Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 digital camera (preview)

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 replaces the DMC-G1 and now includes a touch screen

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Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2

Pros

  • Excellent focusing, rich and accurate colours, responsive touch screen, reasonably good battery life, light and comfortable to hold, aperture and shutter preview

Cons

  • Glut of features can be overwhelming, noticeable noise over ISO 400 with our preproduction model, EVF a little too small to be comfortable

Bottom Line

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 is a Micro Four Thirds camera that houses a stack of features to suit both advanced photographers and inexperienced ones. From our limited tests, it looks to be a camera that can produce clear and vibrant images without you having to perform much post-processing. We absolutely love its touch screen, which makes focusing anywhere in the frame a breeze; its auto modes are so good you won't even have to think about using manual settings most of the time.

Would you buy this?

Check out test images taken with the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 and LUMIX DMC-G10 cameras.

June 2010 is going to be a good month for Australian camera enthusiasts, as this is when the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 interchangeable lens camera will be available in stores. It will be the direct replacement for the LUMIX DMC-G1 and will give users a completely new shooting experience due to its hinged, 3in touch screen. We had a chance to play with the LUMIX DMC-G2 on a trip to Crooked Rivers vineyard organised by Panasonic. We got to ride helicopters up through Sydney Harbour and down the South Coast to the vineyard, and managed to take more than 750 photos in the process (burst mode is responsible for a few hundred of those).

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 digital camera has a 12.1-megapixel LIVE MOS sensor and relies on Micro Four Thirds technology, which gives it a very small body by doing away with the mirror box and optical viewfinder of a traditional digital SLR. It feels very light, yet sturdily built. There are plenty of buttons on the rear that you can use to navigate the menu system, but the biggest (and probably best) feature of the LUMIX DMC-G2 is its touch screen.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 touch screen and focusing

Simply touch the LCD screen at the point that you want to be in focus and the camera will do the rest automatically. In the first photo we tapped on the post, while in the second we tapped on the background.

You can use the touch screen to change almost any setting — including the aperture and shutter speed — but its best use is for focusing. You can select a focus point by tapping the screen and the camera will do all the work for you to make sure your chosen subject is in focus. You can also make the focus point bigger or smaller, and you can even select moving subjects that you want to track. It worked flawlessly during our tests and the autofocus overall was very quick and accurate. It’s the best focusing system we’ve used on an interchangeable lens camera to date.

Of course, you can also use the built-in electronic viewfinder to frame your shots, but the 3in touch screen is so good you’ll probably want to use it exclusively unless the conditions are too bright. The screen is also handy when manually focusing: its high resolution (460,000 dots) and zoom feature (you can zoom up to 10x on the area you are focusing on) allow you to easily see if your subject is actually in focus. The hinge allows the screen to pop out towards the left of the camera and also to flip. It’s convenient for taking low-down, high-up and pretty much any angled shots.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 picture quality

Three new lenses will be introduced this year by Panasonic -- an 8mm fisheye lens, a 14mm pancake lens and a 100-300mm tele-zoom lens (because the Micro Four Thirds system has a crop factor of two, double those numbers to get the equivalent focal length in the 35mm format) -- but we used the LUMIX G VARIO 14-42mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. / MEGA O.I.S lens for our tests. It has a 35mm camera equivalent focal length of 28-84mm and it’s suitable for capturing landscapes as well as people and pets.

The colours captured by the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 are accurate and vibrant. They looked great straight out of the camera.

Using this lens we captured photos that were quite clear and accurately coloured. In fact, the colours captured by the LUMIX DMC-G2 were very vibrant and the exposure and white balance were spot on, even though we shot in overcast conditions. We used the sports scene mode for most our shots, but also ventured into shutter priority and some of the custom colour modes. Images weren’t tarnished by chromatic aberration -- we really had to look hard to find any at all when viewing the photos at their full size -- and the lens produced hardly any noticeable distortion. Furthermore, out of focus elements were rendered beautifully.

Because our test camera was not a full production model, we can’t say for sure what its picture quality will be like when viewing photos at their full size, but we did notice some noise and softness. There was noticeable noise above ISO 400 when taking indoor shots, but all up we’re very pleased with the image quality of the LUMIX DMC-G2 and can’t wait to test the final product.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 iAUTO mode

Interchangeable lens cameras are aimed at professionals who want something smaller to carry but as capable as a digital SLR, as well as inexperienced users who want better image quality than a compact camera can offer. The intelligent auto mode helps inexperienced users greatly and Panasonic has even included a dedicated button for this mode. If you are in another mode and are challenged by the exposure settings, you can just press the iAUTO button to quickly get out of that mode and let the camera take the reigns. We think it’s a great feature.

However, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 has a lot of features to play with and having so many icons on the screen at once can get confusing. Ideally, you’ll want to spend some time getting to know all the settings and just what the camera can do before you venture out on a shooting expedition. You can use the touch screen to manipulate almost every feature, but the physical buttons on the back of the camera can also be used to change settings. There are many colour and scene modes to tinker if you want to get creative.

For this picture we used one of the custom colour modes.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 Full HD video

We love the Full HD recording mode, and also that there is a dedicated video recording button so that you can start recording no matter which mode you are in -- you won’t have to change the dial to video mode. The camera will focus automatically while in this mode and you can also use the touch screen to zoom, so the zoom ring on the lens doesn’t have to be touched. An external microphone can be plugged in. The LUMIX DMC-G2 records in the AVCHD Lite codec and we found its quality to be excellent — even when taking video in a helicopter, the vibration and movement was handled relatively smoothly; you’ll be able to use it for panning shots and won’t have to always resort to a tripod to get smooth shots.

Conclusion

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G2 will be available to buy from June either on its own or in a lens kit. From our limited time with it, it’s definitely one you should keep an eye out for. What makes it even more tempting is the relatively large number of lenses that will be available for it. The body only will cost $1099, the single lens kit (with 14-42mm lens) will cost $1299, and the dual-lens kits will cost $1599 (with 14-42mm and 45-200mm lenses).

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