GF1 vs E-P2: Performance
Panasonic GF1 vs Olympus E-P2 review - Performance
With a relatively familiar DSLR-ish layout to both models, there was more than one occasion when I raised the cameras' bodies to my eye, as if an optical viewfinder was going to be present. Of course, as with all Micro System Cameras, this lacks, with only an electronic viewfinder option to fill this gap. Olympus's VF-2 offering (which you will have when purchasing any of the E-P2 kit options) is, as far as EVFs are concerned, a joy to behold. Super-high resolution, with fluid motion and crisp playback - it's one step closer toward making EVFs that bit more acceptable. There's still much work to be done of course, as the experience is nothing near to an optical equivalent. Panasonic's optional DMW-LVF1E offering is a rather pricey bit of kit at £170 and, despite being excellent, it's marginally the weaker performer of the two.
Which leads to the main LCD displays of both models. Despite the GF1 having the higher resolution 460K-dot screen - double that of the E-P2's 230K-dot - it's surprisingly not the stronger performer of the two. The higher definition doesn't win here though as the E-P2's display has a slightly wider viewing angle, is notably more fluid in motion, colours are slightly warmer and the overall feel is less ‘washed-out' than that of the GF1. This is a trait that only really comes to bear when putting any of Panasonic's G-series side by side to other models; in an isolated situation they won't appear to be sub-standard performers.
When it comes to shooting though the GF1 is certainly the winner - it's autofocus is considerably faster and more accurate than the E-P2. Both cameras primarily rely on contrast-detection AF, which bases the area of focus on maximal contrasting-areas. The GF1 is nippy, especially given this form of AF isn't regarded as the fastest available by any means. The E-P2, by contrast (ignore the pun), feels twice as slow and will often focus on a non-subject related focus area. For example, when shooting a church on a flatly-lit day, the autumnal trees to the edges of the image had a higher contrast than the church's off-white stone work, and it was to these edges the AF was drawn - far from where I wanted the focal point to be. Shift either model to Face Detection AF however and things are slightly different, as the camera is utilising facial-recognition algorithms and all available focus areas to locate a face anywhere in the frame for effectively better performance. Exclusively to the GF1 there's a ‘Peripheral Defocus' scene mode too, which allows for a cursor to be moved around the LCD screen for quick and easy pin-point focus. Although this may not be for everyone, it is actually very useful for LCD-based work and highly accurate. Its only downside is that it doesn't work edge-to-edge across the entirety of the screen/sensor, which is a bit of a letdown.
On the video-front too, despite seemingly presenting ‘the same' 720p HD capture, the details separate the two models by some margin. Although both models offer auto- or manual focus and use of zoom lenses during recording, the same ‘over-and-under-focus' prior to attaining crisp focus is captured during the recording; in fact the slower focus of the E-P2 lends itself better to more fluid transitions, despite its lesser-responsiveness. The GF1's AVCHD Lite means recording is compressed using the H.264 codec - deemed the best currently available to maintain picture quality while keeping file size down - and output as a MOV file. By comparison the E-P2 captures Motion-Jpeg output as an AVI file that has a larger file size and is generally deemed as less professional. Furthermore the GF1 captures at 25 frames per second compared to the 30fps of the E-P2 - the higher frame rate doesn't mean the better result however. The 25fps capture is ideal to sync with the 50Hz refresh rate of PAL systems and provides a more pro-appearance than its 30fps cousin, meaning the GF1 is the clear winner in the video department too.
It's great to have lenses from both manufacturers available to fit to either model too, as this doesn't hold any bias one way or the other and, more importantly, opens the potential portfolio of possibility to any user. The Panasonic 14-45mm felt a little stiff at the wider end though, compared to the Olympus 14-42mm which has a much shallower zoom that's smoother and easier to use.