First to turn the concept of an interchangeable lens camera without an optical viewfinder system into a reality, Panasonic has seen a few competitors arrive since it showed off the Lumix G1 at the 2008 Photokina.
Still looking very much like a D-SLR even though it wasn’t, and also quite a bit more expensive than the entry-level D-SLRs, the Micro Four Thirds format G1 certainly had more appeal for enthusiasts than converts from point-andshoot cameras. Consequently, Panasonic has replaced it with two models – the G10 which addresses the pricing issue and the G2 which is now deliberately targeted at the higher-level user and featured accordingly. Both still have the same D-SLR lookalike styling as the G1 and are pretty well the same size overall – in the Micro Four Thirds format it’s the lenses that make the difference – but Panasonic has been fine-tuning its designs to take on the competition from Olympus, Samsung and Sony. And the latter two have set the ‘APS-C’ cat among the MFT pigeons in terms of pricing (Samsung) and design (Sony).
However, with its pricing now much more realistically set and its feature suite significantly enhanced, the Lumix G2 is a more formidable competitor in its own right. In the same manner as the Samsung NX10, it’s also a very appealing looking camera for anybody who wants the ‘street cred’ of the D-SLR shape, but with nicely petite proportions. Despite its compactness, the G2 still looks like a serious camera and, in terms of the external layout, it basically follows the D-SLR recipe so it all looks very familiar and any current reflex user will have no problem acclimatising. Panasonic has reduced the size of the handgrip to help slim down the G2 a little further, but it’s still quite comfortable to hold. Of course, there’s still an eyelevel finder – but electronic rather than optical – for those who find holding a camera at arm’s length for viewfinding a bit alien. The eye-level EVF is the same LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) type display as the G1 and Panasonic calls it a “Live View Finder” It has a resolution of 1.44 megapixels (i.e. 480,000 pixels per RGB colour) and provides a 100 percent field-of-view. The live view feed is at 60 fps which makes for smoother continuous imaging to reduce the lag which made the earlier-generation EVFs so annoying. Move the camera really quickly and EVF image will get a bit jerky (with a big catch-up at the end), but the overall quality is very good indeed, particularly in terms of sharpness and detailing. The dynamic range is also pretty good although, as was the case with the G1, the shadow areas do block up quite a bit.
Proximity sensors on the eyepiece allow for automatic switching between the displays, but there’s also an ‘LVF/LCD’ button for doing this manually. The main monitor is a 7.62 cm TFT-type LCD screen that folds out to be adjustable for tilt and swing. This allows it to be folded back into the camera with the screen facing inwards so it’s fully protected when the camera is being carried or stored.
Touch And Go
An important new feature is touch control which varies in its functionality according to the camera’s shooting mode. First, touch screen operation has to be activated via the custom menu and there are separate settings for ‘Touch Quick Menu’, ‘Touch Shutter’, ‘Touch Guide’ and ‘Touch Scroll’ so the system can be configured as desired (or switched off entirely). To elaborate, ‘Touch Quick Menu’ switches the Quick Menu
to touch control operation which is very neat indeed, making a whole range of adjustments much more accessible than when navigating around the display in the conventional manner. It’s even possible to set exposure compensation by simply sweeping a finger around the graphic (see illustration) and, equally cleverly, apply white balance corrections by moving the cursor around the colour square via finger tip (with, of course, the live view image providing the preview). The latter requires quite precise control, but it’s very easy just to use the navigational buttons for the last little adjustment if necessary. Furthermore, both apertures and/or shutter speeds can be adjusted via a sweep of the displayed setting scale. And autofocusing is achieved by just tapping the area of the image that’s the main subject. In the single-point AF mode the measuring zone is moved around by dragging the finger and its size adjusted via a touch-controller slider. Given this high level of control, it doesn’t take long to become addicted to driving the G2 via the touch screen. But wait, there’s more.
The ‘Touch Shutter’ turns the entire monitor screen into the shutter release, with an on/off icon so adjustments can still be made. The ‘Touch Guide’ operates in the playback mode and shows what touch operations are possible while the ‘Touch Scroll’ adjustment determines how quickly images can be swiped from one to another iPhone-style. In playback mode, image enlargement and scrolling can also be controlled by finger tip, but unfortunately there isn’t the nifty squeeze/expand functionality of an Apple touch screen. Nevertheless, the G2’s touch screen operation is excellent, extensive and, once fully mastered, significantly enhances efficiency. So much so that, in fact, even dyed-in-the-wool button pushers and dial twirlers are going to be convinced. Trust us, it works.