Panasonic Lumix G90 Review
The Panasonic Lumix G90 (also known as the Panasonic G95 and G91 in some territories) is a new mid-range mirrorless camera for enthusiast photographers and videographers.
The G90 features a 20.3 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor with no low pass filter, the very latest Venus Engine processor, 4K video recording at frame rates of 30p/25p/24p, VLog L profile included at no extra charge, headphone and MIC sockets, 5-Axis Dual Image Stabilisation system, a 2,360K-dot OLED Live View Finder, and a 3-inch 1040K-dot Free-Angle touch screen OLED display.
Other highlights include a splash/dust proof magnesium body, 9fps continuous shooting, ISO 100-25,600, ultra-high speed AF of 0.07 sec with Eye AF, mechanical and silent electronic shutters, Eco Mode to extend the battery life from 290 to 900 shots, a Live View Composite mode for long exposures, in-camera USB battery charging and charging whilst in use, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Panasonic Lumix G90 is available in black, body-only (£899 / $899), or in a kit with the G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens (£1079 / $1079) or with the G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. lens (£1259 / $1259). The Panasonic Lumix G90 is also compatible with the optional Battery Grip (DMW-BGG1) which doubles the battery life.
Ease of Use
- 20.3 megapixels
- 5-Axis Dual IS, 5 stops
- 0.07s Auto-focusing, down to -4EV
- 2.36-million-dot, 0.39-inch OLED electronic viewfinder
- Free-angle 3-inch touchscreen OLED monitor with 1.04-million-dot resolution
- ISO 100-25600
- 6fps burst shooting with continuous AF/AE, 9fps without
- 4K video at up to 30p, 100Mbps
- 4:2.2 8-bit via HDMI, 4:2.0 8-bit to SD card
- VLog L Profile included (no charge)
- 1080p video at 60fps
- 4x slow-motion video, 120fps at 1080/30p
- New Live View Composite mode for long exposures
- Headphone and MIC sockets
- Rear scroll wheel
- Dual control dials
- Pop-up flash
- Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity
- Single SD memory card slot
- USB battery charging
- Dust/splash resistant
- 290-shot battery life
The new Panasonic Lumix G90 is a little larger than the G80 model that it replaces in the extensive Lumix range, measuring 130.4 x 93.5 x 77.4 mm, and weighs about 28g more at 481g for the body only.
Once again styled very much like a DSLR camera that's been shrunk in the wash, the Panasonic Lumix G90 shares the same sculpted design as the previous G80. It squeezes a 3-inch fully rotating, free-angle OLED screen and an OLED electronic viewfinder into its small frame, yet is still more than comfortable enough for users with average-sized hands to operate.
Apart from the handgrip, rear thumbgrip and the right-hand side of the camera, which are all rubberised, the G90 has a slightly textured plastic finish. It's extremely well-built with a full die-cast magnesium body, metal lens mount and metal tripod socket that belies its relatively affordable price point. Even better, the G90 is both splash and dustproof thanks to seals on every joint, dial and button, just like its predecessor.
The G90 also employs the same Contrast Auto Focus system as used by the G80. As you'd expect, the G90's auto-focus system is just as fast, with a claimed speed of 0.07 second when used with certain lenses, thanks to a digital signal communication that runs at a maximum of 240fps. Panasonic have also incorporated their Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology which shortens the focusing time even further, although note that this only works with Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses, not third-party ones. In practice we noticed very little difference in speed between the G90 and a mid-range DSLR, and there were also very few occasions when the G90 failed to lock onto the subject.
The G90 additionally boasts a mode called Low Light AF which allows the camera to focus even in moonlight (down to -4EV) without needing to use the AF assist lamp, while the Starlight AF mode allows you to capture individual stars and constellations in the night sky. There are a wide range of AF modes on offer, including multiple-area AF with up to 23 focus areas, 1-area AF with a selectable focus area, Face Detection, and AF Tracking. The G90 also has a useful Quick AF function that begins focusing as soon as you point the camera, and it also offers the popular Focus Peaking function that outlines the in-focus subject in the MF and AF+MF modes.
|Front of the Panasonic Lumix G90|
On the front of the Panasonic Lumix G90 is a tiny focus-assist and self-timer indicator lamp, black lens release button, metal lens mount and a large rubberised hand-grip with a pronounced sculpted indent for your forefinger.
For the G90, Panasonic have retained the same image stabilisation system as used by the G80. This 5-axis Dual I.S. MK II system incorporates gyro-sensor technology to combine the 2-axis stabilisation from the lens (if it has OIS built-in) and 5-axis stabilisation from the camera body, resulting in compensation for up to 5-stops slower shutter speed.
On the left flank of the Lumix G90 (when viewed from behind) is a MIC socket for use with an external microphone, which has been repositioned so that the LCD screen can be flipped out to the side unobstructed. Underneath is a large rubber flap that houses the AV Out/Digital port, a port for the optional remote shutter release, an HDMI port for connecting the G90 to a HD television or monitor, and the new 3.5mm headphone socket, which is great news for keen videographers looking to improve their sound quality when recording.
On the right side of the G90 is the single SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot. On the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod socket, importantly in-line with the middle of the lens barrel, and the battery compartment. The G90 manages around 290 shots using the supplied 7.2V 1200mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery before needing to be recharged, about 10% shorter than the previous DMC-G80, but this can be boosted to around 900 shots when using the new Power Save Mode mode, some 100 shots more than the G80.
Located on top of the Panasonic Lumix G90 is the drive mode dial on the left which includes the single/burst mode/4K/bracketing/continuous shooting/timer options, an external flash hotshoe and built-in pop-up flash, complete with a manual sliding switch to open it on the side, twin stereo microphones, on/off switch, a handy one-touch movie record button.
The start-up time from turning the Lumix G90 on to being ready to take a photo is very impressive at less than 0.5 seconds. It takes about 1 second to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card. Storing a single RAW image only takes around 1 second.
|Front of the Panasonic Lumix G90|
The Panasonic Lumix G90 has a good Burst mode which enables you to take 9 frames per second when using the mechanical shutter for more than 300 JPEG images at the highest image quality, or 45 RAW images. With AF Tracking turned on to capture moving subjects, the G90 can still shoot at 6fps at the full 20 megapixel resolution.
There's now a new row of dedicated White Balance, ISO buttons and Exposure Compensation buttons, just like on the flagship Lumix G9 camera, and a reasonably sized, tactile shutter button that's encircled by the first of two control dials. The second thumb operated control dial changes the aperture by default, but cleverly has a button at its centre that allows you toggle to the white balance and ISO speed - very handy.
Completing the Panasonic Lumix G90's top panel is a traditional shooting mode dial that lets you choose the different exposure modes. The usual selection of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual are available for more experienced photographers, while beginner-friendly Scene modes are accessed via the SCN setting. Additionally there are 2 custom modes, marked C1 and C2, which allow you to configure six of your favourite settings and quickly access them.
The G90 has an extensive range range of Creative Controls, denoted by an artist's palette on the shooting mode dial, which offers a whopping 22 options. Some are more useful than others, and you do lose control of the exposure and other key settings when using the Creative Controls, whereas the 6 available Photo Styles still allow full control of the camera's settings and also work when shooting Raw files.
The Lumix G90 offers both AVCHD video capture and MP4, with the latter offering 4K recording at 3840x2160 pixels at 30p/25p/24p in the MP4 format for an unlimited amount of time. It can record in 4:2.2 8-bit quality to an external HDMI recorder or 4:2.0 8-bit to the UHS-II SD card. Full 1080p recording is also available up to 60fps, and there's up to 4x slow-motion recording too, again in Full HD quality but this time around at up to 120fps (although sound and continuous AF only work at 60fps).
|Rear of the Panasonic Lumix G90|
The VLog L profile is included with the G90, which is actually a paid upgrade for the much more expensive GH5 camera, and not available at all on the flagship Lumix G9. This provides a very flat profile with an impressive 12 stops of dynamic range that's perfect for grading in post-production.
The Panasonic Lumix G90 also gives you access to the same creative exposure P,A,S,M modes that are selectable when shooting stills. You can also use all the same Photo Style and Creative Control modes when shooting video, plus the ISO settings, white balance and AF tracking mode. The normal bugbear of exterior location shoots is also dealt with thanks to a wind cut option among the four screen's worth of menu settings that are available when using the dedicated Video shooting mode.
As this is a modern Lumix mirrorless camera, the G90 offers the usual array of Panasonic 4K shooting options for stills. There are three 4K Photo functions - 4K Burst Shooting, 4K Burst (Start/Stop) and 4K Pre-burst which all record continuous 8 megapixel stills at a 30fps shooting rate. 4K Burst allows you to continuously record 8 megapixel images at 30fps, 4K Pre-Burst does the same but for one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order, giving you 60 frames to choose from, and 4K Burst (S/S) allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8 megapixel frame.
A brand new Auto Marking function automatically detects frames with changes to the image, while a Sequence Composition function has also been added for creating “stromotion” images by combining multiple images into one shot for a fun effect.
The Post Focus mode allows you to take a series of photos all with a different focus point, and then choose your preferred one after you've captured the shot. This can be more useful for some subjects than others, for example with macro it’s a great idea. Focus Stacking is new to the G90. This feature enables you to take multiple shots with different aperture values, then combine them into a single image and choose how much of the subject is in focus, again good news for macro photographers.
|Top of the Panasonic Lumix G90|
Live View Composite is a shooting mode which Olympus users have enjoyed many years. Now for the very first time it's making its debut on a Panasonic camera, giving you the ability to view a long exposure in real time on the rear OLED screen and the power to stop it when you think it's perfect. Simply set the camera to Manual mode and then rotate the shutter speed to "LC" to enable this new option.
The G90's Wi-Fi function (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) lets you use your smartphone to change the key camera settings (focus setting, exposure compensation, ISO, WB and Photo Styles) and even fire the shutter button remotely (including interval video recordings), while the auto transfer function automatically backs up your photos onto a tablet. You can also use GPS data from your smartphone to record the shooting location onto your images. The Bluetooth option inherited from the Lumix G9 establishes a low-energy, permanent connection between the camera and a smart device for easier transfer of images.
The Panasonic Lumix G90 offers a time lapse function in which you can set the time interval and the number of images to take, plus a multi-exposure option that lets you combine up to four exposures in a single frame.
On the rear of the Lumix G90 is a 3 inch OLED screen which has 1040K-dots. The rotating, free-angle monitor, which is hinged on the left side of the camera (looking from the rear), can be rotated 180 degrees for side to side and flipped out and twisted through 270 degrees. You can use the screen as a waist-level viewfinder, holding the camera overhead, and even for turning the G90 on yourself for arm-length self-portraits. There's also the added benefit of folding the screen away against the camera body to protect it when stored in a camera bag, preventing it from becoming marked or scratched.
The G90 inherits the DMC-G80's intuitive touchscreen interface. The G90 has a feature called Touchpad AF which allows you to move the focus point area with your finger on the OLED monitor whilst you're looking through the EVF, which goes some way (but not all) towards mitigating the lack of a dedicated AF joystick, as seen on some rival models.
|Swivelling LCD Screen|
One other key touchscreen function is the ability to use the 1-area AF mode to focus on your main subject simply by touching it on the OLED monitor. If the subject then moves, the G90 cleverly follows it around the screen using the the AF tracking function. If the subject exits the frame entirely, simply recompose and tap it again to start focusing. Impressive stuff that makes focusing on off-center subjects fast and intuitive. It is a little too easy to accidentally press the screen and set the focus point to the wrong area for the current subject, but a simple tap in the middle of the monitor will center the AF point (or you can turn this feature off altogether).
The size of the AF point itself can also be changed via an interactive onscreen slider. If Face Detection is enabled, the 1-area AF point can be manually set to a person's eye to help ensure that the most important part of a portrait is in focus. If Multi-area AF rather than 1-area AF is enabled, then you can select a group of 4, 5 or 6 AF points from 9 different areas, again providing some manual control over what is traditionally a rather hit and miss affair.
When Intelligent Auto is switched on, the G90 changes the scene mode used when you touch the subject, for example selecting portrait mode if you touch a face and macro mode if you touch a close-up flower. If you prefer to manually focus rather than use the snappy AF, you can magnify any part of the subject by 1x, 5x or 10x by simply dragging the image around the screen. The final touchscreen ability from an image composition point of view is the ability to release the shutter, with a small icon on the right hand screen enabling this functionality, and then a single on-screen tap all that's required to take the picture.
All of the menu options can be changed via the touchscreen interface. You can also control image playback by touching the screen, with the ability to tap a thumbnail to see the full-size version, scroll through your images by dragging them from side to side, and magnifying them up to 16x.
The Panasonic Lumix G90 has the same electronic viewfinder as used on the previous G80 - an OLED Live View Finder with 2,360k dots. It has a large 1.4x (0.7x on 35mm equiv.) magnification, very high contrast at 10,000:1, a minimum time lag of less than 0.01 sec, and offers 100% field of view, resulting in a very usable display indeed. The EVF (and also the main OLED screen) operates at 60fps, twice the usual speed, which helps make it relatively flicker-free (although it is still slightly noticeable).
|The Panasonic Lumix G90 In-hand|
The G90 has a handy eye proximity sensor which detects when the camera is held up to your eye and automatically switches from the rear OLED screen to the EVF. You can also manually switch between the two via the LVF button (this button can also be usefully reconfigured to the Function3 button). As the EVF is reading the same signal from the image sensor as the rear OLED screen, it can also display similar information - for example, you can view and operate the G90's Quick Menu, giving quick access to all the key camera settings while it's held up to your eye.
The main downside of the G90's EVF system occurs indoors in low light, as it has to "gain-up" to produce a usable picture, resulting in a noticeably grainier picture. In all other situations, however, the electronic viewfinder on the G90 is the equal of and in many areas better than a DSLR's optical viewfinder, particularly those found on entry-level models which are typically dim and offer limited scene coverage.
Positioned to the right of the EVF are the Focusing switch and a very useful AF/AE Lock button. Below this is the Playback, and underneath that is a new scroll wheel with a Menu/Set button in the centre, which replaces the more traditional 4-way D-pad found on the G80 camera. Pressing left on the scroll wheel allows you to select the AF Point.
The main menu system on the G90 is straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu/Set button in the middle of the navigation D-Pad. There are five main menus represented by large icons, Record, Motion Picture, Custom, Setup and Playback.
The Q.Menu/Fn2 button underneath the scroll wheel provides quick access to most of the camera's principal controls, including the photo style, flash, movie type, image size, image quality, auto-focus and metering options. Below is the Display button, which cycles through the various LCD views, including a useful level gauge for helping to keep your horizons straight.
That concludes our tour of the Lumix G90's design and features - now let's take a look at its image quality...