The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2 is a digital camera that has it all. It can shoot high-quality stills, it performs well as a high-definition video camera, and it offers you the luxury of using both a touchscreen and physical buttons.
It's very much a camera for the enthusiast photographer who likes to have a lot of switches and controls at their fingertips, but the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2 is also designed to be super-easy to use straight out of the box thanks to its Intelligent Auto mode.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2 is a Micro Four Thirds camera and it can accept different lenses in Panasonic's G Vario lens line up. We used a 14-140mm, 10x optical zoom lens for our tests, which equates to a focal length of 28-280 in 35mm speak. The sensor in the GH2 is 14 megapixels, which is a 2-megapixel improvement over 2009's Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH1.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2 GH2 has a slightly different control layout to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1. Primarily, the control dial for changing exposure settings has been moved to a thumb position from an index finger position, and the dedicated movie recording button has been repositioned from the rear of the camera to the top of the camera next to the shutter button. We think these changes make the camera easier to use. The addition of a touchscreen is great for some features, such as pointing to a particular focus point in a frame; of all the vendors doing touchscreen cameras today, we think Panasonic has the best and easiest to use implementation.
We love the inclusion of multiple dials and switches on the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2's body, which allow you to quickly make changes to focus and shooting mode settings. The left side has a dial and switches so that you can quickly change focus modes, while the main mode dial has a switch encircling it that allows you to quickly select the shooting mode (single shot, burst, multiple exposure or timer). For changing the aperture and shutter values, there is a single thumb dial on the hand grip, and you can press it to change between the aperture to the shutter settings.
See also: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 review
Conventional menu buttons are located on the back of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2 camera, and the top of the camera has a Fn button that can be programmed with your favourite function. By default it makes the camera switch to Intelligent Auto mode, which is quite handy when you want to quickly change from a manual mode.
To frame your photos, you can use the high resolution (460K dots) 3in LCD screen, which is hinged so that you can also take shots from weird angles or self portraits. There is a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) that gives you the same view and on-screen information as the LCD screen, and it automatically switches on when you bring it close to your eye -- you don't have to press a button to activate it.
As for the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2's image quality, there is very little to fault. Coupled with the 14-140mm lens we used for testing, the camera produced very crisp images with very little noise and no noticeable chromatic aberration. When using manual mode, the exposure meter on the screen shows you if you've got the exposure spot on, or if you've under or overexposed your shot. It's one of the more handy indicators of the on-screen display, especially because what you see on the screen isn't exactly what you get when you take a picture -- we've found Olympus cameras to be among the best when it comes to WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get).
When shooting in dim light you'll get good performance up to ISO 800, and even ISO 1600 will good unless you view the images at their full size, but anything higher will have noticeable feathering and discolouration. Image stabilisation is built-in to the lens, and you can take quite crisp handheld shots down to 1/10th of a second or lower if you have really steady hands.
Video footage is jittery if you move the camera while shooting (this is pretty much the same as every other digital camera on the market), but images are crisp and focusing performance is excellent. When you zoom in and out of scenes, the autofocus only takes a couple of seconds to readjust.
The bottom line is that the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH2 Micro Four Thirds camera is an excellent product. Its combination of manual and automatic features make it ideal for any type of user and if you want to make the most of its manual features the learning curve isn't too high -- all the manual features you'll need to change will be right at your fingertips. It takes clear and vibrant images and its video mode is also very good (as long as you keep the camera still). Basically, if you're in the market for an interchangeable lens camera that can capably shoot Full HD video, the GH2 is well worth considering.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>