Panasonic G2 Review

by on October 13, 2010

in Panasonic

The Panasonic G2 is one of the many Micro Four Thirds system cameras available now.  As you may know, Micro Four Thirds cameras don’t have a mirror like traditional DSLRs.  Instead, the G2 and other Micro Four Thirds cameras utilize a live view system where the composition is displayed on the camera’s rear LCD panel.  With the G2, you also have the option of viewing an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in a manner similar to traditional optical viewfinders.

The Panasonic G2 is the big brother of the previously reviewed Panasonic G10.  The upgrades are mild in most instances, but could the difference maker for some shoppers.  The G2 offers the same 12.1MP found in the G10, as well as HD movie capture.  However, the G2 features a tilt/swivel LCD and improved video capture modes put the G2 well ahead of the G10.

To see how the G2 stacks up, read on.

Panasonic G2 Key Features

  • 12.1MP Sensor
  • 14-42mm Kit Lens w/ Image Stabilization
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 3-inch Touchscreen and LCD (460k dot res) w/ Tilt/Swivel
  • Electronic Viewfinder (1.4 million dot res)
  • Full-time Live View and Autofocus
  • 720p HD Movie Capture
  • External Mic Connection
  • SDXC Memory Card Compatible

Panasonic G2 Handling, Ergonomics and Control

Like the Pansonic G10, the G2 looks and feels a lot like a more traditional DSLR.  Even though the overall size is much smaller than most DSLRs on the market today, the G2 features a substantial grip for the right hand to grab, along with a traditional viewfinder to frame your shots as you place your eye to the camera.

Since the G2 has no reflex mirror as is found in DSLRs, the viewfinder is electronic rather than optical.  The G2′s EVF is a much higher resolution than is found in the G10.  And while the G2′s EVF is works very well, you will still get some blurring when trying to pan along with moving subjects.  You should be fine and comfortable using the EVF with day-to-day snapshots, and well-composed works of subjects that aren’t moving too fast.

When comparing the overall size to DSLRs, the G2 is definitely a win; however, some of its mirrorless competitors and alternatives might make it seem rather large.  For instance, the Sony NEX-5 is a bit of a dwarf compared to the G2.  If it turns out the G2 is a little larger than you are looking for, Panasonic also offers the excellent GF1.

Like other Panasonic Lumix cameras, the G2 is a very well-designed and user-friendly camera.  The controls are accessible and logical, with everything from button layout to menu selection fitting the Panasonic mold well.

Of course, the G2 has the standard mode dial atop the camera that makes it very DSLR-esque.  The quick access to P/A/S/M modes will be a boon to experienced users, while novice photographers will appreciate the ability to shoot with the G2’s Intelligent Auto mode that’s accessible via the red “iA” button next to the mode dial.

Just behind the shutter release is a quick-record button for capturing video on the fly without the need to turn the mode dial over to “video mode.”  This is a feature that I missed on the G10 and, given the prevalence of dual-purpose cameras today, a feature that should exist on any cameras that offers video capture.

On the other side of the G2′s hot shoe is a second dial that offers on-the-fly adjustments to metering modes, while a switch at the base of the dial gives you access to focus modes (e.g., MF, AF-C, AF-S).

One of the biggest attractions to the G2 is the excellent tilt/swivel LCD, which also offers touchscreen operation.  While I can appreciate the tilting LCD on cameras like the Sony NEX-5, a full-on tilt/swivel LCD makes a big difference. For one, it allows you to operated the camera in portrait orientation in nearly the same manner as landscape orientation.  The high-resolution (460k dot) 3″ display performs admirably and offers a seven step adjustment for brightness and contrast.

The G2 has a savvy menu system that’s very easy to dive right into via the Menu/Set button and 4-way control buttons on the rear of the camera.  These 4-way control buttons double as quick access buttons for ISO, white balance, Film Mode, and a function button, which is set to bring up AF point selections.

A Quick Menu button on the rear of the camera brings up access to common settings that are already overlaid on the LCD while in live view anyway.  It’s a really smart way to access a number of settings with a couple of pushes of a button.

The touchscreen LCD makes the Quick Menu navigation even easier.  Just tap the Quick Menu icon on the display and you can quickly navigate between settings. The touchscreen is very responsive with no detectable lag and quite accurate in that I didn’t encounter any problems of not hitting the icon that I was aiming for.

The scroll wheel near the thumb rest on the back of the camera is used primarily for changing exposure settings depending on the given mode.  In Program mode, you can shift the aperture and shutter together as the camera maintains a proper exposure, or you can press the scroll wheel in (like a button) and switch to exposure compensation adjustments where you can dial the camera up or down in 1/3 stop increments up to +/- 3EV.

Likewise, in Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority, the scroll wheel adjusts the aperture and shutter settings, respectively.  Again, you can also push the wheel to toggle over to the exposure compensation settings.  In manual mode, pushing in on the scroll wheel toggles back and forth between shutter and aperture settings.  Hit the ISO button in any of these modes and you can use the scroll wheel to run up and down from ISO 100-6400.

In everyday shooting, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about the G2.  Autofocus is amazingly snappy for a contrast-based AF system.  You really won’t notice much, if any, difference between the G2’s AF speed and that of entry-level DSLRs.

Shutter response is great, and shot-to-shot speed is very respectable – though even entry-level DSLRs will outshine the framerate of the G2.  If you shoot a lot of sports and action, then this may not be the right camera – but you should be ok with ordinary shots of active kiddos.

The 14-42mm lens that comes with the G2 is a decent kit lens.  It covers the an 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 28-84mm thanks the to 2x crop factor of the Micro Four Thirds system.

If you have the change to spare though (or even if you have to save some pennies for while), I highly recommend adding the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens to your kit.  This lens is great walkaround lens due to the nice focal length and bright max aperture, which aids in low light, indoor photos.

Panasonic G2 Image Quality

Like the Panasonic G10, the G2 offers great image quality.  Granted, it’s not quite up to the quality we’re seeing in cameras like the Rebel T2i, but it’s close enough to not really matter for most people.  If you aren’t going to be earning a living with this camera or inspecting image files at 100% all day, then it’s pretty much a wash between the G2 and most entry-level DSLRs out there now.

I put the G2 and G10 up against the Canon Rebel T2i to see how the noise control holds up.  In order to do so, I put the cameras on a tripod and captured a number of images of the same scene at various ISO settings.  I left the cameras in their default settings for noise control and such.  I also left the cameras in auto white balance to demonstrate the cameras’ different interpretation of white under tungsten lights.  Exposure times and aperture settings were the same across all cameras.

Below is a full view of the captured scene to give you an idea of what you are looking at in the close-up crops further down.

Panasonic G2 and G10 ISO Comparison to Canon Rebel T2i

Since the G10 and G2 only go up to ISO 6400, I placed those crops next to the Canon Rebel T2i at ISO 12800 again for comparison purposes.

Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication).  You can download the full size images by right-clicking on the links below and choosing “Save link as…”

Panasonic G2 ISO 100Panasonic G10 ISO 100Canon Rebel T2i ISO 100
Panasonic G2 ISO 200Panasonic G10 ISO 200Canon Rebel T2i ISO 200
Panasonic G2 ISO 400Panasonic G10 ISO 400Canon Rebel T2i ISO 400
Panasonic G2 ISO 800Panasonic G10 ISO 800Canon Rebel T2i ISO 800
Panasonic G2 ISO 1600Panasonic G10 ISO 1600Canon Rebel T2i ISO 1600
Panasonic G2 ISO 3200Panasonic G10 ISO 3200Canon Rebel T2i ISO 3200
Panasonic G2 ISO 6400Panasonic G10 ISO 6400Canon Rebel T2i ISO 6400
Canon Rebel T2i ISO 12800

Below I have included several more real world photos taken with the G2.  All were captured using the Panasonic G2’s 14-42mm kit lens.  Except where noted, the following images were captured in JPEG format.  Additionally, I have noted the basic shot info below each image.  You can download the full-resolution files for personal evaluation by right-clicking on a photo and choosing “Save link as…”


ISO 100 – f/7.1 – 1/200s (RAW file processed in LR3)


ISO 100 – f/7.1 – 1/250s (RAW file processed in LR3)


ISO 100 – f/6.3 – 1/200s (RAW file processed in LR3)


ISO 400 – f/5.6 – 1/1000s (RAW file processed in LR3)


ISO 400 – f/5.6 – 1/8s


ISO 400 – f/5.6 – 1/6s


ISO 400 – f/5 – 1/13s


ISO 400 – f/3.5 – 1/40s


ISO 1600 – f/4.7 – 1/30s

While the high-ISO/noise inspection at full resolution is a bit overkill, I think it helps demonstrate just how good the Pansonic G2 images look.  If you want to print everyday snap shots or vacation photos, you aren’t going to be able to tell a difference between the images you get from the G2 and the images you get from, say, the Canon Rebel T2i.

Panasonic G2 Accessories

Panasonic DMW-BLB13 Battery – The Panasonic G2 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.

Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 Lens – I love this lens and think that it is probably the best walkaround lens for the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras right now.  It is a little pricey given what you pay for this camera, but if there were a second lens to buy, this is it for me.

Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the Panasonic G2, which worked just fine. Faster cards may provide a little faster frame-to-frame recovery though. The Panasonic G2 is compatible with all SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the Panasonic G2. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.

Conclusions

The Panasonic G2 is an excellent camera.  Form, function and performance are rock solid with this Micro Four Thirds shooter.  The AF speed, image quality and feature set rivals what the best of the entry-level DSLR crowd is offering right now.

It has the right amount of creature comforts, along with ease of use for beginners as well as bells and whistles for more experienced photographers.  Cameras like the G2 are the reason consumers who are looking for something better than a point and shoot camera will start looking more and more to mirrorless cameras over DSLRs.  Highly recommended.

The Panasonic G2 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Panasonic G2 at B&H Photo

By making your photography purchases at B&H Photo through these links, you are helping Photography Bay to continue bring quality camera tests, news and reviews. Thanks for your continued support.

*Note: Portions of the text of this review were reproduced from the Panasonic G10 review where functional or performance aspects between the two cameras were identical.

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