Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 adds touch screen, 1080i video

Enhancements over the GF1 include a touch screen and full HD video capture.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 comes in four colors in the U.S.
Panasonic

Originally published 11/3/2010; updated 2/1/2011: Pricing added to chart. Scroll to the bottom for additional analysis.

When we awarded the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 an Editors' Choice about a year ago, it was mostly because it fulfilled three of the four reasons I think the category exists: an interchangeable-lens camera (ILC), it provided a consumer-friendly compact size, faster than point-and-shoot performance, and the image-quality benefits of a large-ish Micro Four Thirds sensor.

Now there's a lot more competition: Olympus' PEN series is still around (but with sluggish performance), and Sony has come out with its sleekly designed and solidly performing NEX models. The biggest problem with a lot of these models, however, is price: They command the prices of entry-level dSLRs but don't deliver on the performance. The cheaper ILCs simply aren't compact enough. So I have to admit, I expected a little more with Panasonic's announcement of its GF1 update, the Lumix DMC-GF2. Though the sensor is the same resolution as before, it's the same newer version that's in the Lumix DMC-LX5.

The camera also has the updated image-processing engine that's in the GH2, improved video capture capabilities, and a touch-screen interface similar to that of the G2. Of course, given Panasonic's refusal to announce pricing it's impossible to state outright that it's too expensive; I'll just assume it's going to cost at least as much as the current GF1, which is on the high side.

Here's Panasonic's current lineup:

  Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 16.1-megapixel Live MOS
17.3mm x 13.0mm 17.3 x 13.0mm 17.3 x 13.0mm 17.3 x 13.0mm 17.3 x 13.0mm
Focal-length multiplier 2x 2x 2x 2x 2x
Image processor version Venus Engine HD II Venus Engine HD II Venus Engine HD Venus Engine FHD Venus Engine FHD
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 160 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting 3.2fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.2fps
unlimited JPEG/ 7 raw
3fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3.2fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
5fps
unlimited JPEG/ 7 raw
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
Electronic
202,000 dots
100% coverage
1.04x/0.52x magnification
Electronic
n/a/1.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.4x/0.7x magnification
Optional Electronic
n/a
Optional Electronic
n/a
Electronic
1.5 million dots
100% coverage
1.42x/0.71x magnification
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF
Shutter speed 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb up to 4 minutes; 1/160 x-sync 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/160 x-sync 1/4,000 to 60 secs; bulb up to 2 minutes; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 144 zone 144 zone 144 zone 144 zone 144 zone
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video 720/30p Motion JPEG MOV AVCHD Lite 720/30p or Motion JPEG MOV 720/30p AVCHD Lite or Motion JPEG MOV 1080/60i/50i @ 17, 13 Mbps
720/60p @17, 13 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
AVCHD 1080/60i/50i/24p (60p sensor output) @ 24, 17, 13Mbps; 720/60p @ 17, 13Mbps
QuickTime MOV Motion JPEG
720/30p
Audio Mono Mono; mic input Mono Stereo Stereo, mic input
LCD size 3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3 inches articulated
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3 inches articulated
460,000 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) 380 shots 390 shots 350 shots 300 shots 340 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.9 x 3.3 x 2.9 4.9 x 3.3 x 2.9 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.9 x 3.5 x 3
Body operating weight (ounces) 13.9 13.1 12.2 11 (est) 15.2 (est)
Mfr. Price n/a n/a n/a $499.95 (body only) $899.95 (body only)
$599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens)
$699.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $899.95 (with 14-45mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $599.95 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $999.95 (with 14-42mm lens)
n/a
n/a $899.95 (with 20mm f1.7 lens) $699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens) $1499.95 (with 14-140mm lens)
Ship date May 2010 May 2010 September 2009 January 2011 December 2010

The GF2 will retain its unique place in Panasonic's ILC lineup as its "compact" model--at least until the company introduces a less-expensive version, which I think is necessary, if not inevitable. It's possible Panasonic could drop the price on the GF1 into E-PL1 territory; at my last questioning company reps weren't sure (or weren't admitting) what the strategy would be with respect to the older model.

The enhancements to the GF2 are nice, and I expect the image quality to match that of the LX5. I like the touch-screen implementation of the G2 as well, but Panasonic jettisoned the physical mode dial in favor of a virtual one, which some users might dislike.

In its marketing, the company seems to be aggressively targeting the NEX-5 with the GF2. Here's how it stacks up against that and some other, (presumably) cheaper competitors:

  Olympus E-P2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Samsung NX10 Sony Alpha NEX-5
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.1-megapixel Live MOS 14.6-megapixel CMOS 14.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS
17.3mm x 13mm 17.3 x 13.0mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 2x 2x 1.5x 1.5x
Image processor version TruePic V Venus Engine FHD n/a n/a
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 200 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting 3fps
12 JPEG/ 10 raw
3.2fps
unlimited JPEG/7 raw
3fps
10 JPEG/ 3 raw
2.3fps
unlimited JPEG/8 raw
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
Electronic
100 percent
1.44 million dots
1.15x/0.58x
Optional Electronic
n/a
Electronic
921,000 dots
1.29x/0.86x
None
Autofocus 11-area contrast AF 23-area contrast AF 15-point contrast AF 25-point contrast AF
Shutter speed 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 30 minutes 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb to 4 minutes; 1/160 x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb to 8 minutes 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 flash sync
Metering 324 area 144 zone 247 segment 40 segment
Image stabilization Sensor shift Optical Optical Optical
Video 720/30p Motion JPEG AVI 1080/60i/50i @ 17, 13 Mbps
720/60p @17, 13 Mbps AVCHD or Motion JPEG QuickTime MOV
720/30p H.264 MPEG-4 1080/60i AVCHD
Audio Stereo; mic input Mono Mono Mono, mic input
LCD size 3-inch fixed
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed touch screen
460,000 dots
3-inch fixed AMOLED
614,000 dots
3-inch tilting
921,600 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) 300 shots 300 shots 400 shots 330 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 4.8 x 3.4 x 1.6 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.6
Body operating weight (ounces) 12.2 11 (est) 14.5 10.2 (without flash); 10.9 (with flash)
Mfr. Price $749.99 (body only) $499.95 (body only) n/a n/a
$799.99 (with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $599.95(with 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens)
$799.99 (with 17mm f2.8 lens) $699.95 (with 14mm f2.5 lens) n/a $649.99 (with 16mm f2.8 lens)
Ship date December 2009 January 2011 March 2010 July 2010

The GF2 does offer an optional EVF, but otherwise looks pretty evenly matched with the NEX-5 for features--the GF2 has all the usual Panasonic automatic options and a few touch-screen advantages (such as touch focus)--and its interface looks a lot more functional than the NEX. But the NEX's likely lower price and tiltable LCD are pretty compelling.

In the U.S., the Lumix DMC-GF2 will be available in black, red, white, and silver--Panasonic will be sparing us the pink version--and one of the two kits will ship with the new 17mm lens announced last month. Pricing is slated to be announced a month before the camera ships. It looks like Panasonic decided to be fairly aggressive with the pricing, which makes sense given how hard it's been for ILCs to gain significant traction in the US. Based on the price, specifications and what we've seen of its predecessor, it has the potential to be a relatively attractive option. The GF2 is slated to ship in mid-February.

 

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