The G2 has plenty to offer with an articulating touch screen LCD, high-resolution EVF, and HD video recording. It delivers the solid image quality we've come to expect from Panasonic's MFT cameras.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 is a relatively small, DSLR-like camera that uses the Micro Four Thirds sensor jointly developed by Panasonic and Olympus. It has many of the same features as a DSLR, including the use of interchangeable lenses and RAW format, but does not have a mirror box and utilizes an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical viewfinder. The G2 and the G10, a more basic version of the camera reviewed here last month, are updates to the Lumix DMC-G1, released in 2008.
Like the G10, the G2 has a 12.1 megapixel Micro Four Thirds CMOS sensor, full manual controls including aperture and shutter priority, an intelligent auto mode and movie modes in both AVCHD Lite and motion JPEG formats. But, unlike the G10, the G2 has a fully articulated LCD monitor that uses touch screen technology, though the touch screen is not the exclusive method of control.
The G2 also has the same high resolution electronic viewfinder used by the G1, which contains 1.44 million dots and a fast refresh rate, unlike the fixed, lower resolution viewfinder of the G10. The G2 is generally sold with the 14-42mm Lumix f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. lens for a list price of $799. The version I reviewed also came with the 45-200mm Lumix f/4.0-5.6 Mega O.I.S. lens, with a list price of $349.95, and the DMW-FL500 flash, with a list price of $599.95.
The DMC-G2 has a classic DSLR look, with a large handgrip on the right, but it's smaller than even the smallest entry-level DSLR. Its dimensions are 4.x 3.3 x 2.9 inches (124 x 84 x 74mm) and its weight, body only, is 13.09 ounces (371 grams). The G2 comes with a DMW-BLB13 lithium-ion battery, a charger, an AV cable, a USB cable, a shoulder/neck strap, a 218 page manual, a stylus pen, a body cap and a CD containing Panasonic's PhotofunStudio 5.0 HD Edition photo management software, and Silkypix for editing RAW images. The camera comes in basic black (the color I reviewed), as well as a striking red and blue.
This is the first DSLR-like camera I've ever had the opportunity to put through its paces and I found it to be an extremely interesting experience.
BUILD AND DESIGN
While the DMC-G2 is on the small side, compared to a typical entry-level DSLR, it has excellent build quality. Its construction is mostly metal with a plastic coating. Dials and buttons are very sturdy and work smoothly. The camera is weighty in the hand, especially with a lens attached. Although the camera looks small, it is not delicate. While I wouldn't advocate dropping it, I think it could survive a modest fall rather well.
Ergonomics and Controls
The DMC-G2 is very well-balanced, with a deep right-side handgrip. There is also a useful thumb rest in the rear. Although the camera looks like it could be used with one hand, it's probably too heavy to do so comfortably. But there is ample room on the left side for a thumb and a couple of fingers, permitting steady two-handed shooting. The camera has a very smooth surface, which tends to make it slippery. All the buttons and dials are reachable and easy to use. As a newcomer to this type of camera, I was surprised at the number of dedicated controls for functions that, when using Point and Shoot cameras, are only accessible through the menus. Once I explored the various controls I realized that they were very useful shortcuts.
The top left side of the DMC-G2 contains a switch to select among manual focus, auto focus single and auto focus continuous. There is also a dial to select face detection, auto focus tracking, 23-area auto focus and one area auto focus. The top right of the camera contains a switch to select the drive mode - single, burst, auto-bracket or self-timer. There are also dedicated buttons for movie recording and for activating the camera's intelligent auto mode. The large mode dial, also located at the top right, contains numerous recording modes including program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, custom, movie, scenes, my color, portrait, scenery, sports, close-up and night portrait. The top right of the camera includes a power switch and a large shutter button. At the center there's a hinged flash and a flash hot shoe.
The rear of the camera is dominated by the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor. The viewfinder is fairly large and surrounded by a rubberized eye cup. The viewfinder can be set to be automatically activated, and the LCD deactivated, when the camera is raised to eye level. To the left of the viewfinder is a button to activate or deactivate the viewfinder manually. There is also a diopter control to adjust the viewfinder to compensate for vision issues.
To the right of the viewfinder is a playback button, a button to lock exposure, and a control wheel for moving through the menu items. The LCD folds out and can be twisted to point up and down, very useful when trying to take pictures at odd angles. The monitor also has touch screen functionality.
To the right of the LCD are the camera's controls consisting of a four buttons surrounding a menu/set button in the middle. The up button sets the ISO, the down button is for setting a custom function, the left button brings up the film mode (several "digital film" color tones) and the right button controls white balance. The control buttons are surrounded by three other buttons - one for bringing up a quick menu (Q.Menu), one for changing the display, and one for deleting photos.
The front portion of the camera consists largely of the lens mount. It also contains a button for releasing the lens and a large auto focus assist lamp that doubles as the self-timer lamp. The camera bottom has a metal tripod mount that's centrally situated and a compartment for the battery and memory card with a very sturdy plastic cover. The camera's left side contains covered ports for USB and HDMI cables and for a microphone or a remote shutter control.
Menus and Modes
The DMC-G2's main menu is activated by pressing the menu button. It also has a shortcut menu brought up by pressing the Q.Menu button. The menu options change depending on the mode selected. Menus are clearly and logically laid out. In total, there are six categories of menus, each containing various items to select. Categories include recording, motion picture, custom, setup, my menu (for quick recall), and playback.
Here are the main modes:
The Lumix G2's built-in flash is manually raised and lowered. Its settings are auto, auto red-eye (double flash), forced flash on, forced flash/red-eye, slow synch (slows the shutter speed so flash will light up the background, slow synch/red-eye and forced flash off. Panasonic claims the effective range of the flash in auto mode, using the 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, is 20.3 feet at wide angle and 12.8 feet at maximum telephoto. I found these figures to be accurate and the flash to work very well.
I was also provided with Panasonic's DMW-FL500 flash, an excellent device that can be adjusted to fire directly or bounce for more indirect lighting. However, considering the hefty price of the DMW-FL500, most purchasers of the G2 will opt to use the built-in flash exclusively. Below are the same images taken with the FL500 and the G2's built-in flash:
The G2's 3.0-inch LCD has 460,000 dots of resolution and a 3/2 aspect ratio. It folds out and can be twisted 90 degrees forward and 180 degrees back, which I found to be very useful in taking photos at strange angles. The LCD monitor can be adjusted to seven brightness levels and the color can be tinted for better visibility. It automatically brightens and dims depending on the brightness of the environment. I rarely had a problem seeing the monitor, even in bright sunlight.
The LCD monitor also has touch screen ability which can be operated by one's fingertip or a stylus (included with the camera). The touch screen can be used for selecting menu items as well as focusing. Generally speaking, I wasn't crazy about using the touch screen. I felt the response time was a bit laggy and the screen icons were not intuitive. I had a much more positive experience with the touch screen in the Sony DSC-TX7, a small but sophisticated Point and Shoot camera I recently reviewed. However, the G2 does not force the user to rely on the touch screen, as every menu item can be selected by the camera's many buttons and dials.
The G2's electronic viewfinder has 1,440,000 dots of resolution, a 100% field of view and 1.4x magnification. The viewfinder can be set to display the information shown on the LCD monitor, or less detailed information. I found the viewfinder to be a pleasure to use. I appreciated its extremely high resolution, large size (much larger than the one that comes with my Panasonic ultrazoom), and soft eyecup. It was very convenient to have the viewfinder activate automatically whenever I brought it to eye level. While I did not really need the viewfinder for visibility, as the LCD monitor was very usable in all conditions, using the viewfinder allowed me to steady the camera against my eye.
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