For photo and video enthusiasts who want the flexibility and performance of a digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera without the heft, experts say the compact Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 is a viable choice. (The GH2 is not a DSLR but can swap out lenses.)
At 13.8 ounces without a lens, it's lighter than a full-size digital SLR, yet it packs nearly as many advanced features, including full manual control, RAW file support and an interchangeable-lens system. But superb high-definition video is the GH2's marquee feature, thanks to its 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor that delivers both speed and the "highest resolution currently offered by a Micro Four Thirds camera," says Gavin Stoker at TrustedReviews.com.
The GH2's continuous autofocus lets you lock in and hold your subjects while filming full high-definition 1080p (24 fps) and 1080i (60 fps) video. Critics say the autofocus is notably faster than the earlier 12-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1. Additionally, the GH2's touch-screen controls allow easy transition between focus points without the need for a focus ring, though an array of manual options is available.
Although experts are impressed by the GH2's "superior" video performance in bright and low light conditions, still image quality -- though very good -- drops a "notch below that of a true DSLR" because of muted colors, says PC World's Tim Moynihan. Others find that despite the GH2's ability to shoot up to ISO 12,800, noise surfaces at more than ISO 800. With fast start-up and improved burst speeds at 5 frames per second in full resolution, critics say the GH2 is quick enough for general day-to-day shots.
Overall, experts prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-5N, which provides the best image quality in its class, according to reviews. The most thorough reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 are at PC World, PhotographyBlog.com and TrustedReviews.com; all three detail lab tests and hands-on use. CameraLabs.com evaluates the GH2's features and performance in an exhaustive write-up that includes copious illustrations and several sample videos. At Amazon.com, a handful of owners weigh in with first-person analysis.
1. PC World
Although the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 may not be a "true DSLR," Tim Moynihan finds that it has enough features and options to be a viable alternative. He likes the innovative touch-screen controls and 3D imaging capabilities, and he considers the GH2 the "camera to beat when it comes to video capabilities," in low- and bright-light conditions. Lab tests also turn in strong still images, but Moynihan notes that muted colors need to be tweaked.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2, Tim Moynihan, March 3, 2011
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 receives 5 out of 5 stars for "delivering all the convenience and more of a compact camera shooting experience in a DSLR-like package." The GH2's high-quality video is singled out as a significant improvement over the original Lumix DMC-GH1, but Goldstein says he is also impressed with a speedier autofocus and better still image quality, though he picks up noise at ISO 800.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Review, Mark Goldstein, Dec. 13, 2010
Testers at TrustedReviews.com consider the highly versatile Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 "not just a jack but nearly a master of all" for those who "like the feel of a DSLR but not the attendant bulk." It earns a 9 out of 10 for high video quality, touch-screen and manual controls and exceptionally fast performance. However, the camera's steep price puts it in direct competition with actual DSLRs that offer more options.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Review, Gavin Stoker, Feb. 14, 2011
4. Camera Labs.com
Editors at CameraLabs.com say they are pleased with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2's improved still images, fast continuous shooting modes, accelerated continuous autofocus and new touch-screen controls, but they note that despite "excellent" video quality, it can't handle fast action photography as well as the Canon EOS 60D.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Review, Gordon Laing, February 2011
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 rates well here, receiving 4.3 out of 5 stars for versatility and performance. Most users say the GH2's compact build handles well and delivers fast autofocus. Photo and video quality also draw raves. But one owner notes his images were "soft," while another says the GH2 "pales in comparison to an advanced amateur or pro level SLR."
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 16.05 MP Live MOS Interchangeable Lens Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com