After partnering with Olympus on the development of the Micro Four Thirds System standard (an offshoot of the Kodak/Olympus Four Thirds System), Panasonic followed Olympus into the mirrorless/interchangeable lens class of compact digital cameras with 2009's Lumix DMC-GF1. The new genre of camera mated physically larger, more DSLR-like sensors into bodies resembling a large compact point and shoot, with the ability to change lenses like a DSLR while eliminating its bulky mirror assembly.
Since then, Samsung and Sony have joined the club, and barring some unforeseen event Nikon is expected to enter the market niche as well. But while Nikon (and presumably Canon) haven't made their presence known yet, Panasonic is back at the table with the Lumix GF2, a slightly more compact and lighter model that at a quick glance can easily be mistaken for the GF1 which still appears on Panasonic USA's website at this writing. Scheduled to reach market in January 2011, the GF2 is available in kit form with either a 14mm f/2.5 prime lens or a 14-42mm stabilized zoom; the former is our review unit.
Here's the field of view afforded by the 14mm.
Panasonic touts the new camera as being 19% smaller and 7% lighter than the GF1, and this amounts to about a 1/4 inch reduction in width, and about half that in height and depth. Weight savings (body only) equal about an ounce. Panasonic advertised the GF1 as the smallest and lightest camera of its type in the world at the time of its introduction; that title has now passed to the GF2.
The GF2 offers some modest upgrades over the GF1 - notably a 1080 HD video capability in the AVCHD format, touch control and a new user interface, and the ability to make use of Panasonic's new 3D lens, a 12mm f/12 wide angle. A Venus Engine FHD processing system takes over for the Venus Engine HD of the earlier camera and adds a stop on the high end of the ISO sensitivity range, now covering 100 to 6400. Scene modes and color presets increase by one (to 17 and 8, respectively).
Other features such as Panasonic's signature iA (intelligent Auto) automatic shooting mode, and 1 area, 23 area, face detection or auto tracking autofocus options are carried over. Resolution remains at 12.1 megapixels on the same physical-sized sensor (17.3 x 13mm) as the top Olympus DSLR, the E-5. There is no internal memory but the camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media. Panasonic includes lens and body caps, a lithium-ion battery and charger, AV and USB cables, hot shoe cover, shoulder strap, battery case and stylus pen with each camera.
A lot that's familiar, a few things that aren't - let's see what the changes bring to what was a very nice starting point for Panasonic with the GF1.
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