Body and Design

Externally, the GH2 is hard to tell apart from its predecessor the GH1. One of the few obvious differences is a new finish. Gone is the slightly slippery (and easily marked) rubberized coating, replaced by a more 'serious' crinkle finish designed to mimic the look (but sadly not the feel) of magnesium alloy. The hand grip is still rubber, but it is genuine thick rubber, with a faux leather grain.

Not only does it look better, it feels much nicer in the hand. The GH2's body might still be constructed from plastic, but the overall effect of the new finish is classier - a clear message that Panasonic intends the GH2 to be taken seriously as a high-end body. The lack of a dedicated iA button is another sign that the GH2 is aimed at a higher level than its near-relation the G2 - this is a more expensive camera, unashamedly designed to appeal to a less mainstream market.

The most noticeable difference between the GH1 and GH2 from an ergonomic point of view is that the control dial is now positioned on the rear of the camera, rather than on the hand grip as it was before. Consequently the movie record button has had to move, and it's now on the top plate, behind the shutter release. This in turn forces the relocation of the Q.Menu button, which has been added to the rear of the camera. Overall, we approve of these changes - we think the repositioned control dial and movie button are now easier to use (and just as importantly, less easy to operate accidentally).

In Your Hand

As we have come to expect, the GH2 handles in an extremely similar way to other recent G-series cameras (with the exception of the much more compact GF2). Its closest relation in terms of ergonomics is the G2, but essentially, the DSLR-styled GH2 operates in much the same way as the GH1, G10 and the first of the breed - the original G1.

In the hand, the GH2 resembles a small DSLR. The main control points all fall where a DSLR user would expect to find them, and the high-resolution EVF is exactly where an optical finder would be - directly above the lens. From the top, you can see how well positioned the (red) direct movie shooting button is for quick video 'grab shots'. The main on/off button falls within easy reach of the thumb. Also visible in this view are the GH2's stereo microphones, which are built into the flash housing.

Viewfinder Specs and View

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. Of course the GH2 does not feature an optical viewfinder but comes with an electronic variant instead. However, the same rules apply. Hence the GH2's quoted figure of 1.4x magnification ends up as 0.7x when compared to a full-frame, 24x36mm sensor camera.

The diagram below shows the relative size of the viewfinders of the GH2 and Canon EOS 60D, alongside, for reference, the EOS-1Ds Mark III (marked in white - currently the biggest viewfinder on the DSLR market). Note that we're showing you two aspect ratios from the GH2 here - 4:3 (the outer bounds of which are indicated with a dotted line) and 3:2. The GH2's maximum output resolution of 16MP is achieved in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Thanks to its impressive 1.4x magnification the GH2's electronic viewfinder produces a view that gets in terms of dimensions pretty close to a full-frame DSLR and is significantly larger than what you get in a APS-C or Four Thirds DSLR.

Viewfinder Crop/Aspect Ratios

Most cameras at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. The GH2, in contrast, offers a 100% view (approx) of the scene to be captured, in all of its four aspect ratios.

4:3 3:2 16:9 1:1

This diagram shows the effect of switching between the GH2's four aspect ratio modes. Like the GH1 and LX5, the GH2 has a multi-aspect sensor, the total surface area (and therefore pixel count) of which is never used to capture a single image. The GH2's sensor has a total resolution of 18MP, but effective resolution ranges between 16 and 12MP depending on the aspect ratio selected.