Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 Review
Originally Posted: May 7, 2010
Last Updated: May 8, 2010
The Lumix DMC-G2 ($799) is the latest Micro Four Thirds camera from Panasonic. Panasonic took their DMC-G1 and split it into two new models: the G2 reviewed here, and the stripped-down DMC-G10. The G2 has most of the same features as its predecessor (including a compact body, super-fast AF, Intelligent Auto mode, and lots of manual controls), with the major additions being a new image processor, a touchscreen LCD, and an HD movie mode.
I put together this chart to illustrate the differences between the old DMC-G1 and the new G2 and G10:
So those are the major differences between the three cameras. There a some cosmetic differences as well, mostly related to buttons and dials, that I'll touch on as this review progresses. Speaking of reviews, it's time to get started!
What's in the Box?
The Lumix DMC-G2 will be sold in just one kit in the U.S., at least initially. Here's what you'll find when you open up the box:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-G2 camera body
- F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm Lumix G lens w/MEGA OIS
- DMW-BLB13 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger / AC adapter
- Body cap
- Lens hood
- Lens bag
- Shoulder strap
- Stylus pen
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE and PhotoFunStudio 5.0 HD Edition
- 219 page camera manual (printed)
Left to right: the existing 14-45 and the new 14-42 kit lenses
Here in the States, the G2 comes with the brand new F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm Mega OIS lens. This is a lighter -- and yes, cheaper -- version of the 14-45 that came with previous G-series models. The main differences here are the narrower focal range, a plastic mount, and the lack of an IS on/off switch (it's now controlled via the menu system). The build quality of the lens is decent, and the image quality is good by kit lens standards. In a nice gesture, Panasonic includes a lens hood and a carrying bag for the 14 - 42, which is usually optional on other cameras.
If you want to use other lenses, you can select from a small but growing collection of lenses from Panasonic and Olympus. With the appropriate adapter, you can also use "classic" Four Thirds lenses, though not all will support continuous autofocus. Panasonic also makes adapters for classic Leica R and M-mount lenses, and I don't see why you can't use Olympus' OM adapter either.
Whichever lens you end up using, there will be a 2X focal length conversion ratio to keep in mind. In other words, that 14 - 42 mm kit lens has a field of view of 28 - 84 mm.
As with all D-SLRs and interchangeable lens cameras, the DMC-G2 does not have any built-in memory, nor does it come with a memory card. Thus, you'll need to pick up an SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory card right away, unless you happen to have one already. If you'll be taking mostly stills, then a 4GB SDHC card is probably fine. For movie enthusiasts, you'll want to get something like an 8GB or 16GB card instead. It's definitely worth spending the extra dollars on a high speed card (Class 4 or higher).
The DMC-G2 uses the same DMW-BLB13 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor (as well as other G-series models). This battery packs an impressive 9.0 Wh of energy into its plastic shell. Do note that the G2 checks to make sure that you're using a "genuine" Panasonic battery -- so generics may not function properly. And with that, here's how the battery life compares to other interchangeable lens cameras and compact D-SLRs:
The DMC-G2's battery life sits near the top of the pack of the cameras that I have data for (as you can see, not every manufacturer publishes live view battery life numbers). The G2's battery life depends on what lens you have attached, and whether you're using the LCD or EVF. The EVF will give you longer battery life than the LCD, and zoom lenses tend to drink more power than the smaller pancake lenses that are available.
Except for the Pentax, all of the cameras in the above table use proprietary batteries, and you should know two things about them. First, a spare is expensive -- expect to pay at least $46 for another DMW-BLB13 (and you probably can't use cheaper generics, either). Second, when the DMW-BLB13 runs out of juice, you can't pick up something off the shelf to get you through the rest of the day, as you could on a camera that uses AA batteries. Some D-SLRs let you use AA batteries with their optional battery grips, but since no interchangeable lens camera supports a grip, you're out of luck.
When it's time to charge the DMW-BLB13, just pop it into the included charger. It takes around 155 minutes for a typical charge. Unlike most Panasonic battery chargers, this one doesn't plug right into the wall -- you must use a power cable. The charger can also be used as an AC adapter, though you'll need to buy the DC coupler part first (see below for more on that).
Alright, now it's time to look at the lengthy list of accessories that are available for the Lumix DMC-G2!
As you can see, Panasonic has just about every accessory covered. The only thing missing is a wireless remote control. A few other accessories are available, including lens filters, shoulder straps, and a tripod adapter (for larger lenses).
PhotoFunStudio 5.0 HD
Panasonic includes version 5.0 of their PhotoFunStudio HD software with the Lumix DMC-G2. This software, for Windows only, is fairly basic, and the various "wizards" it uses add unnecessary steps, in my opinion. PhotoFunStudio can be used to transfer photos and videos from the camera to your PC, and once that's done, you'll end up at the thumbnail screen you see above. Photos can be browsed by folder or in a calender view, and you can filter things down further by things like shooting mode or recognized faces. You can e-mail or print photos, upload them to online sharing sites, or copy photos to a DVD or memory card.
Editing photos in PhotoFunStudio
Above you can see the still photo editing screen. Here you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Images can be changed to sepia, black and white, or "negative color", and redeye can be removed with the click of your mouse. There's also an auto enhancement feature, for those who want to keep things simple.
While PhotoFunStudio can view RAW images, it cannot edit them. For that, you'll need to load up SilkyPix.
SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE
SilkyPix Developer Studio SE 3.1 may be familiar to you, as it's used by several camera manufacturers, in one form or another. This product is for Mac OS X and Windows, and while it has a rather clunky interface, it's pretty powerful. You can adjust exposure, white balance, the tone curve, color, sharpness, noise reduction, and lots more.
If you want to use something other than SilkyPix to do your RAW editing, then you'll be pleased to hear that version 5.7 of Adobe's Camera Raw plug-in supports the files created by the DMC-G2. That said, the version of Camera Raw 6 that comes with Photoshop CS5 does not work with these RAW files (yeah, I don't get it either).
So what is RAW, anyway, and why should you care? RAW images contain unprocessed image data from the G2's Live MOS sensor. This allows you to change things like exposure, white balance, color, and more, without degrading the quality of the image. The bad news is that you'll need to convert those RAW images to JPEGs for easy sharing, which can be time-consuming. RAW files are also considerably larger than JPEGs, and can slow down camera performance. Despite that, it's a must-have feature on the camera, especially for those looking to squeeze the best image quality out of the DMC-G2.
That brings us to movie editing. The Lumix DMC-G2 records 720p video in two formats: AVCHD Lite and Motion JPEG (M-JPEG). The former looks great when you plug your camera (or the memory card) into your HDTV, but it's a pain to edit on your PC. Heck, just finding the MTS files on your memory card isn't easy (here's a hint: /PRIVATE/AVCHD/BDMV/STREAM/). AVCHD Lite also allows for unlimited recording time (in most countries) and higher frame rates (in theory). Motion JPEG files have limited recording times and huge files, though they're much easier to work with on your computer.
PhotoFunStudio can play the AVCHD files on your PC without any problem. It can remove unwanted footage from a clip (though the interface is confusing), and can save a movie as an MPEG-2 file. Videos can also be burned to a DVD or saved on a memory card.
Other options for video conversions in Windows include Handbrake, CoreAVC, or AVS Video Converter. For editing, Windows users will want to use something like Adobe Premiere, Pinnacle Studio, or Sony Vegas (view the full list here).
Mac users don't get any video viewing/editing software with the camera. If you just want to view the AVCHD Lite movies, try downloading VLC. If you want to convert them to other formats, I've had decent luck with both Handbrake as well as Toast Titanium 10 (which can also burn the movies to DVD or Blu-ray). You can edit the AVCHD Lite videos using iMovie or Final Cut, though do note that your not natively working with the MTS files -- the software converts them to another codec first.
The Lumix DMC-G2 comes with a thick, detailed manual in the box. It's hardly user-friendly, which is typical of manuals from huge consumer electronics companies. You'll definitely find the answer to any question you may have, even if it requires paging through confusing pages and lots of "notes". Documentation for the included software is installed onto your computer.