Please note: Panasonic has not yet finalized the GF2's firmware, meaning that the sample images and video below may not necessarily be indicative of the quality you'll get from the final product.
Panasonic GF2 hands-onSee all photos
Panasonic GF2 sample imagesSee all photos
Whereas the GF1's dimensions sometimes betrayed the fact that it was composed of professional internals downsized to a more portable form factor, the GF2 truly feels like a compact camera, albeit a bulky one. It may seem odd to suggest there's a significant difference between a small pro camera and a large point-and-shoot, but the weight and feel of the GF2 definitely make it easier to handle with just one hand. Its improved ergonomics aren't without compromise, however, as the new GF has dropped the jog dial adorning the top of its elder sibling. We can't yet judge how big a sacrifice that'll be, mostly because we kept the GF2 in its iA fully automatic mode and relegated our own duties to pointing and shooting.
It's worth saying that our sample shots were taken late on an overcast day, yet still the GF2 managed to focus remarkably quickly and generally made the right decisions for us. Startup time is also fabulously fast -- we were able to go from turning the camera on to taking our first shot within about a second -- and the sheer responsiveness of the GF2 makes it a pleasure to operate. The dedicated video button kicks you straight into recording from the moment it's pressed, which makes accessing it an instantaneous and hassle-free affair.
We were taken aback a little by the difficult-to-decipher icons gracing the touchscreen UI when we got into it, but Panasonic has implemented a customizable quick menu where you'll be able to curate your favorite functions and thereby simplify operation. On the whole, we get the feeling that moving to the touchscreen and abandoning the physical dial will make this a less accessible and familiar camera for most, but it also seems that some judicial use of the manual would heal any ailments that arise from this shift. Where the newly responsive 3-inch display really shines is in allowing you to swipe between photos. It requires a firmer touch than your typical smartphone, but it behaved very nicely and there's just something a lot more natural about flicking images with your fingers instead of pushing a button.
The 14mm kit lens is as light as a feather and a little bit smaller than the 20mm pancake unit typically provided with the GF1. We also got our hands on Panasonic's 3D lens (which the GF2 is also compatible with) and it too was light enough to be confused for a component of a toy, rather than semi-pro, camera. Hey, if you can get great image quality from something that doesn't weigh as much as a ripe water melon, more power to you, Panny.
This is a pretty easy one to summarize, really: Panasonic has ticked the major boxes of reducing bulk and including HD video (at 60fps, no less) while seemingly sacrificing little of what made the GF1 such a richly appealing camera in the first place. Our biggest complaint, therefore, has to do with the GF2's January release date -- it's too far away, dammit!