Operation and controls
In most respects, the GH2 operates in exactly the same way as other recent G-series Micro Four Thirds cameras. It has plenty of external controls, including physical dials for drive and AF modes, and retains the familiar fully articulated LCD screen, which is particularly useful for movie shooting. Like the G2, this screen is also touch-sensitive. Panasonic supply a slightly awkward stylus, but our experience of the GH2's screen matches that of the G2 - unless you've got enormous fingers you don't usually need to worry about it. The only exception is when setting exposure compensation, where we find that using our fingers obscures the dial, making it tricky to see how much compensation has been set.
Something that we really like about the GH2's touchscreen, perhaps a little perversely, is that it's essentially optional. There are enough direct control points on the body of the camera that you don't need to touch the screen to set options unless you really want to. We do really like the option to set the focus area simply by touching the screen, but aside from that wouldn't choose to use it for much.
Operation isn't all about ergonomics of course, and we're pleased to see that the GH2's menus have been overhauled, even if the changes are essentially cosmetic. It's been a long time coming, but in the GH2, Panasonic has finally thrown open the windows and given the interior of the G-series a much-needed repaint. The GH2's menus are clearer and more colorful than on previous G-series cameras, but the location of most functions hasn't changed much, (so there's little risk of confusion if you're coming to the GH2 from a GH1, for example). All things considered it's a small change, but a welcome one.
The rear of the GH2 plays host to its large, articulated LCD screen, and to most of the camera's direct control points. A four-way controller provides access to ISO, white balance and up to two other functions (customizable via the Fn2 and Fn3 buttons) whilst 'menu/set' brings up the GH2's lengthy main menu system. Above the LCD you can see the EVF, and to its left an LVF/LCD button to manually switch between the screen and the finder. If you prefer, an automatic switch can do this for you, via a sensor built into the eyepiece.
On the right of the EVF are buttons for playback and AF/AE Lock - the latter's precise behavior can be tailored to your preferences. Adjacent to these is the GH2's control dial, which is the primary method of changing shooting parameters. In manual mode, it is possible to switch between shutter speed and aperture control by pressing the dial inwards, while in other modes, pressing the dial inwards allows you to set exposure compensation. In playback, this dial zooms in/out of captured images.
Beneath the control dial are two more buttons - 'quick menu' and 'Display'. 'Quick Menu' activates a filleted settings adjustment screen which is overlaid on the live view image. 'Display' cycles through viewing options: overlaid shooting information on/off, screen off, and LCD info screen 'on'.
Top Right Controls
On the top right of the GH2 you will find the exposure mode dial, direct movie shooting button and another customizable function button - Fn1. Around the circumference of the exposure mode dial are two switches -one for setting single/continuous frame advance, exposure bracketing and self-timer, and the other, the camera's main power switch. The direct movie shooting button is positioned conveniently immediately behind the shutter release, and the power switch is similarly well-positioned for quick operation with the thumb of the right hand.
Top Left Controls
On the top left of the GH2 we find another dial, this one to set AF pattern/type. Like the exposure mode dial on the right hand side of the top plate this dial also has a smaller switch around its circumference, for setting focusing mode (MF, AFC, AFS). Both the dial and switch are smaller than their counterparts on the top right of the camera, which makes them proportionally more fiddly to adjust in some situations (cold weather, for instance). Just to the right is the pleasantly chunky mechanical release for the GH2's built-in flash.