Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Autofocus in video mode. Inbuilt stereo audio recording. Great HD video recording.

The Bad Average quality 14-42mm kit lens. AVCHD video file format cumbersome for film-makers.

The Bottom Line The Lumix DMC-GH2 is a great way to shoot high-quality video and stills without having to fork out the money for two cameras.

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Design and features

At first glance, it's hard to see any visual differences between the GH2 and its predecessor, the Lumix DMC-GH1 . Panasonic has essentially kept the same compact design, but with a couple of additions. The adjustment dial and the quick menu button have been moved to the back of the camera, and the video record button has been promoted to its rightful place next to the shutter release. However, while the GH2 looks and feels comfortable overall, when shooting quickly, the clutter of buttons and dials can sometimes be a tad overwhelming.

The main developments over the previous model include the new sensor; while it's still the Four Thirds size, its resolution has been upped to 16.1-megapixels. This camera also features a 3-inch free-angle touchscreen, and overall the body is shaped like a miniature digital SLR with the same faux-prism hump over the lens, a pop-up flash, hotshoe and a mode dial that's similar to that found on any consumer SLR.

Compared to

GH2 vs. 600D
Panasonic Lumix GH1 Panasonic Lumix GH2 Canon EOS 600D
12-megapixel 4/3 type Live MOS 16-megapixel 4/3 type Live MOS 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS
3.0-inch, 4,60K-dot articulating LCD screen 3.0-inch, 4,60K-dot articulating LCD touchscreen 3.0-inch, 1,04K-dot articulating LCD screen
Full AVCHD video (1080p, 24fps) (1080i, 50fps) (720p, 50fps) Full AVCHD video (1080p, 24fps) (1080i, 50fps) (720p, 50fps) Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps)
Stereo internal mic Stereo internal mic Mono internal mic

Sitting in the same price range, the Canon 600D is a sizeable opponent to the GH2. The GH2 is smaller, lighter and has the advantage of an in-video autofocus system, but the 600D has a larger sensor and is compatible with an enormous library of lenses.

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Panasonic GH21.20.50.70.3
  • Canon 600D0.20.40.70.1
  • Panasonic GH11.90.90.90.4

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Panasonic GH25
  • Canon 600D3.7
  • Panasonic GH12.1

Image quality

The GH2 generates stunningly sharp images with colours that can pack a punch. RAW photographs are filled to the brim with an impressive amount of detail. They contain enough information to create a reasonable pseudo-HDR image from just one RAW file.

GH2 HDR

An HDR image created from just one RAW file from the GH2. (Credit: CBSi)

The GH2 continues to shine by producing excellent JPEG images. The camera manages to compress each photo down to a reasonable file size without dramatically crushing the shadows or blowing out the highlights. JPEG images have a slightly warmer colour temperature when directly compared to RAW, although it is quite tough to spot the differences when compared side-by-side.

GH2 RAW

(Credit: CBSi)

The GH2 that we tested had a 14-42mm Micro Four Thirds lens; however, there is a second kit option available with a 14-140mm lens. These lenses suffer from the same disappointing drawbacks that are found with most SLR kit lenses. When photographing outside where there's plenty of light, they take sharp vibrant images, but when used inside or in a dim light situation, they force you to ramp up your ISO or add a harsh flash. Another pesky little problem for manual shooters is that these lenses have a variable aperture limit. This means that, as you zoom in, the lens stops down the light and the images will become darker — and no one wants to take gloomy-looking photographs.

GH2 ISO

(Credit: CBSi)

These drawbacks, from using such slow lenses, are compensated for by the GH2's high ISO performance. At a 100 per cent crop, destructive grain can be glimpsed at ISO 3200 but fortunately isn't really noticeable until you get up to around ISO 6400. As expected, if you push the ISO further up to 12,800, the grain invades the entire photograph, turning the blacks into an insipid grey-ish colour, and rendering most of the images completely useless.

GH2 ISO

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Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Part Number: CNETPanasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Typical Price: $1,699.00

See manufacturer website for availability.