The GF2 is Panasonic’s smallest and lightest compact system camera, yet it has some of the most advanced features on the market. Mat Gallagher discovers just what the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 has to offer
The GF2 uses a Four Thirds Live MOS sensor with an effective 12.1-million-pixel resolution. This appears to be the same sensor as featured in the recent G2 model, with an output of 4000×3000 pixels in 4:3 format, or 4000×2672 pixels in 3:2 format.
The camera can also shoot in 16:9 and 1:1 formats at lower resolution, should you wish. The sensor gives roughly a 10x13in image at 300ppi (in 4:3) without interpolation. Files are outputted in either JPEG or Panasonic’s native RW2 raw format, with video in AVCHD and Motion JPEG.
The processor is the same Venus Engine FHD that is also included in the new flagship GH2 model and features advanced signal processing capabilities for both photo and video. This has advantages in noise control and offers an ISO range of 100-6400, which is in line with the other models in the G-series range, but 1 stop below the GH2’s ISO 12,800.
A supersonic wave filter provides dust reduction in front of the sensor, while image stabilisation is left to the individual lenses via Mega OIS rather than any sensor-based system.
The exposure system provides metering from a 144-zone, multi-pattern sensing system with a choice of intelligent multiple, centreweighted and spot options.
Exposure compensation can be added in 1⁄3EV intervals to ±3EV. There is also the ability to bracket over three or five frames in 1⁄3 or 2⁄3 intervals to a maximum of ±11⁄3EV, or use exposure lock (AE) when recomposing.
Being a mirrorless camera, the GF2 uses contrast-detection autofocus but, thanks to the Venus Engine FHD processor, this is a lot faster than most – quicker than the G2, for instance – but not quite up to the speed of the GH2, Panasonic claims.
There is a choice of 23-area-focusing, face-detection, 1-area-focusing, AF tracking and touch-focus methods, as single or continuous focus, and also manual focusing via the lens focus ring. There is an AF illumination light for dark conditions, and an AF lock for recomposing.
The GF2 has done away with a shooting-mode dial in its quest for space saving and instead makes use of its touchscreen display to change between the shooting modes.
There is still a full array on offer, though, comprising program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual, plus my colour and scene mode sets, a custom mode and iA (intelligent Auto), which can also be set via a dedicated button on the top.
The scene modes are largely automatic in their operation, with just exposure compensation and focus controls, although the my colour modes offer a peripheral focus control to alter the aperture value and adjust the depth of field across all its settings, which allows a little more creativity in their use. It would have been nice if they could have been applied in the full creative shooting modes, even via the menu.
Post-production options are limited to cropping, resizing, rotation and a change of aspect ratio, although there is the option to title and highlight favourite images with a single star system to aide the selection process once you download them onto the computer.
To cut down on space there is no viewfinder on the GF2, and being a mirrorless model it would have needed to be an electronic version anyway. Therefore, to compose a shot you must rely entirely on the rear 3in, 460,000-dot LCD screen. If you really do miss the viewfinder you can buy an additional electronic viewfinder (the LVF-1, which also fits the Lumix DMC-GF1).
The EVF sits on the hotshot mount and plugs into a small port on the back. Unlike some other models, doing so won’t necessarily restrict your flash use, as the GF2 sports a built-in flash unit. This is on a sprung mount that lifts the flash head around an inch above the camera, and gives both redeye reduction and slow sync options.
The flash provides a modest guide number of 6m @ ISO 100, which is enough for low-light portrait use.
Storage is via SD card and is fully compatible with SDHC and the new SDXC cards for maximum speed and capacity potential. In burst mode, the camera is capable of shooting at up to 3.2 frames per second.
Single write times using a SanDisk Extreme III 8GB card are around 1sec for JPEGs, 2.5secs for raw files and 3secs for raw + Fine JPEGs. Shooting in burst mode will continue for four shots in raw + JPEG, six shots in raw, and until the card is full in JPEG only.
Features in use: 14mm Pancake lens
In the process of slimming the GF2 down from the original GF1, Panasonic has chosen to offer the camera with a new, smaller pancake lens: the 14mm f/2.5. With the crop factor of the Four Thirds sensor, this gives the lens a 28mm equivalent field of view, which makes it a handy lens for landscape and travel photography.
However, when it comes to portraits, unless you are shooting full-length it can distort features. It is also difficult to compose still-life and macro shots due to the close focus distance necessary for really filling the frame, and the aperture is a stop slower than the old 20mm, so shallow depth of field effects are trickier to achieve. Those interested in this style of photography would be better served by the 14-42mm kit lens, or the twin-lens kit.
On the plus side, the new lens really suits the camera in terms of size, keeping it very pocket-friendly. The focus ring, although electronically controlled, is smooth to use and feels very responsive when focusing manually.
For me, a perfect combination would be to have the 14mm f/2.8 lens along with a second pancake optic, such as a 25mm f/1.4 (a lens I’d love to see Panasonic add to its collection), as you could easily carry both in your jacket pocket and be equipped for almost any shot.