Panasonic GH1 (left) and GH2 (right)
Some of the items I wrote down were very unrealistic, like implementing in body image stabilization. Panasonic have chosen their strategy, to implement image stabilization in some lenses only, not in the camera bodies. So this is not going to happen.
But a lot of other areas have improved. Here are some examples from my list:
- The control wheel has been moved to the rear side, which I prefer.
- The built in flash has become taller (as can be seen in the images below), meaning that the premium kit lens Lumix G HD 14-140mm casts a smaller shadow when using the flash.
- The new camera does feature a simplified focus scale in the display when focusing manually with a Micro Four Thirds lens. This is not an absolute focus scale with measurements, but it tells you if you are moving towards the close or far end of the focus scale, for example.
- The camera can autofocus with more Four Thirds lenses. For example the Olympus Four Thirds 50mm f/2 1:2 macro. However, the focus is slow for some of these lenses.
- When using legacy lenses, you can access the magnified focus assist view by pressing the rear control wheel. On the GH1, you needed to press two keys to get this mode: First the left arrow key, followed by the down arrow key.
There are also some development areas that remain. For example, the buffer clearing speed is very slow when recording both JPEG and RAW images.
The basic shape remains very similar. The shell has been made from a different plastic material with a "crinkle" appearance. While the majority of the GH1 body was covered with a rubber-like covering, the shell of the GH2 is more slippery.
On the other hand, the GH2 gains a more solid rubber grip. Somehow, I find that the rubber-like surface of the GH1 feels safe to operate: The camera is less likely to slip out of your hands. On the other hand, the GH2 has a better grip area for the right hand.
Some people have reported that early versions of the G1 had the rubber surface peeling off. This caused negative publicity for Panasonic, and may be the reason why they have chosen a plastic surface without the rubber coating for the GH2.
On the rear side, we can note some changes. The GH2 (left) has a more pronounced frame around the LCD, which I suppose is good for protection. The red video record button had to be moved to the top-side, since the space it previously occupied is now taken up by the thumb wheel.
A subtle, but good change, is that the display button has become flatter. On the GH1, it was easily pressed by a mistake, and now this is not a problem anymore.
From the side, we can see that the SD card compartment has been moved a bit inwards into the camera. My speculation is that this was needed to fit the extended processing power in the GH2 camera.
This placement makes the card a bit more awkward to extract: There is little space for your finger between the card and the compartment door.
As a consequence of the new SD card placement, perhaps, the battery needs to be slimmer. The GH2 battery (DMW-BLC12, left) is new, which has angered some fans. This means that you can not reuse your extra GH1 battery (DMW-BLB13) for the GH2.
In this view, we also see that the tripod mount has shifted backwards.
In this side view, we see that the new flash is taller, which is very good news. Ideally, the built in flash should be as far from the lens as possible, when extended.
The GH1 was marketed as a hybrid stills and video camera, the first in it's class to have continuous AF during video recording. In the mean time, some competitors have launched their systems. So to regain the throne as the best video enabled system camera, the GH2 must excel in video quality.
My experiments so far indicate that the GH2 does indeed provide better video quality. I devised a simple test to compare the GH1 (hacked) with the GH2 in otherwise identical settings.
What I found was that the white balance and saturation of the GH2 is more pleasing, and also that the sharpness of the video is probably a tad bit better. But in my opinion, there was not a dramatic difference.
The GH2 features a much appreciated ETC (Extended Tele Conversion). This is essentially a digital zoom that works during video recording. So your lenses become 2.6 times longer, and you can still record at full HD 1080 resolution.
I've also checked the rolling shutter properties of the two cameras. I found that they were mostly identical in this respect. The GH2 might be slightly better.
Anyway, rolling shutter artifacts is not a huge problem with the GH1 and GH2 cameras. Unless you deliberately generate the artifacts, you're very unlikely to find this being a problem. This is in contrast to the Samsung NX10, which I found had significant rolling shutter artifacts.
While I had no problems with the autofocus speed of the GH1, I am still happy to see that they have further improved with the GH2.
I'm especially happy that the autofocus has improved when using the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, which felt a bit sluggish on the GH1. Here is a summary of my AF speed readings.
The GH2 appears to be better at continuous autofocus too, according to my test.
Taller built in flash
As mentioned above, the GH2 has a taller built in flash. In theory, this should be good for several reasons: Keeping the built in flash as far away from the lens as possible is generally a good idea. It makes the lightning more flattering when photographing people.
Also, it is a known fact that the GH1 built in flash casts shadow when using the premium kit lens Lumix G HD 14-140mm. Here's how the shadow looks using GH2 (left), and GH1, both at 14mm and having the lens hood attached.
As you can see, the GH2 flash reduces the shadow cast a tiny bit, but the difference is rather subtle. On the other hand, you would probably not use the flash at 14mm focal length and 1 meter distance very often. And increasing either will reduce this problem. So for real life use, this is not that much of an issue.
Mirrorless cameras, like the GH1 and GH2, typically require a pre-flash to measure the intensity of the flash. This takes some more time than with DSLRs, since mirrorless cameras don't have a light sensor. They use the imaging sensor as a light sensor.
Compared with most DSLR cameras, the battery life of the GH2 is not very impressive. This is due to operating in live-view all the time. DSLR cameras don't need the LCD for viewing during SLR mode, and save power that way.
With freshly charged battery, I found that I could record 144 minutes of video before needing a recharge. This was with the LCD display on all the time. Using the EVF rather than the LCD probably gives better battery life.
It is possible to buy third party batteries for around US$20, but they give some reduced functionality.