95 of 100 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Traditonal DSLR or Mirrorless?
Let me start by saying I think traditional Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) will be in serious decline over the next few years. With an electronic viewfinder and high speed contrast autofocus mirrorless cameras will match the performance of their traditional dslr counterparts at the same format size. They will also offer benefits that can't be matched in a traditional dslr in terms of size, weight, and lens cost. The lens cost advantage comes from not being constrained to have light hit the sensor without distortion, as the distortion can be corrected digitally without any loss. The 14mm lens here is a perfect example. It is very small, light, and relatively cheap. With this lens if you took a picture of a rectangular grid and looked at the unprocessed raw file you'd see the grid lines bend in an arc, but you'll never see that lens distortion because the processed raw files, in camera jpegs, and view screen automatically adjust and bring the distortion back to imperceptible. If size and weight of camera and lenses aren't a factor for you then a traditional dslr from Canon or Nikon or one of the others may be a better choice for you. I've always thought the best camera is the one you have with you, and you are more likely to have the mirrorless camera with you because it is smaller and lighter.
Which Mirrorless System?
So if you want to get into Mirroless which system should you go with? Currently there are three choices. Sony's NEX system, Samsung NX system, or Olympus & Panasonic's micro 4/3 systems. The Sony and Samsung systems use the aps-c image sensor size that traditional dslrs use but use incompatible mounts. That large image sensor means they will have great low light performance, but each of those two systems have a single manufacturer and a limited set of lenses. What's the point of having replaceable lenses if you don't have a good selection of lenses to choose from? Micro 4/3rds by contrast has been around longer and has two camera manufacturers dedicated to the format and more lens manufacturers. Both Olympus's and Panasonic's mirrorless camera linueps are larger than either Sony's or Samsung's, while their lenses are compatible. So with micro 4/3rds you avoid vendor lock in while getting a much larger selection of cameras and lenses. The only downside to the micro 4/3rds format is the image sensor is a little smaller than aps-c, which results in less optimal low light performance that is noticeable at high iso values. The GF2 for instance gets noticeably grainy at ISO 1600 and above, while the GF2 and G3 do a little better at high iso their performance is still only as good as the most basic canon or nikon models.
Which Micro 4/3rds Camera?
If you are looking for a more traditional dslr like performance and shape the Panasonic G3 is a good intro level camera with quite impressive performance in a relatively small package and the GH2 is a great camera capable of recording broadcast quality hd video. Olympus doesn't make a pro pro-level dslr like micro 4/3rds yet. They do make a traditional 4/3rds camera but it is generally considered overpriced and it won't work with the micro 4/3rds lenses. Keep an eye out because Olympus will likely introduce a micro 4/3rds dslr style camera at some point in the future.
If you are looking for a smaller rangefinder style camera to save even more space and weight Olympus offers the EP1, EP2, EPL1, and EPL2 and Panasonic offers the GF2. You could also pick up a Panasonic GF1 on ebay as it is now discontinued. None of these come with a viewfinder, but they all have an optional viewfinder you can put in the flash hotshoe area instead of a flash. Olympus' also offer a bluetooth module that can be inserted in the flash hotshoe to sync with your computer and social media. And of course you can use the flash hot-shoe for an actual flash.
An interesting thing to note about Olympus is none of their lenses have in-lens image stabilization and instead rely on in-camera image stabilization. This means any lens used with their cameras, including the pancake primes, will be stabilized regardless of the lens. It also means any of their lenses, like their very nice collapsible zoom lenses, used with a Panasonic camera will work fine but won't have image stabilization. The GF2 is the smallest of the lot, has a built in flash (some of the Olympus lineup don't), and has probably the best kit lens. What you give up with the GF2 compared to the other rangefinder style cameras is a physical control wheel, external mic port, in body lens stabilization (they rely on in lens stabilization for lenses that support it), no remote trigger support, and well not much else. The GF2 is amazing! I don't know how they fit all that performance in such a tiny package. Some GF1 users have complained about the removal of the wheel and move to more controls via the touchscreen interface. I was a little nervous about that too, but after having used the camera for a few months I can say the touch screen is brilliant. They still have some nice physical controls on the back and 3 buttons on the top and I've never once thought to myself "I wish there was a button or wheel for that" when doing something via the touchscreen in conjunction with those physical buttons. It's a well though out interface. Of course I'm the kind of guy who hasn't bought the optional digital viewfinder either, so your mileage may vary.
A note on select micro 4/3rds lenses:
Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 - I've read all the reviews and lived with this lens awhile and I have to say I love it. With this lens on the GF2 I can fit the camera in my pocket, and regularly walk around with the camera in my pocket on days I plan to take a lot of photos. It does bulge quite a bit in my pocket, and with some pants it is even a bit of a tight fit, but it is very doable. On my recent trip as a tourist to Boston I threw this comfortably in the front pocket of my dockers and wandered around town getting great images and didn't have to carry it on a strap around my neck or in a backpack. With some of my tighter fitting jeans I'll find myself putting it in my pocket when walking around and taking it out and setting it on the table or ground when I sit down so I'm more comfortable. It's not quite a compact camera and some people may decide it's too big to carry in their pockets, but for me it crossed the line to pocketable. The performance is quite good too, crisp sharp images across the range. The Panasonic 14mm is 28mm equivalent in 35mm film terms, so it's a nice wide angle lens but not so wide you can't use it for normal street photography. The only downsides to this lens are that you can get a wider aperture with the 20mm lens, and there is no in-lens image stabilization.
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 - This was the kit lens on the GF1 and is still available for purchase on its own. If you don't need to pocket your camera/lens combo this is just a smidge larger than the 14mm. For that smidge extra size you get a prime lens (20mm) that is a smidge better for a lot of situations, has a smidge better sharpness, and most importantly a noticeably wider aperture. The 20mm lens is loved by all who use it.
Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 - You can get the gf2 with this as the kit lens, and it's available as the kit lens on the G2/G3/GH2 as well. It's main advantages are that it is cheap, performs pretty well in most situations, has a range useful for most situations, and has in lens image stabilization. However, at 14mm it isn't as sharp as the 14mm prime and doesn't have as large of an aperture. It's also just a little less sharp at every setting than the older 14-45mm it replaced. It also has lower build quality with less metal and more plastic components compared to the old 14-45mm. It is $150 cheaper than the old 14-45mm lens.
Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 - No longer available as a camera bundle this lens is a great all rounder. The specs are almost identical to the newer 14-42mm, but sharpness is a smidge better all around and the build quality is better with more metal and less plastic. The real question you have to ask is it $150 better? I personally decided it was worth it and upgraded to this over the 14-42mm.
Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 - Obviously made to complement the 14-42 or 14-45 lens this is an affordable zoom lens that performs well for it's price.
Panasonic 14-140mm f/4.0-5.8 - If you do casual video like recording your daughters choir performance any of the normal photo lenses are fine and you will get beautiful hd video. However, if you do serious video you need a lens like this. What sets this lens apart are its silent continuous autofocus and ability to do continuous incremental aperture adjustment, all while changing the zoom level. That level of control is the kind of thing you need if you plan to use the GH2 to shoot a professional TV show in hd or to make an indie movie that will be shown at film festivals. If you use this lens just for still photography it probably isn't worth the price.
Panasonic 45mm f/2.8 - we are now firmly out of the intro price lenses and firmly into lenses that cost more than your camera body. But if you do a lot of macro photography or portraits this is a beautiful lens and you do get what you pay for.
Olympus 17mm f/2.8 - Olympus usually makes fine lenses but this is one exception. The 14mm and 20mm Panasonic are sharper, faster focusing, and have wider apertures. The Panasonic 14mm is also smaller. A lot of people with Olympus cameras are mounting the Panasonic 14mm or 20mm to get the Olympus in camera image stabilization with the all around better Panasonic lens.
59 of 68 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I just got my GF2 today. This is going to be a preliminary review after a few poking around. I still need more time to play with it a bit more to get the best out of it. However, I just want to give some information to people who want to get this camera. Some information is better than no information at all, right? So please don't throw bricks on me for reviewing an item I just have for a few hours.
Before I get this camera, I did quite some extensive research on it. Let's talk about the cons people concern about. The major complaints for this camera are that:
1. The mode dial on top has been removed compared to the GF1.
I think I don't miss the mode dial for one. I own another DSLR camera with all the mode dials and bottons here and there. Yes, it gives you the convenience. However, my purpose of getting this camera is because of its small size so that I can bring it out more often than the big DSLR, not to mention all the attention the big DSLR draws. I want to practice photography, not mode dialing! By the way, the mode dial is replaced by a big icon, be it "M" "S" "A", etc. on the upper left corner of the screen. One touch of that icon lets you choose any mode you want. So all you miss is a tweak of the dial from a touch of the screen.
2. The touch screen is not so sensitive
Yes, and no. First of all, I put a screen protector Lexerd - Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 TrueVue Anti-glare Digital Camera Screen Protector (Dual Pack Bundle)on it. I am not sure if that will affect it at all. The screen protector works quite well. It is very easy to apply. I found that the touch screen is quite sensitive when you try to make selections by poking on the screen with your fingers, but it is less sensitive when you try to slide your finger across the screen, such as when you try to move to the next picture or zoom into the pictures. To me, it is totally acceptable. After all, if you don't like to use the touch screen, you can ALWAYS use the navigation buttons on the right hand side to make the selection. In another word, touch screen is OPTIONAL. It gives you faster access to commands.
There is a switch between on/off to turn on the camera. You can not confuse it from the shutter release. There is a specific video recording button (smaller) separated from the shutter release (bigger). There is only one dial located at the upper right corner on the back of the camera for controlling shutter speed and aperture. You switch between the two by a simply press of the rear dial. I like the design for its simplicity. The flash work quite well. The way that it pops up high is probably specifically designed that it is a little further from the lens so that you don't get red eye images so easily. The only thing I don't like is the HDMI/AV out socket cover. It seems to be a little flimsy and it might break easily if I bend it too much.
I took some high iso images. It seems like the iso800 is my breaking point for images with acceptable noise. At 1600, you can see prominent noise, and softness probably from the noise suppression of the cpu. I have not had time to try everything, so I can not comment on the sharpness of the images at different setting. Given that it is a 4/3rd, you can not expect it to be as good as a full frame or apc-s camera.
I tried the video mode a little. The view is very static during shooting. In the old days, a slight shake of the video camera will give you a pretty bad shaking of the video frame. This camera seems to do the job well for stablizing the frame at first view. It will auto focus on objects you center your frame on.
About its size, you can not fit this camera into your jean pocket or any shirt pockets like compact p&s do. You can probably fit it into a pocket of a jacket. In case if you think you can slip it into your back pocket or anything, forget it! Without the 14mm pancake, you can probably do it, but with the pancake on, there is no way. However, it is still way better than carrying a big dslr and its gears!
Overall, I really like the camera so far. The controls are simple. Picture quality is reasonable. I will have to do more shooting to find out more about this camera.
Update: About the white balance, I am pleasantly surprised that this camera allows you to adjust the color temperature by degree of kelvins, on top of the traditional preset WB scenes. Personally, I prefer to set the white balance by the degree of kelvins because you can exert finer control on the color temperature. If you use live view, you can even see how the color temperature on the live view changes with your adjustment. It is a very helpful function!
update: 2/25/2011, played with the video capture function. There are 4 different video quality choices for each of the two formats JEPG video and AVCHD. You will need special software or the software that comes with the camera to play the AVCHD format. With the motion JEPG, you can play it off the memory card. If you want to send your friends/family the video clips, you may want to capture it with the motion JEPG so that they can play it with any computer. Almost all of the different choices of video quality yielded great to reasonable video quality except the lowest quality choice of all, the QVGA setting from the motion JEPG format. At a close distance, people's faces are quite blurry in this setting that it basically render the video almost useless. You can kind of expect this because all the other settings will require 2gb for a record time varying from 8 to 20 minutes, while the QVGA can run for 1 hour with 2gb memory.
update: 2/26/2011, CHANGE MY RATING TO 4 STARS, took some pictures outside at bright sunlight, clear sky with iso 200 with the 14mm pancake at around 10am in the morning. The pictures have great resolution. However, the white balance is definitely off by about 1000-1500k. The normal color temperature range of sunlight under clear sky is about 6000k-6500k. Under 6000k, you can clearly see the white balance is off and a blue color cast across the images. By adjusting to 7500k, the blue cast will go away and give you the natural warm color. This confirms the in depth review on dpreview.com suggesting the off white balance to the cooler side with this camera with the JEPG output from the camera. The effect is quite obvious, although it can be resolved by adjusting the color temperature about 1500k higher. So far, this has been my biggest complaint about this camera. If the effect is so obvious, the GF2 quality control team should have clearly saw it and solved the problem. Luckily the effect is not irreversible. For this reason, I will give the camera a 4 star rating. About the software "photofunstudio" that comes with the camera for editing pictures, all I can say is, I hate this software! Compared to the Nikon ViewNX, which is not such a great image editing software by itself already, this software is a piece of !@#$! Before the software can let you do editing and give you all the information about the images including aperture, focal length, WB, etc., it goes through a "registration" step. The problem is, this "registration" step takes forever! What I mean forever is something like a good 20 minutes for 10 images! Guess how long it will take for 100 images! May be it will be faster for someone who has a more powerful computer! But the Nikon viewNX does the same thing in about 2 minutes or less in the same computer! However, I have to say, the software has nothing to do with the camera itself!