In The Hand

We’ve already extensively covered the touch control operations, but it’s worth repeating here that, once tried, they’re likely to become the preferred method of driving the G2. However, the conventional means remain, using the menus, navigational keys and short-cut buttons.

The alternative to using the standard menu pages is the ‘Quick Menu’ which is either available as a separate display or superimposed, function by function, on the live view image. The dedicated ‘Q.Menu’ display can be set to one of three colour schemes and the function icons are selected by the four-way navigation keys, although it’s here that the touch control option really makes the most sense. The ‘Q.Menu’ screen also includes a circular graphic for setting exposure compensation which additional displays the set value in its centre. With the monitor-style display (i.e. superimposed read-outs and icons), exposure compensation is set via the rear input wheel which is pressed to change its function back to setting either shutter speeds or apertures. The viewfinder display options include a real-time histogram which, with touch control active, can be moved around the screen via a drag of the finger. There’s also a choice of grid patterns, including one which allows the vertical and horizontal lines to be positioned wherever they’re wanted via touch control.

Exposure adjustment is assisted by a pair of moving scales – one each for the aperture and speed ranges – which indicate which combinations of settings will give a ‘correct’ exposure and which are out of range. The latter are indicated in red and these zones shift as either setting is adjusted. It’s a great way of seeing at glance whether an exposure will be right or not, but also which combinations of settings are available within given exposure value.

The image replay screens include a full set of brightness and RGB histograms, a highlight warning and a thumbnail with capture data. The replay modes include 12 or 30 image thumbnail pages, zooming up to 16x and a slide show with variable display times and background music. As mentioned at the outset, the styling is extremely SLR-like even down to a couple of very old-worlde looking dials and switches. The G-series Lumixes are very different in concept to Sony’s fly-by-wire Alpha NEX models, but D-SLR users will feel right at home. And there is the argument that people who want to move up to a serious camera want it to look like a serious camera. Regardless, the G2 is a very comfortable camera to handle, easy to use in the conventional way and even easier to use via touch control.

The Lumix G2 delivers excellent image quality in terms of colour accuracy, sharpness and dynamic range (with the ‘Intelligent Exposure’ processing at its default setting). Red saturation is up slightly in the Adobe RGB colour space, but both the overall neutrality and smoothness of tonal gradations is very good indeed. Noise levels are very low up to ISO 800 and acceptably low at both the ISO 1600 and 3200 sensitivity settings. In this regard, the camera’s Micro Four Thirds sensor loses nothing to the ‘APS-C’ format models now appearing in this category. Test images are JPEG/large/fine files captured in the Standard ‘My Film’ mode. PageBreak

Speed And Performance

In our continuous shooting speed test the G2 fired off a burst of 21 JPEG/large/fine frames in

6.727 seconds which represents 3.12 fps, only a whisker short of the quoted speed of 3.2 fps. The camera is card speed sensitive so Class 6 or Class 10 types are recommended, especially for HDV recording.

The test JPEGs exhibited generally accurate colour reproduction with just a hint of increased saturation in the red-to-orange range, but very good handling of the usually trickier greens and blues. Images captured in the Adobe RGB colour space exhibited very slightly more saturation again, but the overall colour reproduction is very pleasing.

With iExposure processing set to Standard, the dynamic range is quite wide with tonal variations still evident even in the brighter highlights. Applying a slight amount of negative exposure compensation (-0.3 EV is enough) helps pull back the highlights a little more without unduly affecting the shadows.

The maximum quality JPEGs also exhibit excellent sharpness with sufficient levels of well-defined fine detailing to negate any concerns that there’s ‘only’ 12 megapixels at work. Improvements in noise reduction processing is one of the key areas where digital camera development continues to improve so it’s not surprising that the G2 does a whole lot better than its predecessor in this regard. Noise levels are extremely low up to ISO 800, still low at ISO 1600, acceptable at ISO 3200 and marginally acceptable at ISO 6400.

A good balance is achieved between detailing and noise reduction, but inevitably at the higher ISOs definition starts to suffer especially in the areas of the low contrast. Importantly though, users can choose to balance noise levels and detailing via the plus/minus two steps of noise reduction adjustment available in each ‘Film Mode’.

However, in terms of the overall imaging performance, the smaller sensor doesn’t prevent the Lumix G2 holding its own against its ‘APS-C’ format rivals, particularly as far as noise reduction and detailing levels at the higher ISOs are concerned.