Our "first" first look at the Panasonic GH2 came at Photokina late last year. Sitting in line with its G2 and G10 predecessors, there wasn't much setting it apart outside of that "GH2" badge. In fact, if you pick the camera up and start shooting with it, you might overlook one of the GH2's most notable features. Sure, that tilting/swiveling 3.0-inch LCD looks familiar, but this time it's touch friendly.
The GH2 is Panasonic's new flagship G series model, so it's natural that it inherited the G2's touch panel. The GH2 is also the first Micro Four Thirds (for more on that, read this) Lumix model with more than 12 megapixels of resolution. The revamped Four Thirds sensor on board has 16.02 megapixels and a faster readout speed, resulting in a boosted 5 fps full-resolution burst shooting mode.
With a faster burst rate and a new touchscreen, the Lumix GH2 simultaneously feels more like a DSLR and more like a point-and-shoot. But that's been the story from the beginning. Since the introduction of the G1, Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds efforts have taken a sort of "best of both worlds" approach; larger-than-a-compact sensor meets a smaller-than-a-DSLR body.
The GH2 takes no departure from the previous generation in terms of style. The same sculpted handgrip is back and the same array of controls on the top deck (with the addition of some more custom memory shooting modes) and back panel are here. The electronic viewfinder is now slightly larger with 1.53 million dots of resolution. It's as bright and fluid as you could want an EVF to be, though it still stutters just a bit in low light.
The ISO sensitivity is also three stops higher than that of the G2, ranging up to 12800. Of course, there's the potential that images at those high ISO settings will be very noisy, given that the GH2 introduces more pixels to a sensor the same size as its predecessors'.
At first blush, noise seems to be well-controlled. As we saw with the GH1 and G2, the image quality is far beyond what you could expect a point-and-shoot to accomplish. The contrast is pleasant and details seem to be sharp.
The difference between the GH2 and a point-and-shoot is most felt indoors. In my preliminary round of shooting, I've found that pushing the GH2 to ISO 800 or 1600 doesn't sacrifice too much in the way of fine detail. Auto focus speed is slowed a bit in the dimmest conditions, but the AF lamp and an overall blazing contrast-based system keep it well above the speeds of a point-and-shoot.
How is the GH2 doing in DSLR terms? So far, it seems to be doing everything you would expect from an entry-level DSLR and then some. I'm seeing more noise in images than I would expect to see from a mid-to-pro grade DSLR. The 14-140mm kit lens is turning in a solid performance so far, with some expected and noticeable barrel distortion.
There's a lot more time to clock in the studio and in the field before the full review is ready. For now, take a look at a few sample images.