What we ordered
Wrestler photo: 12x16in C-Type Fuji Crystal Archive Gloss paper in a 1.6in black frame with a 2in white window mount £117
Snail photo: 12x16in Kodak Pro Ultra Endura Gloss paper in a 0.8in black frame with a 2in white window mount £77
The order process
The website is quite busy, so it pays to take your time so you don’t miss anything. There are seven frame options in a number of colours, four window mount colours and four glass options at different prices. All uploaded images have the same options applied automatically and only need to be added to the basket individually. If you want different frames etc, apply options to each image and then add to the basket. If you need any extra help there are a number of guides in the FAQ section of the website covering pretty much everything you’ll need to know.
Print quality can’t be faulted, with sharp, colour cast-free results. We tried both Kodak and Fuji C-Type papers, and they both looked great. The print wasn’t mounted as tightly as it could have been, so the paper wasn’t 100% flat – not easy to see on a wall but noticeable when the photo is viewed at an angle.
The general quality of the frames is very good but we were surprised that the back of the frames weren’t sealed like some of the other bespoke services. The fixtures are robust and will support the frame on two screws fixed into a wall.
The ordering process suffered from a cluttered website, so you really have to take your time to make sure everything is as you want it. The visual representation of framed images is a welcome feature. Considering the snail photo’s printing and framing only cost £77, we were very impressed with the quality of the overall product, but would have liked to see flatter prints in the mount. But overall, a very good job.
What we ordered
Wrestler photo: 12x16in C-Type Fuji Crystal Archive Gloss paper in a thin black frame with a 2in white window mount £119
Promenade shelter photo: 12x16in plus 5mm white border Kodak Metallic C-Type paper in a wide white frame with a 2in white window mount £160
The order process
Online orders take around five minutes for a single photo. However, if you’re uploading a number of exhibition prints you can apply the same paper and framing options to all. The website is clearly laid out with drop-down menus and tabs for print, framing and mounting. As each option is added the image summary and price is updated. If you’re unsure of any parts of the process there are a number of how-to videos on the website.
Digital C-Type prints are based on traditional colour printing and image quality is excellent. Both our prints were perfectly sharp, with no colour casts or image break-up. We had our prints made on two different C-Type papers, but there were also 11 C-Type and Giclée papers to choose from.
The bespoke frames are both finished to a high standard, with clean, solid corners and well-mounted photos within – the telling areas when it comes to framing. The backs of the frames are sealed to stop dust entering, and both feature a D-ring and cord fixture.
The online ordering process can’t be faulted, although frame options when ordering from the web are limited to six. However, simply put ‘Hold framing’ in the comment box of your order and they’ll contact you to discuss specific requirements. The main drawback of this service was the difficulty of viewing frames during the order process to check fine detail. The tutorial videos were very helpful, along with the sample paper pack you can order. Overall we were very happy with the high quality of printing, framing and overall service.
What We Ordered
From Anne Herbert we went for a 24x16in Acrylic Sandwich Block print, opting for a 12mm thick front section.
Scanning through the impressive list of printing options on the Anne Herbert website, we quickly found the Acrylic Sandwich Block print. Ready to order, we hit the ‘Click Here to Buy’ button, which whisked us off to a product selection page where we choose the product’s thickness, print style and size. There was a selection of default sizes, or the option to input our own custom dimensions (in either cm or inches) using the Custom Size calculator on the same page. While inputting our custom dimensions, we were provided with a sub-total (excluding VAT and P&P) – a great feature for anyone trying to stick to a budget. We then uploaded our chosen image to the website and proceeded to payment. The entire ordering process took no longer than 15mins, thanks to the well designed website and the clearly labelled on-screen instructions.
Arriving safe and sound in a mass of bubble wrap, our sample print was far from featherweight. Luckily, though, on the reverse side, Anne Herbert includes four solid hanging brackets – one in each corner – to keep it well fastened to the wall. The clarity and general finish of the Acrylic Sandwich Block was stunning, with no warping or imperfections to distort the image beneath. The print itself looked fantastic too, with a great level of contrast and colour retention.
Going for a large 24x16in print did rack up the price somewhat, taking our total to £202 – including £10 for post and packing.
This Acrylic Sandwich Block offers a high-end printing solution and is fine for use in kitchens and bathrooms as the print is encapsulated and moisture resistant. Smaller sizes will reduce the cost a great deal – for example, an A4 version is a more affordable £114 (inc postage).
£202 (inc £10 P+P)
What We Ordered
We placed an order for a large 18x24in Rembrandt Frame Canvas print, finished with black edges, mounted within a Wenge (dark wood) frame, complete with hanging brackets (at £1.50).
Placing an order is quick and easy, and took just 15 minutes. We chose our product from a vast catalogue of printing styles, then logged into the site using our account details (if you don’t already hold an account with The ImageBox, it’s very easy to create one by entering a desired username, picking a password and adding a valid email address). Once logged in, we finalised the specifics of the print by choosing a canvas size, canvas edge colour and frame colour.
The ImageBox also provides a creative image effects service, which lets you apply a choice of Black & White, Sepia or a Splash colour-pop effects (the latter at £10) to your work and all of the options are selected by a clearly labelled tick box or drop-down menu. Most of them include a display image, too, so you can see exactly what you’re ordering. With all the options selected, all that was left to do was upload our image file, before final purchase.
There’s no denying that the Rembrandt frame is strikingly different from your typical print option, but the idea of mounting a traditional canvas print inside a sleek modern frame is something that clearly works. The canvas print quality on our sample was top-notch, with colours remaining faithful to the original digital image that we submitted. The canvas itself had a prominent but pleasing texture to it, and in general felt taut and securely fastened within its sturdy outer frame.
Price: Our large 18x24in choice came to an affordable £74.95, which includes £5.95 for post & packing.
If you’re after a truly alternative method of displaying your work, this Rembrandt frame canvas is a great choice – its combination of the classic and the modern fitting in nicely in any period of home.
£74.95 (inc £5.95 P+P)
What We Ordered
We chose to print our photo on a 24x16in aluminium backing and topped it off with a simple matte finish.
The Photo Lab section of WhiteWall’s site offers Mountings, Framings and Prints subsections, the former of which led us to the option for our Original Photo Print on Aluminium backing service.
Helpfully, there was a short video clip that displayed the finish of the service we’d selected and beside this was a price calculator used to give an initial estimation of how much our 24x16in print would cost – both of which impressed us. The upload process was issue-free, with our image displayed on a preview screen containing options to adjust the size or crop of the picture before it was added to the basket. We were then guided through the delivery and payment options and the whole process from upload to ordering took less than 10 minutes – a very respectable time. If you’re a returning customer, the website will remember your details and make the process even faster next time around.
Our print arrived superbly packaged and very well protected to prevent damage in transit. Once the plastic wrap and corner protectors had been removed it revealed a flawless print with excellent colour reproduction. All edges were neatly trimmed and the two large aluminium brackets on the back made it ready for hanging on the wall, straight out of the box.
Our 24x16in print came to a subtotal of £44, with delivery to the UK costing an extra £19.80, so we finished up with a total cost of £63.80.
We were thoroughly impressed by the ordering interface, delivery speed and final product from WhiteWall, so if you’re looking for a first-class finish, this stylish Aluminium mount certainly fits the bill. Plus, the printing process means it’s water-resistant and therefore a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms.
£63.80 (inc £19.80 P+P)
What We Ordered
We opted for a Lambda C-Type print onto 24x20in Fuji Crystal archive paper on an MDF block mount. We also chose to have our print laminated for extra protection and with a matte finish (at £10), before the whole thing was mounted onto 18mm thick MDF board with the edges painted black. To finish, two secure hanging brackets (at £7) were also attached to allow for hanging straight out of the box.
After we’d chosen our desired print size, print type and mount choice from the Genesis-Digital extensive catalogue, we placed our order. This can be done in a few different ways, either by phone, post, email or by direct upload through the website. We chose the latter option and uploaded our print image, along with full details of our order, via the provided form. As part of the bespoke ordering process, Genesis-Digital ask its customers to contact them directly at the end of the ordering process to discuss details, such as hanging brackets, laminate options and final payment, which we did, finding the process quite reassuring.
The print arrived with multiple layers of protective padding and we were impressed with just how well the colour tones had held, showing a clear, attractive finish. Flipping the picture over revealed a slightly messy backboard where excess black paint from the edges had bled onto the rear MDF surface, but when hung up, this wasn’t noticeable at all, thanks to the clever sunken brackets that allowed it to sit flush to the wall.
With all of our additional extras added together, it brought the total cost of our print to £120.80 - including a £20 post and packing charge.
This MDF block mount is a simple, attractive and contemporary method of printing, which is suitable for almost any image type or style of house.
£120.80 (inc £20 P+P)
What We Ordered
For our sample, we placed an order for a 24x16in print mounted within a beech floating frame and finished with a simple and understated black paint job.
On The Digital Room’s website, we were greeted with a list of services, including canvas prints, MDF block mounts and floating frames. Once we’d made our print selection, we were asked to upload our chosen image for an onscreen preview before proceeding. We then chose the finer details, such as canvas size, frame material, frame colour and any additional creative effects we wanted adding to our work.
For the floating frame, we were given the choice between an ash or beech frame construction. Ash frames are made to order and can take up to 21 days to complete, whereas beech frames are ready-made and held in stock and as a result have a much quicker turnaround of just 5-10 working days. They’re also slightly cheaper, but sizes are more limited.
Finally, we were given a selection of frame finishes, with a choice of black, dark brown, brushed white or natural, before proceeding to checkout for final payment.
Our print was extremely well packaged, with thick polystyrene blocks and foam wrap keeping it safe from harm. Our sample had bright, vibrant colours, which really impressed us and the narrow frame really made our picture stand out. The frame was lightweight but sturdy and construction was close to perfection, with the beech edging featuring an attractively deep grain and texture. All four corners were neatly sealed using brown paper tape which added up to a professional finish.
Our pre-constructed beech frame took our total to £116.16, including £7.63 for post and packing.
If you’re looking for a sleek, minimalist way to display your work, The Digital Room’s Floating Frame is just the thing - a very classy looking high-quality product.
£116.16 (inc £7.63 P+P)
What We Ordered
We went for a 24x16in traditional canvas print at 1in in depth and a gallery wrap that continues the photo onto the edges.
We ordered our canvas online in three easy steps. First we decided which style of canvas we wanted, from a choice of a standard, triptych, multi-panel split and more. We then uploaded our chosen image and, using the on-screen visual as a guide, decided the size and depth of the canvas, along with a wrap finish. As a free extra, Photo-Canvas provides the option to add a creative finish to your work, including Black & White and Sepia, or there’s 1 Colour Splash (a pop-colour effect at £9). Plus you can print a personal message or website URL on the back of your canvas for an added £1.99.
At the checkout, Photo-Canvas provided the option to leave a mobile phone number and contact details with the order, which turned out to be a good idea, as it allowed a member of the quality control team to contact us via text-message, alerting us to the fact that an email had been sent regarding a small issue with our print image. This good service allowed us to deal with the problem quickly and efficiently.
Our sample arrived the very next morning after purchase, and came well packaged with a plastic wrap covering the canvas, protecting it from dust and dirt. One of the trickiest things to perfect on a canvas print is the corner folds. If done poorly, it’s a surefire way to make your work look slapdash, but Photo-Canvas has perfected this, providing some of the tidiest corners we’ve seen. As for the canvas itself, colours were bright, vibrant and retained good levels of contrast, with no sagging.
Our single canvas print was priced at a competitive £59, with free next-day delivery (mainland UK only). It also came packed with a hanging kit thrown in.
This traditional canvas print is an attractive buy, suited to almost any type of imagery, and a great value-for-money option.
£59 (inc FREE P+P)
Why is it essential? Keeping your lenses and filters dust free will save you the time and effort of having to remove unsightly spots from your shots later on
Key features: Made from soft microfibre cloth, it makes quick work of removing dirt from the front and rear elements of your lenses. It can also be used as a lens filter wrap, able to store up to three filters to prevent them from getting scratched.
Ease of use: Simply wipe away dirt from your lenses without the need for other cleaning agents.
Price: At just £7, it makes sense to stock up on a couple.
Conclusion: A cheap but effective way of keeping your lenses clean, and a handy piece of kit to have in your bag.
Why is it essential? The Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blower provides an effective way to rid your gear of dust.
Key features: Made from non-toxic material, the rocket shaped blower is resistant to both high and low temperatures and is tear-proof. The air valve on the bottom also prevents dust being inhaled back into the main chamber.
Ease of use: When squeezed, it emits a gust of air, dislodging dust from your equipment and the nozzle can be removed, shortening it for storage.
Price: At a bargain price of just £10, you really can’t go wrong.
Conclusion: Compact and hard-wearing, the Rocket Air Blower is a cost effective way of keeping your kit dust-free.
Why is it essential? There are four main types of plug socket used worldwide, and having to purchase a different adapter for each type can be expensive – and take up valuable space in your suitcase or camera bag. Fujifilm’s all-in-one package packs four different plug adapters into one clever little gadget for you.
Key features: The adapter includes an American flat two-pin, an Australian flat two-pin, a European rounded two-pin, and a British three-pin. It also comes packed with an additional top section that slots into the unit, providing power for two USB sockets – ideal for charging a smartphone or MP3 player with a compatible lead.
Ease of use: Each pin arrangement slides out individually from the unit using levers on the side. When not in use, they retract, sheltering them from damage and making the unit much easier to store.
Price: For £25 it’s great value for money considering it’s essentially five products in one.
Conclusion: A vital space-saving piece of kit that’s worth its weight in gold if you’re planning on travelling to different places.
Why is it essential? If you’re a snap-happy photographer and find yourself quickly filling up memory cards, or you want access to your image library on the move, then a portable hard drive for your laptop is a great addition, letting you back up shots and free-up space.
Key features: Within the slim aluminium casing is a hard drive with a massive 1TB capacity (930GB when plugged in) – more than enough for several holidays! Adopting the most recent USB 3.0 technology, it can transfer data up to an impressive speed of 5Gigabits a second (600MB/sec), which is more than 10x faster than its USB 2.0 predecessor (480Megabits or 60MB/sec), but is also backwards compatible, fully supporting USB 2.0 transfer, which is good news for anyone who owns an older system.
Ease of use: Setup takes seconds; simply connect the included USB cable to your PC and you’re ready to go and power is supplied to the unit via the USB port on your computer, removing the need for an additional dedicated power cable. Not only that, but its tiny frame (measuring just 75 x 118.5 x 13.4mm) means the whole thing fits easily in almost any size of camera bag.
Price: At £109, it’s an affordable drive that’ll easily store all your prized shots.
Conclusion: Lightning-fast data transfer, huge amounts of storage space, and a robust but compact frame make the LaCie Rikiki the ideal travel partner for photographers.
For this test we used Photobox’s Poster Prints and Pro Poster Prints, printed on Fujifilm Crystal Archive paper in a gloss finish, as this was where the sizes we needed sat in the range. We found the site straightforward and easy to navigate. You first need to sign up for an account, but make sure you unclick Optimize Image in the Preferences to avoid any colour cast on your black & white prints. From here on, you choose the size before you upload and will then be given options to rotate or adjust any cropping and a warning will appear if your photo is too small for the print size chosen.
Within three days, we had our prints. They arrived in a roll tube, protected with packing paper to stop movement and a covering of Photobox branded paper to protect the prints, too.
We noticed on the 16x20in print that the cut was not flush (there was a millimetre or so of white edge on one corner), but the print quality itself was decent, with no colour cast. Blacks were deep and rich, and the mid-tones maintained a good level of contrast, but the highlights suffered a little, and began to lose detail.
£27.71 for 3 prints & postage
To place our order we first downloaded One Vision’s Remote Ordering Entry System interface (ROES) and while this was rather complicated to use, it did give more control. The ROES system also offers advanced options such as vignette, colour correction, specialist finishes and artistic borders (we chose a lustre finish on Fuji Professional DP paper). To use this system you need to contact One Vision for a customer number, after which you can access your collections through the interface and bring up the photographs you want to print – this certainly makes it easy to reorder in the future.
Our prints arrived in two days in a roll tube, wrapped with packing paper and held in place by a wedge of more packing paper. Due to the thin tube and tight fit, the prints were quite curled but they displayed good toning in the shadows and mid-tones with the highlights just beginning to lose detail. We did notice a slight warm magenta cast creeping into some of them and some scratches or scores, which may have come from the exit rollers on the print machine. The prints had a really cleanly cut edge, though, and One Vision’s prices will suit all wallets.
£20.35 for 3 prints & postage
Simlab offers a streamlined print-only service and we found the site very simple and easy to navigate. For prints over 16x16in you have to go via the large format options and add them separately. With only one paper offered we went for the lustre finish on Fuji Professional DPII paper and completed our order.
Simlab only offers courier delivery at a flat rate of £5, and our prints arrived the next day, which was the fastest of all the labs. We received a large roll tube clearly labelled with a ‘Fragile’ sticker and sealed with plastic caps. Unlike the other labs, though, the prints came with no protection inside the tube making it quite difficult to get them out without touching the print itself.
There was some creasing to one image in two corners and a rough edge to the cut. The handling of the tonal range was good however – one of the best here – with strong mid-tones and detail maintained in the highlights and shadow areas. There was a noticeable colour cast on the largest print, while all the prints displayed very clear detailing. An affordable and fast service from Simlab.
£19.38 for 3 prints & postage
The Digitalab interface is very straightforward; you choose a size and upload your photos, then pick from a range of papers and finishes. We went for Fuji Crystal Archive Professional paper with a matte finish as no semi-gloss was offered, but other options include canvas wraps and fine-art surfaces. There’s an Edit tab where you can crop your photo to size if needed, although the options for prints of sizes over 18x12in are in a different section to smaller prints. This makes the process of creating your order a little more time-consuming, but it is understandable as the larger prints are output on a different type of printer to the smaller options.
Our prints took two days to arrive. The roll they came in was sealed with parcel tape (but lacked end caps) and the prints themselves were nicely cushioned with Bubble Wrap for added protection. One print had a few scratches on the bottom-right corner, however. There was a slight colour cast present on two of the prints, but they showed great tones, nice clean edges and held detail well across the tonal range.
£28.53 for 3 prints & postage
CMYK imaging has 14 papers to choose from, including fine-art, fibre-based, and resin coated with matte, gloss, or pearl finishes so you’re spoilt for choice. We chose a fine-art pearl for this test. The upload process, while looking very sleek, does take a bit of effort to navigate, but once you get used to it, it’s plain sailing. At the top of the page, a guide tells you how far along you are and how many steps are left to go. Once you’ve uploaded you’re presented with options to choose print size, paper type, finish and colour (select Black & White on the Colour option here, as it will help the lab produce neutral tones in your print).
Once our order was placed we waited five days for delivery – not unreasonable. Our prints arrived in a narrow roll tube packed in Bubble Wrap. Each print was individually wrapped in packing paper, but the prints were so tightly rolled they were difficult to keep flat and needed more flattening than others before display.
Print quality was outstanding and prints were cleanly cut. There was no noticeable colour cast and each had a good tonal range, holding excellent detail in the highlights, but while shadow tones were rich they didn’t hold quite as much detail as some of the other labs.
£42.60 for 3 prints & postage
Ilford Lab Direct specialises in black & white printing and uses a B&W silver gelatin paper, claiming a truly neutral print. Its site is uncluttered, simple and easy to navigate, with a quick upload service, an upload tutorial, and monitor calibrations with a test print on offer if needed. Once uploaded we were given options to set the border, crop, finish and file optimization, which offers an auto correction to density and contrast (leave this off if your photos have been edited previously). The software allows you to choose each size separately; this size and setup can then be applied to any number of prints and added to your basket and there’s a handy traffic light signal warning if you choose a print size too large for your image to scale to.
Our prints took two days to turn up, arriving in a roll tube, secured at each end with plastic stoppers and sealed with parcel tape. Bubble Wrap prevented movement within the tube and the prints inside were further protected by packing paper and taped to keep them together. Print quality was excellent with a sharp cut, no colour cast and a faithful reproduction of tones. The highlights did start to lose some detail, but mid-tones and shadows were remarkably good.
£42.95 for 3 prints & postage
Digital Photo Silver Award
Panasonic’s flagship camera – the Lumix GH2 – features the highest resolution of any Micro FourThirds camera, but in what areas does it differ from the GH1 and G2? We find out…
Before we dive right into the technicalities and performance of the GH2, let’s recap how we got to Panasonic’s fourth member in the Lumix G System in less than as many years...
The G-Series journey began with the 12.1Mp Micro FourThirds G, which offered the practicality of an interchangeable lens system in a compact body resembling a typically-shaped D-SLR. Five months later the GH1 arrived with a 14Mp sensor offering a maximum 12.1Mp output. This was targeted at consumers keen on recording video as well as stills, and offered a maximum video resolution of 1280x720@30fps or 1920x1080@25fps. Of significant note was the way it supported active autofocus in video mode, a relatively new conception at the time. Then along came the G2, a development on the Lumix G1 with touchscreen technology and a refined button arrangement, but it didn’t outclass the GH1’s video capabilities and only supported 720p recording.
Panasonic’s latest G model is now the GH2. Designed to deliver the best still and video quality of any Lumix camera to date, let’s check out the camera’s key features and build quality.
Features & Build
Rather than inheriting a 12Mp sensor from a previous G-series model, the GH2 features an all-new 18Mp sensor that offers a 16Mp effective pixel output. The combination of the new sensor and an all-new Venus Engine FHD processor enables the GH2 to process larger volumes of data more quickly and allows it to record HD video at a maximum resolution of 1920x1080. Movies can be saved in either the AVCHD or Motion JPEG format, but with the latter you’re restricted to shooting at 1280x720@30fps.
As a stills camera, the GH2 looks almost identical to the G2 on first glance but under closer inspection it’s marginally taller and features a rubberised grip that gives it a more secure feel in the hand compared with previous Lumix models. The addition of the new sensor not only increases the megapixel count, it has also broadened the ISO range, with the new processor improving the GH2’s frames-per -second burst rate.
ISO spans from 160-12800 compared to 100-3200 on the GH1. It’s also capable of shooting continuously at 5fps at full resolution, or up to 40fps in 4Mp recording mode. The Vari-angle screen at the rear supports LiveView and retains the 3in size and 460k-dot resolution from its Lumix predecessors. The main screen improvement is the touchscreen technology lifted from the G2 that allows you to control Q.Menu variables if you don’t fancy using the D-Pad buttons, and you can choose the area of focus or the size of your focus point by simply tapping or touching the screen. There’s even the option of firing the shutter using the screen alone!
A stereo microphone is fitted to the top of the pop-up flash, in front of the hotshoe, and a 2.5mm mini stereo jack is found to the side, but you may need a 2.5mm–3.5mm socket adapter if you want to use it with an external microphone.
The supplied 14-140mm lens is available in kit form and supports the continuous AF/AE function of the GH2’s contrast-detect AF system. It produces a versatile 28-280mm focal length in 35mm film terms and is specially made for HD video with a direct-drive linear motor that’s designed to offer a smooth and silent operation throughout its focal range. The GH2, like the GH1, won’t accept standard FourThirds lenses so if you’re planning on using it with other FourThirds optics you’ll need the optional DMW-MA1PP adapter.
Still images are captured in the native 4:3 FourThirds aspect and there’s the option of shooting at 3:2, 16:9 or in a square format. Like the G1, GH1 and G2, JPEG and RAW formats are featured, with the latter captured in the Panasonic RW2 format.
Performance & Handling
The GH2 is a comfortable camera to hold, but has a fractionally smaller grip than most entry-level D-SLRs. Button arrangement is very similar to the G2, with a large mode dial offering M,S,A,P shooting modes and iA Intelligent Auto mode. Next to the mode dial there are two switches within easy reach of the thumb and index finger to control On/Off operation, Continuous Shooting, Exposure Compensation and Self-timer. Like the GF2 it has a superb command dial at the rear to make rapid exposure changes in Manual mode but we preferred the movie-record button on the GH1; it used to be in easy reach of the thumb, whereas the GH2’s is on top of the top-plate, which doesn’t feel comfortable or as well-positioned.
The dedicated AF mode dial on the left-hand side of the top-plate is brilliant for making quick changes, but when you use the GH2’s touchscreen to select the AF point in 1-area AF or Face Detection mode you’re restricted to moving it within more or less the central area of the frame.
AF tracking performed exceptionally well in our tests; it tracked moving subjects with relative ease and the continuous AF system offered an impressive lock-on speed that showed minimal signs of hunting and proved to be particularly helpful when recording HD videos. The three metering modes – Multi, Centre-Weighted and Spot – can be accessed from the menu system or alternatively at the bottom left of the touchscreen when the Q.Menu is employed. The one thing about changing the settings with the touchscreen is that it’s rather fiddly because of the small size of the icons. Those with larger fingers will prefer to set up the GH2 using the D-Pad buttons, but even these are fairly small and this is partly due to the 3in screen taking up the majority of space at the rear. Flipping out the screen and rotating it by 270 degrees is very handy for low- and high-angled shooting and although the screen resolution is the same as the G1, GH1 and G2, it offers clear viewing in Live View and playback modes.
Raising the GH2 to the eye turns off the screen and deploys the electronic viewfinder, which offers a 100% field of view and a mighty 1.5million K-dot resolution.
Previously, we said the EVF on the GH1 was the best we’ve seen, but the GH2’s is even better! It’s very sharp and the clarity is second to none, but it’s still no substitute for an optical viewfinder.
Loading the GH2 with a SanDisk Extreme 32GB SDHC card and setting the burst rate to the H setting gave us a chance to test how good the GH2 was at shooting consecutive frames. Faster than the GH1’s 3fps and G2’s 3.2fps rate, we were keen to know how many JPEG and RAW files we could shoot at 5fps. With the image size set to Maximum quality and the JPEG quality set to Fine we rattled off 8 shots at 5fps before the buffer kicked in and slowed the shooting process. Keeping the image quality set to its maximum but switching the shooting format to RAW we managed to fire off 7 frames before the buffer kicked in and prevented us taking any more. Setting the burst to the SH setting allowed us to rattle out 40 frames at 40fps, albeit at a lower 4Mp resolution. It took 20 secs to write this data to our SDHC card. Testing the write speed of the camera with the same media, we discovered it took 1sec to write a Fine sized JPEG and 1.5secs to write a RAW file. These results make it a full second faster than the GH1’s write speed times that were recorded two years back.
The GH2 shoots video very well; there’s a 24p Cinema mode to explore and a variable mode to try out for slow or fast motion effects. If you’re keen to see some of the footage we recorded, visit: www.photoanswers.co.uk/GH2 where we’ve uploaded a video.
Value & Verdict
Panasonic’s GH2 is available in two kit forms, either with the 14-140mm f/4-5.8 lens for £1019 or with a more conservative 14-42mm lens, which brings the price down to a more respectable £759. The full HD offering on the GH2 will appeal to users who want a practical video/stills camera, but don’t fancy the step up to a D-SLR. The 14-140mm kit is still expensive though, especially when you compare it to D-SLRs like Nikon’s D7000, which also features 1920x1080 HD video and a practical 18-105mm zoom lens for £999 – a saving of £19 on the most costly GH2 bundle.
If you do bite the bullet and go for the GH2, you’ll get a great camera, no question. It’s superbly constructed, performs well and looks classy, too. Being smaller than an entry-level D-SLR, it’ll appeal to those conscious of size and weight but don’t want to compromise on build quality or an impressive set of features.
If you want the best of a camera in a slender body though, you’ll need to start saving as it doesn’t come cheap.
AT A GLANCE
Street price (with 14-140mm kit lens): £1019
Lens mount: Micro FourThirds
Focal length multiplication: 2x
Focusing: Contrast AF
Write times: 1.5secs (RAW),
ISO range: 160-12800
Burst rate: 5fps
Shutter range: 60secs-1/4000sec
Monitor: 3.0in, 460k dots
Live View: Yes
HD video: Yes: Full HD 1920x1080 AVCHD format
Weight (body only): 392g
Sony currently has two 85mm primes in its A-mount lens range – the 85mm f/1.4 ZA Plannar T lens costing around £1215, and the much more affordable 85mm f/2.8 SAM lens at £204.
Suitable for full-frame and APS-C Sony bodies, the Sony 85mm f/2.8 SAM offers a film-equivalent focal length of 127.5mm when used with the smaller sensors, and features a construction of five glass elements in four groups. It has a 7-blade aperture design and is relatively compact and light, weighing in at 175g.
With a predominantly plastic finish, it feels rather basic and doesn’t feature a metal lens mount so is vulnerable to damage if handled roughly. The MF/AF switch offers a reassuring click and although the focus ring is small, it’s smooth to use over half a turn. The real disadvantage is that the front element isn’t fixed and extends while focusing, which could potentially impede filter use, especially grads and polarisers. We experienced a few whirrs and groans while testing the performance of the AF – something we didn’t expect as it features an in-built SAM AF motor. Hunting wasn’t a major cause for concern, although we did experience signs in trickier lighting conditions. At £204 it’s well priced, and does offer pleasing background blur for those who want to save £1000 on the Plannar T lens!
Sony Alpha Mount