial features: Normal, nature, architecture, creative. Portrait: normal, soft skin, outdoor, indoor, creative. My colour menu options: custom, expressive, retro, pure, elegant, monochrome, dynamic art, silhouette.
Speed: Here we compare the Panasonic Lumix GH2 to it's nearest / newest mainstream competitors, the Canon EOS 600D, and Nikon D5100. Both traditional Digital SLRs, however, they both offer live view, full HD video and are priced at a similar level to the GH2 (assuming you bought each camera with the kit lens). We perform these tests by taking 6 or more shots and then taking the average to ensure consistent results. The cameras are all tested using the same methods, and settings where possible.
Shutter response (SLR/Live)
0.1 / 0.1
0.1 / 0.5
Focus speed (inc shutter response) Wide
Focus speed (inc shutter response) Telephoto
Switch on time to first photo
Shot to shot - without flash
Shot to shot - with flash
Continuous shooting - JPEG
5fps, 6 shots*
Continuous shooting - JPEG with flash:
Continuous shooting - RAW
5fps, 7 shots*
3fps, 6 shots
The Panasonic Lumix GH2 has a very fast shutter response, with very fast focusing making the camera very enjoyable and responsive to use. There is a slower switch on time compared to the others, but still respectable, shot to shot is right in the middle (2 fps roughly), shot to shot with flash is on the slow side, continuous shooting is the fastest of the three at 5fps, however, the buffer is not as deep as the Nikon, although just slightly better than the Canon in RAW. If you take a lot of quick photos with flash then the others could be a better bet, but overall the performance of the GH2 is the most impressive of the three, once you look past the switch on time of the 600D, and very deep buffer of the D5100.
* before slow down. Panasonic Lumix GH2, tested with the Lumix 14-140mm lens, Canon, Nikon tested with kit lens. Further high speed shooting is available at 4mp with the camera shooting at 40fps.
Shown here next to the Nikon D5100 - one of the smaller Digital SLRs available with Full HD.
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Performance
Here you can view a variety of studio and real world sample photos taken in a variety of situations, and lighting conditions, please click on the image to view full size images.
ISO160, as the lowest ISO setting, produces the cleanest, most detailed noise free images, as you would expect, and then as the ISO setting increases so too does noise. Results are good at ISO200. At ISO400 - chroma noise starts to appear (slightly), and again at ISO800. At ISO1600 - noise texture appears and covers everything, but is quite subtle, and at ISO3200 - noise texture increases covering everything, with chroma noise (greens) start to become the dominant colour in greys. At ISO6400 there are black dots, noise is very much obvious, greys become green, and colour is lost. At ISO12800 - colour is lost so that some colours are just recorded as blacks, and edge detail is lost. Anything below ISO1600 produces good results, anything above should probably be avoided unless you need to use the modes or are planning to use the images on the web.
White Balance Performance:
AWB - Tungsten
Tungsten preset - Tungsten
AWB Fluorescent lighting
Auto white balance is excellent, and the best results are had when the camera is simply left on auto white balance. Alternatively using manual white balance is another option. The camera does not feature a preset for fluorescent lighting, instead manual or custom white balance is expected to be used.
Exposure / Resolution:
Thoresby Hall, Water Fountain
The camera captures a high level of detail throughout the frame. Some chromatic aberration (purple fringing) can be seen in shots of trees (an example is shown above) where there are high levels of contrast at the corners. This was not noticed on the majority of other shots.
Dynamic Range / iDynamic Mode:
The default settings (iDynamic Off) produce high contrast images with high saturation and punchy images. When shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG the dynamic range optimisation options aren't applied to images, but switch to JPEG mode and you can extend the detail in shadow and highlight areas, as shown above, this does a good job of keeping detail in these areas, although does lose some of the punch that the images would have otherwise had. Noise increases as the camera boosts the shadow areas, and I personally preferred the default settings of leaving this off.
Aspect Ratios: The camera's sensor is larger than the sensor found in other Micro Four Thirds series cameras, and instead of just covering the standard 4:3 aspect ratio, it also covers additional aspect ratios of 1:1, 3:2, and 16:9.
3:2 - note more trees in the picture left and right.
16:9 - note an even wider view with more trees again, left and right.
Most obvious effects of this can be seen in 16:9 with much more of the side trees captured in the picture.
Macro - the 14-140mm performs extremely well as a macro lens.
Wide - Telephoto
Wide angle 14mm
Full 140mm zoom
Wide to telephoto, an excellent range in a lens not much bigger than the standard 3x optical zoom kit lens provided with other SLRs.
Background Blur / Bokeh
Into the sun
Lens performance: Using the Panasonic Lumix GH2 with the Lumix G Vario f/4-5.8 14-140mm Asph Mega O.I.S lens produced excellent results. The lens comes with a lens hood, and is very resistant to lens flare, ghosting, chromatic aberrations, purple fringing, vignetting and pincushion distortion, although some purple fringing was noticed in corners in extreme contrast situations. The lens feels quite heavy, and certainly adds to the weight of the camera, however it is roughly the same size as a standard kit lens on a Sony NEX / Alpha system, and Canon / Nikon kit lenses.
The Panasonic Lumix GH2 takes video seriously, with a vast array of options including: Full HD (60p), Cine (24p), High speed / Slow speed 80% 160% 200% 300%, iDynamic, Wind cut (off, low, standard, high), Ex Tele Conv. (Extra Telephoto Convertor) 2.6x zoom without image quality loss, Digital Zoom, Rec Highlight, Film mode, Recording modes: AVCHD (1080i / 720p), Motion JPEG, Exposure modes: P, A, S, M, Continuous AF, Mic level display (on screen, stereo bars). Video quality is excellent, as you would expect from the successor to the GH1, although the lack of 25p (PAL TV) recording could be an issue for some, as the camera records at 60i/50i.
Value for money: The Panasonic Lumix GH2 costs £739 with 14-42mm lens, £1059 with 14-140mm lens. This compares well to the Canon EOS 600D (£699 with IS kit lens), and the Nikon D5100 (£779 with IS kit lens). Unfortunately the 14-140mm lens puts the price up to over £1000, making the combination seem expensive as an initial outlay. However if you tried to find a similar range in a Nikon or Canon lens you would be looking at a £535 18-200mm VR (28-300) Nikon lens, making the total kit price for a Nikon D5100 and 18-200mm lens £1170, or a £390 Canon 18-300mm IS lens, making the Canon EOS 600D plus 18-200mm lens £980. The Nikon 18-200mm lens makes the Panasonic Lumix GH2 seem like excellent value for money, however the Nikon and Canon cameras have a much wider variety of third party lenses available, often for much less.
Other alternatives include the Pentax K5 priced at £1000+ and features full HD as well. Alternatively you could look at the Sony Alpha a33 or a55, both feature Full HD, body based image stabilisation, and are cheaper at around £533 with kit lens. Beyond these you're looking at the NEX-3 or NEX-5, or the Olympus PEN series for something more compact.
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Verdict
I really enjoyed using the Panasonic Lumix GH2, the camera's handling and performance were huge positives, providing great feedback, control, and responsiveness. Panasonic has produced a camera with an abundance of external controls, buttons, and switches making it easy to change options without having to delve deep into the menus. The camera focuses extremely quickly and the almost instant shutter response, and 5fps continuous shooting make the camera a real joy to use.
The provided lens, with an extremely useful 14-140mm range (28-280mm in 35mm equivalent terms) is a brilliant lens to have with you, and provides great wide shots, great telephoto shots, and excellent macro performance that produces excellent background blur. Looking at the basic kit lens, the 14-42mm kit lens is around £700 putting it in a very similar price range to the Canon EOS 600D and Nikon D5100 with kit lens, although the camera is noticeably smaller, and also provides a touch screen.
Someone looking for a more compact Digital SLR should look very seriously at the Panasonic Lumix GH2 Micro Four Thirds camera, as the size is great. The camera makes photography a lot of fun, and the system is arguably one of the best mirrorless cameras available with excellent usability. On top of this, image quality is very good, and the camera has the best HD video quality of any current camera. What more could you want? Highly Recommended!
The Panasonic Lumix GH2 is a real joy to use, providing excellent images, speed, and video, this really is the complete package.
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Pros
Extremely fast focusing, and shutter response
Excellent detail, particularly at the lower ISO settings
Excellent video quality
Excellent design, lots of externally accessible controls
Great swivel screen
Great image quality
Compact, stylish design
Excellent 5fps continuous shooting
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Cons
Lacks body anti-shake system (see Olympus PEN series)
High ISO Noise performance - not up there with APS-C sized sensor cameras
Short battery life for class
VALUE FOR MONEY
Panasonic Lumix GH2 Specifications
£739 with 14-42mm kit lens, £1059 with 14-140mm lens as tested.