The GF2, while clearly sharing the GF1's blood-line, is a substantially different design. It's less cluttered, and the resculpted handgrip and curved fairing around the hot shoe make it look more elegant and, dare we say it, feminine. It's superbly finished, with an all-metal body shell that gives it a reassuringly weighty feel - you can't help but feel that this is a quality product.
The array of buttons and dials that covered the GF1's body has been heavily culled. Gone are the mode dial and drive mode lever from the top plate, along with the AF/MF, AF/AE lock, depth of field preview and display buttons from the back. Meanwhile 'Quick Menu', 'Fn' and 'Delete' have been consolidated to one single button. The removal of these external controls is substantially - but not entirely - made up for by a redesigned user interface that relies substantially on the new touch screen.
The camera may have slimmed down and lost many external controls, but thankfully the features list has scarcely been trimmed at all. The net result is a camera that's simpler and less intimidating for newcomers, but also one that's less likely to appeal to more advanced users.
In your hand / grip
The GF2 sits nicely in your hand , and despite its reduced size is comfortable to hold. The redesigned grip follows the line of your second finger perfectly, and the click-dial that controls exposure parameters is ideally positioned for thumb operation. However we found to the 'Play' button to be a little too close to the thumbgrip, and all too-easy to press accidentally when holding the camera normally or picking it up (not a big deal - a quick half-press of the shutter is all it takes to switch back to shooting mode).
The other buttons, however, aren't in such easy reach without shifting your grip - this is a camera that really demands two-handed operation. The customizable 'Q. Menu/Fn' button is relatively poorly placed if you wish to program it for a commonly-used shooting function such as Auto Exposure Lock or Auto Focus Lock, as it requires a substantial shift in your thumb position to press it. For advanced users this is perhaps the biggest step back relative to the GF1, which uses a dedicated button beside the thumbwheel for AEL/AFL. One other, minor irritation is that the power switch is also a little less well-positioned for quickly flicking on and off with your index finger.
|The top plate plays host to a pair of closely-spaced grilles, beneath which lurks a stereo microphone, hinting at the GF2's improved sound-recording capabilities. The other new feature is a dedicated button for switching into the user-friendly iAuto mode, which sits close to the large, prominent movie-record button.|
|The GF2 retains the same EVF connector that's used on the GF1 and LX5, making it compatible with the existing DMW-LVF1 viewfinder that clips onto the hotshoe. We talked about this in our GF1 review; it's better than nothing, but some way short of the high resolution EVFs used on the G(H)x range, or Olympus's clip-on VF-2 for the Pen range.
Beside the EVF connector is the small speaker that's used during playback.
|Like the GF1, the GF2 has a little pop-up flash of fiendishly clever design. It's still not terribly highly powered, though, with a guide number of just 6; this still makes it OK for casual social shots or a little blip of fill-flash in daylight.
The menu controls for flash exposure compensation and second curtain sync have disappeared, though.
|In a distinctly undocumented (and most likely unintentional) fashion, the flash can be held in a vertical position and bounced off a low ceiling, which will often give rather more flattering lighting. (The GF2 isn't the only camera that can do this trick - it works on the Olympus E-PL1 and 2 as well.)
Note this isn't described in the manual, so using the flash this way is very much at your own risk.
|The connector ports have moved to the handgrip side of the camera, and the GF1's hinged and sprung door has been replaced by an altogether less-sturdy plastic flap.
At the top is the HDMI connector, with AV out beneath it (with a different port design from the GF1). The socket for the cable release has disappeared altogether, so tripod shots will be best executed using the self-timer.
|The GF2 acquires a new battery, the DMW-BLD10, which is slimmer and therefore has slightly lower capacity than the GF1's (7.3Wh vs 9 Wh). According to CIPA standard tests this should give around 300-320 shots per charge, depending upon the lens used; down from the GF1's 380 shot rating.
The SD card slot, as usual, resides in the same compartment as the battery.
Kit zoom lens - Lumix G Vario 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS
The GF2 looks wonderfully svelte with the 14mm F2.5 pancake prime, but add a zoom (as we suspect most users will want to do) and, rather like the Sony NEX-3 and -5, things start to look a little out of proportion. The images below illustrate this, with the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 OIS kit zoom mounted; this combination certainly isn't pocketable in any sensible fashion. In this regard Olympus's clever collapsing kit zooms offer a distinct advantage.
Note also that this lens actually offers slightly less telephoto range and depth of field control than the fast, fixed zoom on the Olympus XZ-1 compact we reviewed recently. Food for thought if you're considering buying the GF2 with just the kit zoom.