As the successor of the G1, the G2 clarifies the Panasonic MFT lines. The GH series (GH1) is the premium Full HD line, while the G series (G1, G2, G10) is more suitable for photographic than video-centric roles, which explains the 720p recording limit on the G2. And it seems the GF series (GF1) is designed to be the smaller, portable models.
While HD video recording might be limited to 720p resolution, the G2 brings something new to the MFT game - touch-screen controls. You can now focus, shoot and change settings right on the touch-sensitive LCD with your fingers, sans button pushing, a first for a Micro Four Thirds camera.
The G2 is hardly the first digital camera on the scene with a touch-screen, but we have to admit to being wary of the idea. We've found it hard to like the few touch-screen cameras we've come across to-date, which suffer from hard to use interfaces. This is why we found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the G2; this is the first digital camera with a touch-screen that's really usable, and adds to the photographic experience instead of taking away from it.
Being used to quick manual AF-point selection on a DSLR, we always miss it on an entry-level camera. But the G2 kind of solves that. While you still don't get a dedicated joystick to change AF points, the touch-screen lets you select a single target point or a cluster of target points. This adds more flexibility to the already impressive auto-focus ability. In fact, the G2 one-ups that ability with a press, focus and shoot in a single move. Activate it by touching an icon, and the next touch on the LCD will focus the camera on that point and shoot it immediately.
Touch controls are also enabled in playback mode, letting you swipe your photos to move them along, or tap to zoom, gestures that should be familiar to any touch-screen mobile phone user.
The moment you align your eyes with the G2's viewfinder, a sensor switches off the LCD and all those touch-controls are gone, requiring a switch back to physical buttons to access your settings. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it just requires a shift in shooting mindset. When shooting, we often wished that Panasonic had made the LCD and viewfinder work in tandem, so that even when we were shooting through the viewfinder, our fingers could work the touch-controls on the large LCD.
Touch AF is responsive and useful, but mainly for still subjects. Even though there's a focus tracking mode, using touch to shoot fast-moving subjects still doesn't cut it, your finger won't track across the LCD as fast as it can depress a shutter button, and your fingers will obscure the scene just as you need to view the action the most. Still, these are little usage model niggles from a DSLR user than technical faults of the G2. We think that the user-friendly touch-screen controls will mostly be welcomed by users upgrading from point and shoot cameras, for the simple reason that touch-shooting is a LCD-shooting experience, and will be more comfortable to consumers who are used to shooting from the LCD compared to DSLR camera users who're accustomed to button mashing from the viewfinder.