Panasonic is offering a surprising amount for your money in the new Lumix G90. Not only do we get an accomplished stills camera that could happily play second fiddle to the top end G9, but we get a whole lot of video features too that borrow from the GH5 and GH5s. While the G7 is definitely a stills camera, and the G80 has some great movie features this latest model brings a lot more flexibility with it – and some really unexpected upgrades to make us sit up and pay attention, and which make the Lumix G90 a proper hybrid camera in the same way that the GH5 is.
- 20.3 million pixel sensor
- No time limit on 4K video
- 120fps FHD high speed video
- Built-in V-Log L Photo Style
- Headphones socket
- AF sensitivity adjustments
- New control layout
- New grip
With a 20.3 million pixel Live MOS sensor the G90 takes a step up from the 16MP sensor of the G80 to put its resolution on a par with the G9, GH5 and GX9. As is common now in the Lumix G series the G90 doesn’t use low-pass filter, so detail capture will be excellent and we get to record the full resolution of our lenses.
Exceptional video features
The main features of the G90’s video offering are inherited directly from the G80. We can shoot 4K footage at 30p, and when in FHD mode we can take the frame rate up to 60p. What is remarkable though is that the G90 comes with Panasonic’s L-Vog L Photo Style already installed so we can shoot flat-profiled footage that makes the most of the sensor’s dynamic range. This is a pretty advanced feature and one that Lumix GH5 users have to pay extra for, so it is a real bonus having it in the G90 at no extra cost.
It is also surprising that the G90 has no recording time restrictions, so we can shoot in 4K for as long as we want – or until the card runs out of space. Very often video recording in cameras that aren’t camcorders is restricted to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, but with the G90 you can just keep recording.
New to this grade of camera is the ability to record slow motion footage beyond the 2x slow mo that we can achieve using the FHD 60p setting. When using the Creative Video mode we can activate a High Speed Video menu item that allows frame rates of 50, 60, 75, 90, 100 and 120fps in Full HD mode. This allows us to play back action footage 5x slower than the live action.
While the G80 also had great video features it lacked a headphone socket, so videographers couldn’t check the quality of their audio while recording. The G90 solves that problem, and offers a 3.5mm headphone jack in a panel below the 3.5mm microphone socket. The microphone socket moves higher up the body to the same position it occupies on the G9.
The Lumix G90 has adopted a button layout much more like that of the G9/GH5/GH5s. We get the three buttons on the top plate for White Balance, ISO and Exposure Compensation. Just as they are on the top-end cameras, the three buttons are raised well from the surface of the top plate and have distinctive signatures that help us identify which is which just from touching them. The WB button is raised the most and has a high dome shape while the ISO button has a pair of pips that are instantly recognisable. The Exposure Compensation button is flat and over laps the curve of the top plate as it slopes down to the shutter button, so it is raised more at the front than at the back.
Another control change that mirrors the Lumix G9/GH5/GH5s can be seen on the camera’s rear panel. The ring of four wedge-shaped buttons around the Menu/Set button has been replaced with a ring controller. This ring is more flexible as it can be rotated to make adjustments to selected features, but can also be pressed at the North, East, South and West points to scroll through menus and settings. Those four points can also be used as Function buttons 9, 10 and 11 to deliver direct access to the features we choose to assign to them.
The rear of the camera now looks just like the back of the G9/GH5/GH5s, with the Q.Menu and the DISP buttons sitting one above the other, though the AF Area selector doesn’t have its own button but instead sits on the wheel.
Panasonic has introduced its new-style menu system to the double-digit G series with this camera, as the G90 takes on the menu layout that was introduced in the G9.
Another thing that is changed is the shape of the grip for the right hand. The change isn’t obvious at first sight but to the hand the alteration can be felt straight away. The effect is a combination of a thicker, heavier lip at the top of the grip to support the middle finger and a new coarser texture to the covering of the camera. The two work together to provide what feels like more secure hold on the body, and a little more stability when long lenses are mounted.
AF sensitivity adjustments
New sections in the menus allow us to alter the characteristics of the G90’s autofocus system. This can be done separately for stills photography modes and for shooting movies – as we will probably want separate AF profiles for each. In stills mode we have control of sensitivity when the camera is set to continuous autofocus. We can make the system more or less sensitive, so it will react to moving subjects more quickly or allow almost static subjects to move a bit without the camera feeling that it needs to search for the subject.
In video mode we can control both the AF sensitivity and the speed at which it follows a moving target – both settings allowing us to tailor the system to the occasion. When we adjust these settings in stills mode they are always on for stills shooting when AF-C is selected, but in video we can switch the customisation on and off to toggle between our settings and the default settings of the camera.
New faster flash sync
It might appear only a slight change, but the maximum shutter speed that can be used with non-HSS flash is 1/200sec – up from 1/160sec in the G80. Even though it is only a fraction of a stop it still offers added flexibility to photographers working with flash outside, extending our ability to match or over-power daylight and to control the relationship between the subject and the background.
In addition to the usual Wi-Fi options that come with all Lumix bodies these days the Lumix G90 also offers a Bluetooth setting for quick connection to a smartphone. Using Bluetooth allows us to maintain communication between the camera and the phone so opening a Wi-Fi connection is faster when we come to send images from the camera. The Bluetooth also offers a quick connection when we want to use a smartphone as a simple remote trigger to trip the shutter without any remote control of the camera’s settings. The advantage of Bluetooth of course is not just that it is quick to set up but also that is uses less power than Wi-Fi so it can be left on for long periods without draining batteries.
Not new, but still exciting
5-axis Dual IS ll
The G90 offers Panasonic’s latest image stabilisation system – Dual IS ll. This isn’t any different to the system used in the G80 as that was ahead of its time, but is still worth a line or two of explanation here. The system uses in-body sensor stabilisation combined with the stabilisation system of the lens attached. The two systems are used together as a combined force to ensure we avoid camera shake in images taken in low light conditions and with shutter speeds as long as half a second with a standard lens.
Other camera manufacturers have in-body stabilisation and they have in-lens stabilisation, but no one else is able to use them together at the same time.
Dual IS ll in the G90 allows us to use shutter speeds of up to 5 stops longer than would usually be safe for the focal length lens attached.
Battery and battery grip
There is something very satisfying about being able to use your existing batteries in a new camera. It means we immediately have spares, and that we don’t have to buy lots of new units to feed the new body.
The Lumix G90 uses the DMW-BLC12E battery that was used in the G80 – as well as the G7 and GX8 – so owners of the current model will be well equipped if they decide to trade up for the extra pixels and video features.
Despite some changes to the body shape of the G90 it is still compatible with the DMW-BGG1 battery grip that was introduced for the G80, which is further good news.
You may not need as many batteries as you did in the past anyway, as a new economy mode promises 900 shots per charge. When activated this mode uses the eye sensor to detect when the camera is in use and puts it to sleep when it isn’t, thus saving battery power in down time. A half press of the shutter button brings the camera back to life to make it ready for shooting again in no time at all.
This really is quite a significant upgrade for this series of camera, taking a stills camera that was very good at video to a full-blown baby hybrid machine. While the headline feature for stills photographers will be the jump in resolution to 20MP, videographers get the premium V-Log L Photo Style for free as well as a whole list of slow motion settings that open the door to a wide range of creative applications. Along with the customisable AF functions, audio monitoring and the superb Dual IS ll image stabilisation the G90 offers truly professional video functionality in a body well below the cost of the GH models.
I’ll be shooting with the camera over the coming weeks and will report back on image quality and handling in the field in another article.