Panasonic GF2 Flash
The Panasonic GF2's built-in flash has a Guide Number (GN) rating of 20 feet (6 meters) at ISO 100, the same as the GF1's. That's a lot weaker than most digital SLRs, which are typically rated at 12 or 13 meters, but still better than no flash when you don't have an external flash with you. The GF2's closest rival, the Olympus E-PL1, has a slightly more powerful flash with a GN of 23 feet (7 meters) at ISO 100.
The Panasonic GF2's flash is released manually by pushing the Flash Open button on the camera's rear panel. Raising the flash enables it, though it can be defeated using a menu selection. It never pops up automatically like some models, which can be good or bad, depending on your point of view. A novice would probably appreciate an auto-pop-up flash, but someone with experience might think it a nuisance.
When open, the flash doesn't extend very high, so at wide angle longer Micro Four Thirds lenses could cast a shadow when the lens hood is attached.The Panasonic GF2's flash is disabled by pressing down until it clicks shut.
The Panasonic GF2's built-in flash has seven modes: Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction, and Forced Off. Flash modes are changed via the Record menu, and available settings vary depending on exposure mode. A Digital Red-Eye Reduction feature is offered, which when enabled, will attempt to remove red-eye after the photo is taken, via post-processing. A second curtain synchronization mode is not offered. X-Sync (the maximum shutter speed with the flash enabled) is 1/160 second, a bit below average these days, and there is no mention of a higher-speed FP (focal plane) mode. There's also no wireless flash support in the Panasonic GF2.
The Panasonic GF2 does not allow you to adjust flash and ambient exposure independently of each other when using the built-in flash, as there is no separate flash exposure compensation. Flash exposure bracketing is not supported, and there is no manual flash mode where output level can be set as a percentage of full power.
Like an SLR, the DMC-GF2 also has a dedicated hot shoe for mounting external flash units, like Panasonic's DMW-FL500, FL360, and FL220. Olympus flash units such as the FL-50, FL-36, FL-20, and FL-14 should also work, and non-dedicated units can also be used provided they have a compatible trigger voltage and polarity. (Panasonic does not seem to mention the trigger voltage or polarity in the GF2's user manual, though.)
The advantages of a good external flash are many: more power for increased range, faster recycle times, longer battery life, reduced red-eye, auto zoom to match coverage to the current focal length, and the ability to adjust the tilt and swivel of the head to allow light from the flash to be bounced off nearby surfaces such as a ceiling, for a diffuse effect. Most external flash units have a more powerful AF assist illuminator built-in than the one on the body, and other useful features such as modeling flash are common on higher end models.
Flash Test Results
Coverage and Range
Modest flash power with uneven coverage using the 14mm kit lens. Higher than average positive exposure compensation required.
Coverage. Flash coverage is rather uneven and dark at 14mm, leaving the corners of our flash target image quite dark and even center values very dim.
Exposure. Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2's flash performed modestly, as the higher than average positive exposure compensation of +1.0 EV still resulted in dim results overall. The camera's slow-sync flash mode required no compensation, though the longer shutter time results in a much warmer cast from the ambient background lighting.
ISO 100 Range. Flash exposure started out bright at 6 feet (at least in the center), then increased in brightness, peaking at about 9-10 feet. Exposure didn't start falling off appreciably until about 12 feet, where it decreased gradually as distance increased.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range Test. Panasonic rates the GF2's flash with a Guide Number (GN) of 6 meters at ISO 100. That works out to about 7.9 feet at an aperture of f/2.5, the maximum aperture of the 14mm kit lens. In the shot above, the Panasonic GF2 produced a good exposure with the 14mm kit lens. The flash target was actually slightly overexposed by about 1/4 f-stop, indicating the flash's GN rating is fairly accurate. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.