As we write this, the Panasonic GF2 is the smallest swappable-lens camera on the planet. And yep, it does feel tiny compared to DSLRs and even most Micro Four Thirds cameras, especially fitted with the dinky 14mm pancake lens.
Is it the first interchangeable lens camera to be shrunk to that fabled "pocket-size" level? No, not really: while you could undoubtedly wedge the GF2 into a large jacket pocket, it’d bulge out like a freakish moob. Its solid metal body – which feels very high quality, incidentally – makes it weighty for the size too, so you’ll probably be comfier with it slung round your neck.
Spot the difference
The GF2 looks much like its predecessor, the GF1, but there are a few changes beyond the trimmer body. The rear screen is now a touchscreen, and now handles much of the controls. The mode dial, for instance, is gone – you select your current shooting mode via the screen.
Here at Stuff we prefer buttons and dials to touchscreens because they’re more reliable. The GF2’s screen isn’t as responsive as the iPhone’s for example, and sometimes requires more than one prod to react. That said, the fact that you can tap a point on the screen to set the focus area goes a long way towards justifying the changes – and much of the time you can use the physical buttons instead of the screen.
Autofocus is lightning fast, putting the sloth-like focussing of Samsung's and Olympus’ mini interchangeable lens camera rivals to shame. It’s around the same speed as the Sony NEX-5.
Image quality is on a par with other Panasonic Micro Four Thirds cameras. It’s good, in the DSLR ballpark in terms of detail and colour, but if you zoom into your shots to view them at full size there are speckles of noise visible even at ISO 100. At ISO 400 it’s very noticeable and at ISO 800 the sharpness really starts to suffer. ISO goes all the way up to 6400, but you’ll want to avoid using that unless it’s an emergency.
There’s a built-in pop-up flash, thankfully, so you’re not forced to use high ISOs in murky conditions. As with the GF1, there’s also an accessory shoe on which you can whack a proper flashgun, viewfinder or external microphone.
That external mic might come in useful if you’re planning on using the GF2’s HD video capabilities, which are impressive. Even without any accessories you can record in Motion JPEG or AVCHD, at 720p or 1080i with stereo sound from the internal mic. And those videos are sharp and crisp with smooth motion – just about as good as you'll get right now from a camera. But that's really just a bonus from a mightily impressive micro-SLR.
More after the break...
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2
An almost-DSLR shrunk into a tiny package without killing the quality. Magic!