Manual controls are sophisticated on the G2, Panasonic has packed as many manual functions onto as few buttons as possible.
Two dials on the left, built on top of each other, let you dictate auto-focus modes. While useful, the buttons are a little small for fast tweaking on the move.
The Mode dial, located on the right, is also stacked (see below). It shares triple duty with a control for shooting modes (single, continuous, bracket, timer) and the Power switch. You'd think the Power switch gets toggled accidentally quite a bit, but no, that doesn't happen.
Video and iA both have dedicated buttons near the shutter release (see above). This is great; with a single touch you can start shooting video without twirling the Mode dial to video mode, and you can turn on iA for easier shooting or handing off to someone. One minus point is how the two buttons are similar in size and closely arranged; with just a difference in size, we've accidentally shot video when just meaning to turn on iA mode.
The dual function dial wheel makes a welcome return (see below). To control a setting like aperture in Aperture mode, simply turn it normally, and to control exposure press down and then turn again. Useful and elegant.
We found the digital viewfinder less bright and sharp than an optical viewfinder. It's fast and bright enough, but you'll have a better experience shooting through the larger LCD. A sensor built right next to the viewfinder piece detects when your face approaches and switches between the two accordingly, which can get annoying if it senses something like a wall and switches off the LCD you're looking at it. Helpfully there's a LVF/LCD switcher button you can activate manually.
Overall, the G2 handles well and its shape sits nicely in the hand with a comfortable grip and weight. The best way we can think of describing how the G2 handles is like a DSLR-shaped camera that wants to be used like a compact. For all the physical controls you can find on its small body, the touch-sensitive controls and easy to use auto functions makes it feel more like a sophisticated compact camera than a toned-down DSLR.