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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 Real-life resolution

 
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To compare real-life performance with kit lenses at their maximum wide angle setting, we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix GF2, the Olympus 'PEN' E-PL2 and the Sony NEX-3 within a few moments of each other. The Lumix GF2 was fitted with the G Vario 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S kit zoom, 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.

The lenses on each camera were set to approximately the same field of view and all three were set to aperture priority mode with the ISO sensitivity manually set to the lowest available setting.

The above image was taken with the Panasonic Lumix GF2 and G Vario 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S kit zoom set to its widest angle setting of 14mm (28mm equivalent.) The camera was mounted on a tripod and the image stabiliser was disabled. We took shots at each aperture setting and chose the one that looked best in quality terms. Reducing the aperture size results in quality improvements as only the central portion of the lens, which is less prone to physical aberrations, is used. Beyond a certain point however the improvement is offset by the effects of diffraction. The best results from all three cameras our test were achieved using an aperture of f5.6. All three cameras were set to use the RAW plus fine JPEG quality setting and the JPEGs were used for these comparisons. The file size of the 4000 x 3000 JPEG from the GF2 was 6.85MB. The crops are taken from the areas marked with red rectangles and are presented here at 100%.

Our test scene usually poses something of an exposure challenge for digital camera sensors, but on this particular day with bright, but overcast weather conditions the scene lacks its usual wide dynamic range. In general use the Lumix GF2's Multiple-metering did a good job of accurately determining exposure and in this test shot it has got it spot on. The histogram extends all the way to the right edge, but there's no clipping. In contrast terms the image looks a little flat, but that's as much to do with the weather conditions as anything. Though it looks a little cool next to the slightly reddish tone of the E-PL2 crops, we reckon the GF2 has made the best job of determining the correct white balance for this scene and the colours are vibrant and well saturated in view of the overcast conditions.

Now let's take a look at the crops. In the first two crops from the GF2 the detail looks a little soft and there's an overall slight noisiness which is apparent both in areas of flat colour and more detailed texture. Edge detail is sharper on the third crop which is from closer to the centre of the frame, but when you get to fourth crop, again from close to the frame edge, the softness is back, with the edges of the window frame looking particularly indistinct. One problem the G Vario 14-42mm kit lens doesn't suffer from, though, is chromatic aberration, there's not a hint of colour fringing anywhere - we believe much of this is down to digital correction in the camera.

Overall we'd say the Olympus E-PL2 has a slight edge over the GF2. The GF2 crops look less contrasty and softer than those from the E-PL2, but they are, at least, correctly exposed. The GF2 crops also look more processed and appear a little noisier. We'd also say that the crops from the Panasonic GF2 lack the consistency of those from the Olympus E-PL2. While the central crop, with the pink scaffolding banners look sharp and punchy, the other three, from closer to the frame edge are all slightly softer.

With a larger sized sensor you might expect the Sony NEX-3 to produce superior result to the micro Four Thirds cameras, and it does, but the differences aren't that marked at least at this lowest sensitivity. Like the GF2, the NEX-3 crops look a little soft and lacking in contrast contrast but, unlike the GF2 crops, they don't look overy processed and that's no doubt due to the superior noise performance of the NEX-3/5's larger sensor as well as processing differences.

What isn't down to the sensor or processing is the quite pronounced colour fringing on the NEX-3 crops. You can see a cyan fringe around the chapel in the top crop, and red fringing around the window on the crop from the other side of the frame. You could almost certainly remove this by processing the RAW file, but look again and you'll notice that these edge crops lack the sharpness, contrast and definition of the central crop. Like the Panasonic Lumix GF2's kit lens, the Sony 18-55mm kit zoom can't match the Zuiko 14-42mm for edge-to-edge consistency.



Panasonic Lumix GF2
 
Olympus E-PL2
 
Sony Alpha NEX-3
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO



Panasonic Lumix GF2: JPEG versus RAW


We photographed the scene pictured below using the Lumix GF2's RAW plus Large Fine JPEG mode, allowing us to directly compare images created from exactly the same data. Below are 100% crops taken from the original JPEG file alongside the RAW version, processd using a trial version of Silkypix Developer Studio 4.0E.

The orginal RAW conversion, produced using the Silkypix default settings (as seen in our Olympus E-PL2 full review outdoor test results page) was very soft compared with the in camera JPEG so for this comparison we increased the demosaic sharpen from its default setting of 60 to 80, selected the Strong contrast preset and the Natural fine sharpening preset.

The result, as you can see from the crops below is a sharper, more contrasty image. In retrospect we should have chosen a less aggressive contrast setting as the Strong contrast preset has resulted in the loss of some highlight detail. A more serious problem though is that our attempts to improve the edge sharpness have produced a noisier result. It looks very much like the Panasonic engineers have actually done the best job possible in producing an in-camera result which strikes a balance between noise suppression and image detail.

In the third column we've added crops from the RAW image shot with the Olympus E-PL2. This file was processd processed with the supplied OlympusViewer 2 1.1 software. For this comparison we turned off the noise filter and increased sharpness to +2. We also managed to eliminate chromatic aberration that was evident in the JPEG by setting the R/C chromatic aberration slider to -66. However the end result is produced, in camera or via RAW processing software, the E-PL2 looks to have the edge. The E-PL2 crops look better to begin with and have more potential for improvement via RAW processing.

Now let's see how they compare at higher sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results.




Panasonic Lumix GF2 JPEG
 
Panasonic Lumix GF2 (RAW)
 
Olympus E-PL2 (RAW)
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 200 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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