As long as you don't leave your noise reduction up to Panasonic's defaults, you can shoot comfortably up to about ISO 800; beyond that, even the raw photos get muddy and hard to fix.
Caption byLori Grunin / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
Panasonic's default combination of noise-reduction and sharpening algorithms tend to produce unsightly pattern artifacts even as low as ISO 200. Though the noise patterns are more pronounced on the Raw vs. JPEG slide, here you can see the issues with edges.
(1/100 sec, f5.3, center-weighted metering, AWB, standard film mode, 14-42mm lens at 36mm)
Details at middle distances look a bit too crunchy, and almost like they were photographed with a point-and-shoot camera.
(1/60 sec, f6.3, center-weighted metering, AWB, standard film mode, 14-42mm lens at 14mm)
At ISO 100, the default settings don't introduce artifacts as they do at higher ISO sensitivities. Note the cleaner edges and lack of noise patterns; the image looks quite natural and not digital.
(1/60 sec, f5, center-weighted metering, AWB, standard film mode, 45-200mm lens at 84mm)
While the raw version, processed with Adobe Camera Raw, is slightly less sharp, it lacks the Pointillist artifacts shown here and on previous slides.
(1/160 sec, f5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, AWB, standard film mode, 45-200mm lens at 200mm. Raw processed using ACR 5.7.)
At its maximum sensitivity, the G2's photos don't look bad overall--in fact, the color on this one is very good--but up close you can spot definite patterns from the noise reduction. That makes this usable at smaller sizes, which is typical for its class.
(1/40 sec, f4, spot metering, AWB, standard film mode, 14-42mm lens at 17mm)
While I expect to see some distortion at 14mm, and this looks about as distorted as Olympus' 14mm, Panasonic usually performs distortion correction in-camera and this doesn't look like that's been done.
(1/60 sec, f20, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, standard film mode, 14-42mm lens at 14mm)
There's almost no distortion at 45mm; if Panasonic's performing in-camera control it's doing a very good job.
(1/160 sec, f8, ISO 100, center-weighted
metering, AWB, standard film mode, 45-200mm lens at45mm)
The Panasonic's 14-42mm kit lens only seems to display fringing in extreme conditions. It also handled this exposure very well, given that it was shot in extremely bright sunlight. Yes, the sky was blue, but it's technology, not magic.
(1/60 sec, f11, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, standard film mode, 14-42mm lens at 14mm)
Though it's not unusual to get fringing on high-contrast edges, this is pretty serious. I thought the camera's intelligent contrast control might help bring back these highlights (and therefore squash the fringing), but it didn't, even at the highest setting.
(1/100 sec, f6.3, ISO 100, spot metering, AWB, standard film mode, Intelligent contrast correction on low, 45-200mm lens at 45mm)
This photo shot with the 14-42mm kit lens looks pretty sharp. Note the minor magenta fringing on the highlights as well.
(1/60 sec, f4.7, ISO 200, spot metering, AWB, standard film mode, 14-42mm lens at 26mm)