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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Ken McMahon, March 2011

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise / Lumix G 14mm Sharpness / Lumix G 14mm vs 14-42mm

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 vs Olympus 'PEN' E-PL2 vs Sony NEX-3 High ISO Noise

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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GF2, Olympus E-PL2, and the Sony NEX-3 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The Panasonic GF2 was fitted with the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S, the E-PL2 with the Zuiko 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II kit lens, and the Sony NEX-3 with 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 OSS kit lens. All three cameras were set to approximate the same field of view.

The above shot was taken with the the Panasonic Lumix GF2 in Aperture Priority mode with the 14-42mm kit lens at its widest angle setting of 14mm (28mm equivalent). The ISO sensitivity was set to 100 ISO and the exposure was 0.8th of a second at f4.5. The crops are taken from the area marked with the red square and presented below at 100%.

The Lumix GF2's CMOS sensor starts out with reasonably good results at the 100 and 200 ISO sensitivities. But even at these low ISO settings there is evidence of noise as well as behind the scenes efforts to supress it. There's good detail in the stone column, but the wood panelling and the organ pipes above have a slight granular look about them. There's also a clear difference between the 100 and 200 ISO crops with the higher sensitivtity looking a little clumpier, so we'd recommend GF2 owners to manually set the sensitivity to 100 and stick with it whenever possible.

The step up to 400 ISO is, in quality terms a small one. Often 400 ISO is where noise really starts to become intrusive, but the GF2's 400 ISO setting is almost as good as its 200 ISO, it's at 800 where the big hit arrives with noise, and processing taking quite a toll on image detail. Despite the grittiness and smearing, though, for smaller prints and screen display 800 ISO is still quite usable. from 1600 to 6400 ISO the noise really does have the upper hand, but the progression is fairly linear with each step getting worse by similar degrees.

As in our outdoor test, we reckon the Olympus E-PL2 has the upper hand in these noise comparisons all the way to 800 ISO. The crops from the Lumix GF2 are softer and show less detail and comparing the 100 ISO Lumix GF2 crop with the 200 ISO crop from the E-PL2 we'd say the Olympus E-PL2 crop is markedly better. The 200 ISO Lumix GF2 crop is not only softer than the equivalent E-PL2 crop, it's also noisier and looks more processed. At the higher sensitivity settings between 1600 and 6400 ISO we also think the Olympus E-PL2 crops have a distinct noise advantage over the GF2.

Like the E-PL2, the results from the Sony NEX-3 at the lower ISO settings are very good indeed, showing no evidence of noise or processing and very clean image detail. But the NEX-3's large sensor advantage means it can continue to produce superior results right the way up the ISO range. In the middle of the sensitivity range from 400 to 1600 ISO the NEX-3 crops are looking markedly superior to those from the GF2, in fact we'd go so far as to say they are at least a stop better, with the NEX-3 1600 ISO crop looking at least as good as the 800 ISO crop from the GF2

If excellent low light performance is high on your list of priorities, it's also worth bearing in mind the the NEX3/5 benefits from two composite modes - Hand-held twilight and Anti-motion blur - designed specifically for producing low-noise reults in low-light situations.

Now check out how the new 14mm pancake prime lens performs, or head over to our Panasonic Lumix GF2 gallery to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Panasonic Lumix GF2
Olympus E-PL2
Sony NEX-3
100 ISO
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200 ISO
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400 ISO
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800 ISO
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1600 ISO
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3200 ISO
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6400 ISO
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12800 ISO Not available
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12800 ISO

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise / Lumix G 14mm Sharpness / Lumix G 14mm vs 14-42mm

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