Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2

Quality

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 vs Olympus ‘PEN’ E-PL2 vs Sony NEX-3 Real-life resolution


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

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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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 G 14mm f2.5 H-H014 lens Real-life sharpness in the corner and centre of the frame


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

Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014)
corner sharpness
 
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014)
centre sharpness
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) corner crop at f2.5
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) centre crop at f2.5
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) corner crop at f2.8
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) centre crop at f2.8
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) corner crop at f4
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) centre crop at f4
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) corner crop at f5.6
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) centre crop at f5.6
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) corner crop at f8
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) centre crop at f8
Now let’s see how the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014) compares against the standard Lumix G 14-42mm (H-FS014042) kit zoom at the 14mm focal length. See our Lumix G 14mm vs 14-42mm results or if you’ve already seen enough, head-on over to our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Sample Images Gallery.

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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To compare real-life sharpness in the corner and centre of the frame, we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 mounted on a Panasonic Lumix GF2 body at all apertures.

The Lumix GF2 was set to RAW to avoid in-camera JPEG corrections; all files were processed in Adobe Camera RAW with lens corrections disabled and the default sharpness settings. Magnified assistance in Live View was used to confirm the focusing.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 lens mounted on a Lumix GF2 body at a sensitivity of 100 ISO. The crops are taken from the areas marked with the red squares for presentation here at 100%.

Starting with the crops from the centre of the image, the Lumix G 14mm delivers pretty good results across its aperture range. Wide open at f2.5, there’s a little softness, but the quality in the middle remains respectable and crisps-up nicely at f2.8 and smaller.

The corners however tell a different story. With the aperture wide-open at f2.5, there’s quite apparent darkening in the corners due to vignetting; this is effectively reduced by in-camera processing, but we’ve shown the uncorrected RAW conversion here to reveal the performance, warts and all. There’s also some softness to the crop.

There’s a noticeable improvement in sharpness and light fall-off when closed even a fraction to f2.8, but it’s still suffering from softness in the corners. The quality improves at f4, again with a boost in sharpness and reduction in vignetting, but this is about as good as it gets. Closing the aperture beyond f4 doesn’t make a significant difference to the sharpness in the corners, and beyond f8 will begin to see the image suffering from diffraction.

It’s a little disappointing not to find an aperture value where the Lumix G 14mm really shines in the corners. As a prime lens, you may have been expecting superior quality, but from this page, it would seem the Lumix G 14mm is more about achieving very compact dimensions and low weight.

So is the quality better or worse than the kit zoom? Find out in our Lumix G 14mm vs 14-42mm results page.

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Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 Real-life sharpness compared to Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 at 14mm


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

Corner sharpness with both lenses at 14mm

Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014)
corner sharpness
 
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f2.5 (H-FS014042)
corner sharpness
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 corner crop at f2.5
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at f2.8 not available
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 corner crop at f2.8
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at f3.5
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 corner crop at f4
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at f4
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 corner crop at f5.6
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at f5.6
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 corner crop at f8
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at f8

Centre sharpness with both lenses at 14mm

Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 (H-H014)
centre sharpness
 
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f2.5 (H-FS014042)
centre sharpness
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 centre crop at f2.5
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 centre crop at f2.8 not available
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 centre crop at f2.8
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 centre crop at f3.5
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5centre crop at f4
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 centre crop at f4
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 centre crop at f5.6
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 centre crop at f5.6
     
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 centre crop at f8
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 centre crop at f8
Now let’s see more real-life images in our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Sample Images Gallery.

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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To compare real-life sharpness in the corner and centre of the frame, we shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 and Lumix G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lenses mounted on a Panasonic Lumix GF2 body at all apertures. The Lumix G 14-42mm was adjusted to 14mm to deliver the same field-of-view.

The Lumix GF2 was set to RAW to avoid in-camera JPEG corrections; all files were processed in Adobe Camera RAW with lens corrections disabled and the default sharpness settings.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 lens mounted on a Lumix GF2 body at a sensitivity of 100 ISO. The crops are taken from the areas marked with the red squares for presentation here at 100%.

On the previous page we saw how the Lumix G 14mm performed in the centre and corners at various apertures. On this page we’ll see how it compares against the 14-42mm kit zoom, when the latter is set to 14mm.

Starting with the corner crops first, the Lumix G 14mm kicks-off the sequence at f2.5 where it delivers an image which is relatively dark and soft in the corners. On the second row of crops we’ve stopped the 14mm down slightly to f2.8 and shown it alongside the kit zoom at its widest aperture of f3.5. Here there’s very little between them in quality with similar degrees of corner softening and darkness.

With both lenses set to f4, the 14mm prime enjoys a small benefit in sharpness in the corners compared to the 14-42mm kit zoom, but you’ll have to pixel-peep to really see it. Interestingly at f5.6, the situation swaps, with a minor sharpness advantage to the kit zoom, but again it’s fairly subtle.

The 14-42mm kit zoom remains slightly ahead of the 14mm prime at f8 in terms of corner sharpness, giving it an overall lead, although again not by a huge margin.

Moving onto the centre crops (lower on the page) there’s effectively no difference between the two lenses in terms of sharpness and contrast – both essentially deliver the same quality in the middle of the frame throughout their aperture ranges.

Looking at these results you may be a little disappointed by the new 14mm prime, as many expect fixed focal length lenses to always out-perform zooms, especially kit zooms. But here you can see both the Lumix G 14mm and 14-42mm delivering very similar results, and in some cases, the latter actually slightly out-performing it. There’s also not much benefit in terms of maximum aperture either, with the f2.5 only offering one extra stop over the f3.5 of the zoom at 14mm – and remember in terms of using slow shutter speeds, the zoom enjoys three stops of optical stabilisation compared to none at all on the prime.

So with similar optical quality, no stabilisation and just one stop advantage in light-gathering power, the only real benefit the Lumix G 14mm has over the kit zoom is size and weight. But measuring just 20.5mm thick and weighing only 55g, it really is a tiny lens. Mount it on the already compact GF2 and you’ve got yourself the smallest compact with a large sensor and built-in flash.

So don’t buy the Lumix G 14mm hoping for better quality than the kit lens, or you’ll end up disappointed. This prime is all about minimising size and weight while maintaining the quality of the already respectable kit zoom. As such it comes recommended to any Micro Four Thirds owner who desires the smallest possible lens for portability, and understands it won’t be out-performing the kit zoom on quality. You can’t have everything, and the job of the Lumix G 14mm is to make the GF2 look and feel like the smallest operational EVIL camera on the shelves – and they certainly make a very portable combination.

Now let’s see more real-life images in our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2 Sample Images Gallery.

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


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

 
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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
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100 ISO not available
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200 ISO
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400 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
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