43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Best all around Camera? Yes!
, April 10, 2011
This review is from: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2KK 16.05 MP Live MOS Mirrorless Digital Camera with 3-inch Free-Angle Touch Screen LCD and 14-42mm Lens (Black) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Camera)
I was fortunate to have the GH2 very early in its distribution cycle in the US, so I've had time to get used to its quirks and abilities, and frankly the "Best all around camera" title is well deserved IF put into context.
As with most pro and semi-pro cameras, the quality of output is mainly due to the PHOTOGRAPHER not the camera. I've been a pro photographer for 30 years, but gave up the craft for the past ten years or so, moving back to simpler point and shoot cameras for vacations. When it's your "job" taking photos, vacation pictures can seem too much like work. :-) The convergence of digital photography and videography finally prompted me back into the semi-pro field. And I've got to say, the GH2 has me totally excited about photography again!!
A few points to add to the other reviews made here:
1) Yes, the auto white balance is the GH2's one achilles heel. It's just not that good indoors. This can be completely fixed through RAW file conversion (more on that later) but is more of a problem with video. Just make sure to use the indoor white balance modes instead of AWB. They work fine.
2) The GH2 viewfinder is WORLDS better than most digital DSLR's, except for the full frame pro cameras that weigh and cost tons more. The APS-C DSLRS have pathetically small viewfinders. It's like looking through a toy periscope. Not so with the GH2. As an old film camera photographer, I had no problem getting used to the wysiwyg digital viewfinder, and it really helps indoors to see more detail than your naked eye can see.
3) JPG output straight from the camera can look a bit soft and muddy, but this is totally due to image settings, not the inherent data of the image. Panasonic uses a much more conservative "film like" setting, with low sharpening and contrast. It's always easier to add these items in post processing. Many newer digital cameras crank saturation, sharpening, noise reduction, and contrast up to ridiculous levels to give that "punch" so many amateurs seem to like. But remember, jpgs are "lossy" images. Every time you tweak the settings of a jpg in post processing, you reduce the quality a bit. The solution? Experiment with the in-camera settings (and there are plenty) to get the perfect image values you prefer. By altering the contrast, saturation, and sharpening settings from the menu, you can achieve a punchy shot to rival any other semi-pro camera.
4) If you're a point and shoot amateur looking for a simple camera that requires no thought or creativity to crank out mildly decent photos, then the GH2 may not be for you. In fact, stay away from digital SLR's altogether. You'll be happier. On the other hand, if you want SUPERIOR photo quality, then start shooting with RAW files. I love setting the GH2 to JPG+RAW. That way, I can punch up the jpg settings to get that "amateur" punch straight out of the camera for viewing while on vacation with friends, but I have the excellent RAW files to tweak to my heart's content later, when I want the best quality possible. And since RAW is a lossless format, you can tweak anything and everything. That's when you will really start to appreciate the professional quality possible with the GH2.
One software package I HIGHLY RECOMMEND for the GH2 is DXO Optics Pro. This post processing software is close to a miracle and has tuned modules for the GH2 and lenses. It automates most of the post processing of images, in both jpg and RAW formats. Take a RAW image and run it through DXO, and you will get an almost perfect combination of noise reduction, contrast enhancement, highlight recovery, lens distortion correction, and white balance. I find most of the images turn out perfect with the default settings. It's the "lazy mans" Photoshop without all the tweaking. Check it out at dxo.com.
5) The addition of video makes the GH2's "world's best all around camera" claim a reality. If you've never done video, like me, the option to capture 1080i video right from my digital camera is truly enlightening! The secret to good vacation (or pro) photography is to be ready for the perfect shot whenever it occurs. Having ONE camera with a 14-140 zoom (28-280 35mm equivalent) that can also take breathtaking video, ensures that you won't be fumbling around with lenses and camcorders while the action passes you by.
6) Low light capability with this camera is amazing! Just make sure to set ISO to automatic, and set the upper limit to 3200. (from the menu) You will get perfectly usable images, especially if you post process RAW files through Photoshop or DXO. But remember, a 14-140 lens on a sensor this large is never going to be a fast indoor lens. Get the 20mm 1.7 for excellent indoor images. It also makes the camera much more like a point and shoot for those indoor parties and children shots.
7) Depth of field: This may be one area where amateurs get confused and disappointed. Smaller sensor point and shoot cameras have inherently greater depth of field, making it easier to keep a video or quick photo in focus. The shallower depth of field of the GH2 and other DSLR's takes some getting used to, but it is also why the videos will look so professional when done right. Most movies use shallow depth of field as a key technique in focusing the viewer's attention. You can literally take movie quality videos with the GH2, which is why the amateur film movement has embraced it.
8) Lens interchangeability: This is great feature, especially for video! I have many old manual Nikon lenses that work wonders on the GH2. Yes, you lose autofocus and aperture control, but if you put the camera in aperture priority mode, and turn on auto-ISO, the camera will still expose images properly and automatically. The lack of autofocus is not that big of a deal. I've taken plenty of excellent photos during my career with manual focus. The REAL advantage comes with video though, where manual focus is an ADVANTAGE, not a liability.
So is the GH2 perfect? Of course not, any more than any other digital camera, but its flaws can be easily circumvented with post processing. You simply will not find any other camera on the market that combines so many different professional features into one, small, inexpensive package.
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