By >Daimaou - G.G-B
[Review] Panasonic GH2 an impressive upgrade!
Revolution in its own right, the GH1 has now been replaced by the GH2. The successor of an incredible, trustworthy camera has been redefined to reach perfection.
As the owner of a GH1 I can’t even begin to tell you how much I am amazed by this camera. Even after a year of extensive use, resulting in much “physical” abuse and hours of manipulation, I am as fond of this camera as the day I took it out of the box. Yes the GH1 is an incredible camera, and yes, I sometimes prefer shooting video with it than my 5D MK II. The GH1 does, however, have some weaknesses that Panasonic tried to resolve in the GH2, and believe you me, the GH2 is not just as good as the GH1, it is even better!
Almost identical in appearance to the GH1, the GH2 comes with many design tweaks that make using the GH2 a different altogether from the GH1 user perspective, forcing me to change many habits that I had in the past. To be fair, I did not really welcome these changes, and I struggled a lot in order to adapt myself to the camera.
Granted most of the “Buttons” on the top of the camera are roughly similar to the ones on the GH1, but some have changed place, including Video Recording, Q.MENU (Quick Menu), and now the addition of the GH2’s many different Focus modes. The theme of change also applies to the back of our camera, where you will find two new FN buttons with FN2 and FN3 (Function) that will give you, with the addition of the FN1 button on the top of your camera, three different buttons allowing you configure them as much as you want.
I did not like this change at first, and having the camera for just one week did not give me much time to fully appreciate this change. If you really think about it though, Panasonic made a good choice here by adding more “FN” buttons, but I still miss where the Video Recording button was placed on the GH1.
Another huge improvement with the GH2 is its new Touchscreen, allowing you to quickly adjust where your camera needs to focus by touching a subject directly on the screen. Already available on the G2, this option is another good move by Panasonic. A welcome upgrade indeed, but not as great as Panasonic’s truly magnificent new LCD! Our Camera is featuring a sharper LCD also offering en extended color gamut up to 25% compared to the GH1, making it easier to get the correct manual focus when shooting video for example.
This “sharper” LCD also allows Panasonic to bring more information (UI) onto the screen when shooting picture, once again a welcome move here as well from Panasonic.
There is no doubt that Panasonic considered a lot of user feedback on the GH2 and a lot of new features, kind of making me regret the “simplicity” of the GH1, but what I regret the most however is the GH2’s new plastic-like “alloys” that you often found on many entry level DSLR. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the slick, flat, silky smooth plastic body of the GH1 than the GH2’s new DLSR-like granular one. In this vain, I may be complaining alone once again.
Let’s Shoot Baby
Being a new camera entirely, the GH2 brings as well a new Live MOS image sensor from Panasonic offering a 16.5Mpix resolution but also improved video capabilities. The new image processor installed by Panasonic is their latest Venus Engine FHD. Using a new image technology, such as the separation of chromatic noise and luminance noise, this Live MOS from Panasonic offers cleaner images even on higher ISO Speed.
This more powerful new Live MOS is capable of handling more data faster than the one installed on the GH1 and comes with the capacity to shoot at 5fps without struggling. Another huge improvement in the GH2 is its fast and accurate AF, something that surprises a lot if you have ever owned a GH1. With an AF as fast and as accurate as many other professional DLSR Cameras the GH2 has everything you need in a tiny package.
Being quite unlucky to test the GH2 during a week where it did not stop raining I could not really enjoy the possibility to shoot in perfect conditions. However it did allow me to test the camera RAW power during cloudy days and in lowlight conditions (See selection of pictures below).
Panasonic promised that its new Live MOS will better handle pictures in Higher ISO Speed and to my surprise, the GH2 does exactly that. Simply put, and if you can compare, the GH2 at ISO800 will give you the same result as a GH1 at ISO400. Confused? Well let’s say that the GH2 is offering sharp pictures even in High ISO.
Unlike the GH1, the GH2 support an ISO Speed of 12,800 and pushes the limit of perfectly usable pictures even at ISO1600, where we would normally stop at ISO800 on the GH1. Anyway even shots at ISO 3200 are usable but will require just a bit of NR in post processing.
Panasonic also announced a faster camera, and here as well Panasonic delivers what it promise, by making the GH2 as fast when it comes to AF Speed as any other High-End DSLR.
According to Panasonic, the GH2 Autofocus lock is at 0.099 seconds compared to the 0.2 sec from the GH1 of G2 and believe us on this one, this fact is making a HUGE difference when you are shooting pictures.
One of my biggest regrets on the GH1 was Panasonic’s choice to limit the Camera to only 17MBPS when recording AVCHD video, making the GH1 not so appealing when shooting in 1080/24p, but perfectly capable to shoot great 720/60p videos. Luckily some genius found a way to remove this limitation on the GH1 by offering you a way to push its limits with a “Hacked” firmware (Allowing me to get 22Mbps on my AVCHD Video).
Unfortunately, things have not dramatically improved with the GH2, sure this new camera is fitted with a better and improved image engine, but it still suffers the same “limitation” of the GH1; only being capable to record 720/60p and 1080/60i video at 17Mbps Max. The good news, however, comes from the 1080/24p mode that now comes with a 24Mbps AVCHD Recording mode. Sure many “Indy” filmmakers will be thrilled about it but for the rest of us that just plain sucks. I would personally enjoy shooting 720/60p video at 24Mbps instead of 17Mbps.
Also, oddly, I have been surprise to see that the GH2 is way more sensitive to the “Jello Effect” or rolling shutter “syndrome” that plagues the 5D MKII and not the GH1 for example . I am not sure how to explain this, but the GH2 seems to be as sensitive as the Canon 5D MK II when it comes to rolling shutter “artifact”, so remember this whenever you are planning to shoot fast moving objects and have to pan as fast as possible.
Sure we are just nitpicking here and videos shot with the GH2 are just plain fantastic, putting Panasonic, once again, ahead of everyone else when it comes to providing relatively affordable High-End All-In-One cameras.
Last, but not the least, the GH2 comes with a “Hidden” feature that a few journalist are talking about that has changed everything for Professional or Indy filmmakers. Unlike the GH1, Panasonic removed ALL limitations on the GH2 on its video out mode offering RAW (Uncompressed) Video via HDMI. I’m not sure if you can grasp how amazing this news is, but you can now turn any GH2 into an incredible “Studio” or portable “Studio-like” camera and get perfect video without any quality loss from any compression method.
We could unfortunately not test these features since we are not equipped with the necessary tools for that, but for a low budget production or people looking to get the best pictures on the Go, this functionality just changed EVERYTHING, making the GH2 a priority in my MUST HAVE list.
The GH1 was and still is an incredible All-purpose Camera that kicked some serious ass to other big names including Canon or Nikon. The GH2 just proved to us how far ahead Panasonic is in this field. As a GH1 owner I must admit that I struggled to get used to the GH2 new button layouts but the improvement made on this camera are really worth the hassle. Being capable of getting uncompressed Video via HDMI on such a compact and affordable Hi-end camera is, as far as I am concerned, the final nail in the coffin of many of its direct competitors.
Here below you will find some nice footage of the GH2 taken Emmanuel Pampuri in Japan, check out what the GH2 can do in the hands of a Professional filmmaker.