Cameras for video: panasonic lumix gh2

The bigger brother of the Lumix G3, the Micro Four Thirds GH2 is Panasonic's ultimate movie-recording stills camera. Its 3-inch, vari-angle touchscreen can be positioned through any angle and is ideal for movie shooting, plus the hands-on 'touch for focus' approach makes for unique yet pinpoint autofocus control.

The GH2 provides the full array of manual controls as well as automated movie shooting. This means that both shutter and aperture can be controlled in real time when recording - though doing so will cause a small 'blip' of overexposure while the camera quickly adjusts. It doesn't look particularly smooth, so sticking to exposure compensation for a more fluid exposure transitions is one way to maintain smoother results.

The Programme Auto (P) mode leaves the GH2 in charge of most settings for more simplified point-and-shoot recording, as commenced by the one touch button just behind the main shutter button.

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Sensor

As the GH2 has a different Four Thirds sensor than other Lumix cameras (this one has more processing power and is a slightly different size to accommodate all aspect ratios, including 16:9 movie, without unnecessary cropping) its readout is of a higher capacity too. This translates into a 24p (progressive) cinema mode, compared to all other Lumix cameras that capture interlaced files.

It also means a 24Mbps data rate, which is on par with that of a professional spec camcorder, and adds that extra depth of quality to final files.

The GH2 also provides a 50 or 60i capture should this be preferable, plus there's a Variable Movie mode that can capture at 80%, 160%, 200% or 300% of usual speed inside the camera (by adding or skipping frames) for a slower motion or sped-up capture. It's an extra wave of creativity, and similarly there's also an Ex Tele Converter mode that uses an exact 1920x1080 pixel section of the sensor for a 3x magnification without quality loss.

Autofocus

Autofocus is super fast when using single focus (AF-S), and the full time autofocus (AF-A) is very smooth and accurate when shifting between subjects. This is the same system as employed in the excellent Lumix G3, though the GH2 does have one distinct downer - the focus area is restricted to a far more central portion of the screen that causes distinct limitations.

Panasonic's AVCHD capture format means movies need to be processed in order to use them outside of the camera, but this keeps file sizes far smaller than they would be otherwise.

Audio

Sound-wise the GH2's built-in stereo microphone captures decent quality audio, though the 2.5mm (again, not the more standard 3.5mm fitting) will have those wishing to use many third party microphones at a loss. Panasonic makes a variety of microphones with the 2.5mm fitting or there are 2.5-3.5mm converters available for little money, though using the latter isn't the most elegant or reliable way of recording.

Video specs

Approx price: £1,049 with 14-140mm kit lens
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds (2x magnification)
Maximum resolution: 1080p capture (1920x1080px)
Frame rate: 24fps (1080p) / 50/60i fields per second also available (output as 25/30fps)
Compression: AVCHD capture (or Motion JPEG at QVGA resolution only)
Audio support: 2.5mm mini audio jack for external microphones
File format: AVCHD format MTS files require decoding; M-JPEG
Exposure mode: Programme mode with real time exposure compensation; Manual mode with real time shutter and aperture control; Aperture & Shutter Priority modes
Focus modes: Full time (AF-C), Subject Tracking, Single (AF-C) and Manual (MF) focus options
Connectivity: HDMI & A/V outs