Over the past few weeks since I brought my new Panasonic Lumix GF2 Micro Four Thirds camera I’ve been testing it out around Hong Kong, mostly in the evenings and weekends. One of the key features I’ve been playing with is the video mode which shoots full 1080i HD at 25 fps. Below is a quick video I shot on the tram from North Point (北角) to Western Market (西港城) one night:

I hope you enjoyed that quick spin through the city (to see it in HD you’ll need to watch it directly on Vimeo) Below are my quick impressions of the GF2:

Pros

  • Video output is generally very good, even in low light conditions as in my test. Colours are vibrant and well exposed with minimal noticeable noise. Even when shown on large HD displays the image still looks sharp and clear.
  • The touchscreen acts as smart ‘pull-focus’ system that allows you to point at the area you want to focus on while shooting and it’ll automatically refocus.
  • The internal stereo mic is much better than the mono microphones found on previous models. Although you can’t connect an external mic there is a wind-cut filter to reduce unwanted background noise.

Cons

  • Since the 20mm F1.7 pancake lens doesn’t have OIS image stabilization you’ll need a stable platform to shoot on otherwise the output can appear quite shaky. I used an ever-versatile GorillaPod to attach the camera to the window of the tram above.
  • iMovie does not directly support importing the AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition) .MTS format so you will need to convert the raw footage using a transcoder like the wonderful Handbreak (free). For big files this can take hours and even on a relatively new MacBook Pro editing 1080i raw footage can be a tortuously slow process – I ended up down-encoding to 720p to make things more manageable.
  • If you’re shooting on a moving platform you may want to turn off auto-focus as I found out above when it would sometimes struggle to maintain focus while moving at speed.

Despite its drawbacks generally I found video mode to perform very well and more than adequate for my (admittedly amateur) needs. I’ve shot a lot more footage around Hong Kong which I’m currently editing into a short film which I hope to release in the next few weeks.

Comments

  1. Rob Groeneweg says:

    Nice video, although one has to keep in mind that it is essentially a still photo camera. I just recently bought a Panasonic Lumix TZ8 travel came4ra. I am impressed with the picture quality and specially of pictures with white and black parts in the scene that come out extremely well. In the past I used to carry around a SLR camera (with film, no digital), and lately I took 2 digitalm camera’s with me , a small Canon Ixus 850 and a Nikon Coolpix in case I wanted some sharper images and a longer lens. But with this Lumix TZ8 I just put 1 camera in my pocket and can catch almost any scene. Although of course the new digital SLR’s gives you much more options, but size outweighs options for me.

    • David says:

      Thanks for your comment Rob. Like you I also used to lug around an SLR but eventually realised I got much more use out of a compact than I did the bulkier option so switched over completely.

      To my mind we’re slowly seeing the convergence of photo and video technology into increasingly small packages like the Panasonic GF2, Sony NEX, and Olympus PEN. Panasonic are definitely top of the game right now and I imagine in the next few years we’ll see further convergence as smaller cameras gain more professional features and mobile phones become the default for taking normal snaps.

  2. That was a lot of fun to watch! Thanks for bringing that to us, I don’t know if we’ll ever get to take a trip to Hong Kong. So it was great to get a small ‘snapshot’ of normal city life like that. I think you’re on to something: high speed video tours of travel destinations set to music.

    Good to watch in full screen video too. Also, great that you shot it while the streets were wet, like that old Hollywood trick – spray down the streets to make a more vibrant and dramatic scene.

    Who was the music by if I may ask? That too was another great thing about it – matched the scene well.

    • David says:

      Hi James – funny you should mention about spraying down the streets – my uncle, who’s a lighting director, taught me that trick and it definitely makes a big difference. I specifically waited for a gap in the rain that evening before catching the tram!

      The music is by Nujabes ft. Shing02 – Luv (sic) pt.2, a Japanese DJ who sadly died last year: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nujabes

  3. Eric says:

    Absolutely amazing David.
    Your camera is fairly expensive though! It sells in amazon for $700 in the USA
    I had a question about buying a camera to take videos.
    Does the MP effect the video quality?

    • David says:

      Hi Eric – thanks for your comment!

      If by MP you’re referring to mega pixels then the answer is no, it doesn’t effect the video quality. The main thing you want to be looking for is the quality of the lens and the way the video is being compressed. Even the cheaper Panasonic handhelds have good Leica lenses which seems to make a difference. The best thing to do is to check out some video samples on a review site before making a purchase.

  4. youna says:

    hi! i have a question.. it may sound stupid but, what the heck! im just new to this camera and im not that familiar with its functions.. so, here goes: how do you turn off the self-timer of gf2? because all i can see in the self timer menu is 10s, 3/10s, and 2s.. there is no off button.. please help.. thanks!

    • David says:

      Hi Youna – there are four main options for shoot mode: single, burst, auto bracket, and self timer. Simply press the bottom button of the four-way wheel (under Menu/set) then press the left button until single is selected. Hope this helps!

      • youna says:

        it really helped. thank you very much David! you’re such a great help! again, thanks!

        • Vitaly says:

          Thanks a lot. It works also for gf3! A really counterintuitive feature in Lumix user interface.

  5. sharon says:

    cool video… i happened to pass by a camera store and shoot a glance at girlfriend 2. They must it with 14mm and 14-42mm set, no choice. I’m considering getting one if i find some place that sell with 14mm only :) I’m not that into zoom lens ~~

    • David says:

      Yeah, I just got the fixed pancake lens set – you should be able to pick one up in Fortress (many around HK). :)

  6. grier dill says:

    I just shot a bunch of video on my trip to south east asia exclusively on the GF2 and it all turned out really awesome.

    It was for a music video for my band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjGU2QVDnV8
    (be sure to watch HD version for better representation of the quality)

    Not a lot of video examples from the GF2 online but i think this one shows the versatility.

    • Jose says:

      This music video you made what kind of lense did you use. I have the GF2 with 14mm & 14-42 mm lenses and never tried to use the video. Yours was so good and shows how versatile the camera is and i will try it for the next couple of days. Did you use any software to edit it that compatible to the camera? Thanks

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