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2011-06-07 - 001-004 - HDR

The Panasonic DMC-GH2 with a 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens and a Really Right Stuff's Arca-style L-plate. I got the GH2 for low light HDR stills and as a complement to my Canon G10. In terms of size, even without the L-plate the GH2's electronic viewfinder / flash housing will be troublesome and will barely fit inside a large coat pocket with the pancake lens. Still, it's a very good and even competitive alternative to entry level and some mid-level DSLRs.


Good (or even great!):

-Meets all of my requirements (large sensor, portability, flip screen, ergonomics), and then some.

-Lots of physical controls, could use a few more as always.

-Three programmable function buttons and LVF/LCD button can be reassigned.

-Visibly better dynamic range than Canon G10 RAW shots.

-Very good for low light conditions.

-Very good in-camera noise reduction (dark-frame subtraction) for long exposures.

-In camera dark-frame subtraction can be turned off for low temperature shoots.

-Impressively designed for ease and accurate liner/flight glove operations.

-Constant auto focus mode amusingly hands-free.

-Touch screen focusing.

-Quick Menu reduces menu drilling.

-Very cool constantly updated screen tracking target lock.

-Stereo mic.

-One of the best hybrid cameras currently available for shooting movies.

-On average, is competitive with low to mid-range DSLRs.

-Can use an incredibly diverse range of lens and lens systems with the proper adapters.

-Electronic viewfinder is very usable.

-ETC mode center sensor offers 2.6x zoom on top of lens capability with no loss of quality or speed for movies. A digital zoom that’s actually really useful.


-The RAW file dynamic range is much better than the Canon G10's, so single exposure fake/pseudo HDR is manageable with post processing work.

-The 14-42mm kit lens while still a bit soft for my taste is very usable and the lens stability makes it a good all-around travel lens.

-The small size, ergonomics, and the flip screen makes this a very fast camera to position and shoot.


Bad (or just meh):

-Fly-by-wire focusing rings have about a millimeter of deadzone in either direction (to initiate the manual focus assist's digital zoom).

-Shutter speed is still loud, will be looking forward to electronic shutters.

-Still not much lens choices from Panasonic.

-Would like to see shutter timer extend past 1 minute.

-Needs to ditch the 2.5mm audio out jack for the standard 3.5mm.

-Prefer a more flush strap anchoring points for bracing the body against objects to increase stability.

-The electronic viewfinder gives RGB afterimages when using off-center vision to scan in low light.


-I've heard grumblings about Silkypix RAW converter. As it's a small part of my work flow, all I can say is that it has lots of features but is clunky and RAW conversion is slower than doing the Dakar in a Prius. Maybe using the DNG format is the way to go to simplify things in the future.


Ugly (personal annoyances):

-Really, really needs an in-body image stabilization system instead of being in-lens.

-Onboard 7 RAW exposure buffer is woefully small.

-Needs to have screens go past +-3EV for instant light level viewing like on the Canon G10 rather than relying solely on the exposure tape symbology. Correction: this can be alleviated by going into the [Custom] menu and enable [Constant Preview].

-Needs a dedicated exposure compensation dial.

-Needs a separate ISO dial.

-The left rear stub leg on this particular GH2 is noticeably shorter than the rest, causing the camera to wobble on a flat surface while manipulating the controls.

-Me grappling with shallow depth of field and focus stacking because of the increased sensor size.


-I really liked that there was a printed manual. Unfortunately the content structure made it difficult to search. Even with the PDF version it was difficult to search through.


Finally I would like to comment that many camera makers should include in-depth symbology and switchology help as well as trouble shooting checklists made available in-camera. This should be a no-brainer for so many reasons.

Edit: nevermind, this was before I got a smartphone that I can read off of.




More about mirrorless interchangeable lens/compact system cameras, Micro Four Thirds System, and the GH2:


A more technical comparison between DSLRs and CSCs:


Video comparison between the GH2 and Canon 60D:


For the filmmaker:


GH2’s 2.6x magnification for movies in ETC mode:


A possible backup body for Leica M series cameras:


Steve Huff's 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens review:




Canon G10’s print test against $40,000 medium format cameras under ideal conditions:

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Taken on June 7, 2011