When Panasonic introduced its mirrorless interchangeable-lens DMC-GF1 compact camera back in September 2009, it joined Olympus as the only other member of the class. Since then, Samsung and Sony have joined the club, and if you believe the latest rumors, Nikon is about to as well; perhaps as soon as the CES show in Las Vegas. Whether Nikon gets into the game at Vegas or not, Panasonic is already back at the table and betting folks will ante up for the GF2, a more compact, lighter version.
The new camera includes some modest upgrades over the feature mix of the GF1, notably full 1080 HD video, a 3D capability when mounting a Lumix G 12.5 mm f/12.5 3D lens and a touch control with a new graphic user interface.
Panasonic claims the GF2 is 19% more compact and 7% lighter than the GF1, which translates to dimensions of 2.67 x 4.44 x 1.29 inches and 9.35 ounces for the body only (versus 2.8 x 4.69 x 1.43 and 10.6 for the GF1). Smaller and lighter, yes, but that quarter inch here and ounce and a quarter there probably aren't going to have a major impact on most folks.
The body is aluminum and looks and feels well built - our review sample was finished in a matte-black paint with just the tiniest hint of texture to it and came equipped with the 14 mm f/2.5 kit lens (the camera is also offered in a 14-42 mm kit).The finish of the GF2 feels almost slippery, but contoured grip and thumb rest areas provide a fairly secure feel for one-handed shooting.
With all the weather across the nation, the GF2 was a day late reaching me, and arrived after we'd experienced a dramatic sunset as a week-long storm finally moved past. I used the cats as subjects indoors with flash then did a walk around the block and shot a few houses with Christmas lights before getting out in daylight this morning for a quick shoot. I shot aperture priority mostly with a few scene modes worked in at the mission, but the camera was left in default settings otherwise (although in fumbling around in the dark, I apparently introduced a 0.3 exposure compensation setting without knowing).
The GF2 acquired focus quickly indoors and out, day and night, and shutter lag appears to be quick as well. Image quality looks very good right out of the box, with good color rendition and sharpness. Here're a couple of long exposures (25 and 20 seconds, respectively) around the neighborhood.
Night sky fans will immediately recognize the grouping of stars in the center-top of the second image, but for the astronomically-challenged, that's the constellation Orion. And it points out that the GF2 with the 14 mm kit lens has the hardware to be a pretty good night sky camera. It's an admittedly brief period of time, but the GF2 looks pretty good across the board so far, both still and video. Panasonic needs the camera back in short order so it's time to stop writing and start shooting. Our storm clouds haven't completely left the area yet, but rain or no rain, we'll have a complete review of the GF2 (including some night sky work if the weather cooperates) in the near future. But if first impressions prove accurate, GF2 owners could be forgiven for feeling they've hit the image quality jackpot.