Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2: Video and Image Quality

by Allison Johnson Reads (357)
Editor's Rating
8.60

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 10
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 8.60
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Video Quality
The GH2 is touted by Panasonic as a device capable of capturing high quality still images as well as HD video. There’s no shortage of movie recording options either. Video files can be captured in either AVCHD Light or Motion JPEG at 1080 resolution. A Class 4 memory card or higher is recommended for video recording in AVCHD, Class 6 is recommended for Motion JPEG recording.

Overall, video looked very good. The video I shot outside on a rainy day is acceptably smooth and sharp. I captured the sample clip in 1080 at 24p in Motion JPEG form.

The video in the player above has been compressed and re-encoded for streaming online. To download the file in its native resolution and format, click the link below.

Sample Video File Download

The GH2 definitely won’t put Panasonic’s line of 3 MOS HD camcorders out of business, but quality is more than acceptable for home movies and amateur uses.

Image Quality
Image quality overall was very impressive. The GH2 and its accompanying kit lens capture images with pleasing depth of color, good contrast and fine details. The GH2 goes above and beyond the ability of any point-and-shoot and is competitive with the entry-level to mid-level DSLR set. Noise performance was good up to ISO 800, but beyond there the GH2 begins to show its colors as a not-quite-DSLR.

I saw some tendency to underexpose by a stop or two in situations like the one below. The GH2 also tends to over-saturate certain colors, especially red, in the default standard film mode. There are other options, including smooth, nature, nostalgic, dynamic and vibrant. I stuck with standard for nearly all of the shots in this review.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image

The GH2 uses the same 144-zone multi-pattern metering system that each G-series Lumix has used since the introduction of the G1. It’s a very reliable system, maintaining highlights in some tricky high contrast situations. The most challenging of situations will push it to blow out some highlights, but the GH2 does very well up to that point.

Panasonic includes a couple of newer processing options in the GH2, carried up from the Lumix point-and-shoot line. Intelligent Resolution, or I. Resolution, is available to enhance sharpness and resolution. Panasonic’s materials put it this way:

With the Intelligent Resolution technology, 3 areas – outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation areas are automatically detected. Apart from the uniform enhancement of sharpness, the innovative technology Intelligent Resolution precisely performs signal processing pixel by pixel in the most effective way according to the area. As a result, images are naturally clear and crisp in both photo and movie recording.

It’s available in varying levels of strength, and it will be turned off by default in Program and manual exposure modes. Below are a couple of images for comparative purposes – the first shot was captured in Aperture priority mode with Intelligent resolution off, the image on the right was taken with I.Resolution set to high.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Intelligent Resolution Off
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Intelligent Resolution High

The image with High IR enabled definitely shows some more sharpening than the image without IR. The product doesn’t look unnaturally sharp at reduced size or even viewed at 100%. iA Intelligent Auto mode will keep I.Resolution enabled at default, so it’s just another processing option if you’re shooting outside of the camera’s most automatic mode.

Panasonic’s in-camera dynamic range tool isn’t so much a creative feature as it is utilitarian. It’s designed to correct for backlighting and even out exposure in situations with high contrast between light and dark. The tricky thing about this feature is that even if you’ve enabled it in your quick menu of options, the camera can deem the lighting conditions too difficult and refuse to engage it. The Intelligent Dynamic-Range Control will engage automatically and the icon on the quick screen will turn yellow.

Two shots below demonstrate the effects of I.Dynamic range, in the righthand image the feature is engaged at the highest level and in the left it’s turned off.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Intelligent D-Range Control Off
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Intelligent D-Range Control On

As promised, exposure is evened out slightly. Shadow areas are warmed up without overexposing the bright white highlights in the Styrofoam. I felt that the camera’s metering system generally did a good enough job to leave I.Dynamic alone for the length of my time shooting with the GH2.

The camera also offers a number of creative processing modes for still and video capture – these are the “My Color” filters available through the portrait icon on the mode dial. They include expressive, retro, pure, elegant, cinema, monochrome, dynamic art, silhouette and custom. Below are two images captured using in-camera processing.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Dynamic Black & White
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Silhouette

White balance seemed to be one area of inconsistency. The Auto White Balance setting performed under most lighting conditions outdoors just fine. Indoors, under more challenging circumstances, the GH2 seemed more unsteady. The photos of the framed bird drawing below were taken back-to-back without changing any settings in camera, and one image is decidedly warmer than the other.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image Panasonic GH2 Sample Image

There’s also no preset setting for fluorescent, though the user guide includes a scale of approximate Kelvin color temperatures of typical lighting sources as a means of adjusting for lighting conditions without a preset option. Aside from Auto, there are daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, flash, Kelvin and four user-set white balance settings.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The GH2 offers ISO sensitivities from 160 to 12800. Noise levels up to ISO 400 are well under control for the most part. Fine details are clean and color reproduction is good, albeit a bit saturated. I did see some unusual color noise in blocks of grey color – check out the grey coin in the full-resolution ISO 400 image below. That same level of noise isn’t found anywhere in the white or dark portions of the image, and I only noticed on a rare occasion in my shots, and only at 100% enlargement.

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 160
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 160, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 200
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 400
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 800
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 6400
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 6400, 100% crop
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 12800
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
ISO 12800, 100% crop

The jump from ISO 400 to 800 is almost imperceptible at 20% enlargement, with some flattening of color and contrast. Noise and color fringing become apparent in the details of the playing card at 100%. By ISO 1600, the GH2 starts to clip the colors visible in the flowers on the Whitman’s box. Noise is still well-controlled, but some fuzziness around details has definitely crept in. ISO 3200 is more of the same, with noise clearly accumulating, and ISO 6400 introduces even more noise and color flattening. ISO 12800 is best left untouched – even at a reduced size, the image is extremely grainy and color quality is poor.

Additional Sample Images

Panasonic GH2 Sample Image Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image Panasonic GH2 Sample Image
Panasonic GH2 Sample Image Panasonic GH2 Sample Image


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