Panasonic Lumix GH2 Review

 
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Panasonic GH2 Performance


Timing and Performance

The Panasonic GH2 is a bit slower than average compared to most SLRs, but generally faster than the GH1.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

1.1 seconds

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Shutdown

2.3 seconds

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card.

Buffer clearing time
2 seconds after 9 Large/Fine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
15 seconds after 7 RAW files*
22 seconds after 7 RAW+ L/F JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shutdown times were slower than those for most SLRs, but faster than the GH1 which took about 1.8 and 2.5 seconds respectively. Buffer clearing times were pretty good with JPEGs, but quite slow with RAW files given the relatively shallow buffers and large files.


Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.6 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

2.1 seconds

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.2 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching is reasonably fast and comparable to the GH1, except for Record to Play which is much slower than average, and quite a bit slower than the GH1's 1.3 seconds.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
0.273 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (All AF timing done with Panasonic 14-140mm kit lens. This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Telephoto
0.241 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 140mm.)

Full Autofocus,
Multi-area AF mode,
Wide Angle
0.276 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting. (This measurement done at 14mm.)
Full Autofocus,
Single-area AF mode,
Wide Angle,
Flash enabled
0.508 second
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with the lens already at the proper focal distance setting, auto flash enabled. (This measurement done at 14mm.)

Prefocused

0.068 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
0.257 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
0.077 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

The Panasonic GH2 produced full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) that ranged from 0.241 at full telephoto to 0.273 second at maximum wide angle with the 14-140mm kit lens. Multi-area AF was only slightly slower at 0.276 second at wide angle. Shutter lag was 0.257 second in continuous mode AF. These times are still a bit slower than most consumer SLRs, but significantly faster than the GH1 (between 17 and 98 percent faster). When manually focused, the GH2's lag time drops to only 0.077 second, which is quite fast and compares well to the GH1's 0.118 second lag. The GH2's prefocused shutter lag time of 0.068 second was also faster than the GH1's 0.084 second lag, and bests many SLRs.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. We also use the same Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro with every camera (on all platforms except Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds and Nikon consumer models lacking an in-body focus motor), to further reduce variation, and because our tests showed that focus-determination time with this lens was close to the fastest, across multiple camera bodies from different manufacturers. Being an older design with a non-ultrasonic motor, it wouldn't be the fastest at slewing from one focus setting to another, but that's exactly the reason we measure focus determination speed, which is primarily a function of the camera body, vs focus adjustment speed, which is primarily a function of the lens.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.78 second

Time per shot, averaged over 27 shots with no signs of slowing, 3 seconds to clear*. Times were very irregular, though.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.59 second

Time per shot, averaged over 8 shots, 16 seconds to clear*.

Single Shot mode
RAW + L/F JPEG
0.57 second

Time per shot, averaged over 6 shots, 25 seconds to clear*.

Early shutter
penalty?

Yes

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous High
Large Fine JPEG

0.27 second (3.74 frames per second);
9 frames total;
2 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 9 shots, then slows to an average of about 2.79s or 0.36 fps.

Continuous High
RAW

0.28 second (3.61 frames per second);
7 frames total;
15 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 7 frames, then slows to an average of 2.02s or 0.5 fps.

Continuous High
RAW + L/F JPEG

0.28 second (3.57 frames per second);
7 frames total;
22 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 7 frames, then slows to an average of about 3.48s or 0.29 fps.

Super High Speed
Small JPEG
0.025 second (40.82 frames per second);
40 frames total;
20 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 40 frames. Super High Speed mode captures 4.1-megapixel JPEGs.

Flash Recycling

6.6 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec 8GB SDHC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times were a bit sluggish compared to most SLRs, at about 0.78 for large/fine JPEGs. During our testing, cycles times for L/F JPEGs was quite irregular, ranging from 0.52s to 2.17s, so determining the buffer size in single-shot mode was not possible. Cycle times were more consistent when RAW files were present, at 0.59s for 8 RAW frames and 0.57s for 6 RAW+L/F JPEGs. The JPEG average was actually slower than the GH1's 0.66 second because of the variability. GH2 cycle times with RAW files were a bit faster than the GH1's 0.66 and 0.69 second results.

Continuous High speeds were fairly consistent, ranging from 3.57 frames/second in RAW+L/F JPEG mode, to 3.74 frames/second for L/F JPEGs. This is slower than the GH2's 5.0 frames/second specification, but not unusual for a Panasonic camera which we've found to be very sensitive to camera settings such as ISO sensitivity when it comes to maximum burst speed. (We shoot continuous mode at ISO 200 for fast enough shutter speeds to read our electronic timer values.) The burst rate we achieved is about average compared to consumer SLRs, but noticeably faster than the GH1's burst speed which varied from 2.38s to 3.02s depending on the quality or lens used.

The GH2 also offers Middle Speed and Low Speed modes which Panasonic rates at 3 and 2 frames/second respectively, but we did not test those modes. In addition, there is a Super High Speed mode which captured 4.1-megapixel JPEGs at 40.82 frames/second for 40 frames.

Buffer depths were not very generous for the class of camera, at only 9 L/F JPEG frames or 7 frames when RAW files are present. JPEG buffer depth wasn't nearly as good as the GH1's 50+ frames, but better than the GH1's 4 frame buffer for RAW files. Our test target is difficult to compress though, so your results should be better with typical scenes, especially for JPEGs. Buffer clearing is quite slow with RAW files, given the shallow buffers.

The flash recycled after a full discharge in 6.6 seconds, which is slower than average for its class, and quite a bit slower than the GH1's 2.3 seconds.


Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

9,639 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Download speeds were fast, quick enough that you probably won't feel the need for a separate card reader, even with large memory cards. (Note that this test was performed with a SanDisk Extreme III 30 MB/sec SD card: Slower cards would likely show slower transfer times.)


Bottom line, the Panasonic GH2 is a responsive camera, well-suited to handling typical family shots, though not a good choice for really fast action. It's quicker than the GH1 in most respects, but still slower than most SLRs in almost every category. Autofocus speeds are however competitive with lower-end SLRs which can't be said for most CSCs, and prefocused shutter lag is quicker than most SLRs because there is no mirror to flip out of the way.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
About average battery life for a CSC, but below average compared to an SLR using an optical viewfinder.

Operating Mode Battery Life
Kit Lens
14-140mm
14-42mm
Still Capture,
(CIPA standard - Using EVF)
330 shots
340 shots
Still Capture,
(CIPA standard - Using LCD)
320 shots
330 shots
Playback Time
Using LCD
240 minutes
240 minutes

The Panasonic GH2 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and charger. The rated 330 shots per charge is below the capacity of typical SLRs, likely a consequence of the power drain for the electronic display. (When using the optical viewfinder on an SLR, there's very little power consumption except when the shutter fires or when you're in playback mode. The CIPA numbers for the Panasonic GH2 are in line with SLRs operating in Live View mode.) We do recommend getting a second battery for your GH2 if you plan any extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Panasonic GH2 accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, and does not ship with a card. Panasonic recommends Class 4 or faster cards for capturing AVCHD movies, and Class 6 or faster cards for Motion JPEG movies.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal RAW
4,608 x 3,456
Images
(Avg Size)
113
9.1 MB
225
4.6 MB
51
20.1 MB
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
10:1
1.2:1
3,264 x 2,448
Images
(Avg Size)
206
5.0 MB
408
2.5 MB
-
Approx.
Comp.
5:1
10:1
-
2,336 x 1,752
Images
(Avg Size)
344
3.0 MB
667
1.5 MB
-
Approx.
Comp.
4:1
8:1
-

We strongly recommend buying a fast, large capacity SDHC memory card; at least a 4GB card, preferably an 8 or 16GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings or when shooting RAW or video files. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)

 

Panasonic GH2

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