As a birthday present this year I upgraded my old and proven G1 to the new and powerful GH2.

I've got the G1 3 years ago (also as a birthday present from my wife) and it was the first µ4/3 camera on the market. Though it was a promising system most of its potential wasn't realized at that time. It had only two basic lenses and the performance in low light was lousy. But since then the system has come a long way.

Testing low light performance

The main reason why I wanted the GH2 was a new 16 megapixel Panasonic sensor that should have fixed low light performance. While the old sensor was barely able to produce a good picture at ISO 800 the new one promised a perfectly acceptable image at ISO 1600 and a somewhat bearable — at ISO 3200.

Let's see (click for full images):

G1 at ISO 3200, 100% crop
GH2 at ISO 3200, 100% crop

These two images have been shot in a fairly dark room with a tele 45-200 lens at the maximum zoom at the widest possible aperture of 1/5.6 and the slowest shutter speed of 1/13 sec at which I'm still able not to blur the picture while shooting from hands.

All in all I'm pretty impressed with the level of detail that GH2 can manage in these extreme conditions.

Real-world difference

Granted, the previous example, while good for demonstration, is not very real: I could "fix" the problem by just turning on the light in the room :-). However I can remember a couple of recent situations where I really could use a more sensitive sensor.

Look at this shot from the latest DjangoCon. It's blurry because it's hard to shoot moving people from a long distance using 1/6 sec shutter speed. If I could shoot at ISO 3200 back then I could afford a much more forgiving 1/30 sec.

Another example is this whole Christmas lights set. I was shooting from a moving car and anything slower than 1/50 sec was guaranteed to be blurry. And at this speed and ISO 800 all pictures were hopelessly underexposed and required a huge amount of post-processing. And even after that they're still full of noise.

Other improvements

I've only played with GH2 for half a day and didn't do any serious shooting but I already love some new things about it:

Why not Nikon/Canon/Sony… whatever DSLR

Judging by the review at GH2 is pretty similar in quality to, say, Nikon D7000. The price is similar too. But for me the decision was simple: I already have three µ4/3 lenses and changing just a camera body was way cheaper than buying similar lenses for the new system.

Comments: 4

  1. Leonya

    Why shoot in low light with an f/5.6 lens at all? F/1.8 or better and you're set :)

  2. Ivan Sagalaev

    Because it's a tele lens at the long end of its range. It can't open wider than 1/5.6. The kind of lenses that can be wide at long range are not exactly compact or affordable :-).

  3. Dmitry

    Maybe you'll find this useful: GH2 TUTORIAL How to improve low light image quality from iso 12800 and 6400 -

  4. Jesse Brauning

    Hi! I'm just starting a blog about shooting wedding videos with my GH2s. Thought you might be interested. Check it out!

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