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GH2 users: please comment on ultimate image quality

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by Brian G, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    I would appreciate hearing from those GH2 users who can speak to the best image quality you can obtain from your GH2, relative to either earlier m43 models, or in direct comparison to current crop of DSLR's, notably the Nikon D7000, Canon D60, Sony models, and so on. Comparisons can include full-frame models (I've been following soundimageplus' comments on the Sony A850 with keen interest - love your blog, David!).

    I'm less interested in noise comparisons, except at base ISO or up to, say, ISO 400. I do appreciate that noise and use of noise reduction is intertwined with sharpness.

    I'm particularly interest in sharpness (acuity) and file quality overall. These have more weight for me than high ISO noise performance. I'm aware of dynamic range differences.

    I would prioritize the ultimate quality of RAW files - nice OOC Jpeg's are a bonus, but low priority.

    I love the weight / portability of my G1 kit, but would (grudingly) accept less convenience if there is a real-world payoff in IQ, particularly resolving power.

    I'm contemplating my next camera; I presently have a G1 w/14-45 and 20mm lenses. I have a GH2 on order, but I would reconsider that choice if I could achieve better file quality with a DSLR. (But it has to have sharpness i.e. "bite", not just lower shadow noise at the expense of acuity.)

    I happened to notice that Imaging Resource's "Comparometer" images show the GH2 sample as looking a bit soft, particularly as compared against the Nikon D7000. But, having been around this block a few times, I know that this can be due to other factors, and may not be a reliable comparison. Some other down-loadable images have occasionally indicated some softness and low contrast, but there are many others that look just fine. The problem is that much of this material is derived from OOC Jpegs at standard settings, and can for that reason be misleading.

    I also noted that Pop Photography just reviewed the GH2 as having a higher "resolving power" number than the Pentax K5, and generally similar to the Nikon D7000. Does this really make a GH2 file every bit as sharp as the best of the DSLR's in a large-ish print?

    See why I'm confused?

    Thanks in advance for your insights; if possible, can we avoid such observations as "the camera you have with you is the best", "good enough for . . .", etc.? This is about absolute differences, particularly re: resolving power that translates to prints in the range of 11 x 14 up to 20 x 30.

    Edit: I should add that I couldn't care less about video - only stills.

    Brian
     
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  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    I'm a GH2 owner and I'd love to help you, but I really don't have those kinds of eyes. My informal comparison is that they're as sharp as any other m43 cam I've used, with the epl1 probably being the best of that batch (in terms of the impression of really sharp files) but the ep2 and gf1 being just wonderful to my eyes as well. The only camera I've shot with that seemed a bit sharper was the Sony A33 with a Zeiss lens and I don't know how much of that was sensor and how much was lens. I have a Nex with the same sensor that doesn't have the same overwhelming clarity I got from the A33, so that might have been the lens.

    Honestly the biggest difference I've seen between the GH2 and other m43 image files is the high ISO quality. Other than that, i was mostly buying it for its incredible AF speed and accuracy and general handling. I'm a pretty easy sell on IQ - I'm ecstatically happy with my LX5 for shooting in good light, so you should take that into account in judging ANYthing I have to say.

    -Ray
     
  3. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Thanks for the reply, Ray.

    I'm over the moon with my m43 kit as far as lightweight, etc. goes. I know life with a DSLR, irrespective of other advantages, would be less convenient.

    I'm really trying to get a handle as to whether the so-called IQ advantages with, say for instance, a Nikon D7000, are more actual or a tendency toward reviewer-bias.

    May I ask which Zeiss lens you had experience with on the A33?
     
  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    It was the 16-80 zoom. It was as big and heavy as the Pany 14-140, its about as inexpensive as a Zeiss gets, and there have been reports of pretty serious sample variation, but I must have had a good one. Because, as I said, I'm really not all that sensitive to the finer points of IQ but even I noticed the incredible clarity of those images immediately - I was kind of stunned by it actually. But, ultimately, I didn't like shooting with that large a setup and I returned it after a few days. I didn't want to be held hostage by such sparkling images! If I was mostly a nature photographer or something, I might have kept it, but I'm more of a walk around shooter and I just didn't feel like I could shoot as creatively with that camera as with smaller ones.

    -Ray
     
  5. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    What a great range for a "walkin' about" zoom!

    Tx for that, Ray.
     
  6. dko22

    dko22 Mu-43 Regular

    163
    Jul 26, 2010
    Stuttgart, Germany
    as regards sharpness, I don't think you will have anything to worry about. The G1 at 100% view has similar sharpness to the Nikon D700 (that's D700 not the new 7000). Most comparisons I did at the time were 14-45 v the Pro 17-35 on the Nikon so you'd expect the Nikon to have quite an advantage. It didn't and the 20 and 7-14 are sharper still. Of course sharpness has much to do with the lens but also the AA filter and image processing plays a major role and I find G series RAW files very good in this department. The GH2 has a slight edge in both sharpness and contrast over the first generation camera -in some files it seems more noticeable than others. The bigger advantage is in contrast handling and low light. The latter measures 1-2 stops. For instance in a fairly high contrast daylight scene including sky and shadow, the G1 can "fill light" up to a couple of stops without significant degradation only at base (100) ISO though a little contrast is lost. The GH2 can certainly manage up to at least 320 ISO and contrast does not appear significantly reduced. The GH2 in this respect cannot match the D700 which is what you would expect but is certainly superior to the D200 of a couple of years previously (not FF of course either). I would guess that the GH2 sensor overall is about on a par with an average one generation old APS-C camera. Which means pretty respectable. Sharpness and detail will often be superior with the Panny cam. though most of the consumer DSLRs are used with lower grade lenses making the comparison more difficult.

    Zenfolio | David Owen | G1 v GH2 high ISO and DR the last three photos give an idea of shadow lightening DR at respective base ISO and the others are high ISO comparisons in case they are of interest. EXIF is in the "info" tab. These are full size jpg conversions

    David
     
  7. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    Firstly thank you - It is very much appreciated.

    I work from raw files exclusively and am very pleased with what the GH2 can deliver. I've used a lot of m4/3 lenses with it, and the zooms are OK, but I believe I get better results from the 14mm, 20mm, and 45mm Panasonic primes. I also believe that I get the best possible results from the GH2 sensor using either the Voigtlander 25mm or M Mount prime lenses from Leica, Zeiss & Voigtlander etc. I was quite surprised by just how good the results were.

    I did a test comparing the results from my Leica M9 and GH2 using M Mount lenses and was surprised how close the GH2 was in terms of sharpness, particularly at wide apertures. Comparisons with lenses like the 20mm are a little softer but still very good.

    Sharpness is not however the whole story. I do find the GH2 has more luminance noise at all settings than other m4/3 cameras. Even at its base ISO of 160. With a little fiddling around with Photoshop, editing out some of this noise and sharpening I can get an image that's still sharp but looks a lot smoother in large areas of blue sky for example.

    I don't think that anyone would claim that the GH2 is a star performer in terms of either dynamic range or high ISO and both of these can affect that ultimate image quality.

    To a large extent getting the ultimate out of the camera depends on what you use it for. I mainly shoot outdoors in good light at base ISO, working from raw files, with the GH2. Thats where to me it really shines. I had a Pentax K-5, which has a very similar sensor to the Nikon D7000 and Sony a580 and a55 cameras and I've used the Canon 60D sensor in both a 7D and 550D. Personally I prefer the results from my GH2 over those cameras for what I do. Again I must state that this is at ISO 160, with raw processing. At ISO 400 and above I wouldn't use the GH2 as I believe at those settings the other cameras mentioned here produce less noisy results.

    Its very difficult for the GH2 to compete with a full-frame sensor and particularly with the monster sensor in the Sony a850 and Nikon D3X. The sheer size and resolution of this thing and its advantages in terms of dynamic range, which is very good indeed, and low noise at all ISO's means that the perceived resolution is very impressive indeed. However having said that the sharpness (acuity) at base ISO on the GH2 stands up very well indeed. In terms of print quality you may think it comparable to the larger sensor.

    If you haven't already, have a look at some of the stuff Michael Reichmann writes over at Luminous Landscape. The Luminous Landscape By sheer co-incidence he uses the same cameras I do, except for a Sony a900 instead of my a850, and he also has lots of Leica lenses I can't afford! He's a great fan of the GH2 and writes about its performance in glowing terms, particularly in terms of print making.

    I do think you would notice a difference over your G1, and looking at the images on your flickr photostream, very impressive by the way, I think the GH2 might suit you very well, if thats representative of what you want it for. Your 20mm lens would certainly work very well, though the 14-45mm might need stopping down a bit to get the best out of it.

    If I was shooting what you shoot, I would choose the GH2 over the other cameras that you mention, and indeed I have made that choice. However that's very much my personal opinion and others may disagree with me.

    By the way interesting Gibson headstock. Les Paul? I'm a Fender man myself
    but the "blueshound" tag indicates we may share similar tastes in music as well as subjects to photograph.
     
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  8. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Very high quality in those replies, so thank you, gentlemen.

    To dko22, I'll be sure to look at the comparisons, thank you for that.

    To soundimageplus, as always, a comprehensive and detailed comment, which is also what attracts me to your writing in your blog, by the way. And I take notice of the fact that nearly every day you have something up, and it's getting to be a guilty pleasure! (but perhaps bad for the wallet . . .) I would recommend your blog to anyone.

    Re: guitars and musical tastes . . . well now . . .

    The Gibson headstock belongs to an ES359, black w/gold hardware. It's a looker, for sure. But actually I prefer Strats, and I also have a P90 guitar that I also prefer to the Gibson, so my heart is with single-coils.

    I've admired your Tele that you sometimes uses as a model, by the way.

    Happy to discuss blues, and music, but perhaps this is not the place for that, out of consideration for the forum and it's members.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
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  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Yes, but he also did that famous comparison a couple of years ago between large prints made from the same scene printed from files produced with a medium format camera vs a Canon G10 and concluded there wasn't enough difference for some of his most discerning friends to tell the difference! So, if we're prepared to take his word for it (and I am, but others might not be), a lot of the differences between cameras and sensors and lenses that we gnash our teeth over every day are probably HIGHLY over-stated! If its tough to tell those two prints apart, what are we doing worrying about the differences between a Nex sensor with a generic m43 sensor, let along the flagship m43 sensor in the GH2. :cool:

    -Ray
     
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  10. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Yep.

    I have been following Luminous Landscape, and generally find some of what Michael writes to be relevant and interesting. Coming from Toronto, the name Reichmann is well known, and if he comes from that family, it's clear why he can afford the Leica lenses. :rolleyes:

    More power to him.
     
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  11. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    I assume that I'll be happy with the GH2, particularly in light of your comments, David, and at that point I'd probably want to add the 7-14 lens, as wide angle is more my passion than telephoto.
     
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  12. talldave

    talldave New to Mu-43

    2
    Mar 5, 2011
    ultimate image quality

    I am a new member and have used Canon ( not full frame ) with a 100 2.8 macro and their lenses...I have a G2 with a leica 45 2.8 macro and the G2 with the 45 2.8 is sharper in my opinion by far...I have disposed of all my Canon equipment and gone to the Panasonic G2...So far I'm very pleased with every lens. I have the 18-45, 45-200 and the 45 2.8
     
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  13. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    At base or low ISO, working with RAW's, I would think if you are mostly interested in ultimate clarity and sharpness that you should think more about the lenses than the body. Perhaps thinking outside of the box a bit, you might get after what you desire by going with a less expensive older body, which has perfectly great low ISO quality, and a more expensive high quality lens (for a given set budget amount).
     
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  14. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    I have done similarly, getting rid of my Nikon gear and am totally enjoying the G1 with 14-45 and 45-200 and a GF1 with 14, 20, and Pan/Leica 45. Am not sure at what point there would be an advantage in replacing the G1 with something like the GH2? Is the G2 any different than the G1? I am not interested in the touch screen and shoot mostly outside.

    In any case, there is something really nice about these cameras that seems to transcend logic or reality.
     
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  15. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    For much of printed photography that is true. I once put together an A3 calendar from a variety of different cameras. Everything from Pentax and Fuji 6MP cameras to Canon 21MP. By interpolating everything up to the same size and with some careful sharpening, the whole thing looked very consistent, and even experienced photographers who looked at it couldn't tell the difference.

    Also at weddings I've shot with with a Canon 5DMkII and a G1 or GH1 as a backup camera. The m4/3 pictures are just as likely to get selected for the album as the Canon shots and indeed when printed, are virtually indistinguishable.

    I do however work in a field where "pixel-peeping" is the order of the day. By providing images for stock and picture libraries I have to cover all possible uses for an image and that can be for anything from the size of a postage stamp to a 48-sheet advertising poster. Clients tend to like bigger files to reproduce from, as they will often (if not always) crop the image. Consequently those who accept or reject images for these libraries will examine the files in micro detail to assess whether they are suitable for large scale reproduction. They allow no interpolation. They also know that clients will carry out the same examination of the files to assess their quality. In terms of most reproduction it may make little difference, but for some critical applications it does.

    Very occasionally I sell images for advertising campaigns, which are used in a variety of ways. Magazines, posters, billboards, point of sale etc. To use an image in this way it has to be top quality. In film days, it was only medium-format transparencies that would ever be considered for this. With digital its only the high end of the DSLR range that gets considered for this.

    I did look at Michael Reichmanns example with the Hassleblad and the Canon compact, and it may be true that at certain print sizes there was little difference. However these days many images are published on the internet. Not just at small sizes either. There are now e-books and e-magazines out there that have images at the same size as books and magazines, including A4 and A3. When someone starts blowing up large pdf's on their iPad, they are going to see the same detail (or lack of) that we see on our own screens. This is only going to become more common in future years. How many of us now look at the majority of our pictures on a screen rather than as some form of printed material? This technology is available to and used by everybody. I've looked at some of my images full res. on an iPad & it certainly allows a very critical look at the kind of quality I can produce. At the levels of magnification possible, it is possible to see the differences that are apparent.

    So while at the moment it may not seem that important for certain uses, increasing image size and higher pixel counts may become more relevant as time passes and certainly images taken with more MP's are more future proof that those without. Imagine how your great grandchildren will be viewing images.

    Also finally we're still struggling to catch up with what plate film cameras have been producing for decades. If anyone's ever seen images from the 20 x24 Polaroid camera you'll know what I mean.
    20×24 Studio » Where Large Format Polaroid Instant Photography Lives
     
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  16. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Not to turn this thread back on itself, but just to note that even with leaving my GH2 order in good standing, I still look askance at the Sony A850, which seems a brute to carry around by comparison, but would be more palatable with prime lense(s).

    The problem is, on basic searches, there don't seem to be many available, at least ones that don't cost a fortune when added up.

    I haven't checked used availability of old Minolta's, but for me, it would be something like a 24mm, and an 85mm, maybe a 35. Add those up, and the lenses cost much more than the camera . . .
     
  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    That was what led me back to the GH2 from the A33. Similar lenses on the A33 were larger and heavier and more expensive (since I'd have to BUY them all). After trying both and finding the GH2 close enough to the performance and IQ of the A33, I realized I'd be a lot more comfortable carrying it and I already owned the lenses. It became an easy call. And that's the A33, which is not near the "brute" the A850 is. We all have our own tolerances and I don't have ANY for big cameras anymore, it seems.

    -Ray
     
  18. John M Flores

    John M Flores Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 7, 2011
    Somerville, NJ
    IME, the GH2 is the IQ equal of the Pentax K20d and the Pentax K-x. It's a step behind the K-x at higher ISOs and has a bit of grain at base ISO that is only visible in broad flat areas of color (i.e., sky) and cleans up easily.

    That said, I'm still pining for the Pentax K-5. I don't expect to gain much (if anything) in sharpness, but I do want the improved low light, faster FPS, and dynamic range.

    Brian, I've noticed a lot of HDR in your Flickr - I've read some other HDR shooters excited by the K-5 due to its dynamic range and bracketing options. IIRC, the K-5 can be set to take 5 bracketed shots (+/- 2EV) with a single shutter press.
     
  19. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Hi John. Good remarks.

    Yes, I've been watching the K5 closely, along with the D7000. Even with the APSC-specific lenses taken into consideration, I see these as the "middle range" of portability. For sure, the added dynamic range and low noise are attractive, but I'm a bit concerned that the perceived sharpness will be at best equal to the GH2, and I'm wondering whether the perceived acuity might actually be less. This point has been made, at least in passing, by David at soundimageplus.

    Unlike your uses, as indicated by your blog, video holds no priority position with me. But I am liking HDR, and your points certainly resonate at this end.

    In terms of weight, portability in APS-C, methinks the K5 is where it's at. But unless someone can convince me it can consistently deliver greater sharpness than the GH2, even with primes, I'm reluctant. But respectfully so.
     
  20. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    In terms of ultimate image quality, I'd rate the GH2 files as halfway between the G1 and the high end APS-C cameras.

    From a sharpness standpoint, the GH2 stands up to any APS-C DSLR. The AA filter is not strong, so all the detail is there if the lens is sharp.

    Noise is there at base ISO, more noticeably than with some of the APS-C sensors, but I have never noticed it in the final output on screen or in print unless doing a very heavy crop.

    I do think you'll see a difference in IQ comparing the GH2 RAW files to G1 RAW files. Not a big difference in any one parameter (eg, detail capture), but a subtle, noticeable overall improvement in the way the files look and respond to tonal manipulation.
     
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