Panasonic has announced the Lumix DMC-GF2 digital camera. When it arrives here in Canada, in February, it will be the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens system camera in Panasonic’s line-up. Panasonic calls it a DSLM instead of a DSLR, because it has no mirror system, so no reflex in its name. It’s a mirrorless camera, but that’s not what the M stands for; that’s Micro. As in Micro Four Thirds, the designation of the imaging sensor size, smaller than the APS-C sensor found in many of today’s DSLRs.
The GF2 is compatible with lenses from the Micro Four Thirds standard, meaning the system is compact without compromising ease of operation or image quality. The GF2 also is compatible with Panasonic’s new 3D lens, the Lumix G 12.5 mm f/12.
Thanks to a newly-designed interface, users can set the focus or release the shutter by simply touching the 3-inch touchscreen LCD. By simply locking focus on a person or object, the camera tracks the subject with the AF tracking function, even if there is movement. The contrast AF system used by the GF2 is claimed to be accurate, easy to use and very fast. Users can choose from a wide range of AF modes, including multiple-area AF with up to 23 focus areas, 1-area AF with a selectable focus area, Face Detection, and AF Tracking.
With the GF2’s newly-designed Touch Q-menu, the user can customize the camera’s shortcuts with the most commonly used settings. Simple button components include dedicated buttons for video recording and iA (Intelligent Auto) mode which lights in-use.
With the Intelligent Scene Selector in the iA mode, the camera automatically switches to the appropriate mode according to the subject touched. For example, a touch on a human face switches to the portrait mode and a touch on the background or scenery switches to the scenery mode, while a touch on the subject close to the camera switches to the close-up mode. With the MF assist mode for manual focusing, users can enlarge the subject by just a touch to select 1x, 5x or 10x and smoothly move the subject by dragging it on the screen. In iA mode and the Peripheral Defocus mode, the range of defocus can be adjusted by just moving the slider with a finger.
For the image processor, the Venus Engine FHD is incorporated, featuring exceptionally high performance signal processing capabilities in both photo and movie recording, says Panasonic. With the advanced noise reduction system employing 3D NR and CNR (Chromatic Noise Reduction), users can capture clear, naturally-balanced images even when shooting at high ISO sensitivity levels to help prevent the colour bleeding.
Panasonic’s Venus Engine FHD enables Intelligent Resolution technology, which means that three areas – outlines, detailed texture areas and soft gradation – are automatically detected. Then, the outline parts are enhanced effectively to provide clearer edges while giving a moderate accentuation to the texture areas to look more finely detailed. To the soft gradation part, the noise reduction system is applied to make it smoother. Apart from the uniform enhancement of sharpness, the innovative technology Intelligent Resolution precisely performs signal processing pixel by pixel, resulting in images that are claimed to be naturally clear and crisp in both video and photos.
The 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor delivers the image quality of a CCD sensor and the lower power consumption of a CMOS sensor.
Yes, there’s a dust reduction system using a supersonic wave filter in front of the Live MOS sensor.
The GF2 shoots full High Definition (HD) videos as well as photos. It can record 1920 x 1080 videos at 60i or smooth HD 1280 x 720 movies at 60p in AVCHD. The GF2 also can record HD Motion JPEG in 1280 x 720 and QVGA, VGA and WVGA. A dedicated video record button makes it easy to start shooting videos, and high quality sound is recorded with the stereo microphone for Dolby Digital Stereo Creator. Panasonic’s iA mode extends to video recording, with the following features: Optical Image Stabilizer, Face Detection, Intelligent D-range Control and Intelligent Scene Selector.
The GF2 offers My Colour mode which is integrated with the conventional Film mode. My Colour mode offers a total of eight preset effects — Expressive, Retro, Pure, Elegant, Cinema, Monochrome, Dynamic Art, Silhouette, plus Custom mode, which lets users manually set the colour, brightness, saturation, and contrast levels. Also, with the Full-time Live View function, users can see how these settings will affect the images before they shoot, which makes it easier to capture the exact effect desired. The GF2 has 17 Scene modes, most of which can be used during video shooting too. The exposure meter can be displayed in the P/A/S/M shooting modes for entry-level users to visually learn the correlation between shutter speed and aperture to enhance their photography skills.
The camera has a solid aluminum body and will be available in black or red models with the following kit options: 14-42 mm Zoom Lens Kit and 14 mm f/2.5 Lens Kit in black, white and red. There’s no pricing yet; that will come just prior to its availability.
I’m going to include a couple more pictures here, to give some comparison. The Panasonic GH2 is closer to a DSLR in shape, and although it, too, is a mirroless design, is noticeably larger than the GF2. The new GF2 is 20 percent smaller and about seven percent lighter than its predecessor the GF1, which bears the same relative shape as the GF2.
And just for fun, here’s the Leica/Minolta CL/CLE from the mid-70s, a 35 mm film camera, rangefinder so no mirror system, without any of the fancy electronics. Just take a look at that camera back – nothing there but the viewfinder! No way of knowing if the picture was any good until your prints came back from the store or out of your home darkroom. And no video. How did we manage?