From a design point of view it is easier to implement a video mode into a 'live view only' camera such as the GH2 (and in fact the Sony SLT A55) than in a DSLR which needs to flip its mirror out of the way before it can start recording. It was therefore only a question of time before Panasonic would launch a video-enabled model in its G-Range and the GH1, which we reviewed in 2009, was that camera. The GH2 expands upon the GH1's specification, and offers a couple of neat tricks all of its own.

Video specification

In AVCHD mode the GH2 offers true HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels, in either 24fps (progressive), or 60i/p modes. Best quality (highest bitrate) is achieved at 24 (actually 23.976) fps, in 24H mode. Motion JPEG video is output at 30fps, in a choice of 1280x720, 848x480, 640x480 or 320x240 pixel resolution. The GH2's built-in microphone captures stereo audio and you can connect an optional external microphone (Panasonic suggests that you might like the DMW-MS1). There is a small built-in speaker for video playback in-camera.

Sizes • AVCHD :
24H: 1920 x 1080, (24p (23.976fps), 23 Mbps)
24L: 1920 x 1080, (24p, 17 Mbps)
FSH: 1920 x 1080, (60i*, 17 Mbps)
FH: 1920 x 1080, (60i*, 13 Mbps)
SH: 1280 x 720, (60p*, 17 Mbps)
H: 1280 x 720, (60p*, 13 Mbps)

• Motion JPEG:
1280 x 720, 30fps
848 x 480, 30fps
640 x 480, 30fps
320 x 240, 30fps

* Sensor output = 60fps
Audio Dolby Digital Stereo Creator format, wind-cut feature
Format AVCHD / QuickTime Motion JPEG
File size Max 23 MB/sec (1080p AVCHD)
Max file size per clip 2.0 GB for Motion JPEG, card capacity for AVCHD
Running time Up to 2GB for Motion JPEG, up to capacity of card for AVCHD (Limited to 29 minutes on examples sold in Europe).

Using Movie Mode

Like the GH1, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 has a dedicated 'creative movie' mode position on the main exposure mode dial. When the dial is turned to this position, you get maximum control over video shooting, including aperture, shutter speed and ISO (via the 'manual movie mode' option), and the GH2's menu system becomes video-specific. This is also the only place where you can select the GH2's maximum bitrate 24H video mode, via the 24P cinema mode.

Like the GH1, video recording (using whatever parameters were last used) can be commenced at any point, regardless of the position of the mode dial, simply by pressing the red direct video shooting button on the GH2's top plate. The Motion Picture menu (contained within the main menu) can be accessed at any time by pressing the menu button, however, it is not possible to select 24H capture from here. Your only options are to switch between 1080i and 720p, at their default framerates (60fps and 30fps respectively). We don't consider this a bad thing - for the majority of consumers, 1080i footage offers an excellent combination of smoothness and detail.

This screen shows video capture with key shooting information overlaid. When the exposure mode dial is rotated to the video setting, the Creative movie menu allows you to fine-tune video shooting, including a 'variable' option to slow or increase the GH2's framerate.

If the mode dial is set to intelligent Auto when video shooting is commenced, the GH2 will set most parameters for you automatically. With the mode dial set to one of the PASM positions the GH2 sets shutter speed and aperture automatically, but you retain control over other parameters such as white balance and metering mode. In any of the scene modes, the GH2 will optimize its video settings for these specific scenarios.

During video recording you can focus manually or use continuous AF which, with the bundled 14-140mm lens works almost silently. You can change the amount of information shown on the screen during video capture by pressing the Display button. The swivel screen is very useful if you want to shoot from a lower vantage point, and if it's too bright to use the LCD display you can still use the electronic viewfinder.

Like all video-enabled interchangeable lens cameras, the GH2 does not come with a power-zoom (something you'd find on most serious camcorders) and it's therefore quite difficult to zoom during hand-held video-recording without generating at least some camera-shake. This makes some sort of camera support essential for video shooting - something which of course, will be second-nature to any serious videographer.

When it was released, the GH1 offered arguably the most usable video mode of any video-equipped interchangeable lens still camera. The GH2 improves on it in some very important ways - some of which are explained and expanded on in our special 'Shooting Video with the GH2' section in this review. This said, the GH2 isn't a perfect video camera - it lacks an articulated EVF, power zoom, audio-monitoring or any serious manual control over audio recording. For these reasons, the GH2 is unlikely to be an adequate replacement for a serious videographer's equipment. But in terms of consumer-level still/video imaging, we're confident in saying that it represents the state of the art.

Movie mode displays

Motion Picture menu You can choose between AVCHD and Motion JPEG recording formats...
...and a range of recording quality levels. When the mode dial is set to Creative Motion Picture you can select from PASM shooting modes in the Quick menu.
In Aperture Priority mode you can set the aperture either in the Quick menu or using the rear dial. In the Creative Motion Picture Modes it's also possible to set ISO manually.

Sample videos

These videos were shot in a range of different environments, and at a range of different settings. We are pleased to announce that is now partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Note: the .MTS file extension of videos created by the Panasonic Lumix DMC GH2 is not widely compatible. If you chose to download the original .MTS files using the links provided you may need additional software to play them. The Open Source VLC player is able to play the .MTS files that are generated by the GH2's AVCHD mode, but the current version of the player (version 0.9.9a at time of writing) displays artefacts around fast-moving scene elements.

Sample Video 1

This video was shot in the GH2's 1080i, FSH mode, and shows how well the 60fps sensor output can capture fast-moving video. As well as being highly detailed, the fast-moving skiiers are rendered smoothly and accurately with no 'stutter'. Audio was recorded using the GH2's internal stereo microphone.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 28.9 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 2

Shot in the same environment, this video shows how well the GH2's revamped AF-C system keeps track of moving subjects without 'hunting'. Again, audio is supplied by the built-in stereo microphone, but the metering hasn't done quite so well, and the snow in this clip is a little darker than it should be. Obviously, this is an extreme test of any camera's metering system.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 20.1 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 3

This video was shot in the GH2's highest bitrate video mode - 24P Cinema. This mode is only available when the GH2's exposure mode dial is set to Manual Movie, and delivers very large files. Here, audio was recorded using an external microphone. As you can hear, audio capture is crisp and clear, and the soundtrack is devoid of distracting background noise.

1920 x 1080, 24 fps. AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 36.98 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 4

This video was also shot using an external microphone in the GH2's 24P Cinema mode. Captured towards the middle of the 14-140mm zoom's focal range, it gives you a good idea of how effective the O.I.S. stabilization system is for casual handheld shooting.

1920 x 1080, 24 fps. AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 37.93 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 5

Here, the GH2 is panned through roughly 180 degrees, and towards the end of the clip the lens is zoomed in slightly. The jerkiness of the footage in the final couple of seconds (as the lens is zoomed) shows the difficulty of smooth focal length adjustments with 'twist zoom' lenses.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 44.29 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 6

This video shows the abilities of the GH2's AF-C mode during video shooting. The camera stays with its subject and shows no inclination to 'hunt'. It also gives a good indication of the GH2's tendency to deliver rather murky results when presented with low-contrast scenes.

1920 x 1080, 24 fps. AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 13.44 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 7

This video was shot at ISO 3200, in the GH2's 24P Cinema mode and shows the limitations of the GH2's video mode in poor light. The light level in this restaurant was too low for the GH2 to cope with, and even at ISO 3200 (the maximum ISO possible in video), with a shutter speed of 1/25sec, the footage is severely underexposed.

The sound, however, courtesy of an external stereo microphone is crisp and clear, with hardly a trace of background noise.

1920 x 1080, 24 fps. .MOV file, 8 sec. 13.44 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 8

This video demonstrates the 14-140mm kit lens' stepless aperture control. The camera starts recording in the bright environment of our studio test scene, then we cycle the light. When it comes on again you can see how the camera modifies gain and aperture for a very smooth exposure adjustment rather than the exposure steps you would get with a conventional lens.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 12.08 MB Click here to download original .MTS file

Sample video 9

This video demonstrates the amount of depth of field control that it is possible to take over footage captured with the GH2. The relatively large area of the GH2's Four Thirds sensor means that it is possible to isolate subjects from their backgrounds much more effectively than it might be using a typical small-sensor video camera.

This video shows the effect of stopping down the aperture of an Olympus 50mm f/2 macro lens from f/2 to f/22 in 1/3EV steps.

1920 x 1080i, AVCHD, .MTS file, 8 sec. 21.77 MB Click here to download original .MTS file