Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (454)
Editor's Rating
8.40

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 9
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.40
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
Like the GF1, video quality is a strong suit in the GF2. Initiating video capture is a simple one-button push, and the continuous AF does a pretty good job of acquiring and holding focus if you don’t take the time to pre-focus with the shutter button before starting to record. The AVCHD format requires AVCHD-compatible devices for playback or viewing and is recommended for viewing on HD TVs – motion JPEG is recommended for internet and computer use. The 14mm lens covers such a wide field of view that hand holding was fairly forgiving of introducing camera shake, but folks will want to consider using a tripod for video capture with longer lenses that magnify every little shake.

Panasonic describes the GF2 sensor as a “Live MOS”, but for video concerns the “mos” part is what we’re interested in, with the possibility of rolling shutter effect. This is the tendency of cameras equipped with CMOS sensors to skew vertical lines during panning in video capture. The GF2 showed a bit with the 14mm lens, but the effect was largely benign unless panning speeds were unrealistically fast. Longer lenses may be expected to draw more attention to the effect.

The GF2 has a built-in stereo microphone and there is a wind cut feature for audio captures. Motion JPEG clips are limited to 2GB size (about 8 minutes and 20 seconds according to the handy “time remaining” display on the screen during capture), and “motion pictures can be recorded continuously for up to 29 minutes 59 seconds in some countries.” The GF1 was listed as having a 110 minute AVCHD recording length and the United States must not be on the “some country” list as “time remaining” reads 2 hours and 1 minute at the start of AVCHD recording with the GF2.

Image Quality
No surprises here. Image quality was very good in the GF1 and there’s no change with the GF2. Default color and sharpness looked good to my eyes, and this held true across a range of manual, iAuto and scene modes. There are a multitude of user inputs available in the manual shooting modes, but the GF2 came right out of the box pretty much dialed in to producing images I liked.

With a 14mm prime as our lens, the GF2 lent itself to captures of wide, sweeping vistas, or big subjects up close.

Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image

Big turned out to be the U.S.S. Midway, all 963 feet of her – too big for even the 14mm to get her all in one shot from the dock and park surrounding her. Named in honor of the WWII battle that saw U.S. naval aviation break the back of the Japanese navy by sinking four aircraft carriers (all of whom took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor), she was the first carrier commissioned after the end of that war. She last saw action in 1992, and now serves as a floating museum in San Diego harbor.

Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image

The GF2 “my color” palette has some different names than those found on the GF1, but the bottom line is they provide a range of color options for manual shooters. Here are the default setting as well as the expressive, retro, pure, elegant, cinema, monochrome, dynamic art and silhouette options. Not sure what Panasonic’s thinking is on “silhouette”. And I shot “pure” three times just to make sure, and it came out that way each time.

Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Default
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Expressive
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Retro
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Pure
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Elegant
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Monochrome
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Dynamic Art
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Cinema
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Silhouette

Multi metering is the camera default and was used for all but the manual exposures (primarily the night shots) in the review. It did a good job with normally lit scenes and as is typical with many cameras could lose highlights on occasion with high contrast situations. There are center-weighted and spot metering options in the manual exposure modes.

The GF2 has an intelligent dynamic range setting (disabled as a default) to expand the camera’s apparent dynamic range, but I saw little difference (both visually and in histograms) with high contrast shots I applied it to. There is also an intelligent resolution setting (also off by default) that applies enhanced levels of sharpening and noise reduction to images, but the default shots out of the GF2 at low ISO were so good I found no need to enable it.

Auto white balance was used for most of the shots in the review and worked well in most cases. There are also daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen and flash presets, two custom settings and a 2500-10000 degree Kelvin temperature setting.

Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The GF2 picks up an additional step of ISO sensitivity, 6400, but it’s probably a setting Panasonic could have left on the drawing board. ISO 100 and 200 are fairly equal, but there is already just a tiny bit of loss of fine details at 200. ISO 400 starts to pick up some noise in both light and dark areas, and 800 has both a bit more noise and loss of fine details.

Panasonic Lumix GF2
ISO 100
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix GF2
ISO 200
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix GF2
ISO 400
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix GF2
ISO 800
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Panasonic Lumix GF2
ISO 1600
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop

ISO 1600 takes a more significant hit in noise and fine detail loss, but the jump to 3200 is an even more dramatic increase in noise. ISO 6400 is an equally steep fall off from 3200, with noise and detail loss relegating its use to small images if nothing else will work.

Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras operate at a size disadvantage with regards to noise because of their physically smaller sensors. And the GF2 has the bad luck to be the follow on camera to the Nikon D7000 review I just finished.

While not DSLRs, all the mirrorless cameras are attempting to cut into DSLR sales by offering DSLR-sized sensors (and hopefully DSLR noise performance) and interchangeable lenses on compact bodies. But things have just gotten tougher – the best APS-C sensor DSLRs have got the GF2 covered in high ISO noise performance. The D7000 (which uses a Sony sensor from the A55 that also shows up in the Pentax K-5) is ahead by 800 ISO and looks to be well over one and perhaps as much as two stops better at 6400. And the D7000 is shooting at 16 megapixel resolution versus 12 for the GF2. Still, the mirrorless cameras’ overriding selling point is much better than compact performance at almost compact size, and that’s a fight the DSLR can’t win.

Additional Sample Images

Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image Panasonic GF2 Sample Image
Panasonic GF2 Sample Image


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