Still, with subtle improvements to image quality over the GF1 and a bevy of customizable options, the GF2 is no slouch. It can be a very capable camera when put in the right hands—whether those hands are that of an amateur stepping up in quality or an enthusiast stepping down in size.

The Panasonic GF2 is available in pink, white, silver, red and the black you see pictured here. It will be available at an MSRP of $499 body-only, $599 with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, or $699 with the 14mm f/2.5 lens that we tested with.

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Box Photo

Depending on which kit you choose the camera will come with a 14mm F/2.5 pancake lens and/or 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, as well as:

  • USB Cable (proprietary)
  • A/V Cable (proprietary)
  • Neck Strap
  • DMW-BLD10PP Lithium Ion Battery
  • Battery Charger
  • Body Cap/Lens Cap(s)
  • Hot Shoe Cover
  • Manuals
  • Software

The GF2 fared well in our color accuracy tests in bright light. Its performance was about on par with what we've seen in other Micro Four-Thirds cameras. It handled browns and greens very well. There were slight issues with blues and purples, where the most extreme color inaccuracies were seen.

Click here for more on how we test color

In our tests we look for how accurate a camera can be in producing specific colors under controlled conditions. With the absolute glut of image processing programs out there, you can alter an image in any specific way you choose. However, reproducing accurate colors from an inaccurate image is akin to attempting to put the genie back in the bottle.

The GF2 does sacrifice color accuracy somewhat compared to the GF1. This seems to be due to the camera's JPEG compression method, which smears out a good deal of noise. When you look at the RAW files, the colors appear noisier, but far more accurate—though we only score using a camera's JPEG compression.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The GF2 took a slight drop overall from the GF1 in terms of accuracy, but outpointed the NEX-5 and Samsung NX100 by the same margin. The clear winner is the Olympus E-P1. That camera scored far above all the other cameras in our test group.

Much of this difference can be explained away by each camera's post-processing, as we use the in-camera JPEG compression for testing each camera. There are very visible differences in the color accuracy between the RAW image and JPEG image out of the camera: the GF2 struggled particularly with blues and purples in this test.

Noise reduction also plays a part here, as the E-P1 seems to skew colors the least, but also suffers from the worst noise of any of the cameras in this test group. The GF2 handles noise far better than the GF1 and E-P1, but at a penalty to overall color accuracy—most likely as a result of the camera's demosaicing and noise reduction algorithms.

The Panasonic GF2 offers eight color modes and a custom mode that allows for adjustments to color, brightness, saturation, and sharpness. In the menu is also a "Picture Adjust" setting available that, oddly enough, adjusts your picture. This is available in the manual, program, and priority modes with the ability to make slight changes to sharpness, color contrast, and noise reduction. It also has the ability to work as a black and white filter.

Some of these modes provide fun alternatives, but the effects are rarely subtle. The addition of the multiple custom options are an added benefit if you find the camera consistently providing images that are not to your liking.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The GF2 features an in-camera long exposure noise reduction option, designed specifically to combat noise in longer shutter speeds. It does this, as many cameras now do, by taking your photo and then a second "dark" shot with the shutter closed. The second shot (theoretically) should allow the camera to guess what is noise and what is your image. Unfortunately, noise is inherently random and this approach can be hit or miss.

In the GF2's case, as was true with the GF1, it missed. In many cases, the long exposure noise reduction actually made things worse. Long exposure noise reduction produced little visible difference. Worse, the noise reduction feature requires a second equally-long exposure, so taking a 30 second shot now takes a minute—with no great benefit.

Click here for more on how we test long exposure.

The noise reduction feature did help in terms of color accuracy on long exposures, with the NR feature reining in the GF2's oversaturation a bit. Saturation can really produce a very attractive photo, but it's much better to get an accurate image first and worry about making the colors pop in post-processing.

The GF2 handled long exposure noise very well, as it did in the other noise tests. The noise reduction feature did little to actually reduce noise, but the camera largely kept it to a minimum regardless of whether the feature was activated or not.

Lengthy exposures typically create quite a bit of noise, but the GF2 kept it in check with average noise totals of less than 1.5%—even at 30 seconds. This was better than the GF1, but lagged a bit behind the Sony NEX-5 with its larger sensor.

The GF2 scored fairly well in our tests for noise, though an overall lack of color accuracy hurt its total score. Compared to the others in the test group, it was middle of the pack—handling noise far better than the GF1 except for a small dip in color accuracy.

The king of the heap here was really the Samsung NX100, with the Sony NEX-5 right behind. This is to be expected, especially given that both of these cameras have APS-C sensors. Such an increase in sensor size is a major benefit for long exposures, as the camera can gather much more information per pixel. With such a volume of real image data, the end result isn't as susceptible to being poisoned by the interference in the sensor as it records the image.

Since we test using JPEG compression in-camera, there is room for quite a bit of variance from camera to camera (in this case, even between two cameras that share virtually the same sensor), but the GF2 shines over its predecessor with noise barely increasing across the ISO range.

This is largely due to the fact that the GF2 applies noise reduction during JPEG compression—even at the default setting. (The GF2 offers a -1 and -2 option, but the default is zero.) The RAW setting preserves color accuracy and some detail, but at the expense of increased noise.

Below are 100% crops of the same color chart shot at ISO 1600 using the GF2's RAW+JPEG setting with noise reduction at the default setting. The RAW file was converted to a 16-bit TIFF file with no compression applied before being cropped and saved as a maximum quality JPEG.

GF2_noiseaftercompress.jpg
GF2-Rawnoiseexamp.jpg

This kind of correction in JPEG processing is not uncommon and we only score using a camera's built-in compression. However, the GF2's dramatic improvement in high-ISO noise performance over the GF1 can be attributed to how aggressive its processor applies even the "zero" level of noise correction.

Click here for more on how we test noise.

The GF2 provides quite a few noise reduction options. It has a long exposure noise reduction setting that we found to be largely ineffectual, as well as the ability to set noise reduction from a level of -2 to +2. The ability to adjust noise reduction is only available in the "Picture Adjust" setting in program, manual, and priority modes.

This is a good deal of control, but it would be better if the camera had a more obvious noise reduction setting that was right in the menu as opposed to hidden in the Picture Adjust sub-menu.

The GF2 suffers more from luma noise than chroma noise, especially at higher ISOs—typical for most digital cameras. In our tests, the GF2 was able to keep luma noise to a respectable 1.6% at ISO 3200, though it went up to more than 2.8% at the maximum setting.

The only real issue the camera seemed to have was processing blues and reds at ISO 400, resulting in higher noise levels at that ISO than ISO 800. We noticed something similar in the GF1, but not to this degree. It's more likely an issue with the camera's processing than the sensor itself; the variance was small enough that it's little cause for concern.

The GF2 fared well even with NR at its default setting, though some correction is still applied due to the GF2's JPEG compression. Still, it outpointed every other camera but the NEX-5 and Samsung NX100 at the low ISOs and even managed to match the NEX-5 at ISO 3200 and 6400—all the while preserving more dynamic range than the GF1 did at high ISOs.

Even without the GF2's Intelligent Resolution or Intelligent Dynamic Range settings turned on, it managed to preserve detail through the ISO range. By comparison, the E-P1 and GF1 both went right off the rails in terms of visible noise from ISO 800 and up.

The NEX-5 and Samsung NX100 do win overall in terms of noise reduction due to their ability to preserve dynamic range while keeping noise levels down. However, the GF2 puts up a good fight despite having a much smaller sensor.

The GF2's resultant images, even with NR at its maximum setting, fared very well through the processing: they still preserved much of their detail without being too smeared. At ISO 1600 the images from the GF2 are still quite good, though their dynamic range is limited.

The Samsung and NEX-5 performed the best here, as they maintain detailed, smooth images at ISOs as high as 3200 with noise reduction turned up to its maximum setting.

The GF2 scored better than the GF1 in our tests for noise while also beating out its Micro Four-Thirds competitor, the Olympus E-P1. The Samsung NX100 and Sony NEX-5 performed better, due to their APS-C image sensors. The Micro Four-Thirds are at a bit of a disadvantage in this category given their smaller sensors but the GF2 does well anyway—even if it can't quite beat the larger sensors.

The GF2 features Auto ISO and Intelligent ISO settings with a range of 100-6400: a one stop improvement over the GF1. It doesn't feature any extended ISO settings, so what you see is what you get. The GF2 does allow you to select from 1/3rd increments in ISO, offering a great deal of fine control in that regard. If you're more the auto ISO type, then you can set a maximum ISO of 200, 400, 800, or 1600.

The camera's Intelligent ISO feature is designed to detect if subject movement dictates a faster shutter speed and adjust accordingly. It's not re-inventing the wheel, but without a manual ISO dial it will at least help when you need to quickly up your sensitivity or risk losing a shot. This is all assuming, of course, that the camera understands what's going on, which isn't always the case.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

We tested the Panasonic GF2 with the 14mm f/2.5 kit lens available from Panasonic. As a prime lens it produced good, sharp images. With the GF2 (and all our test cameras, in this case) utilizing interchangeable lenses, it's important to keep in mind that a poor sharpness score with one lens might not be replicated with another lens on the camera.

Click here for more on how we test resolution.

Distortion

The GF2 applies distortion correction to JPEG files and includes lens profile information within the RAW files. The included SILKYPix software uses that information to correct for distortion automatically. The result is that both JPEG and RAW files from the GF2 are virtually distortion-free.

In order to properly gauge the lens' performance, we attached it to an Olympus E-PL2, which applied little or no distortion correction. We found that the 14mm Panasonic lens did have a fair amount of barrel distortion, requiring a manual correction of 50 out of 100 in DXO Optics Pro to regain parallel lines.

Since the GF2 corrects this distortion automatically, this is more academic than anything. If you use the 14mm kit lens on another Micro Four-Thirds camera, just know that some post-processing may be required.

Chromatic Aberration ()

The GF2 fared well in our Chromatic Aberration tests at all three apertures with the 14mm pancake lens attached. It seemed to have the most trouble around the edges of the lens at high-contrast areas. In our real-world testing, this was hardly noticeable even when shooting notoriously difficult scenes, such as bare tree branches against a white sky.

Sharpness ()

The GF2 produced the sharpest results of any of our cameras in the test group. The fact that it was the only prime lens certainly played a role here, though the GF1—tested with the Panasonic 14-42mm lens—also produced very sharp images.

The images get particularly soft at smaller apertures, but with the lens opened all the way up the images stay nice and crisp. This is true even at the edges, where the other cameras in our test group produced softer lines.

We only tested for sharpness at the wide focal length—since that is the only kit lens we had available. Overall sharpness was very good, as is to be expected of a prime lens. The images became much softer around the edges at smaller apertures, but the GF2 was still at the top of our comparison group.

Owing to its very sharp 14mm prime lens, the GF2 scored the highest in our comparison group for resolution. Its closest competitor was the Samsung NX100, but the NX100 was undone by slightly higher chromatic aberration. The worst performer of our test group was the Sony NEX-5, due to its soft lens and heavy chromatic aberration.

Again this is another test where lens selection and quality can make all the difference. Zoom lenses are often softer than their prime counterparts; zoom lenses tend to be less sharp as they bring the subject closer. This is a generalization, of course, but a different lens on any of these cameras would alter these scores.

The GF2 offers five quality options in three sizes: RAW, RAW+JPEG (fine or normal), and JPEG alone (fine or normal) in 3-megapixel, 6-megapixel, and 12-megapixel varieties when shooting the 4:3 ratio.

There are also three other aspect ratios available (1:1, 16:9, and 3:2), but these all limit image resolution at a maximum of 9MP in 16:9 and 1:1, and 10.5MP in 3:2.

The GF2 preserves dynamic range well across the ISO range. The biggest news here is that Panasonic has managed to squeeze significantly better performance out of the same sensor as the GF1. At mid-range ISOs the improvement was nearly a full stop, while at ISO 3200 the improvement was a full stop and a half.

This is impressive given the amount of noise suppression that the GF2 applies at nearly every setting. The GF2 is able to keep noise levels low without losing much image quality.

Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.

Below you'll see a comparison chart of the GF2's dynamic range scores up against the GF1, Sony NEX-5, Samsung NX100, and Olympus E-P1.

The real winner here is the Sony NEX-5, which blows the field away, preserving more than five stops of dynamic range even as high as ISO 3200. At its lowest setting of ISO 200, the NEX-5 keeps a full 7.71 stops of range in our tests. Most of the other cameras in our group could not even break six stops, but the NEX-5 accomplishes that without breaking a sweat.

The GF2 is the second closest here, showing significant improvement over the GF1.

We have not tested image stabilization for the DMC-GF2, as neither the camera nor the pancake kit lens (14mm f/2.5) feature image stabilization. The optional 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens available with the GF2 will stabilize, as will other Micro Four-Thirds lenses. Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.

The GF2 performed on par with the test group, though its score did dip somewhat from the GF1, which blew the field away in white balance accuracy.

We feared that testing with the 14mm kit lens would skew the results, but the primary difference in score between the GF2 and GF1 was the result of how the two cameras interpreted incandescent lighting. We're not sure why the GF2 struggled with incandescent lighting, but we feel we can rule out the lens' impact.

Click here for more on how we test white balance.

Automatic White Balance ()

The GF2's automatic white balance performed best under daylight conditions, where it nearly matched the custom white balance setting taken with a white card. It had an average error of just under 175 kelvin below the proper color temperature, which is quite good.

Incandescent light typically gives automatic white balance modes (and even custom white balance modes) quite a fit—they rarely get it perfect. That was also true in this case, where the GF2 produced an average error of 1172 kelvin.

Under the automatic white balance setting, compact white fluorescent light didn't cause too many problems. The GF2 produced an average error of less than 100 kelvin, which caused only a slight warming effect under indoor lighting.

Custom White Balance ()

As is often the case, custom white balance on the GF2 is a far more accurate method of getting the camera to determine what is white. This certainly shows, and the camera produced an average error of just 100-200 kelvin across all three light settings.

In total, the GF2 performed on par with the other cameras in the test group. The GF1 beat every other camera by a considerable margin. This is due to the fact that the GF1 handled tungsten/incandescent light particularly well—producing an average error of just over 300 kelvin—while the other cameras typically were off by more than 1000 kelvin.

The GF2 couldn't match its predecessor, but outperformed the NEX-5 and NX100. The GF2 did fall short of the E-P1, which scored very well on both automatic and custom white balance.

The GF2 allows users to save two custom white balance presets, handy if they frequently face the same challenging lighting conditions such as a hockey rink or basketball court. The GF2 also provides the ability to set color temperature according to the Kelvin scale.

The camera also has six white balance presets--daylight, shade, cloudy, incandescent, and flash--which allow it to cope specifically with different types of lighting.

The GF2 offers some convenient modes for those who like to play back slideshows from their camera directly onto their television. Slideshows can be set to music and feature all images and videos, just videos, just 3D images, or a category of your choice.

It should be noted that 3D images can only be played back in 3D on a compatible television and the GF2 once again only records 3D still images with the optional 3D conversion lens. The GF2 does not record 3D videos.

The GF2 comes bundled with SILKYPIX® Developer Studio 3.1 SE and PHOTOfunSTUDIO 6.0 in order to manage the images the camera takes. SILKYPIX works well to convert RAW images out of the GF2 quickly and with good overall precision. It's certainly not the worst included software you'll get with a camera; its user interface is refreshingly muted and intuitive.

PHOTOfunSTUDIO 6.0, while apparently being designed by those with defective caps lock keys and no space bars, is also very easy to use and comes with a number of nice features. Notable among these are the ability to easily create slideshows with music and burn the projects to DVD for playback on your television. PHOTOfunSTUDIO can also recognize specific faces and organize photos according to that information. It's not a perfect implementation of the feature, but it works as well as other photo organizing software that boasts the same feature set.

The GF2 features both PictBridge and DPOF direct print options for those looking to get their images printed without utilizing a computer.

The Panasonic GF2 features a 12-megapixel Live MOS sensor that attempts to re-engineer the way that information is processed off a typical CMOS sensor, resulting in lower power requirements and less noise. This technology is nothing new; the biggest gains the GF2 makes in terms of noise reduction come from post-production and image processing rather than the sensor itself.

This particular sensor is starting to show its age, but it can still hold its own against the APS-C sensors of the Sony NEX-5 and Samsung NX100.

Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared

While many people were hoping for an increase in picture resolution with the GF2, 12 megapixels are more than sufficient to print 8.5x11'' prints at 300dpi while still being able to crop.

Overall results are similar to the GF1, with the majority of the changes coming in how the GF2 processes what the sensor gives it—rather than the sensor performing better on its own.

The GF2 does not come with a viewfinder, but does support an optional electronic viewfinder by its rear port and hot shoe.

The LCD is a 3-inch 460k touchscreen LCD. It is sharp enough to pick up some fine details and confirm focus, though it does tend to oversaturate a little. Saturation can be turned down in the menu along with contrast, brightness, and red/blue tint. There are four available brightness settings.

The touch LCD works well and is as responsive as most other digital camera touchscreens. You shouldn't expect tablet-level control here, but it's functional and the buttons are large enough that it's rare to have any real control issues. The LCD is only barely visible in direct sunlight—not uncommon among LCDs.

LCD Control Panel

The GF2 features a static 3'' LCD. This can be occasionally frustrating when shooting at odd angles. This is because sometimes the LCD appears to go black at acute viewing angles.

The pop-up flash has not been changed since the GF1, with the flash release still in the familiar back-left position on the camera. The flash will not fire unless manually released. It is not particularly powerful, but it's enough to illuminate a subject well from about 10 feet. Be warned: like most built-in flashes, it is a rather harsh light.

The GF2 comes with six flash modes: auto, auto red-eye reduction, forced, forced red-eye reduction, slow sync, and slow sync red-eye reduction.

The GF2 is another camera supporting the Micro Four-Thirds standard. This is where a great deal of the competition in the digital camera market lies: the Olympus/Panasonic Micro standard is going head-to-head with Sony's E-mount and Samsung's NX mount.

The Micro Four-Thirds standard has the benefit of being older, so there is a wider variety of lenses available. Many of the largest lens manufacturers have signes on to produce Four-Thirds lenses in 2011, though many of them have also announced support for Sony's E-mount.

In two years this will be a moot point if both systems are still widely supported but, for the moment at least, the Micro Four-Thirds standard offers more variety without resorting to adapters.

The supplied battery is a Panasonic DMW-BLD10PP Lithium-ion battery. Panasonic claims it will last approximately 200 shots under normal use. We were able to get around that many with ease. The GF2 comes with a charging station, which requires the battery to be removed from the camera for charging. The GF2 can be run when plugged directly into a power outlet, but that requires two separate adapters that need to be purchased separately.

Panasonic implements a system that discourages the use of third-party batteries. You'll have to shell out a little more for your Panasonic brand batteries.

The GF2 supports SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards with a maximum of 64GB per card.

The GF2 has a proprietary USB/AV port and a mini-HDMI port— both on the camera's right side behind a plastic flap. The GF2 will output through HDMI in playback mode only.

Optional 3D Lens

The GF2 is compatible with Panasonic's 3D lens, the LUMIX G 12.5mm / F12 (Model No.: H-FT012), which will allow for shooting a stereoscopic 3D image that can be viewed on a 3D television. We don't have this lens to test with, but it is certainly an option for you lovers of the third dimension.

The 3D lens is available at an MSRP of $259.95.

The GF2's shooting mode dial is accessible only through the main menu. The shooting modes are all laid out on the main screen: Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, iAuto, My Color, Scene, and Custom. My Color replaces what would typically be "film modes" or "picture effects" in other models. The custom mode allows the user to choose one of three custom settings. Each setting has 28 different options for the user to select and save for later use.

As a mirrorless compact system camera, there is no obstruction to the Panasonic GF2's image sensor—so the camera is always in Live View. There is an optional electronic viewfinder that can be purchased separately. It slots into the hot shoe and plugs into the small EVF port just above the rear LCD.

The GF2 features a fairly bright 3-inch 460k rear LCD that has a touchscreen interface. The touchscreen elements are placed along the right edge and are integrated well into the overall display design. We found that these don't distract or obstruct too much of the image while composing.

The screen isn't very visible in direct sunlight, especially if the sun is shining directly onto it. If you enjoy sunset compositions or other tricky lighting scenarios, the electronic viewfinder might be a wise purchase.

On Screen Information Display

The camera offers quite a few scene modes for a camera with so many customizable options on hand. There are 17 scene modes including portrait, soft skin, scenery, architecture, sports, peripheral defocus, flower, food, objects (macro), night portrait, night scenery, illuminations, baby 1, baby 2, pet, party, and sunset.

Below are some examples of a mural near the office shot using some of the color modes available on the GF2. These were all shot handheld, but they'll give you an idea of how the modes will affect brightness and saturation.

As you can see above many of the same modes from the GF1 have been retained though the loss of the some of the different black and white filters is missed, especially on a camera and kit that lends itself so well to street photography.

One aspect to pay attention to in the scene above is the range between the snow on the ground and the silhouetted dancing couple painted on the wall. Also look to the difference between the blue arms of the hydrant and the deep red of both its body and the background it plays against, especially in the "Pure" setting.

 

The GF2, like most mirrorless cameras, works utilizing a contrast detection system to achieve focus. These systems work by detecting when the edges in a focal point are at their sharpest, offering the greatest amount of contrast between the subject and background. It offers 23 selectable focal points as either a single point or as an array. The GF2 also offers motion tracking, face detection, and the ability to touch the screen to select a focal point.

The GF2 allows the user to choose between continuous autofocus, one-time autofocus, and manual focus with the option of a digital zoom to assist the user in focusing correctly. The loss of a button to quickly switch between auto and manual focus is a bit of a disappointment, but the Function button is programmable to assume that capability.

Focus is quite snappy and works even against painted walls that offer no real edges to focus on.

The Panasonic GF2 allows shooters to select a 23-point array or one specific focus area of a customizable size.

The camera integrates touchscreen functionality as well, allowing users to point out an area they want in focus. The GF2 can even adjust its scene mode the touchscreen selection. For instance, if the user chooses to focus on scenery instead of a person the scene mode changes accordingly.

The GF2 allows for exposure compensation of up to three stops in either direction, moving in 1/3 EV increments. We found that the camera underexposes by about a third of a stop in many lighting conditions.

The GF2 captures images in 3-5 shot bursts at its highest rate before slowing down to a more pedestrian speed of about one frame per second.

The GF2 takes only a moment to spring to life and while we don't test specifically for start-up to first shot, the GF2 was pretty snappy in terms of how quickly we were able to shoot after turning it on. For an added boost of speed, the camera will put itself into sleep mode and it's usually ready to shoot immediately—though it will have to adjust its focus and metering depending on what setting you have the camera on.

Shot to Shot ()

The Panasonic GF2 is not the fastest shot on the block, as we were only able to get around 2.45 frames per second when shooting at the highest quality JPEG. It performed similarly when firing off RAW shots as well, but in both cases the rate was maintained only for the first 3-5 shots before the buffer wore thin.

Drive/Burst Mode ()

Like the mode dial, the drive switch has also been removed from the top of the GF2. The drive mode button is now on the rear control pad with an option available for single shooting, high-speed burst w/o live view, and medium or low speed burst shooting with live view enabled between shots.

The depth of field preview button has been eliminated, but it's still available in the menu and the Function key can be programmed accordingly. Pressing this button also provides the option to enable the "shutter speed effect," which will preview the effect that the current shutter speed will have on the image.

The GF2 offers evaluative metering, spot metering, and center-weighted metering.

Shutter speeds are available from 1/4000 second up to 60 seconds in 1/3-stop increments. There is no bulb mode, as there was on the GF1.

The GF2 combines the self-timer button with the drive mode button. Pressing this button brings up an option to choose high-speed shooting and bracket shooting, as well as the self-timer with 2-second, 10-second, and 10-second/3-picture options available.

Intelligent Resolution

The GF2 does feature an "Intelligent Resolution" option that will attempt to increase image sharpness and clarity. It has four settings (off, low, medium, high) and is effective to a certain degree. The 14mm lens used in testing was already rather sharp but the feature did help to better highlight details along the edge of the lens by applying some in-camera sharpening where it detected edges while preserving smooth gradation in color areas.

Picture Adjust

The GF2 allows the user to make slight adjustments to sharpness, contrast, saturation, and noise reduction through its Picture Adjust setting, available only in program, manual, and priority modes.

The GF2 handles very much like a point-and-shoot camera, especially with the 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens attached. It's very lightweight at just 12.87 oz. with the pancake lens, and is a pleasure to shoot with for extended periods of time.

The body's lack of weight and size does work against it with a zoom lens attached. With a weightier lens attached, the body is not substantial enough to balance properly when composing. However, the camera is aimed more at those looking to jump up from a point-and-shoot. With that in mind, the Panasonic GF2 delivers from a design perspective.

Handling Front Image

The Panasonic GF2 is easy to shoot with one hand.

Handling Back Image

From the back the GF2 could easily be confused with its smaller LX-series cousins.

The controls on the GF2 are severely pared down from the GF1: the physical controls for AF/AE lock, AF/MF switch, drive mode, mode dial, DISP button, and preview/delete have been removed. All of these functions are still present, but they've been moved to the menu and are controlled via the 3'' touchscreen interface.

The Quick Menu and Function keys have been combined on the rear of the GF2. Both are still easy to use, but unfortunately the button can only access one or the other. There are 15 slots in the Quick Menu that users can fill with settings they adjust the most. This kind of functionality would be nice to have separate from the function key, even though it is accessible through the touchscreen.

The rear control wheel has a fair amount of resistance to it, making fine adjustments easier and accidental movements a thing of the past. The only downside to this is when the user wants to make a drastic change, quite a few strokes of the dial are required.

The only real addition to the body is an illuminated Intelligent Auto button that sits right behind the shutter release and glows blue when activated. This can be activated from any mode and it conveniently switches to the camera's automatic setting. It's a clear sign that the GF2 is meant to appease a different crowd than the GF1. It's a nice touch to encourage the amateur to root around in the menu without fear of screwing something up.

The GF2's main menu is divided into eight sections: record mode, record settings (vaguely titled just "REC"), video settings, custom, setup, and playback. Setup and playback handle the camera's base functions and playback options, respectively. Record mode lets the user choose which shooting mode the camera is in. The different shooting options are available under the "REC" tab. Custom brings the user to a large menu of 28 different options for customizing the camera's three savable custom shooting modes.

The camera's options are laid out thoughtfully and intelligently in most cases, though a few of the finer adjustments are located in some odd menus. As a result, it's not always clear whether an option will remain in effect if you were to change shooting modes.

Main Menu Picture
The supplied manual we received had several errors in both the table of contents and various diagrams, though the updated manual we found online had all these errors corrected. The environmentalists will be happy as the paper manual is quite slim compared to some other camera models, with the full operating instructions only available online in .PDF format. The basic manual provides only rudimentary instructions, while the advanced manual for the GF2 is much more thorough. The latter provides detailed explanations of each shooting mode and many of the settings. These manuals will help you learn the camera's particular features, but they won't make you a better photographer. The GF2 produced a mean color error of 3.94 in our bright light color testing—worse than the GF1's score, but only marginally. Saturation held to about the same levels in the GF2, with our tests reading a saturation level of 83.16% and producing the somewhat muted image you see here. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests color performance.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videocolor) The GF2 allows the user to shoot video in any of the My Color options (or any of the modes, really) simply by pressing the record button right by the shutter release. Alternatively, one can capture a still photo during video recording simply by pressing the shutter release button. The GF2's color accuracy slipped slightly from the GF1, but was superior to the rest of the competition, with the Olympus E-P1 and Sony NEX-5 being the worst of the lot. The GF2 did tend to undersaturate colors, so videos don't pop the same way they do with some of the other cameras—especially the NEX-5. The GF2 scored about the same as the GF1—no real surprise given their shared equipment. The Sony NEX-5, Samsung NX100, and Olympus E-P1 all produced less accurate color results, bringing their scores down. The GF2 performed very well in our bright light noise tests, with an incredibly low 0.28% noise in all channels. We typically see very low noise scores out of video capable DSLRs, but this is a great score even compared to high-end competition. The superior noise results are partially due to the 14mm f/2.5 lens that we used in testing. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests noise performance.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videonoise) The GF2 is the clear winner here, as it has one of the best low-light noise scores we have tested. A lot of this is due to the lens we used in testing, but the camera's effective noise reduction may have also played a large role. Motion performance is not always the strong suit of system cameras with CMOS sensors, as they aren't designed for high definition video. The GF2 can record full HD at 1080/60i. Compression is achieved with now-common AVCHD codec, which can also be used to record at 720/60p. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests motion.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videomotion) The GF2 produced a horizontal sharpness of 500 lw/ph and vertical sharpness of 525 lw/ph in our testing. At times that score did improve up to 600 lw/ph, but only temporarily. This is a bit of a step down from the GF1, which recorded 575 lw/ph across the board. That's a big disappointment, considering the GF2 records a higher definition image and should be able to preserve fine differences in detail better. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests video sharpness.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videosharpness) With the 14mm f/2.5 lens, we set up the Panasonic GF2 and lowered the light continuously until the video no longer registered 50 IRE (a reasonably visible image) on a waveform monitor. For the GF2, this occurred at 6 lux, which is better than even some full-size DSLRs that we have tested, including the Nikon D5000. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light sensitivity.](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videollsensitivity) The Panasonic GF1 performed poorly in our sensitivity tests, but it did do quite well in terms of overall color accuracy during video shooting. The GF2 performed much better in sensitivity, but it sacrificed a bit of color accuracy, with its automatic mode producing a color error of 3.94 in low light. Saturation was still good at just 104.8%, better results than we saw with the GF1. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light color performance. ](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videollcolor) The GF2 had great noise performance in still testing and in bright light video testing, so it's no surprise that it also had superior noise performance when recording video in low light. The GF2 captured low light video with an overall noise level of 0.33%. This is a great score: better than most consumer camcorders and better than the rest of our comparison group. Also assisting the GF2 here is the 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens that we used in testing, as the camera has more light to work with to help keep noise as low as possible. [Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light noise performance.](/content/How-we-test-digital-cameras-20069.htm#videollnoise) The effect of the lens is pretty pronounced, as the GF2's image is noticeably brighter than any of the crops from the comparison cameras, so noise is barely visible at all. Despite that, it is easy to see how much sharper the other images are, with the Sony NEX-5 in particular keeping a very sharp image despite the low light conditions and subsequent noise. The GF2 shoots 1080/60i AVCHD video—as opposed to the GF1's 720/30p AVCHD Lite. AVCHD is not the ideal codec, but it certainly gets the job done with a bitrate of either 17bps or 13mbps. At 720p the GF2 does record a full 60 progressive frames per second. There's not much in the way of manual controls available during video recording. The camera does have adjustable ISO, but that setting is only in the regular "REC" menu and the GF2 will revert to automatic ISO sensitivity when recording video. The camera's "Flicker Reduction" option does allow users to choose from a handful of fixed shutter speeds, ranging from 1/50 to 1/120. #### Auto Mode When shooting still photos, Intelligent Auto allows the GF2 to automatically select from most of the scene modes available to it. When the movie record button is pressed, however, the GF2 will choose from one of four scene settings: Macro, Portrait, Scenery, or Low Light. The GF2 also allows users to shoot automatically in any of the My Color modes and Program mode. There is not as much control over record settings in Program mode as there is for still photography. For instance, exposure compensation is not available in Program mode during video recording. #### Zoom Controls and Zoom Ratio As this is a system camera, the zoom ratio and zoom controls depend entirely on the lens attached to the camera. The lens in this case was a pancake prime and thus had no zoom ratio. #### Focus As the GF2 relies on a contrast detection autofocus system and autofocus is fully available while recording video. There is a slightly audible motor sound on video played back, as the stereo mic on the camera picks up the sounds of the focusing motor. That problem can be alleviated by using manual focus during video recording. #### Exposure, Aperture and Shutter Speed Aperture and shutter speed are both available during video recording in limited capacity. Aperture is set prior to recording a video and will only change if the lens is zoomed to a point where that aperture is no longer available. Shutter speed is available in the Flicker Reduction menu option for movie recording. #### ISO and Other Controls Automatic ISO takes over during movie recording, regardless of any user-selected setting. The GF2 features a stereo mic, upgraded from the GF1's monaural microphone. There is no external microphone input. The GF2 does provide an on-screen level guide for audio, so you'll know when you're being too soft or too loud during recording. The GF2 is one of the lightest cameras available that features interchangeable lenses, making quick snapshots and video a breeze. It is a little hard to keep steady with no built-in image stabilization, but it's comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The dedicated video recording button is a fairly common addition these days, but what is less common is the GF2's ability to completely deactivate that button through the menu, if you so choose. This completely rules out the possibility of accidentally hitting the video recording button and getting five extremely shaky minutes of you playing with the camera and putting it in your pocket.
Handling Front Image

The Panasonic GF2 is easy to shoot with one hand.

Handling Back Image

From the back the GF2 could easily be confused with its smaller LX-series cousins.

The GF2 and GF1 scored rather equally across most of the field, as far as image quality goes—not unexpected since they share essentially the same Live MOS sensor. The GF2 showed drastically improved handling of noise and preserving dynamic range at higher ISOs, while the GF1 maintained better white balance and color accuracy scores.

Performance:

The GF2 certainly showed significant improvements in its ability to keep noise under control and preserve dynamic range at the highest ISOs. That can largely be seen as a result of the GF2's improved noise reduction applied during JPEG compression.

The GF1 outscored its successor in white balance accuracy, as it was able to more accurately interpret colors in incandescent light. The GF2 was unable to replicate that score, though we're not entirely sure why.

The GF2 also showed substantial improvement in video low light sensitivity—posting one of the best low light scores we've seen from a DSLR to date—without sacrificing much color accuracy. One notable caveat is that the resulting test videos were less sharp than the GF1's, despite the fact that the GF2 records 1080/60i compared to the GF1's 720/30p.

Components:

Both the GF2 and GF1 are solidly built and are compatible with the Micro Four-Thirds standard of lenses. The GF2 comes bundled with the 14mm f/2.5 lens and/or the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The GF1 had the benefit of coming in a kit with the 20mm f/1.7 lens, but that drove the price up to nearly $1000, while the GF2 debuted at $699 with the 14mm kit lens ($499 body-only).

Handling:

The GF2 is noticeably smaller than the GF1 and has had many of its physical controls eliminated. It features a nicely tapered grip on the front of the camera and has had some minor improvements to the overall feel of the camera to go along with a 7% reduction in weight. Panasonic has added a 3-inch touch interface to the GF2. The touch interface makes up for some of the absent physical controls, but makes altering settings with a single hand a chore.

Controls:

There are far fewer controls on the GF2 than the GF1, with a half dozen physical controls moved into the menu. In addition, the Quick Menu and programmable Function key have been combined on the GF2. The Quick Menu is also immediately available through the touchscreen, but it would be better served by keeping its own button.

The difference between the two cameras comes down to design philosophy: the GF1 appeals to the manual shooter, while the GF2 is less intimidating. Both cameras feature a great deal of customizable functions and modes, but the GF2 is clearly meant to appeal to a wider audience.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

The NEX-5 bested the GF2 in the categories you would expect, given its advantage in sensor size. The GF2 produced somewhat noisier images and produced less dynamic range at all sensitivities, where the NEX-5 still excelled. The GF2—like the GF1 before it—produced more accurate colors than the NEX-5, with only moderate error showing up in red and blue channels.

The GF2 succeeds with its design, which feels more comfortable to shoot with than the sometimes-awkward NEX-5. The sheer volume of customizable options also wins the GF2 points here.

Performance:

The NEX-5 produces lower noise totals than the GF2 while maintaining superior dynamic range. It's also the speedier camera, shooting still images far faster than the GF2. The real feather in the NEX-5's cap is its high ISO performance. The NEX-5 is capable of producing acceptable images up to ISO 6400. The GF2's images from ISO 6400, however, looks worse than what the Sony NEX-5 produces at ISO 12800.

Components:

One drastic—if temporary—difference between these two cameras is the availability and quality of lenses. The Sony E-mount is still quite nascent, with just a few lenses currently available. That is being remedied this year, since Sony opened the mount technology up to the wider lens-producing world with Carl Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron, and Cosina all pledging to develop lenses for the new mount this year.

The Micro Four-Thirds standard, alternatively, has been out for a few years now and has a significant leg up on Sony thus far. The E-mount is adaptable to the Minolta/Sony Alpha mount that Sony uses on its full-sized DSLRS. The adapter now even supports autofocus—but still costs $200.

Handling:

Both the GF2 and the Sony are a joy to shoot with, allowing a great deal of control in a body that weighs considerably less than any DSLR. Both cameras weigh in at approximately 10 oz., with the GF2's tapered grip the better option for one-handed shooting. These compact system cameras may not be the "minor miracle" that Sony's PR has called them, but they're certainly a refreshing change of pace from DSLRs.

Controls:

The GF2—even with many of the GF1's dials and controls removed—still features more physical controls than the NEX-5. Amateurs should feel confident exploring the GF2's menu with its touchscreen control and the Intelligent Auto button to fall back on. The GF2 also must win points over the NEX-5 for sheer customization.

It would have been greatly appreciated if the GF2's Quick Menu and Function buttons were separate instead of combined, but that's still only a minor inconvenience; even with the single button, the GF2 allows users to tailor the control scheme to their own personal preferences in a way that the NEX-5 does not.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

The Samsung NX100 scored very well in a few select tests--namely long exposure accuracy and resolution--but the GF2 is the more steady performer. The NX100's real Achilles heel is its lack of dynamic range beyond an ISO of 200, dropping from 5.13 stops to 4.65 at ISO 400—even falling all the way to just 2.6 stops at ISO 3200.

The NX100 was our best camera in this test group at suppressing noise. This is due to the larger APS-C sensor employed in the NX100, compared to the GF2's smaller Micro Four-Thirds sensor. The lack of dynamic range in the NX100's images gives them a flat appearance, but they generally have less noise than the GF2's images at high ISOs.

In the areas of white balance accuracy, color accuracy, resolution, and especially dynamic range the GF2 wins, hands down.

Performance:

The GF2 showed more consistency and higher quality in dynamic range and color accuracy tests, while the NX100 did well in noise suppression and resolution. That does make sense given the NX100's larger sensor, but the GF2 simply reproduces scenes more accurately and with greater depth.

Components:

The NX100 suffers from the same problem that is also currently plaguing the Sony NEX cameras: a lack of lenses. While Samsung has also come out with an adapter to work with a wider library of lenses—in this case Pentax's K-mount lenses—it does not support autofocus as the Sony adapter does. Beyond that, there are just five current lenses that work with the NX100.

For manual focus enthusiasts, the NX mount is a little more intriguing: manual-focus lens specialist Samyang has started shipping NX versions of some of its popular prime lenses.

Handling:

Both are small, well-designed cameras that are a breeze to operate with just a single hand. The Samsung definitely wins points for its i-function lens technology that gives the focus ring second use as a control dial when the function button on the lens is pressed. The only limiting factor there is the current lack of lenses that employ the technology.

Controls:

The NX100 and the GF2 both sport customizable controls to tailor fit the shooting experience to each particular user. The GF2 benefits from a rear touch LCD, but it is not as sharp as the Samsung's (VGA-equivalent) AMOLED rear screen.

It's clear looking at its heritage that the lack of physical controls on the GF2 was a conscious design choice rather than an oversight, but the Samsung NX100 shows that button layouts don't have to be barren to look clean. It will come down to personal preference which approach suits you best, but both cameras are easy to pick up and learn.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

In our tests, the Olympus E-P1 scored better than the entire test group for color accuracy. The E-P1 suffers from rather high image noise, though—especially compared to the GF2. The GF2 produced sharper images in our tests and also was able to preserve dynamic range at every ISO better than the E-P1.

The GF2 will win the hearts of those who prefer customization in their control scheme, though there are fewer physical buttons that can be programmed. By contrast, the E-P1 features a number of physical buttons and dials that offer more fine control, without having to go into the menu.

Performance:

The E-P1 performed very poorly in our tests for image noise, with a result of nearly 2.5% noise as soon as ISO 800 and about 1.9% at ISO 400. Compare that to the GF2 which, with the same-size sensor, only showed more than 2% noise at ISO 6400 with the "zero" amount of noise reduction applied.

The GF2 also preserved dynamic range better through the ISO scale, giving its images greater depth. In great light, the E-P1 had superior color accuracy, but the GF2 produced sharper images in a variety of lighting conditions.

Components:

Both the Panasonic GF2 and the Olympus E-P1 benefit from being a part of the Micro Four-Thirds consortium and thus share lens compatibility. They process things like distortion differently, but there's not much difference here at all. Both are solidly built with a weight that is satisfying without feeling cumbersome.

Handling:

The E-P1 is approximate in size to the GF1 and the GF2 is more than 20% smaller and 7% lighter than that camera. The weight difference matters, and the GF2 slots into a jacket pocket with great ease. You can surely squeeze the E-P1 into some jackets, but there's no forgetting that you're lugging a camera around.

Controls:

The E-P1 has a lot more in common with the GF1's control layout than the GF2's simplified version. Both cameras have a programmable function button, but the E-P1 also benefits by having a control dial around the main control pad as well as a second dial on the thumbrest, allowing for extra control.

Between the two, it's really just a simple trade-off: size versus physical control. The E-P1 provides more individual buttons on its larger body, while the GF2 offers quite a bit of control through its quick menu, function button, and touchscreen.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

The instant the Panasonic GF1 hit the market it seemed that people began anticipating the GF2's release. What would Panasonic change? How would they improve one of the most popular cameras in their model line? Instead of a sequel to the GF1, the GF2 is better described as a re-imagining of the GF series: same image quality, but intended for a wider, less experienced audience.

With a simplified design, touchscreen operation, emphasis on its Intelligent Auto mode and--perhaps biggest of all--a debut price that is $300 cheaper than the GF1, the GF2 is aimed squarely at those consumers looking to step up from a point-and-shoot without losing portability.

Performance

The GF2 maintains the same resolution as the GF1 and performed very similarly in the majority of our tests. The GF2 didn't fare quite as well in color accuracy and white balance tests, but it showed great improvement in resolution, sharpness, video sensitivity, and noise levels at all ISOs.

Video Performance

The GF2 features full 1080/60i AVCHD video. The quality is about what we have come to see in other interchangeable lens cameras that feature video. There were noticeable compression artifacts and color bleeding in our motion tests. It's not nearly as sharp as high-end consumer video cameras (or some of the others in our test group), but the GF2 keeps image noise to an absolute bare minimum.

Components

The Micro Four-Thirds standard has come a long way since the GF1 was announced way back in fall of 2009. There are more lenses available now than ever and there will only be more selection this year with several large lens manufacturers pledging their support for the standard.

The GF2 itself comes either body-only or in a kit with the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and/or the 14mm f/2.5 lens. We used the 14mm lens in testing and found it to be nice and sharp, though the lack of stabilization is an issue despite the large aperture.

Handling:

The GF2 represents a drastic change for Panasonic's GF series, as it is considerably trimmed down—hitting the market ready to compete with the svelte Sony NEX-5. There have been casualties, though, with the mode dial and many physical controls from the GF1 eliminated in favor of a 3-inch touchscreen display.

All that adds up, with the GF2 being the smallest interchangeable lens camera that features a built-in flash, according to Panasonic—that caveat smartly ruling out the Sony NEX cameras and their plug-in flash.

Controls:

The Pansonic GF2 is simple in its layout and execution, but still features an incredible breadth of customizable options. It's a camera that can appeal to users with any level of experience. While it is outperformed by Sony's NEX-5 in some performance categories, the GF2 is certainly a worthy contender for any photographer's time and money.

Meet the testers

TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

See all of TJ Donegan's reviews

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