The 12.1-megapixel Lumix DMC-G2 is one of the replacements (the other is the budget G10) for Panasonic's original Micro Four Thirds hybrid camera, the G1. It's packed with Panasonic's latest hi-tech goodies, such as touchscreen-based autofocus and shooting, special-effects filters and a 720p high-definition movie mode. It cost about £500 with the 14-42mm kit lens. Is it worth it?
What's not to like? You get a small, light, digital SLR-style body with full-time live view and 720p movies. The autofocus is fast, the 1.4-megapixel electronic viewfinder is excellent, and the 76mm (3-inch), 460,000-pixel LCD on the back flips out and swivels, making the G2 perfect for shooting low-angle shots and movies.
Despite its small size, the G2 is big on external controls. You change the focus mode (multi-point, single-point, autofocus-tracking or face-detection) with a dial on the top, and the main mode dial has a secondary dial underneath for changing the drive mode (single, continuous, bracketing or self-timer). Also on the top is a big red button for the movie mode. Around the back is a clickable control dial -- in manual mode, for example, you click this to switch between aperture and shutter-speed adjustment.
The touchscreen interface offers some neat shooting options, too. To focus, you just tap on the screen, and, if the 'touch shutter' option is activated, the camera then takes the picture as well. You can also adjust many of the camera settings using the touchscreen interface, by tapping on the 'quick menu' icon.
Like the other G-series cameras, the G2 has a precise, well-made feel and shoots vivid, sharp pictures. It also adds a selection of 'my colour' photo effects to the mix, for customising the colours in your pictures.
But here's the thing about the G2. It's like Panasonic is just adding more and more features without giving any thought to rationalising or simplifying what's already there. This camera comes with a 220-page printed manual, but it's not enough.
Here's an example of the problem. The 'down' button on the back of the G2 is a customisable function button. By default, it activates some kind of clever focus mode in which you get to move a clump of AF points around the screen with a grid of nine crosshairs in the background. We wondered what was going on, so we checked the pages listed under 'focus' in the manual's index. There was nothing relevant there. Then we dug down into the camera's function settings menu, where it said it was adjusting the 'focus area set'. Back to the manual. Nope, nothing about that in the index. That means it's time to give up and hope for the best.
That's what the G2 can be like. You're not really sure what it's doing, but it's probably going to be alright. Another example is Panasonic's much-vaunted 'intelligent auto' mode, which looks like it's deciding on a zillion things every time you take a picture -- and probably not the same things two shots in a row, which is worrying.
You can get into trouble with the constant context shifting that affects the controls, too. Press the wrong button at the wrong time, and you're suddenly adjusting something that you never meant to.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 is a great camera but it's too clever for its own good. The surfeit of features and the duplication of touchscreen and physical controls is just too much. Beginners will constantly be in that "Oh my God, what have I done now?" phase, and experts will just want to ring fence the stuff they understand and ignore the rest.
Edited by Charles Kloet