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First Look: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2
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First Look: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2

4:59 /

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

[ music ] ^M00:00:03 >> Hi. I'm Lori Grunin, Senior Editor with CNET, and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2. With this update to the G1, Panasonic adds video capture, which was missing from its predecessor. But it also endebed [phonetic] the G2 with a touch screen, which makes it the first in any consumer interchangeable lense camera and that includes DSLR's. The company did a very nice job with the implementation as well. The touch screen enabled capabilities like touch focus and touch metering, which has been available in point and shoots for a few generations. But there's still plenty of direct access buttons and navigation controls, so that you're not stuck using the touch when it's not the optimal interface. You can do almost everything both ways, except navigate the menus. And you disable selective aspects of the touch screen operations, such as quick menu. Not only is touch focus a nice feature to have, but the G2 allows you to directly access any of the settings. While touch screen operation is pretty well done, there's one infuriatingly frustrating aspect to it. If you're in single area auto focus mode and you touch the screen when it's not clear that you're going for one of the settings, the camera assumed you want to change your focus area and drops you into that interface. Plus it moves the focus area to wherever you touched. 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 the G2 is the relocation of the SD slot from the grip to the battery compartment. Yes, it's a very common location, but it's really annoying if you use a tripod. And it's a bit awkward if you take the card out frequently. Panasonic doesn't skimp on the switches and dials in this camera. There's a custom 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 of the settings surrounding the shutter priority mode except for the most important one, the shutter speed. A big switch on the dial lets you choose among the drive modes, which are unchanged from the G1. As with the GF1 you can register up to 6 faces in the camera memory with names and birthdays, priority for auto focus and exposure, and a custom focus icon. In this camera the notable nicety remains the bracketing, which supports up to 7 frames and 2 stops in either direction. For video, which maxes out at 30 frame per second 720P, you can set coder type, quality, metering, four levels of intelligent exposure, and four levels of wind filtering. You have a little bit of manual control during movie capture. There's a pho [phonetic] aperture adjustment setting called peripheral defocus, and there's a limited ability to change shutter speeds. But finding them both requires a slog through the manual to discover them. 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 one of the yellow highlighted numbers from 50, 60, 100, and 120. I'd never have guessed that that's the way to set the shutter speed. Like the other Panasonics we've tested, the G2 is pretty fast. Both the LCD and the EVF are bright and sharp, as well as sufficiently high resolutions to manually focus and judge sharpness. However, the camera suffers from the typical problems when it comes to shooting action with and EVF or an LCD. Setting the image quality on this camera turned out to be a toughie. On one hand it delivers accurate color and exposures, even on its defaults. While several of the preset options do induce some color shifts, they're not as egregious as I've seen on many consumer digital SLR's. Panasonic manages to produce exceptionally bright, saturated colors without significantly shifting the hues. But it also seems to be the noisiest in its generation, with visible artifacts down as low as ISO200. They're exacerbated by Panasonics default combination of noise reduction and sharpening algorithms. But even doing my own processing in Adobe Camera Raw, you'll do better, but not as good as they should be, results. With the G2's defaults, too many photos look good at small sizes, but up close look like they've been taken with a point and shoot. They're crunchy with that over sharpened false level of detail look. At ISO100 however, the default settings don't introduce artifacts that they do at higher ISO sensitivities. They have cleaner edges and lack noise patterns. The image looks quite natural and not at all digital. There's tons to like about the G2, including the photo quality, if you're not as nitpicky as me. While it's not as compact as some competitors, it counters them with a built in EVF and an articulating touch screen. As with any EVF centric model, I don't recommend it if you're planning to shoot action, that means kids and pets too. But for all other types of photography this is a pretty strong contender. I'm Lori Grunin, and this is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2. ^M00:04:56 [ music ] ^E00:04:58

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