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My GH2 Vacation / Mini-Review

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by zpierce, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    I paid a slight premium to get my GH2 from a Canadian retailer in time for my holiday vacation with the family in San Diego. Over the past 10 days I put it through quite a workout, shooting around 3000 photos and several dozen videos. I'll post some of my better shots here as I get a chance to sort through them, but I also thought I'd share my impressions of the camera since I've been wearing it like an accessory 12 hours a day for the past 10 days straight. It's been to the aquarium, the zoo, the beach, on several boats fishing and whale watching, and to legoland :)

    Overall, I love it. I mostly used the 14-140 lens which was new to me also. I liked it quite a bit as well, aside from it's min aperture. As other's have said the focus is crazy fast. At first I thought I wouldn't care about that feature, but I got quite a few photos of birds in flight and similar high speed activities that I doubt I would have gotten on my G1.

    The thing I was looking forward to the most was the higher ISO performance and man does it deliver. I think my ISO 3200 pics on the GH2 look the same or slightly better than my ISO 800 pics on my G1. I got a lot of photos at the aquarium at ISO 2000-3200 that I never would have gotten on my G1. I will post examples.

    I really like the higher speed continuous shooting, however I am disappointed that the 7 frame RAW buffer wasn't increased. It almost doesn't help to have a faster speed when you use it up in just over a second. Similarly, the 40FPS mode is really neat, but it only does 40 frames, so if you're trying to catch something, you have to pic the right second. I got a couple cool examples of this, but on several occasions I missed the main bit of action because I started it too early.

    The HD video is superb as far as I can tell. This was completely new to me as a former G1 owner, but it looked great to me, no noticeable artifacts, looked like a good blu ray disc. Again, I'm no video expert, but I'm happy with it so far.

    In addition to speeding up the focus, there are a couple more new features I really like on the focus. First of all, there's an on screen meter showing where you are between macro and infinity. That was really lacking in the previous cameras, I really wish they'd add that to the G1 and GF1 firmware! Another nice feature is AF+MF, where it will autofocus with a half press, then you can fine tune with the manual. This was one of those things I always though they should have had in the past. The only problem with it is when you start to MF, it does the zoom in, which is great, but I wish it would automatically return after a sec or two of inactivity because once you get the focus, you can't tell if your framing is still on or not. You can hit the menu button to return, but doing that while half pressing the shutter is very cumbersome feeling and not natural at all.

    The battery life is great, I ripped through about 500 shots plus some video on several occasions on 1 charge.

    I'll post more thoughts as I have them! Here's some samples from the first couple days at the aquarium and natural history museum.

    ISO 3200
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5305004258/" title="P1000723.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"480" height="640" alt="P1000723.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 1600
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304406835/" title="P1000705.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="498" alt="P1000705.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 3200
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304398179/" title="P1000687.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="548" alt="P1000687.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 1000
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304725830/" title="P1000563.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1000563.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 3200
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304720520/" title="P1000537.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1000537.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 2000
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304702194/" title="P1000430.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1000430.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 1600
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304698980/" title="P1000379.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1000379.jpg" /></a>

    ISO 3200
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304097515/" title="P1000311.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1000311.jpg" /></a>
     
    • Like Like x 21
  2. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Zach, thanks for sharing your experiences with the GH2. I'm looking forward to reading along as you continue to post your thoughts.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. DesertRose

    DesertRose Mu-43 Regular

    91
    Dec 1, 2010
    Colorado
    Thanks for posting your review and images, Zach. Wow, ISO 3200 looks great. Just wow.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Pelao

    Pelao Mu-43 Top Veteran

    959
    Feb 3, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    This camera is looking increasingly impressive. I have been eyeing the Pentax K5 as a replacement for my current DSLR, but I am watching the GH2.

    Thanks for posting such detailed and useful comments.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Wow! Not only the noise, but the colors!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Yes - what they said - wow!

    Very clean images, and great shots.

    Any noise reduction applied in post processing, or as shot?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    No noise reduction in any of these shots. Some cropping and contrast / brightness is about it. The only time noise has been a problem is in underexposed shots, I've used a bit of noise reduction in a few of those I've come across. In general they've been quite clean until you get to the pixel level. All of these have originals posted if you click through, you can see the noise. It's definitely there at full res, but well under control and nearly invisible at normal size.
     
  8. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    Hrm, you can't do that with your G1? I certainly can with my GF1, and it's annoying since my DSLR setup is to grab exposure w/ the half press, heh.
     
  9. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    Nope, can't with the G1, glad to hear you can with the GF1 as I picked up one of those bodies used recently as well.
     
  10. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    Another side benefit of the low noise high ISO that I hadn't considered until I tried it the other day is being able to get some good looking slow sync flash pics.

    I know many people here aren't fans of the flash, but I've been dabbling around trying to figure out how to get some natural looking pics and I think this camera's sensitivity is going to help that effort quite a bit.

    Here's a couple hot off the press at ISO 1600..

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5305218569/" title="P1010845.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="584" alt="P1010845.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5304989398/" title="P1000655.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1000655.jpg" /></a>
     
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  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    What does this meter show? Does it show actual focal distance (which would be VERY useful for those who like hyperfocal shooting) or just sort of a rough percentage of where you are relative to close up and infinity? I'd love to know the actual focus distance and would think it should be a simple calculation with compatible lenses.

    Those high ISO results are pretty remarkable, btw, particularly with no NR applied in post. I clicked through and you really have to see the full size versions to pick up any noise at 3200. I usually set my max ISO to 800 on my other m43s and only occasionally over-ride it, but I don't think I'd mess with it on a GH2.

    -Ray
     
  12. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    The meter only shows relative focus between the two extremes, there's no scale on it unfortunately, but it's a step in the right direction. Good for finding infinity for dark shots at least.

    As for the ISO max settting, you actually have to set it to anything over 800 if you want it to go higher as 800 is the default max for auto if you don't set it. I also discovered another bug in the max ISO setting. If you set it to ISO 3200 and try to use the iISO function, it won't go above 400 for some reason. However if you set it to 1600 or anything else lower, it will go up to that ISO. I don't generally use the iISO, but I played with it to see if it had improved any and discovered that weirdness.
     
  13. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Can it show if you've focused past infinity?
     
  14. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    Can you explain to me in practical terms what hyperfocal shooting is and how you use it? I've tried reading up on it and have a vague understanding of it, but everything I've read has been pretty technical and I haven't been able to connect the dots and understand how I'd use it in a real application.

    Thanks,
    Zach
     
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Sure. As I'm sure you know, the narrower the aperture on any given lens (at any given focal length in the case of zooms), the greater the depth of field, or the larger the range of distances that will be in focus. For any given lens/aperture/focal length combination, the hyperfocal distance is the focal distance at which the depth of field will include the largest range, including infinity. So, for example, with a m43 camera and the 20mm lens at f8, the hyperfocal distance would be 11 feet. When you focus the camera at 11 feet, the entire range from 5.5 feet to infinity would be in focus. If you set focus on a nearer point, you'd get things in focus closer to you but the focus wouldn't extend out to infinity. If you focus on a further point, your focus would still extend to infinity, but your "near" focal point would be further than 5.5 feet. So basically, either side of that hyperfocal distance of 11 feet would give you a smaller range of focus or depth of field. In the old days, we used depth of field tables or calculators (those little sliding circular plastic things) for figuring this out. Today, there are great online calculators, even smartphone apps that will do it very easily. A good online calculator is here:

    Online Depth of Field Calculator

    You can play around with different lens/aperture combinations and find the hyperfocal distance and DOF range for each.

    Where to use it? The time I most like to use it is for street shooting, where I'm shooting quickly, not always framing precisely, and often not getting my primary subject in the middle of the screen for AF to work on it. I can set up for hyperfocal shooting in manual focus (or AF with the lock on) and know that I can shoot away and everything from distance X to infinity will be in focus. The camera is also quicker shot to shot without having to refocus each time. Generally, the wider the lens and smaller the sensor, the greater the DOF, which is one reason that my LX5 is my favorite street camera in decent light (in low light I'll take one of my m43 cams with the 20 every time). The LX5 also has a really cool DOF scale that shows up on screen that allows you to set the cam for hyperfocal shooting without ever looking up the hyperfocal distance, but that's an entirely different discussion.

    Another place to use hyperfocal shooting is for landscapes where you may want the widest possible DOF to keep as much of the foreground and the background as possible in focus.

    One of the great frustrations is using the m43 cameras for hyperfocal because there's no distance scale either on the lens or in the camera to allow you to set a precise focal distance. You can work around this by guesstimating the distance of an object and focussing on something as close to the hyperfocal distance as possible before locking the focus, but you need to guess pretty well (or carry a tape-measure around with you?). I don't know if this is true of all digital cameras, but it is with the m43 gear I use.

    Hope this answered your question. Feel free to ask follow-up questions if any of this is unclear.

    -Ray
     
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  16. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    That was a great explanation, much more practical than anything I'd read so far, thanks!
     
    • Like Like x 1
  17. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I'm sure it's lens dependent, but does anyone know how far "infinity" is away? Ie - what distance can you assume it's just ok to focus at infinity and lock it in?
     
  18. brnmatsumoto

    brnmatsumoto Mu-43 Regular

    92
    Jul 18, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    thank you great review

    I enjoyed reading your comments on the GH2. Your high ISO shots were impressive and I liked the colors. Sounds like you got your perfect camera!

    Brian
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. capt3450

    capt3450 New to Mu-43

    8
    Dec 29, 2010
    Post some BIF, would you?

     
  20. zpierce

    zpierce Super Moderator

    661
    Sep 26, 2010
    Minneapolis, MN
    Zach
    These were much easier to shoot with the super fast autofocus.

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307268493/" title="P1020183.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1020183.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307269111/" title="P1020194.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"480" height="640" alt="P1020194.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307238921/" title="P1020005.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="409" alt="P1020005.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307269863/" title="P1020196.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="360" alt="P1020196.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307248695/" title="P1020053.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="360" alt="P1020053.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307839494/" title="P1020050.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1020050.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5307831534/" title="P1020008.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="360" alt="P1020008.jpg" /></a>

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachpierce/5308234678/" title="P1020552.jpg by zach.pierce, on Flickr">"640" height="480" alt="P1020552.jpg" /></a>
     
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