Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Review

Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2

Record Mode

The DMC-GH2 is ready to start taking photos as soon as you flip the power switch. And yes, that's with the dust reduction feature turned on.

As I mentioned earlier, the contrast detect AF on the GH2 is insanely fast, assuming that you're using a Micro Four Thirds lens. With one of those attached, you'll achieve focus lock in 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle, and in around twice that at the telephoto end of things. Low light is no problem either, with focusing times staying under a second in nearly all situations. Just make sure you're not blocking the AF-assist lamp with your fingers!

Don't expect that kind of performance with classic Four Thirds lenses, though. Some will be better than others, but the old F2.0, 50 mm macro and the F3.5-5.6, 14 - 54 mm Four Thirds lenses that I tried were "dog slow".

I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

As for shot-to-shot speeds, you'll be able to keep taking pictures as fast as you can compose the next one, at least until you fill up the buffer memory (which takes some work). Adding the flash into the mix increases the wait time to just under three seconds.

There is no way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken -- you'll have to enter playback mode to do that.

Now let's take a look at the lengthy list of image size and quality options available on the DMC-GH2. It's so long because the camera supports four different aspect ratios!

Aspect ratio Resolution Quality Approx. File Size # images on 4GB SDHC card (optional)
4:3 Large
4608 x 3456
RAW+Fine 29.6 MB 135
RAW+Standard 25.0 MB 160
RAW 20.0 MB 200
Fine 9.1 MB 440
Standard 4.5 MB 880

3264 x 2448

RAW+Fine 25.0 MB 160
RAW+Standard 22.9 MB 175
Fine 4.9 MB 810
Standard 2.5 MB 1600
2336 x 1752
RAW+Fine 23.5 MB 170
RAW+Standard 21.6 MB 185
Fine 3.0 MB 1350
Standard 1.5 MB 2620
3:2 Large
4752 x 3168
RAW+Fine 28.6 MB 140
RAW+Standard 23.5 MB 170
RAW 20.0 MB 200
Fine 8.7 MB 460
Standard 4.4 MB 910
3360 x 2240
RAW+Fine 24.2 MB 165
RAW+Standard 21.6 MB 185
Fine 4.8 MB 830
Standard 2.5 MB 1620
2400 x 1600
RAW+Fine 22.2 MB 180
RAW+Standard 21.1 MB 190
Fine 2.9 MB 1360
Standard 1.5 MB 2620
16:9 Large
4976 x 2800
RAW+Fine 26.7 MB 150
RAW+Standard 22.2 MB 180
RAW 18.2 MB 220
Fine 8.3 MB 480
Standard 4.2 MB 960
3520 x 1984
RAW+Fine 22.9 MB 175
RAW+Standard 20.0 MB 200
Fine 4.7 MB 850
Standard 2.4 MB 1670
1920 x 1080
RAW+Fine 19.0 MB 210
RAW+Standard 18.2 MB 220
Fine 1.1 MB 3540
Standard 600 KB 6700
1:1 Large
3456 x 3456
RAW+Fine 22.9 MB 175
RAW+Standard 20.0 MB 200
RAW 16.0 MB 250
Fine 6.8 MB 590
Standard 3.4 MB 1170
2448 x 2448
RAW+Fine 20.0 MB 200
RAW+Standard 18.2 MB 220
Fine 3.7 MB 1070
Standard 1.9 MB 2110
1744 x 1744
RAW+Fine 18.2 MB 220
RAW+Standard 17.4 MB 230
Fine 2.2 MB 1790
Standard 1.2 MB 3440

Well that's quite the list, courtesy of the GH2's four different aspect ratios. The nice thing about the GH2 is that it maintains the same field-of-view at all of the aspect ratios (except for 1:1, I believe), so if it's 28 mm at 4:3, it's the same at 16:9 and 3:2. The camera can take RAW images, either alone or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing. I explained the benefits of RAW earlier in the review.

The DMC-GH2 has an easy to use menu system that should be familiar to anyone who has used a Panasonic camera in recent years. It's not the flashiest menu out there, and there aren't any help screens, but it gets the job done. I should add that this menu can only be operated with the four-way controller or the command dial, and not the touchscreen. The menu is divided into six tabs, which include still, movie, custom, setup, My Menu, and playback menu options. Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the complete list:

Record Menu
  • Film Mode (Standard, dynamic, smooth, nature, nostalgic, vibrant, standard B&W, dynamic B&W, smooth B&W, My Film 1/2, Multi Film, cinema) - see below
  • Aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1)
  • Picture size (Large, medium, small)
  • Quality (Fine, standard, RAW+Fine, RAW+Standard, RAW)
  • Face recognition (On, off, memory, set) - described earlier
  • Metering mode (Multiple, center-weighted, spot)
  • Stabilizer (Off, mode 1-3) - the "off" option is only shown when using lenses without a dedicated IS button
  • Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, fill flash w/redeye reduction, slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
  • Digital redeye removal (on/off) - removes redeye as a photo is taken
  • Flash synchro (1st, 2nd curtain)
  • Flash adjust (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
  • Intelligent Resolution (Off, low, standard, high, extended) - see below
  • Intelligent Dynamic (Off, low, standard, high) - see below
  • ISO limit set (Off, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200) - how high Auto and Intelligent ISO will go
  • Long shutter noise reduction (on/off) - reduce noise in photos with slow shutter speeds
  • Extended tele converter (on/off) - see below
  • Digital zoom (Off, 2X, 4X) - reduces image quality and is best avoided
  • Burst rate (Low, medium, high, super high)
  • Auto bracket
    • Settings (Single-shot, continuous)
    • Step (3 shots/0.3EV, 3 shots/0.6EV, 3 shots/1.0EV, 5 shots/0.3EV, 5 shots/0.6EV, 5 shots/1.0EV, 7 shots/0.3EV, 7 shots/0.6EV, 7 shots/1.0EV)
    • Sequence (0/-/+, -0/+)
  • Aspect bracket (on/off) - takes four shots, each at a different aspect ratio
  • Self-timer (2 or 10 secs, 10 sec w/3 shots)
  • Color space (sRGB, AdobeRGB)

Motion Picture Menu - showing the unique items only

  • REC mode (AVCHD 1080i, AVCHD 720p, Motion JPEG)
  • Rec quality
    • In AVCHD 1080i mode (FSH, FH)
    • In AVCHD 720p mode (SH, H)
    • In 24p Cinema or variable movie mode (24H, 24L)
    • In Motion JPEG mode (HD, WVGA, VGA, QVGA)
  • Exposure mode (P, A, S, M)
  • Continuous AF (on/off)
  • Wind cut (Off, low, standard, high) - useful for shooting outdoors
  • Mic level display (on/off)
  • Mic level adjust (1 - 4) - manually adjust the microphone level
  • Rec highlight (on/off) - overexposed areas of the video blink
Custom Menu
  • Custom setting memory (C1, C2, C3)- save current camera settings to the three custom spots on the mode dial
  • Function button set (Intelligent Auto, Film Mode, focus area set, aspect ratio, quality, 1-shot RAW, metering mode, 1-shot spot metering, flash, flash exposure compensation, ISO limit set, extended tele converter, burst rate, auto bracket, guide line, shutter AF, pre AF, rec area) - define what the three functions on the camera do
  • Histogram (on/off) - when you turn it on, you get to place it wherever you want
  • Guide line (Off, 3 x 3, cross, custom) - the last option lets you create your own guide lines
  • Highlight (on/off) - whether overexposed areas of a photo "blink" in post-shot review
  • AF/AE lock (AE, AF, AF/AE) - what happens when you press this button
  • AF/AE lock hold (on/off) - whether you need to keep your finger on the button
  • Pre-AF (Off, Quick AF, continuous AF) - quick AF starts focusing when camera shake is minimal; continuous AF is always focusing; both reduce AF times, at the expense of battery life
  • Direct AF area (on/off) - allows you to move and resize the focus point(s) with the four-way controller
  • Shutter AF (on/off) - whether the camera focuses when you halfway-press the shutter release button
  • Focus priority (on/off) - whether a photo can be taken without focus lock
  • AF-assist lamp (on/off)
  • AF+MF (on/off) - whether you can manually focus after autofocus is complete
  • MF assist (on/off) - frame enlargement in manual focus mode
  • MF guide (on/off) - whether that semi-useful focus distance gauge is shown
  • Preview hold (on/off) - whether the DOF preview button needs to be held down
  • Constant preview (on/off) - LCD/EVF always show an exposure preview in manual mode
  • Exposure meter (on/off) - whether a visual guide showing the shutter speed and aperture (and their relationship) is shown on the LCD/EVF
  • Exposure settings (Rear dial press, LVF/LCD button) - how you switch between program shift and exposure compensation, aperture and shutter speed, etc.
  • LVF display style (Viewfinder style, LCD monitor style) - display style of the EVF
  • LCD display style (Viewfinder style, LCD monitor style) - same thing, but for the LCD
  • LCD info display (Off, black, grey, silver) - color of that shooting info screen I showed you earlier
  • LVF/LCD switch
    • Auto switch (on/off) - whether the eye sensor is used at all
    • Sensitivity (Low, high) - how sensitive the eye sensor is
  • Movie button (on/off) - enable or disable the dedicated movie recording button
  • Rec area (Picture, movie) - set the angle of view on the LCD/EVF for stills or movies
  • Remaining display (Shots, time) - whether you see remaining shots or movie recording time on the LCD/EVF
  • Touch quick menu (on/off) - these next few turn the touch features on and off
  • Touch shutter (on/off)
  • Touch guide (on/off) - whether descriptions of the touch features are shown on the LCD
  • Touch scroll (Low, high speed) - how quickly you swipe through images in playback mode
  • Dial guide (on/off) - tells you what the command dial does in P/A/S/M mode
  • Menu resume (on/off) - whether camera goes back to where you left off in the menu system
  • Calibration - use this if the touchscreen is acting up
  • Pixel refresh - removes dead pixels from the sensor
  • Sensor cleaning - manually run the dust reduction cycle
  • Shoot without lens (on/off) - whether you can take a photo without a lens attached; used with the two Leica adapters


Setup Menu

  • Clock set
  • World time (Destination, home)
  • Travel date - the day and location of your trip get stored in the photo metadata
    • Travel setup (Off, set) - set the departure and return dates for your trip
    • Location (Off, set) - store your destination name
  • Beep
    • Beep volume (Muted, low, high)
    • E-shutter volume (Muted, low, high) - fake shutter sound when using the super high speed burst mode
  • Volume (0-6)
  • Monitor/viewfinder - adjust the brightness, color, and tint of both of these separately
  • LCD mode (Auto, mode 1 - 3) - the mode numbers represent brighter, standard, and darker
  • Economy
    • Sleep mode (Off, 1, 2, 5, 10 mins) - auto power off
    • Auto LCD off (Off, 15, 30 secs)
  • Auto review (Off, 1, 3, 5 sec, hold) - post-shot review
  • USB mode (Select on connection, PictBridge/PTP, PC)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • TV aspect (16:9, 4:3)
  • HDMI mode (Auto, 1080i, 720p, 576p/480p)
  • Viera Link (on/off) - whether the camera can be operated from the remote control of compatible HDTVs
  • 3D playback (3D, 2D) - turn this on when viewing photos taken with the 3D lens on a compatible 3D TV
  • Favorite function (on/off) - whether photos can be tagged as favorites
  • Menu guide (Auto, off) - whether the menu opens automatically in the scene, advanced scene, and creative motion picture modes
  • Calibration - for the touchscreen
  • Language
  • Version display
  • File number reset
  • Reset - return the recording and setup/custom settings to defaults
  • Format memory card

My Menu

  • Shows the last five menu options you've used
Playback Menu
  • 2D/3D settings -only shows up when you're connected to a 3D TV; I have no idea what the options are
  • Slideshow
    • Show (All, picture only, video only, 3D only, category selection, favorites)
    • Effect (Natural, slow, swing, urban, off) - transitions and effects
    • Duration (1, 2, 3, 5 secs)
    • Repeat (on/off)
    • Sound (Off, auto, music, audio) - choose whether background music or movie audio is played
  • Playback mode (Normal play, picture play, AVCHD play, Motion JPEG play, 3D play, category play, favorite play) - a quick way to filter the photos and videos you're viewing
  • Title edit - type in a comment for a photo
  • Text stamp - stamp the date/time, name, location, travel date, or title onto a photo; photos will be downsized to "small" size
  • Video divide - chop a movie in half; good for removing unwanted footage
  • Resize
  • Cropping
  • Aspect ratio conversion (3:2, 4:3, 1:1)
  • Rotate
  • Rotate display - whether portraits are automatically rotated
  • Favorite (Off, on, cancel) - tag a photo as a favorite
  • Print set (Single, multiple) - tag a photo for printing to a DPOF-compatible photo printer
  • Protect (Single, multiple)
  • Face recognition edit (Replace, delete) - update or remove data for a recognized face

Adjusting sharpness in one of the Film Modes

Lots to talk about before we can move on to the photo tests! Let's begin with the Film Mode feature. A Film Mode contains a set of various image parameters, which are contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction in the case of the GH2. The camera comes with quite a few presets, each of which can be tweaked (though I wish the camera displayed the different settings for each of those presets, instead of always being set to zero for each). You can also create two of your own Film Modes. If you're not sure which of the Film Modes you wish to use, you can take advantage of the Multi Film feature, which takes up to three shots, each with a different Film Mode setting.

If you've got a lens with image stabilization attached, you'll find three different "modes" to choose from, plus an "off" option (when the lens itself doesn't have a switch). Mode 1 always has the IS system running, which helps you compose a photo without camera shake. Mode 2 only activates the IS system when a photo is taken, which reduces battery drain and supposedly does a better job of reducing blur. Mode 3 only corrects for up and down motion, which you'll want to use if you're panning the camera from side to side. Turning the IS system off entirely is a good idea if you're using a tripod.

A feature new to the GH2 (but not to Panasonic cameras in general) is called Intelligent Resolution. Simply put, this system applies different amounts of sharpening to the various subjects in your photos. It'll sharpen the edges the most, go a bit easier on textures, and leave smooth gradation areas (like the sky) alone. It's off by default, but there are four levels you can choose from, including a new "extended" (super high) option. Here's an example (and be sure to view the full size images!):

Intelligent Res Off
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Res Low
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Res Standard
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Res High
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Res Extended
View Full Size Image

The trees in the corners show the most obvious changes as you increase the amount of Intelligent Resolution, but various parts of the house get noticeably sharper, as well. Even the skyscrapers in the background are sharper when using this feature. I'd say that it doesn't hurt to just leave this setting at low or standard, especially if you're using the somewhat soft 14 - 140 mm kit lens. Do note that the "extended" IR option will slow the burst rate, and it cannot be used in movie mode, either.

Previous Panasonic cameras had a feature called Intelligent Exposure, which was used to brighten up the dark areas of your photos. On the GH2 that feature is now called Intelligent Dynamic, and it's supposed to help with clipped highlights, as well. In Intelligent Auto mode this feature is always on, while in the manual modes it's off by default. There are three levels to choose from, and the comparison below uses our semi-famous Purple Fringing Tunnel of Doom to show you the effects of the Intelligent Dynamic feature:

Intelligent Dynamic Off
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Dynamic Low
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Dynamic Std
View Full Size Image
Intelligent Dynamic High
View Full Size Image

You may be wondering, why do the Standard and High settings look the same? They're not the same photo! Rather, I believe that when you select a certain Intelligent Dynamic setting, you're choosing the maximum you'll let the camera use, and in this case, it didn't think more enhancement was necessary. The feature definitely does a nice job of brightening up the shadows of the hallway. As for highlight clipping, there's a slight improvement in the columns on the left side, but nothing huge.

The Extended Tele Converter feature is similar to what was called Extended Optical Zoom on previous Panasonic cameras. When you turn on this feature, you can get 2X worth of extra zoom power with minimal loss in image quality. In other words, the 14 - 140 lens now becomes a 28 - 280 (equivalent to 56 - 560 mm) at the push of a button. The catch is that you need to lower the resolution to Medium or Small. Thankfully, the camera has such a high resolution in the first place, doing so is not a big deal.

The GH2 can use the Extended Tele Converter in movie mode, as well. At the 1080i setting, you get 2.6X worth of extra zoom, while at 720p that number rises to 3.9. Dropping the resolution to VGA or QVGA increases the tele converter's total power to 4.8X.

Okay, that does it for menus -- let's move onto photo tests now. I took all of these with the 14 - 140 mm kit lens which came with my GH2, except for the night shots. Those were taken with the Panasonic F4.0-5.6, 45 - 200 mm IS lens.

The Lumix GH2 did a very nice job with our standard macro test subject. The colors look good, without the color casts that sometimes appear in our studio. The figurine has the smooth look that is typical of cameras in this class, yet plenty of detail is still captured. I don't see any noise or other artifacting here, nor would I expect to.

The minimum distance to your subject will depend on what lens you're using. For the 14 - 140 mm kit lens, the minimum distance is 50 cm, while the 14 - 42 mm lens gets a bit closer, at 30 cm. Serious macro fans may be interested in the new F2.8, 45 mm Leica macro lens, which has selectable focus distances of 15 and 50 cm.

I switched over to my own Panasonic 45 - 200 mm IS lens for the night shot. The GH2 did a good job here as well, though I see a few areas that could be improved upon. The camera took in a good amount of light, as you'd expect, since you have full control over the shutter speed. If you don't know anything about manual controls, you can put the GH2 into Intelligent Auto mode and get similar results. The photo is sharp across most of the frame, save for the left side, where things soften up a bit. If you're looking for noise, keep looking: you won't find any here. You will find some purple fringing and (mild) highlight clipping in places, though.

Now, let's use that same night scene to see how the GH2 performed at higher sensitivities in low light situations!

ISO 160

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

The first three photos (taken at ISO 100, 200, and 400) are all very clean. You start to see some detail loss at ISO 800, but it's fairly minor. The ISO 1600 photo has more noticeable detail loss, though it's still usable or small and midsize prints (and larger if you shoot RAW -- but more on that in a moment). The ISO 3200 photo is pretty soft, so I'd avoid this setting unless you're using RAW. The ISO 6400 and especially ISO 12800 images are too soft to be usable, at least as JPEGs.

Alright, I mentioned RAW several times in the preceding paragraph, so let's see if we can't take advantage of the format to get better-looking ISO 3200 and 6400 night shots!

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.3)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.3)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

You definitely can see an improvement in the fine details of the ISO 3200 and 6400 photos after they've been processed with Photoshop. Notice that the vertical lines on the building on the far right that were smudged in the JPEG have returned in the RAW conversions. The ISO 6400 still isn't wondrous, but it's certainly more usable than the JPEG was.

We'll see how the DMC-GH2 fared in good lighting in a bit.

There are two ways in which the Lumix DMC-GH2 can reduce redeye in your photos. First, it can fire the flash before the photo is actually taken, which shrinks your subjects pupils and, in theory, reduces the likelihood of this phenomenon. You can also turn on a digital redeye removal system, which detects and removes any redeye after a photo is taken. There is some redeye to be found in our flash test photo, though it's not too horrible. Unfortunately, if redeye does make it into your photos, you'll have to wait until the photos are on your computer to remove it, as there's no such tool in playback mode.

F3.5-5.6, 14 - 42 mm kit lens

F4.0-5.8, 14 - 140 mm kit lens

Both the 14-42 and 14-140 mm kit lenses show fairly low levels of barrel distortion. The reason for the low distortion is because Panasonic is automatically correcting for it when you take a photo. I didn't find vignetting (dark corners) to be a problem with either of the lenses. On the other hand, the 14-140 does exhibit some minor corner blurring at the wide-angle end of its focal range (the 14-42 is better).

Now let's take a look at our studio test scene. Since the lighting is the same every time, you can compare these samples with those from other cameras I've reviewed. Since the GH2 has a very high resolution sensor, the crops below only cover a small portion of the total scene, so be sure to view the full size images, too. And with that, let's begin:

ISO 160

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

The first three crops (ISO 160 - 400) are as smooth as butter. You start to see a tiny bit of grain-style noise at ISO 800, but it's way too little to concern me. Noise becomes more visible at ISO 1600 but, again, it's still very usable. You first see noise reduction start to eat details at ISO 3200, which means that you'll want to save this setting for small prints, or shoot RAW instead. There's quite a bit of noise at ISO 6400, and a lot more one stop higher.

Can the ISO 6400 and 12800 photos be saved? Here's what I was able to come up with after about a minute or two of post-processing in Photoshop:

ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.3)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
ISO 12800

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.3)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

There's a nice improvement for both the ISO 6400 and 12800 photos, with much more detail and more saturated color. At the highest ISO settings, it's definitely worth shooting RAW on the DMC-GH2.

Mother nature wasn't very cooperative when it was time to take the sample photos for the DMC-GH2. Even with the clouds and rain, I was still pretty happy with what the camera produced. Photos were generally well-exposed, with just a slight tendency to underexpose. Like other Four Thirds cameras, the GH2 will clip highlights on occasion, as well. Colors were very pleasing -- no complaints there. I took most of my sample photos with the 14 - 140 mm kit lens, and they're quite soft. You can get better results from the 14-140 by using an aperture of about F8. When it comes to noise, the DMC-GH2 keeps it at bay until you pass ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light. The GH2 isn't the most noise-free camera out there, but it still holds its own quite well -- especially if you shoot RAW and post-process. Purple fringing will depend on your choice of lens, and it was minimal in nearly all of my real world photos.

Now, I invite you now to take a look at our DMC-GH2 photo gallery. View the full size images, print a few if you can, and then decide if the GH2's photo quality meets your expectations!

Movie Mode

The biggest feature on the Lumix DMC-GH2 is its Full HD movie mode. While the GH1 could also record at 1920 x 1080, the sensor output was 24p. On the GH2, Panasonic has more than doubled the sensor output to 60p, allowing it to record videos at 1920 x 1080 at 60 interlaced frames/second. This leads to much smoother videos than before, which is great for fast action. The AVCHD format allows you to keep recording until your memory card fills up, except in Europe, where recording will stop just before the timer hits 30 minutes. You have two bit rates to choose from at the 1080/60i setting: 17 or 13 Mbps. Sound is recorded in Dolby Digital Stereo, and you can add an external microphone for higher quality audio, too. An 8GB SDHC card holds an hour's worth of Full HD video (and be sure to use a high speed model!).

But wait, there's more. In addition to the 1080/60i mode, the GH2 can also record cinema-like video at 1080/24p, with a whopping 24 MBps bit rate (a 17 Mbps mode is available, too). The camera can also record AVCHD video at 1280 x 720 (60p), for those aren't making feature films. If you don't want to deal with AVCHD, you can also use the Motion JPEG codec, which offers four resolutions: 1280 x 720, 848 x 480, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240 (all at 30 fps). Do note that recording stops after the file size reaches 2GB when using the M-JPEG codec, which does not take long.

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Variable movie mode

An additional movie mode is called "Variable", which lets you record at a slower frame rate (80% of normal) or speed things up by as much as 300%. The camera records at the 1080/24p setting for this mode. You will have to enter Creative Motion Picture mode to use this and several of the other features described in this section, by the way.

You have full manual exposure controls at your disposal in movie mode The mic level viewing and adjustment screen

The DMC-GH2 can focus continuously while you're recording (assuming that you're using a Micro Four Thirds lens), so you can zoom in and out, or follow moving subjects without issue. The touchscreen LCD can be used in movie mode, allow you to touch the area of the frame that you wish to focus on. Perhaps the best part of all this is that the GH2 offers full manual controls in movie mode. You can adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. and of course white balance. You can also adjust the mic level, and activate a wind cut filter for filming outdoors. And don't forget about that Extra Tele Converter feature I mentioned in the previous section, which gives you up to 4.8X of lossless digital zoom.

The last thing to mention is that the GH2 can take still photos while you're recording a video. You can't do this in Creative Motion Picture mode (since the shutter release button is used for movie recording), but in the other modes (where you use the dedicated movie recording button) you can take up to eight 14 Megapixel JPEGs with only a brief interruption in the video clip. If you don't want to interrupt the video, make sure that the Picture Mode option in the movie settings menu is set to "motion picture priority", and the camera will save a 2 Megapixel JPEG instead.

I have a trio of sample movies for you, in addition to the variable mode mini-clip above. The first one was taken at 1080/60i (and shows some interlacing artifacts), while the second was recorded at 1080/24p (it's a big dark, but it does include pigeons). The third movie was recorded at the 720p60 setting, and shows how starved for material I was! All three videos were converted to QuickTime/H.264 files using Final Cut Pro. I've provided the original MTS files so you can view and convert them on your own, if you'd like.

View converted movie (37.3 MB, 1920 x 1080, 30 fps, QuickTime/H.264)
Download original MTS file (38.7 MB)

View converted movie (27.2 MB, 1920 x 1080, 24 fps, QuickTime/H.264)
Download original MTS file (27.4 MB)

View converted movie (14.4 MB, 1280 x 720, 60 fps, QuickTime/H.264)
Download original MTS file (17.9 MB)

Playback Mode

The DMC-GH2 has a pretty standard playback mode, with the touchscreen features really setting it apart from the competition. Basic playback features include slideshows (complete with transitions and music), image protection, favorite tagging, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view (in various sizes), and playback zoom. When you're zoomed in with that last feature, you can press the command dial inward and then use the four-way controller to move from photo to photo, keeping the zoom and location intact.

The touchscreen is perhaps the most useful in playback mode, at least in my opinion. To move between photos, just swipe with your finger. If you want to use the playback zoom feature, just tap once on the photo, and it's enlarged by 2X (you can zoom in further by tapping the screen again). Once you're zoomed in, you just drag your finger around to pan around the image.

Calendar view of photos You can select what you're viewing in playback mode using this screen

Like Panasonic's consumer cameras, the GH1 offers a calendar view of your photos, so you can quickly navigate to photos you took on a specific date. You can also filter photos by file type (still, AVCHD, M-JPEG, 3D), category (which is assigned according to the scene mode used), and whether an image has been tagged as a favorite.

Images can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. You can print the date, time, location, travel date, custom text, and even the age of your kids or pets onto your photos, which is far beyond what most cameras can do (though note that the images will be downsized). There's also a feature which allows you to change the aspect ratio of a photo. Sadly, there's no redeye removal tool, which is always handy to have around.

There are two video editing features on the DMC-GH2. The first is called video divide, which lets you select a spot in a video, press a button, and the movie will be cut into two at that spot. You can also grab a frame from the video and save it as a still image.

By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. But press the display button and you'll see more info, including an RGB histogram. If a registered face, baby, or pet are in the photo, information about them will be shown, as well.

The DMC-GH2 moves through photos instantly.