As seen earlier, from a design point of view the G2 is almost identical to the G1 before it (and is very similar to the video-focused GH1), so everything we said about those cameras is equally applicable to this one. The control dial has moved to the back, GF1-style (so is now thumb-operated), which is an improvement over the too-easily-knocked position on the G1, and a lot better suited to such a small body. There's also a few button/switch changes, but physically the G2 is otherwise very similar to its predecessor.
From a design point of view the G2 is, in almost every respect, very careful to mimic DSLR design, with a large grip, large viewfinder and a bunch of buttons and dials pretty much where you'd expect them to be. And the result is a camera that will be instantly familiar to users familiar with DSLRs and, perhaps more importantly, one that is consistent with the expectations of users aspiring to own a DSLR.
The soft micro-textured finish and overall build quality appear to be pretty much the same as the G1, and give the G2 a reassuringly solid, quality feel that seems to be capable of taking the kind of everyday knocks it might receive in normal usage (after a few weeks of heavy use we saw no signs of damage to the surface).
In your hand
We've been using the G1 and GH1 regularly for over a year now and have really come to appreciate the superb handling, which is as good as any entry-level DLSR (and most mid-range ones too). Moving the control dial to the back is a big improvement, leaving the index finger to rest on the shutter release and the thumb to effortlessly change settings. Our only complaint is that - until you've been using it for a while - the iA and movie buttons are a little too easy to mix up.
The G2 has exactly the same viewfinder as the G1 and GH1 (click here to read more about it), which is no bad thing, since it's really rather good. There's still the slight color 'tearing' if you move your eye too quickly, but the sharpness, resolution, refresh rate, brightness and color are excellent. The G2's viewfinder is noticeably larger than most SLR finders and is perfectly usable in all but the lowest light (when the display gets a little noisy and a little laggy).
In keeping with the G2's aim of behaving exactly like a DSLR, the EVF very closely mimics the appearance of a DSLR. And, unlike DSLRs with Live view, the layout of the information is consistent between the viewfinder and the rear LCD (unless you're using the Status Panel mode on the rear screen). The result is no hunting around for settings - they're always shown in the same place. And, unlike a DSLR, the G2's viewfinder can show you the options for each setting and update the preview image to reflect any changes made.
The only differences between the G2 and its predecessor are the video mode and Intelligent Resolution icons.
Although it takes the same (1250mAh, 7.2V) battery, the G2's battery compartment is now also home to the SD card slot (which used to be accessed from the side of the camera). This is bad news for tripod shooters who regularly need to change cards (including, it should be said, dpreview camera reviewers), but won't affect anyone else. The new model is compatible with the latest SDXC card format.
Like the G1, the G2 has a 3.0" wide screen display built onto a hinge that allows it to swivel and tilt. The LCD is made up of 460,000 dots, making it one of the higher-resolution examples available. While in resolution terms it's not quite on a par with the VGA screens that have almost become standard on DSLRs its 60fps refresh rate produces a much smoother live view image than on most DSLRs. The screen can be turned around completely ('face in') to protect it when not in use.
The big change is that the screen is now touch sensitive. You can control most menus, set the focus point or even take pictures directly by touching the screen if you so fancy.
We'll look at the touch screen interface in more depth later. The important point for us is that it isn't designed to replace any other form of control, so in no way compromises handling as it so often does on compacts.
The G2's rather small flash has a Guide Number of just 11, slightly on the low side for a camera in this class, but plenty for the occasional social snap in low light or for a bit of fill-in on a sunny day. The G1's tiny kit lens means that, even though the flash doesn't pop up very far, there's little risk of it casting shadows into your photos unless you use the lens hood at the same time. You can, of course, increase flash power by attaching a dedicated unit to the built-in hot shoe.
The G2 has a metal tripod mount, which should reduce concerns about stripping its thread. It's perfectly lined up with the lens but the camera is so small that you can give up on the idea of changing batteries or cards with most tripod plates attached.
On the left hand side of the camera is a combined USB/video out connector and a HDMI port for connection to your HDTV. No HDMI cable is included with the camera, however, so that's something you may need to invest it.
Above the main ports there's a combined external microphone / wired remote control socket.
In one of the only significant changes to the body, the main control dial has migrated from the front grip to the back of the camera (where it is operated by the thumb, rather than the forefinger). It may seem like a minor change, but on small cameras it's often the placing of buttons and dials that makes the difference between usable and unusable manual controls. The good news is that the new dial position is, according to everyone here, a big improvement.
The top plate has had a bit of a re-jig too - gone are the Q.Menu (moved to the back of the camera) and the pointless dedicated 'Film Mode' button, replaced by a direct movie button and an illuminated iA (Intelligent Auto) button (which overrides any current settings to return to full auto mode, lighting up bright blue in the process).
The left-hand dial is still dedicated to focus functions, but now has an extra lever around its base meaning it now covers focus area (single, multi, tracking, face detection) and focus mode (single or continuous AF, manual focus).