We’ll start as always with a handheld pan, including a full optical zoom towards the end. The clip starts pointing down at bright reflections on water, which caused no streaking with the GH2’s MOS sensor. As we panned around, the stabilisation did a good job at ironing out most wobbles. Finally towards the end of the clip we zoomed the lens all the way in and back out again. Like all cameras with manual zoom rings, this process is nigh-on impossible to perform handheld without twisting the body, and the result looks pretty bad. To be fair to the GH2 though, the situation is no different on the Sony SLT cameras or indeed any DSLR with video, and in the GH2’s favour it did at least refocus the image quickly and keep it steady once we’d repositioned our grip. We filmed a similar clip moments later with the 14-42mm zoom for comparison – you can view and download it here.
Our second clip was filmed under stricter conditions, mounted on a tripod with a fluid head, smoothly panning from left to right; stabilisation was disabled for this clip. We’ve paused briefly at the start to allow you to frame-grab if desired. We re-filmed this sequence in the GH2’s 24p Cinema mode for comparison, which you can see and download here.
Our fourth clip heads indoors where we put the GH2 into Manual exposure mode, selecting a shutter speed of 1/25 and the maximum aperture of f4, before then adjusting the sensitivity for the desired brightness; in this example, we set the sensitivity to 1600 ISO. The camera was then panned handheld with stabilisation enabled, although we disabled Continuous AF to avoid unnecessary searching. The result seen here is pretty good, without any detrimental noise or banding artefacts, despite the relatively high sensitivity. A good result here for the GH2 under low light with a reasonably high ISO.
Moving on, we wanted to demonstrate the GH2’s continuous autofocusing in action. Our first example below was filmed handheld with the focus point locked to the centre of the frame, and with Continuous AF enabled in the movie menus. We then simply rested the AF area over various subjects in the room to see how quickly and easily the camera would refocus. In practice the Lumix GH2 does a great job, out-performing any other contrast-based AF system we’ve tested to date. There’s a brief period of searching as the camera is pointed at a new subject, but it’s over fairly quickly, and with barely any audible evidence of the lens either. Before getting too carried away with the GH2 though, it’s worth comparing a similar clip filmed with the Sony SLT-A33, which also managed to refocus quickly, albeit with less searching (but more focusing noise).
Next for anyone who missed it earlier on the page we’d like to show you the Lumix GH2’s tap-focusing in action for movies. Here we disabled Continuous AF in the menu, which means the GH2 will only refocus on a subject when you either half-press the shutter release or tap on the screen. The benefit of the latter is you don’t need to recompose the shot so that an AF area rests on the desired subject – simply tap the thing you’d like the camera to refocus itself on. In the video, which was shot in Manual mode at the maximum aperture and a sensitivity of 400 ISO, you can see the camera refocusing on various areas via a simple tap on the screen, and although there’s again a little searching, it’s got to be one of the easiest examples of pulling-focus we’ve experienced.
In the next example we wanted to test the GH2’s continuous autofocusing when it came to tracking a moving subject – in this case a cable car on the Skyline Gondola, steadily approaching. To maximise the challenge we zoomed the 14-140mm all the way to 140mm and selected the maximum aperture in Manual mode. As you can see in the clip, there’s little if anything to fault the GH2 on. The camera and lens successfully track the approaching subject with no visible errors or searching. Indeed it even maintained sharp focus when the cable car was directly alongside, delivering a nice close-up of the bikes. A triumph for the GH2.
Here’s another example of focus-tracking with the 14-140mm when fully zoomed-in, although this time the action is faster. We filmed one of Queenstown’s famous Shotover Jet boats approaching at high speed before performing a 360 degree turn. Again the GH2 impressively kept the action sharp thoughout.
Just before wrapping-up this section, here are a couple of clips to illustrate the Lumix GH2’s new Extra Tele Converter option in action. This takes the Movie Crop mode pioneered by Canon on its recent DSLRs and runs with it to the logical conclusion. The theory goes as follows: most camera sensors sport many more pixels than are required to record a video frame. For example, when set to the 16:9 aspect ratio, the GH2’s sensor features 4976×2800 pixels, but when recording Full HD, only needs a frame measuring 1920×1080 pixels. In practice, most cameras employ the full width of their sensor and ‘bin’ spare pixels to generate the required video resolution, either by throwing away data, or combining adjacent pixels for greater sensitivity.
Canon’s idea was to offer an additional mode which didn’t bin pixels and instead simply recorded the required video resolution from a cropped area in the middle of the frame. This crop effectively magnified the image, but unlike a digital zoom or cropping in software later, it maintained the resolution. It was a great idea, but Canon only implemented it for VGA video. While this maximised the effective magnification, it would have been nice to also offer HD options.
Which is where the Lumix GH2’s Extra Tele Converter comes in, allowing you to apply the same trick, but for 720p and 1080i footage. With Extra Tele Converter enabled and the camera set to 720p, it grabs a 1280×720 pixel frame from the middle of the 4976×2800 pixel sensor, thereby delivering 3.9x magnification. When set to 1080i with its larger 1920×1080 pixel frame, the magnification is obviously decreased, but still represents 2.6x. So with the 14-140mm lens zoomed-into 140mm, the Extra Tele Converter effectively turns it into 364mm for 1080i footage or 546mm for 720p – and remember the Micro Four Thirds format effectively multiplies these by a further two times into 728mm and 1092mm respectively.
Above are two videos filmed moments apart from a tripod with the GH2 and 14-140mm fully zoomed-in. The first shows 1080i footage as normal, while the second shows 1080i footage with the Extra Tele Converter enabled. As always, feel free to download the originals for personal use to confirm the resolution of both is 1920×1080 without any interpolation.
Above are two videos filmed moments apart from a tripod with the GH2 and 14-140mm fully zoomed-in. The first shows 720p footage as normal, while the second shows 720p footage with the Extra Tele Converter enabled. Again the originals confirm the resolution of both is 1280×720 without any interpolation.
The Extra Tele Converter is a really nice feature to have as it effectively magnifies your image without compromising resolution. The only downside is the lack of pixel binning could result in higher noise or more chance of visibly ‘stuck’ pixels, but this aside it’s a useful facility to have at your disposal. Canon users can only hope the company follows-suit and offers HD Movie Crop options in its future DSLRs.
The following videos were filmed with a final production Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2, equipped with a Panasonic H-VS014140 14-140mm kit lens and running firmware 1.0 and 1.4 for the body and lens respectively. The Lumix GH2 was set to its best-quality 1080 / 50i movie mode
Registered members of Vimeo can download the original files by clicking the links below each window; these take you to the Vimeo page where the video is hosted and the link to download the actual file can be found under the ‘About this video’ section in the lower right. We used VLC Player to watch the clips under Windows.
To view sample images taken with the Lumix GH2, please visit our Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Sample Images Gallery.