Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 review:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2

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MSRP: $799.95
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Nice touch-screen implementation; articulated LCD; relatively fast; pretty good EVF.

The Bad Images a little noisier at midrange ISO sensitivities than they should be; too easy to accidentally move focus points with touch screen.

The Bottom Line Although the photos look a hair noisier and overprocessed compared with many competitors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 has a lot to recommend about it--including a flip-and-twist touch-screen and speedy performance.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Image quality 7.0

Panasonic may have been first company to market with its interchangeable-lens camera, but its early models made some missteps. Most notably, the relatively reasonably priced Lumix DMC-G1 lacked video capture capability; with this update, the Lumix DMC-G2, Panasonic adds video capture. But in a feature twist, Panasonic endowed the G2 with a touch screen as well, the first in any consumer interchangeable-lens camera, including dSLRs (medium format digital cameras have had them for a while). And the company did quite a nice job with the implementation.

The touch screen enables capabilities like touch focus and metering, which have been available in point-and-shoots for a few generations, but there are still plenty of direct-access buttons and navigation controls so that you're not stuck using touch when it's not the optimal interface. You can do almost everything both ways (except navigate the menus), and you can disable selective aspects of the touch screen operation, such as Quick Menu operation. Not only is touch focus a nice feature to have, but the G2 allows you to directly access any of the settings. Many touch-screen cameras force you to scroll through settings via onscreen navigation arrows, but with the G2 you can simply directly choose the desired setting, the way a touch screen should function.

While the touch-screen operation is pretty well done, there's one infuriatingly frustrating aspect to it. If you're in single-area AF mode and you touch the screen when it's not clear that you're going for one of the settings, the camera assumes you want to change your focus area and drops you into that interface, plus it moves the focus area to wherever you touched. You never realize how often you accidentally hit the screen until you've used this camera for an afternoon. It's almost annoying enough to have debited the camera a full point in its design rating, but I decided a strong warning would suffice. According to Panasonic, it can be rectified with a firmware update if enough people complain. So if you buy this camera and it makes you nuts, share your pain with the company.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1
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Autofocus
Metering
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Video (max resolution at 30fps)
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Though a few of the buttons and controls have been moved--and it's about 2 ounces lighter--the G2 uses basically the same body as the G1. I like the rubberized overlay and the large, comfortable grip. One of my least favorite changes between the G1 and G2 is the relocation of the SD slot from the grip to the battery compartment. Yes, it's a very common location in point-and-shoots (and the Olympus models), but it's impossibly annoying if you use a tripod and a bit awkward if you take the card out frequently.

Panasonic doesn't skimp on the switches and dials in this camera. On the top right is the mode dial with the typical manual, semimanual and automatic options, plus a Cust mode which lets you access three batches of custom settings. It's a bit hard to decipher which settings can be saved, even with the help of the manual; for example, it seems like it won't save shutter speeds in still photo modes, but it will in video mode. Though that's not uncommon, in my book it's aggravating and counterintuitive that you can save all the settings surrounding a shutter-priority mode except for the most important one--the shutter speed.

The one mode that doesn't appear on the dial is the intelligent auto, which Panasonic has put on a small button near the on/off switch. Thankfully, the button rim glows blue when it's activated to prevent you from accidentally using it. Like the NX10, the G2 tells you which of its scene modes it's guessing your shot matches, but also like the NX10 you can't do anything about it if the camera guesses incorrectly. Panasonic moved intelligent auto off the mode dial to make room for movie mode, which the G1 didn't have. You don't need to be in the mode in order to capture video, though, because the dedicated movie button works regardless of mode. You have a little bit of manual control during movie capture--a faux aperture adjustment setting called "peripheral defocus" and a limited ability to change shutter speeds--but it requires a slog through the manual to discover it. For example, to change the shutter speed in movie mode you press the button labeled with aperture and garbage icons, which then brings up text that says "flicker red. cancel," at which point the scroll dial lets you choose a yellow-highlighted number from 50, 60, 100 and 120. I'd never have guessed that as the way to set shutter speed.

Olympus E-PL1 Samsung NX10 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 Olympus E-P1 Olympus E-P2
Sensor (effective resolution)
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Viewfinder





Autofocus
Metering
Shutter
Flash
LCD




Image stabilization
Video (max resolution at 30fps)
Audio jacks
Battery life (CIPA rating)
Dimensions (WHD, inches)
Weight (ounces)
Mfr. Price






A big switch on the dial lets you choose among the drive modes, which are unchanged from the G1. Here the notable nicety remains the bracketing, which supports up to 7 frames and 2 stops in either direction. On the left side of the top of the camera is another dial for selecting focus mode. In addition to four different sizes of a single user-selectable focus area, there's also 23-area automatic selection, Dynamic tracking AF, and face-detection AF. A smaller switch on that dial selects among manual, auto, and continuous autofocus. As with the GF1, you can register up to six faces in the camera memory with names and birthdays, priority (for AF and exposure), and a custom focus icon. During playback, the person's name appears. However, you can't use this information to search during playback, and it doesn't seem to appear anywhere in the EXIF data for the photo.

For video, you can set encoder type quality (30fps 720p at three different bit rate choices, and various lower resolution options), metering, four levels of Intelligent Exposure, and four levels of wind filtering. While AVCHD is a more efficient encoder than Motion JPEG and you can record up to the capacity of the card, the AVCHD MTS files need to be transcoded before you can post them online or send them around to friends.

Like the other Panasonics we've tested, the G2 is pretty fast. It powers on and shoots in just under 0.9 second. While slower by a hair than its predecessor when it comes to focusing and shooting in good light, 0.45 second vs. 0.4 second, it's otherwise faster. In dim conditions, it takes 0.7 second to focus and shoot. Shot-to-shot time varies between 0.7 and 0.8 second, for JPEG and raw, respectively, and with flash enabled it's a zippy 1 second. Continuous shooting ranks with other recent models at 3 frames per second, but the real problem with action shooting isn't frame rate, it's electronic viewfinders in general. Both the LCD and the EVF are bright and sharp, as well as sufficiently high resolution to manually focus and judge sharpness.

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