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- Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
Panasonic Lumix GH2 First Impressions Review$849.99
Turning the mode dial to iAuto puts the camera into a fully automatic mode, effectively turning your expensive SLR into a point & shoot. But that is fine sometimes, and the iAuto mode takes control of most of the camera settings, leaving only the image size and quality, face recognition and image stabilization settings up to be changed. The iAuto mode works by choosing what the camera believes is the most appropriate scene mode for the subject, and configuring other settings appropriately.
The usual selection of semi-manual modes are also on offer, with Program, Aperture, Shutter and a full Manual mode. We found that the manual mode was pretty easy to use, with the control dial doing double duty to control both aperture and shutter settings.
The GH1 was groundbreaking in being one of the first digital cameras to capture Full HD video, and the GH2 does the same. In fact, there are very few improvements over the GH1: the GH2 captures video at the same maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels at 60 interlaced frames per second. It does not, however, capture the full 60 progressive (60p) frames per second that most HDTVs can display and many dedicated camcorders can capture. Instead, you get the choice of either 60 interlaced frames or 24 full progressive frames a second. This is more of a software limitation than a hardware one, though: the image sensor captures 60 Full HD progressive frames per second, but downsamples them to 24fps because there is no support in the AVCHD format for 60p video. Some camcorders (such as the Panasonic TM700) get around this limitation by saving 60p video in another format (such as MPEG-4 file), but the GH2 does not support this. You can save videos at 720p resolution with the full 60 fps, though.
Although it can't shoot 60fps video, the GH2 does increase the maximum bitrate of the captured video up to 24mbps (up from the 17mbps maximum of the GH1), which should translate into better quality and more detail. That is also the maximum bitrate that the AVCHD format allows for.
The other new features on offer are a new cinema mode and a variable speed feature. The cinema mode tweaks the gamma curve to look more like a film and the variable speed mode allows you to speed up or slow down video by between 300 and 80 per cent. Clips can be recorded up to the capacity of the memory card: there is no time limitation
The usual suspects are on parade to help playback images, with modes for showing 12 or 30 thumbnails at once, for zooming in up to 16x on an image and create basic slideshows and sorting images by date, time or the mode they were shot in.
Custom Image Presets
In addition to the iAuto and PASM modes, there are three scene modes available from the mode dial (Portrait, Landscape and macro), and an additional 9 on offer from the on-screen menu when you set the mode dial to SCN. These scene modes include Peripheral Defocus, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Sunset, Party, Sports, Baby 1, Baby 2 and Pet. The only one that requires explanation is the first one, which is sort of an aperture priority in reverse: it sets the aperture as wide as possible to get the smallest depth of field to throw the background out of focus.
In addition, there are three custom modes available on the mode dial, labelled C1, C2 and C3. Each of these can hold a complete set of settings, so you can create settings for shooting situations that are not covered by the modes on offer.
The GH2 is not a speedy camera: at the highest resolution, it captures a relatively slow 2 frames a second when running in the live view mode. This can be jacked up somewhat by putting the camera into the normal mode, which allows for a 5fps burst. It can also be increased by lowering the resolution: at 4 megapixel resolution, that rises to 40 frames a second.
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