Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Overview
by Mike Tomkins, Dave Etchells, Shawn Barnett
and Zig Weidelich
Hands-on Preview: 11/04/2010
Playing to their main strength over their single lens reflex brethren, compact system cameras — otherwise known as mirrorless interchangeable lens, or single-lens direct view models — have gotten quite a bit smaller since their debut a couple of years ago. Doing its part, Panasonic intensifies that aggressive drive towards a truly compact design with the Lumix DMC-GF2. Though the push toward smaller cameras was begun by Olympus and Panasonic, Sony’s very small NEX series of compact system cameras has forced Panasonic to respond. As a result, the Panasonic GF2 is closer to the size of the LX5 than it is the GF1, and also close to the diminutive size of the Sony NEX-5. It’s even smaller than two of the high-end fixed-lens digital cameras that it competes with: the Nikon P7000 and Canon G12.
Discussion of size is important in this market space, because in addition to image quality, this is where the battle lines are drawn. These cameras are designed to deliver the best image quality in the smallest volume. Technically, the Lumix GF2 is similar to its predecessor, with the same 12.1-megapixel sensor, but Panasonic says its Venus Engine FHD processor will improve noise performance across the ISO range, which is important when going up against cameras featuring APS-C sensors.
Size isn’t the only component to the story, what’s also interesting is what they had to do to achieve this size reduction, which includes moving many of the features that previously had a dial to the new touchscreen. Many of the G2’s touchscreen features have been brought to the GF2, and many new ones were created to replace features like the Mode dial. At the same time, Panasonic added higher resolution video to the GF2, up to 1,920 x 1,080 at 60i in AVCHD compression.
The Panasonic GF2 is packed with both trade-offs and benefits, and as such is likely to prove a bit divisive, with some photographers drawn by the advantages of its relatively compact body, and others concerned at the reduction in external controls. There’s a lot more to the story, though, as you’ll discover in our User Report below.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 is available in three different kit versions, and started shipping in mid-February 2011. Sold without a lens, the Panasonic GF2 body is priced at US$499.95. The DMC-GF2K kit includes a LUMIX G VARIO 14-42 mm / F3.5-5.6 ASPH. zoom lens, and is priced at US$599.95. The DMC-GF2C kit, meanwhile, includes a LUMIX G 14 mm / F2.5 ASPH. prime lens, and is the highest-priced US-market kit, at US$699.95. In certain other markets, there’s also a double-lens kit including both of these lenses, but this kit is not available in the US market. The optional DMW-LVF1 external viewfinder is priced at US$199.95. Other Panasonic-branded accessories include a DMW-ZL1 zoom lever, DMW-TA1 tripod adapter, an AC adaptor and DC coupler, and a variety of lens mount adapters, external flash strobes, cameras cases and bags, and shoulder straps.
Look and feel. The Panasonic Lumix GF2 is smaller than the company’s previous GF1 model, with an approximate 19% reduction in body volume, accompanied by a 7% drop in body-only weight. The change brings the Panasonic GF2 into much closer contention with Sony’s popular NEX-series camera in terms of overall size and weight. Compared to the Sony NEX-3, both cameras have similar body thickness. The Panasonic GF2 is a little less than a quarter inch taller, and the Sony NEX-3 is wider by a similar margin. Compared to the more aggressively styled Sony NEX-5, though, the comparison still falls more clearly in Sony’s favor. Both cameras have similar width, and the NEX-5 gives away a little less than a quarter inch in thickness to the Panasonic GF2, but is almost a third of an inch less tall than the Panasonic.