Panasonic G2 Flash


The Panasonic G2's built-in flash has a Guide Number rating of 36 feet (11 meters) at ISO 100, translating to a range of just over 10 feet at f/3.5 and just over 6 feet at f/5.6 with the kit lens. That's a little weaker than most digital SLRs, which are typically rated at 12 or 13 meters, but much stronger than the GF1's smaller flash, which has a GN of only 20 feet or 6 meters.

The Panasonic G2's flash is released manually by sliding the Flash Open switch on the camera's top panel forward. Raising the flash enables it. 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 G2's flash is disabled by pressing down until it clicks shut. The Panasonic G2 has a dedicated AF assist LED, and unlike Panasonic's earlier SLR, the L10, the G2's built-in flash can cannot be used as an auxiliary AF assist, probably because focusing speeds are not quite fast enough. AF assist can be disabled in the Custom menu.

The Panasonic G2'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. The flash is forced off when closed. 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 also 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 G2.

The Panasonic G2 allows you to adjust flash and ambient exposure independently of each other, by providing flash exposure compensation between -2 and +2 EV in one-third EV increments. 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 Panasonic G2 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 G2's user manual, though they do warn against using an external flash with "high-voltage" or reverse polarity.)

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
A moderately powerful flash, but with uneven coverage at wide angle. Slightly higher than average positive exposure compensation required.

14mm 42mm
Normal Flash
+1.0 EV
Slow-Sync Flash
Default

Coverage. Flash coverage is rather uneven at wide angle, leaving the corners of our flash target image quite dark at 14mm. Coverage is much more uniform at full telephoto (42mm).

Exposure. Indoors under incandescent background lighting, the Panasonic G2's flash performed quite well, requiring just slightly more than average positive exposure compensation of +1.0 EV for a bright image. 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.


Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f3.5
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

1/60 sec
f5.6
ISO 100

ISO 100 Range. Flash exposure started out a bit dim at 6 feet at wide angle, but then increased, peaking at about 9 feet. Exposure didn't start falling off appreciably until about 11 or 12 feet, where it decreased gradually as distance increased. At telephoto, flash exposures also started out slightly dim at 6 feet, but didn't start falling off significantly until about 9 feet.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto

10.2 feet
ISO 100

6.2 feet
ISO 100

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range Test. Panasonic rates the G2's flash with a Guide Number (GN) of 11 meters at ISO 100. That works out to about 10.2 feet at an aperture of f/3.5 and 6.2 feet at an aperture of f/5.6. In the shots above, the Panasonic G2 produced slightly dim results at both wide angle and telephoto ends, implying Panasonic's flash GN specification is perhaps a bit optimistic. At wide-angle, the flash exposure was about 2/3 EV underexposed while at telephoto, it was about 1/2 EV underexposed. 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.

 

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