The 12-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 priced at $699.95 (direct) with a 14mm f/2.5 lens (35mm equivalent is 28mm) might just be the best Micro Four Thirds camera you can buy. This compact interchable lens camera has a body size that’s comparable to a small point and shoot, but its images and speed rival that of a D-SLR. The GF2 also spices things up by offering a touchscreen and the ability to shoot real 3D photos via the optional Panasonic Lumix H-FT012 12.5mm f/12 3D G Lens ($249.95 direct, 3.5 stars). Despite offering a great value and counting as one of our 10 best digital cameras, it’s tough to recommend the GF2 over Editors’ Choice Sony NEX-3 ($549.99, 4.5 stars) which offers similiar size, a lower price and larger image sensor.
Compared with its predecessor, the Editors’ Choice Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 ($899.95, 4 stars), the GF2 is lighter and smaller, and nearly every aspect of the camera has been upgraded. The LCD now is touch-enabled, you get 1080p video capture, and there are 18 lenses available—including a silent one optimized for video recording, and one for shooting 3D still images. Thanks to its simple interface, and the bright f/2.5 lens that’s included, it’s easy to take beautiful images and video with the GF2. The Sony Alpha NEX-3 though, offers better performance, an even-larger image sensor in a similar size body, and a lower price (assuming the price for the GF2 is in line with the GF1′s price of $899.95). The NEX-3 is still our Editors’ Choice for best compact interchangeable-lens camera.
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Design and Features
The beauty of the GF2, like all Micro Four Thirds cameras, is that it offers D-SLR-like speed and image quality, but in a compact body. This is achieved by using a larger image sensor. A top-of-the-line compact point-and-shoot like the Canon PowerShot S95 uses an image sensor that’s referred to as 1/1.7-inch size (surface area=43mm²); the Micro Four Thirds sensor is more than five times larger (225mm²). APS-C sensors (370mm²), like those in the Sony NEX-3, are 8.5 times larger than 1/1.7-inch sensors and 1.6 times larger than the Micro Four Thirds sensors. APS-C sensors also perform a bit better than the GF2′s in low-light, but more on that in later.
Currently the smallest Micro Four Thirds camera, the GF2 measures just 2.67 by 4.44 by 2.16 inches (HWD), including its bundled lens. The front right side of the camera features a slight bump for the grip, but otherwise the GF2 is completely rectangular. The top of the camera has a hot shoe for flash attachments, which you can buy from Panasonic. On the back, above the LCD is a port for other accessories. Unlike the NEX-3, the GF2′s compact body also houses a pop-up flash, which can be useful at times, but generally, I recommend shooting with a bounce flash.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Specifications
- Compact Interchangeable Lens
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Megapixels
- 12.1 MP
- Media Format
- Secure Digital Extended Capacity
- 35-mm Equivalent (Wide)
- 28 mm
- LCD size
- 3 inches
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Video Resolution
The GF2 provides a solid touch-screen experience: The display is responsive and the UI is quite intuitive. Don’t expect dazzling good looks or multitouch with pinch and swipe, but navigating the menu on the 3-inch, 460K dot LCD is easy. If you don’t want to use the touch screen, buttons to the right of the LCD allow you to navigate the menus and operate most functions. Though there’s a dedicated shutter release button, like on a traditional camera, you can also tap the screen to focus or snap a picture.
There are dedicated buttons for two of the GF2′s stand-out features. First is the iA button: Tapping this puts the camera into fully automatic still image mode. If you’re ever confused or lost in the menus, just tap it and you can start shooting in auto mode. The second button is dedicated to video recording: Tap it, and you’re instantly recording video. Both of these controls aim to streamline the camera’s functions and aid beginner photographers.