The Panasonic GF2 is currently the world’s smallest interchangeable lens camera. Physically similar to 2009’s DMC-GF1, it dispenses with many of the controls in favour of a touchscreen, leaving it trimmer and lighter than its predecessor. Is it a DSLR-beater in a diminutive shell? Read the rest of our Panasonic GF2 review to find out.
Photo and video quality
Panasonic is well regarded for the performance of its Micro Four Thirds cameras and the Panasonic GF2 isn’t going to change that. Its 12.1MP sensor is physically only a little smaller than a DSLR sensor, and image quality rivals entry-level DSLRs in terms of colour reproduction and detail.
Blowing up our test snaps to 100 percent size in Aperture, however, we noticed a fair bit of noise, even at the least sensitive ISO 100 setting. By ISO 400 things get pretty speckly, and by ISO 800 the Panasonic GMC-DF2’s shots are really suffering from a lack of sharpness due to the noise.
We’d say the Panasonic GF2 lags a way behind an equivalently priced DSLR when it comes to noise; while many users may never blow their photos up large enough to notice, it’s worth noting if you plan on lots of low light shooting. There is a built-in flash, of course, plus the option to bolt an external flash onto the accessory port.
Our test model came with just the tiny 14mm F2.5 pancake lens, which performs well but restricts shooting to wide angle only. We’d consider supplementing it with a 14-42mm zoom, especially if you plan on shooting lots of video.
Speaking of which, the Panasonic GF2’s video comes in two flavours – AVCHD and Motion JPEG – and maxes out at 1080i and 60fps. A built-in mic records stereo sound. The AVCHD quality is very impressive, but manual controls are limited – so video is best viewed as a bonus feature rather than a reason to buy the camera. You can check out the results in the clip above.
Ease of use
The touchscreen means that the Panasonic GF2 feels very different to handle than the GF1. There’s no mode dial and you need to select your favoured shooting mode on the screen, which we don’t like. What we do like is the way you can select a focus point by tapping an area on the screen. So it’s swings and roundabouts really, and for many of the functions you have a choice between using the touchscreen or the buttons to its right. The menu system is simple, with either the four-way cursor or Q.Menu buttons bringing up the main settings (ISO, metering, flash etc.) for easy tweaking.
Read our Panasonic GF2 review roundup now
The Panasonic GF2 autofocuses swiftly and efficiently, at least with the 14mm lens. It’s perhaps not quite as fast at locking on as the Sony NEX-5, but it’s definitely in the same ballpark.
Like the GF1 before it, the Panasonic GF2 is an extremely well made camera: compact, lightweight, reassuringly solid (the body is metal) and designed to sit nicely in your right hand. But be aware that, despite being the smallest swappable lens camera on the market, it’s a little too bulky for the average pocket – only clowns and MC Hammer will be able to slip it into their trousers without causing severe discomfort.
We don’t think many pros or truly serious amateurs will be picking up a Panasonic GF2. Despite the camera’s many charms, the touchscreen-centric interface and noise levels make it much more suitable for the entry-level snapper looking to move to a better model. As a first interchangeable lens camera, you could do a heck of a lot worse than this.
Is it a bargain at its RRP? Tricky one, that. The Panasonic GF2 is undoubtedly one of the best Micro Four Thirds models around, but its near £600 starting price (for a package with the 14-42mm kit lens) is fairly steep. Keep an eye out for a good deal on it – we feel it’s worth more like £450 and prices should be heading that way very soon.