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Panasonic GH2 review by Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape

Discussion in 'Panasonic Cameras' started by soundimageplus, Oct 30, 2010.

  1. soundimageplus

    soundimageplus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    782
    Feb 2, 2010
    Worcestershire
    Extremely positive review of the GH2 on location by Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape.

    Panasonic GH2 First Look
     
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  2. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Sure is! Thanks for sharing, David. I've been on the fence about buying a GH2, but this may have put me over the edge.
     
  3. Rider

    Rider Mu-43 Regular

    139
    Oct 14, 2010
    Thanks for the link. I'll still be waiting for the full technical reviews. My concern with the GH2 is that it approaches the price and, for practical purposes, the size of the Nikon DSLRs but not the low light, AF or shallow focus performance. If it outperforms them in video, then I might be game.
     
  4. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    The future

    Great review of the GH2 and really of Panasonic G cameras and Micro 4/3 in general. This quote really struck me: "The future of the photographic industry belongs to Sony and Panasonic. They get it. As far as I can tell, neither Canon nor Nikon do." I couldn't agree more. When I see people walking around with those humongous cameras and lenses, it amazes me. I was a dedicated Nikon user but now find myself only using my Panasonics. In my view, this is the future of photography and the traditional DSLR's will go the way of the view camera.
     
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  5. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    David, are you getting black or silver? :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:
     
  6. Ranger099

    Ranger099 Mu-43 Rookie

    12
    Oct 10, 2010
    I can tell you that the lack of AF on my old 7D for video, and the mostly useless AF recently implemented on some Nikon and Canon models, the GH2 will win easily based on that feature alone - at least for me.

    All the serious video shooters with 7D, 5DII, and Nikon rigs (not nearly as common as Canon) use $2000+ in gear for follow focus rigs, rails, etc. The GH1 and now GH2 is really the only competent AF camera in the game. The GH2 ups the ante with stellar AF - on par with mid level Nikon/Canon cameras.

    I think the low light issue is the only advantage and if the GH2 gives me solid ISO 1600 I'm happy.
     
  7. Rider

    Rider Mu-43 Regular

    139
    Oct 14, 2010
    You make good points. For guys mike me, the AF during video is a nice feature and I will be curious to try it out as soon as I can. But for the pros with the follow focus rigs, it probably won't do. They need total control with manual focus.

    AF speed-I've tried the GH1 and it's good. But it's not in the same league as the Nikon D90. I would be thrilled if the GH2 is now in the same league as the D7000 AF speed-wise, but I haven't read anything to indicate that it is (including the review above).

    The light issue is not a minor issue. Isn't the sensor the reason we're all not shooting digicams? It's not just a light-gathering issue but also a look that the larger sensor gives. A part of it is the shallow focus achieved at a given f-stop but it's more than that. I love the 24fps 720p video that my D90 produced for that reason.


     
  8. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    by view, do you mean mirrorless? I somewhat agree, especially in the consumer field. But as a professional, IQ is king, APS-C/FF is still a few miles ahead of m43. And it seems to always be that way, at least for now.

    There's also physics, the larger sensors can just take in more light, heh. And on a similar note, you need larger glass to cover the full sensor. There's an army of glass out there, and for professionals, having that change will take a while.

    However, with that said, "professional" can vary wildly, and I can certainly see places where m43 could be extremely advantageous. Motorsports being one. Wildlife being the other. IQ is almost there, but the lenses are not.

    Personally, I just want to see more dynamic range, followed by better high ISO. Then I just need the oly 9-18, a ~45/2 OIS that isn't macro, and ~70/2 OIS that isn't macro. Or if the later two come out w/o OIS, I'll just swtich to olympus =)
     
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  9. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Rider, which lenses did you try with the GH1? Under normal circumstances, I didn't find the difference to be marked between my GH1 AF speed with the Panasonic 14-45 or 14-150 and that of the Nikon D5000 and AFS 18-55, which is probably the most comparable lens. My D700 and 24-70 were another story.

    That said, the review states:
    Micro 4/3 will always involve compromises. You may feel that the GH2 approaches the size of your Nikon DSLR, but that is entirely subjective. To me, my GH1 and Lumix 20/1.7 were significantly smaller/lighter than my Nikon D5000 and 35/1.8, which in turn was significantly smaller/lighter than my D700 and any lens. Here are a GF1, GH1 and D5000 (which I bought because I was looking for a small/light camera to complement my D700, and the D5000 was smaller/lighter than a D90) shown to scale:

    3894363175_f47abfbb96_o.

    Here are some real life comparisons to a Sigma DP2:

    3912166781_45b2a53e4f_o.

    3912166853_28604303c1_o.


    When shooting RAW, the GH1 isn't all that far off APS-C sensors in terms of signal to noise across a range of ISO values.

    Here are the DxOmark data: DxOMark - DxOMark review for the Panasonic Lumix DMC GH1

    Example data:

    5131246447_05c16dbfc7_o.

    The DxO data also shows the difference between GH1 sensor performance and that of other MFT cameras (all of which use the same sensor):

    5131254627_f5a72d1e5d_o.

    5131254649_40f849cbec_o.


    Here are my own data, which agree well with the DxO data: Mirrorless Camera ISO Signal/Noise Shootout: NEX5, NX10, E-P2, E-PL1, GF1, G2, GH1

    What the DxO data (and my data above) don't show you is that the GH1 files can suffer from banding, particularly when underexposed and pushed. Early reports are that the GH2 improves on the signal/noise performance of the GH1 (thus being even more competitive with APS-C) while eliminating the banding issue.

    For obvious reasons, we can expect the best MFT sensors to remain a step behind the best APS-C sensors. Based on sensor size differences, one would predict that the difference between 4/3 and APS-C (~2/3 stop depending on the aspect ratio of the output and the crop factor of the APS-C, which can vary from 1.5X to 1.7X) would be roughly half that of the difference between APS-C and 35mm frame (~1 and 1/3 stops for 1.6X APS-C). The gap between 4/3 and 35mm frame is predicted to be roughly 2 stops, consistent with my findings here and here.

    We can likewise expect shallower DOF possibilities with 35mm, and to a lesser extent APS-C, than with MFT. However, there are many reasons factors affecting the balance in the other direction, including the WYSIWYG viewing in the excellent GH2 EVF (which I find much easier to manual focus accurately than my D700 or Canon 5D, both of which had custom focus screens at one time or another), smaller overall size (particularly when lens options are considered), better video implementation (designed from the ground up as a convergence device), ability to use a wide range of adapted lenses, etc.

    The speed difference (if there is one with the GH2) isn't the only consideration with phase vs contrast detection. As MR pointed out in the review, contrast detection may be a problem when there is no contrast (eg, heavy fog). That said, contrast detection has some real advantages in use:

    • AF zones which evenly cover the entire frame instead of just the central portion
    • Face detection, which I used to think was a gimmick. However, after using a GH1 now for a while, I'm struck by how useful it is to take a quick photo at an event with variable lighting (eg, backlighting for some shots and not others) and have the camera meter automatically based on faces recognized in the scene. No more need for spot metering or dialing in exposure compensation under those circumstances.
    • No issues related to lens calibration for front focus or back focus. I had plenty of that as a Canon DSLR shooter.
    As Reichmann is so fond of saying, horses for courses.
     
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  10. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    This is especially true when shooting from the hip, as I've been trying to experiment with. At first, I left it center, as that is how I normally shoot. I quickly realized "why am I doing this, I have a better chance letting the camera pick... oh wait, I *also* have face detection!"

    Now I just have to not move so quickly, heh
     
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  11. dko22

    dko22 Mu-43 Regular

    163
    Jul 26, 2010
    Stuttgart, Germany
    sorry, I just don't follow why so many lump together APS-C and FF as there is a world of difference. The crop factor to Canon is 1.6 . :43: which is 2 which is just 25% more. The difference between FF and Canon crop is 60%. In other words, a Canon APS-C calculated this way is more than twice as close to the four thirds sensor than the FF. If you use the 1.5 widely used by other manufacturers then the difference is less (50% to 33%) but still is much closer to :43: than FF. I would expect a good modern :43: sensor to be around the same as an average APS-C one. Of course a good one will still have the advantage -- no disputing -- but let´s not get carried away. Part of the issue with the sensor in the first generation, apart from the GH1 arguably, is that it simply ain´t that good a sensor

    One more thing which I have see mentioned less often is but is obvious when you think about it is the advantage of more megapixels. The more there are, the less you notice noise at the same magnification so for instance you can print a little larger. Of course this assumes that the actual noise level per pixel is the same. Anyway,with the GH2, we will all find out quite soon the reality as opposed to the theory. I can hardly wait!

    DAvid
     
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  12. Rider

    Rider Mu-43 Regular

    139
    Oct 14, 2010
    Thank you Amin for the excellent explanation.

    I don't compare the GH2 to lower end Nikons like the D5000. Even though it seems unfair, I do compare it to the D7000 and even D700/D800. It's not just about the body, it's about the whole system. If I buy a $1000 Panasonic 7-14, I can only ever use it on M43. However, my Nikon AFS 17-35 will be usable on every camera Nikon or Canon make for the forseable future that's 35mm or smaller, and on every M43 camera.

    So you are giving up some measure of performance investing in a m43 system versus a Nikon or Canon system.

    It comes down to whether you are willing to give up some degree of performance for (i) size and weight (this will always be the case) and (ii) more fine-tuned video production (Nikon and Canon might or might not catch up--I don't know whether this is techincally feasible for them).

    The funny thing about size is that once you have a camera that is not flat, like a GF1 or EP2, size doesn't seem to matter so much in most situations, for me.

    Here is an example from personal experience: I used to have at one point both a Nikon D2h and a Nikon D40x. The D2h is almost as big as a D3 I think. The D40X is about as small a DSLR as Nikon has produced.

    Guess what, there was almost never a situation were I said: the D2H is too big, I'd better take the D40X. Once I comitted to taking a DSLR, that meant I was taking some kind of camera bag with a big flash and a couple of lenses. The things I couldn't do with a D2H I also couldn't do with a D40X, including: running, swimming, biking, horseback riding, skiing.

    When it comes to lenses, there are only a couple pancakes in m43 lineup and the rest are light but bulky enough to require a camera bag (there are two pancake lenses for the Nikon as well, if size is a priority). The really compact Oly zooms don't have IS for Panasonic and don't autofocus as nicely as their bigger Panny counterparts. And the big thing with the lenses is that they don't do the same thing as the Nikon lenses. There isn't a single f2.8 zoom and only one f4 zoom. There is only one f1.7 prime. Add that to the fact that you actually need a faster lens to do the same thing (both because of low light performance and too much DOF), and you see that you really don't have comparable systems at all. Sure I can use Nikon and Canon lenses but then (i) we've lost much of the size and weight advantage that the smaller body provides, (ii) we've lost AF and vibration reduction and (iii) there are no wide angle alternatives. Just to get the effect of something as mundane as a 50/1.8 you have to get a super exotic VC Nokton f.95.

    I could see the weight savings being important for people with achy backs and necks (I'm getting there). Once I'm there, I'll think about it again! But for now, size and weight are not a huge factor in favor of the GH2. If they could make a GF1 or EP2 that is closer to the performance of a GH2, then the size advantage would be big.

    At the end of the day, I might get the GH2 for the video because that's what interests me the most right now. But I will miss the soft video that my D90 produced, even though it was not ergonomically designed for video.
     
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  13. Rider

    Rider Mu-43 Regular

    139
    Oct 14, 2010
    One reason it makes sense to lump them together is that they're part of the same system. Once you invest in a Nikon or Canon system, you can move from FF to DX and vice versa and keep your flashes and as long as you mostly buy FF lenses, keep your lenses too. So even though I've never owned a FF frame Nikon Digital, going full frame is simply a matter of switching out the body. There is no upgrade path for m43.

    My own experience is that there is a world of difference between my E-PL1 and my Nikon D90, and much less difference between a D90 and D700.
     
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  14. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    If I buy a $1000 Panasonic 7-14, I can only ever use it on M43. However, my Nikon AFS 17-35 will be usable on every camera Nikon or Canon make for the forseable future that's 35mm or smaller, and on every M43 camera.
    Usable, yes, but it's not to me a very useful lens on Micro 4/3 (large, heavy, 35-70mm equivalent manual focus lens).

    Just as you say DSLR may catch up in video capability (in some ways it surpasses and in others needs to catch up), mirrorless technology may catch up in AF performance. That 7-14 may some day focus faster than that 17-35. What matters to me is what these systems do now, because the future is unknown.


    So you are giving up some measure of performance investing in a m43 system versus a Nikon or Canon system.

    That is for sure. Even if AF performance catches up, sensor image quality performance will continue to lag, just as Nikon and Canon image quality performance lags behind digital medium format.


    The funny thing about size is that once you have a camera that is not flat, like a GF1 or EP2, size doesn't seem to matter so much in most situations, for me.

    The key to that sentence is "for me".


    I could see the weight savings being important for people with achy backs and necks (I'm getting there).

    People have their own subjective thresholds for gear size and weight, regardless of whether you can understand or relate to those values. My back and neck feel great all the time, but I almost never wanted to lug my D700 and 85/1.4 around, so I sold them. My father recently offered me 5D II and 100/2.8L IS because he felt he wasn't using them enough to warrant keeping them. I realized that I'd almost always choose my GH1 and 45/2.8 macro over that combination, so I passed on it. Neither one of us likes the idea of having good gear sitting around with hardly any use.
     
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  15. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    Trends

    My own gut tells me that m43 is where things are heading for most people. In the recording industry, they tried to push Super Audio CD (SACD) which is technically superior to CD and it failed. Instead, what emerged was MP3 and music downloads, inferior technically to the old CD but more user friendly. Photography is getting the same transformation in which the dinosaurs (full frame DSLRs) will not catch on and in fact even DX will be replaced by a smaller sensor like m43, with its smaller lenses and smaller camera bodies. The fact that Panasonic has improved its sensor so much in 2 years that they are already catching up with DX is impressive. The more major factor for me, however, is that Panasonic G cameras are simply more fun to use. The pictures they take are more than fine. As a result, that’s what I am using.
     
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  16. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I'm pretty sure the future is going to be mirrorless for most current DSLR users. Whether it is going to be MFT or something else, I don't know.

    Sony made a bold move in choosing an APS-C mirrorless mount with a shorter registration distance than MFT. In doing so, they made it harder on themselves to produce lenses with great edge/corner performance in the short run, but as sensor technology improves, I think their decision will pay off.

    One main problem with MFT adoptance outside of Japan is that the economies of scale aren't there yet. Panasonic couldn't afford to charge the same price for the 20/1.7 that Nikon charges for the 35/1.8. That is changing before our eyes as adoption rates increase and competition from Sony and Samsung is coming strong.
     
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  17. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    Early Adopters

    Guess us early adopters will pay the price. I have preordered the 14mm 2.5 at the full $399, even though I suspect the price will come down. But there is an excitement in being involved with this new system. DX cameras feel like film cameras that a sensor was plopped into, rather than a realization of digital's potential. And Panasonic should be commended for getting so much of it right with its first entry, the G1
     
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  18. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    I don't mind paying extra either. It's the best system for my needs and therefore worth it. Couldn't agree more about the G1. It took lots of flack for looking too DSLR-like, but in retrospect they got so much right on that first camera.
     
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  19. Linh

    Linh Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 14, 2009
    Maryland, US
    Partially as Rider pointed out, APS-C/FF from canikon is essentially the same system so to speak. Yeah, you're right that APS-C and m43 are pretty close. I shouldn't have simplified it as so. But it boils down to Panasonic/Olympus being able to actually catch up. I don't think they can personally, they will always have the time disadvantage to APS-C. And the fact marketing favors the "big boys." I've seen a few E-PL1's and E-P1's in the wild, a GF1, and I've never seen a G/H body aside from my brothers =(
     
  20. pjohngren

    pjohngren Mu-43 Top Veteran

    560
    Oct 15, 2010
    On the other hand, Panasonic can't make their products fast enough - I had to wait quite a while to get the 14-45 and now am waiting for the 14. Here we are in an economic turndown, and Panasonic can't satisfy the demand.

    At some point the balance will tip and it will become clear to more people and more reviewers that the mirrorless approach is the future. At that point, I think Nikon and Canon will find themselves falling behind. The excitement is with m43 and mirrorless cameras.
     
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