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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Noise

Noise, ISO 800

Noise, ISO 1,600

Sharpness, 14-140mm lens

Noise, ISO 6,400 raw vs. JPEG

Distortion, 14-140mm lens

Midrange detail

Fringing, 14-140mm lens

The combination of the new sensor in the GH2 and some improved JPEG processing on Panasonic's part has resulted in some of the best image quality we've seen in the company's cameras to date. For example, in most Panasonic cameras--even the good ones, like the LX5--the text in this shot is usually riddled with color noise.

That said, there's still quite a bit of noise in midrange-to-high-ISO JPEG shots; I can't confidently suggest shooting higher than ISO 200 in that case. However, using raw pushes that to about ISO 800, depending upon the scene.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
This is the typical color noise pattern we see in Panasonic's images--most noticeably, yellow splotches. On one hand, it's a lot subtler than usual in the lighter shadows. But if you look at the deeper shadows on the left of the photo, you'll see it causes wholesale yellow shifts in white balance.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
You can definitely get better results with a fast prime lens, even with the JPEGs. For example, this was shot with an Olympus 17mm F2.8.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The 14-140mm kit lens is pretty sharp. (1/40 sec, f5.1, ISO 200)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
You can buy about two stops of usability by processing raw files instead of using the JPEGs. You still lose some dynamic range and detail, but even a quick-and-dirty processing in software delivers far better results than Panasonic's internal algorithms. (1/40 sec, f5, Olympus 14-42mm msc lens at 14mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
The 14-140mm kit lens' geometry looks very good--there's probably some in-camera correction happening, but I don't see any of the artificial-looking straight lines that the correction usually produces.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
Despite sufficient light and a low ISO sensitivity setting, you can still see quite a bit of color noise in this photo, which makes the details look mushy. This is another case where the raw version looks great. (1/100, f7.1, ISO 160, 14-140mm lens at 14mm)
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
One of the drawbacks to the 14-140mm lens is the distortion around the edges, which can result in fringing. It's pretty good away from the edges, though.
Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET
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