Despite the point-and-shoot characteristics and ease-of-use, the GH2 shoots like a DSLR. Auto focus speeds don't match the fastest DSLRs, but they're definitely competitive in the entry-level class. There's certainly no shortage of dials, controls and buttons on the camera's top and back panels, but I never felt the controls getting in the way.
Panasonic's Lumix G cameras have never let us down in terms of speed and the GH2 is no exception. Shutter lag is practically non-existent at 0.01 seconds, and AF Acquisition is leading the pack at 0.18 seconds. The system slows down somewhat in dim light, but an assist lamp keeps it acceptably fast and accurate.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2||0.01|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2||0.18|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||0.39|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2||6||6.0|
|Sony alpha NEX-5||∞||2.6|
*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.
Panasonic claims the GH2 will shoot in burst mode at 5 fps. Our own test clocked it at 6 fps for six full-resolution JPEGS at high compression. A reduced resolution offers up to 40 fps.
Two auto focus modes are available to the shooter on the focus mode lever: AFS (single) and AFC (continuous), along with MF for manual focus. Continuous AF will continuously adjust focus even as you zoom in and out. It takes a moment or two for the camera to catch up if you do this quickly, but it's fairly accurate. Dim lighting conditions can pose a real problem for this mode, and it may automatically revert to AFS if it senses that continuous focus can't be achieved.
Auto focus was generally accurate with a very rare "misfire" in poor conditions. I personally didn't find AFC useful, but that might just be me. There are several options within the two AF modes. They are Face detection, AF Tracking, 23-area-focusing, 1-area-focusing and Touch focus. They're self-explanatory, and each mode worked just the way it should in my testing.
Face detection locked in on faces in my scenes with a better-than-average rate. I did a brief self-portrait test of the the Facial Recognition system and once my image and name were registered in the camera, my name would pop up in review of subsequent photos I took of myself.
Touch focus, with touch shutter enabled, is extremely fast. Beginners may find these features more attractive than advanced users, and they won't be let down by the way the system performs.
Our review unit included a 14-140mm f/4-5.8 stabilized zoom lens. Coupled to the GH2, that equates to a range of 28-280mm in 35mm terms. As I noted in the First Look, barrel distortion is quite noticeable at the wide end of that range.
As an all-purpose kit lens, the 14-140mm performed very well. It produced images with good contrast and detail, turning in some very nice results at a museum exhibit. I was impressed by the level of detail and the reproduction of the rust colors in the photo of the helmet below.
The photo above was taken in Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt at the Cincinnati Museum Center
There's some definite softness at the corners of images captured at wide angle, but at longer focal lengths edge-to-edge sharpness is better. The closest focusing distance is 1.65 feet, so anyone buying into this kit may want to consider adding another lens for close-up photography.
I was hard pressed to find any evidence of chromatic aberration in my shots, coming up with only a few instances viewable only when those images are enlarged to 200%. Suffice it to say, it's not a real problem for the 14-140.
The lens is as sizable and somewhat heavier than your average 18-55mm kit lens, but it packs a bigger punch than those lenses. It offers Panasonic's Mega O.I.S. stabilization system, toggled on and off by a switch on the side of the lens barrel. The build quality and finish match the price tag. At the time of this writing, the lens is available on its own for around $770.
The GH2 is of course compatible with any Micro Four Thirds lens produced by Panasonic or Olympus, and it's available body-only for those who would rather not buy into the kit zoom.
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