Panasonic incorporates stabilization into their lenses, and the 14mm on our review unit wasn’t stabilized. Using the old rule of thumb that for hand holding shutter speed should be the inverse of the lens focal length, that meant shooting at or faster than about 1/30th of a second with the GF2. The fairly fast f/2.5 maximum aperture of the lens helps in this regard.
The GF2 powers up quickly, taking about 0.7 seconds to provide a focus point – I was able to get off a first shot at about the 1 second mark which is essentially the same times observed with the GF1. Shutter lag is a quick 0.01 seconds and focus acquisition is at the head of the mirrorless pack at 0.34 seconds. There’s a focus assist lamp that helps in dim light, and with the GF2 utilizing a contrast detection AF system like most true compacts, wide angle is generally the better performing end of the focal range spectrum for speedy AF performance.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2||0.01|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2||0.34|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||0.39|
|Olympus E-P2||12||3.5 fps|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2||60||3.4 fps|
|Samsung NX10||12||3.3 fps|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||∞||2.6 fps|
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Single shot-to-shot times ran about 1 second. Continuous shooting rates with large, fine quality JPEGS ran 3 fps for me in the field, a bit less than the 3.2 fps advertised rate. The studio shoot generated a 3.4 fps rate. The GF2 was content to rattle off shots at high speed well past the 60 consecutive shot point where I started to lose interest in the outcome. Panasonic doesn’t list a number for continuous JPEG captures at high speed (RAW is 7), but based on our experience the GF2 looks to be good for at least 60.
There’s a brief blackout after the first capture in continuous shooting modes and the camera is always one shot behind on the display, so panning with moving subjects can involve some anticipation on your part. But as I found with the GF1, the GF2 is one of the easier non-DSLR cameras to use while tracking moving subjects. The GF2 proved to be pretty good at holding focus on movers, including this sequence of our local commuter train shot in high speed continuous mode.
Subjects moving across the field of view are an easier exercise for a camera AF system to track than one approaching or moving away since the relative distance to the camera changes more rapidly in the latter situation. The GF2 handled the train pretty well with AF set for single point, continuous AF, but there’s also an AF tracking mode for moving subjects that allows you to designate the subject for the focus point via touch, and the camera then holds focus on this subject if it moves in the field of view. The inherent greater depth of field found in wide angle lenses helps as well, but the train was travelling about 30 MPH so DOF alone can’t account for fairly sharp captures in the sequence.
The built-in flash on the GF2 has a guide number of 6 meters at 100 ISO (same as the GF1) – this equates to a range of just under 8 feet at maximum aperture with our 14mm kit lens. Flash recycle times were in the 4.5 second range with partial discharges and ran up to about 4.75 seconds with what appeared to be full discharges.
The 14mm Lumix lens features a fast f/2.5 maximum aperture and is light and compact. That 14mm sounds like serious wide-angle coverage, but most digitals, and particularly cameras with the Four Thirds or Micro Four Thirds sensors with their 2x crop factors turn a wide angle into a less wide angle. That wide sounding 14mm actually shoots at a much more pedestrian 28mm (in 35mm equivalents) on the GF2. Still wide, but more ho-hum wide than gee-whiz wide. The flip side of this is Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds cameras give telephoto shooters an extra chunk of focal length when they’re trying to get “closer” to subjects via telephoto – their strength lies in long lenses rather than wide.
The kit lens has some barrel distortion, but sharpness is fairly good and consistent across the frame. There was some chromatic aberration (purple fringing) present at high magnifications in some high contrast boundary areas, but the effect is fairly well controlled and hard to see in most cases.
The GF2 is compatible with lenses built to the Micro Four Thirds standard. These include Lumix branded lenses along with Olympus, Cosina and the Leica DG Macro Elmarit. Four Thirds lenses (including Leica, Olympus and Sigma) may be utilized by means of the MA1 adapter; there are MA2M and MA3R adapters for Leica M and R lenses, respectively. Leica M and R lenses are manual focus; autofocus functions with Four Thirds lenses may not be compatible in older lenses. Leica adapters run about $250 each; the Four Thirds adapter is about $170.
While the kit lens isn’t overly wide and certainly isn’t long, its fast maximum aperture makes it a fine candidate for night sky photography. Night sky shots typically involve a wide angle lens of 24mm or wider shot wide open in manual exposure for a 15 or 20 second exposure and elevated ISO sensitivity to bring out stars and other details in the night sky. The more dramatic shots typically have a bit of terrestrial landscape or detail to add interest. The key to being successful involves getting the lens set to focus at infinity, then taping the focus ring at that point so it doesn’t change, and finally shooting the camera with manual focus so that AF doesn’t change your lens setting.
The 15 or 20 second exposure helps minimize star trails and keep them as points of light, and you control the brightness of the scene with ISO sensitivity. Make sure you get your lens set by focusing on a distant subject before it gets dark – after the sun goes down the stars are much too dim in the monitor (or even the best DSLR viewfinder) to use for focus purposes. Needless to say a sturdy tripod and firing the shutter by remote or self timer are vital pieces of the puzzle. Here are the shots as they came out of the camera, and after post processing for noise reduction with NIK Define2 noise reduction software. I “painted” the hillside with a red LED flashlight during the exposure, and if you look closely at the full sky featuring Orion, the fuzzy Orion nebula is visible about midway down the “sword.”
Battery life is listed as a disappointing 320 images with the 14mm lens (and an even worse 300 with the 14-42), down a bit from the GF1. Panasonic has chosen to go with a less-powerful battery (7.3 watt hour versus 9 watt hour) in the GF2 – possibly the result of the camera body downsizing.