You could be forgiven for picking up the Panasonic Lumix GH2 and thinking you’ve seen it all before. Largely, you have. The chassis is identical to the GH1 and all the others in the company’s Micro Four Thirds line up, save the GF1. As mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras go, they’re quite big and a little more on the functional side which is rather like telling a friend that a potential match for them has a really nice personality.
Fortunately, all those bumps and curves feel just as good in the hand as they have since the original G1 arrived and what we get in 2010 is quite a bit of dirty power pent up inside.
The first headline upgrade from the GH1 is that the 460k-dot, 3-inch swivel screen has gone touch. The questions are whether it’s too fiddly and if it’s responsive enough. Thankfully, the answers are no and yes in that order. Despite the thing being covered in icons like an outbreak of measles, we still managed to hit the one we were after first time on each attempt. It was really quite impressive. Better still, the screen is capacitive meaning that you can stretch and shrink both images and things like focus point as you pinch and zoom.
The other piece of fun you can have with your fingers, of course, is the touch to shoot function. It doesn’t quite do what it’s told, as most of these things don’t, but being able to rattle off 5fps at full resolution with your fingertip gives you a sense of enormous power.
Both the sensor and the processor have been revamped from the GH1 and you’ve now got an impressive 16.05 usable megapixels and the Venus Engine FHD to play with. The system has also been redesigned so that the light information from your shot goes straight to the sensor without changing from digital to analogue and back to digital again. The result is that you get more accurate results, better light sensitivity and less noise as well. Speak to anyone with a camera and that equals win, win and win.
Although we weren’t able to push it to its limits on the Photokina show floor, we were certainly pleased with the clarity of results we got at the time.
Possibly more significant with the GH2 is the improved processor. We’ll spare you the details of circuit boards, but the point is that it’s more powerful than the rest of the family and what it allows you to do now is shoot pictures in 3D - just picture, mind. Video not included.
Obviously, there’s no way of composing your 3D still shot properly as the 3-inch display is not 3D ready in any way. So, you either just hit and hope or have a read of our how to shoot in 3D guide for an educated guess.
What will strike you first about the 3D lens is that it’s really small and flat. When you stop to think about the fact that it's fixed, means that’s perhaps of not such a large surprise. On the plus side, it makes what is not the most compact camera out there a little more compact than it normally is.
So, after snapping off a few images with this lens, we were happy enough with what we saw on the Panasonic Viera 3D TVs. It wasn’t mind blowing and the stereography didn’t leap out at us but that might have something to do with the fact that the two lenses in the adaptor are actually quite close together. So, if the 3D feature is what you’re after, you might want to wait a while for the technology to mature a bit first.
If you’re looking to shoot straight video on the GH2 though, then you’re in for a treat. The added processor power has brought the stats up to 1080p in 50i mode which doubles the sensor output to 50p from what Panasonic has offered before. Throw in the added cinema scene modes and other effects filters and the 0.1 second tracking AF, and finally there’s something closer to challenge Nikon and Canon for filmmakers looking for a stills camera to shoot on. Again though, we’ll bring you the skinny on just how smooth the system runs when we get it back to PL HQ.
While it’s a little frustrating that Panasonic persists with this bulky frame for its range of Micro Four Thirds machines, the serious advantage it brings is that you can cram more and more goodies inside it, and that’s exactly what’s happened with the Lumix GH2. It’s not going to win any beauty awards, but with a 12,800 max ISO, bags of resolution, 23 touch controllable focus points, high spec video shooting, more options than you could cook Christmas dinner for and now a 3D lens, who really cares?
Our very first impression was “oh, another MFT Lumix” but our take home thoughts are more like “what a little monster”.