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Panasonic AG-AC90 topic and comparison with GH2, video test
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    **Some AC90 specs **

    • 1080/60p, 60i, 30p, 24p, 480/60i. [50 Hz model]: 1080/50p, 50i, 25p, 576/50i.
    • High sensitive BSI 3MOS sensor
    • F1.5
    • 29.8 mm wide angle / high powered zoom lens (12x)
    • built in 5 axis hybrid OIS
    • 3.5 inch lcd (touch) 1.150.000 dot resolution
• Dual SD Card Slots (support SDXC/SDHC/SD Memory Cards).
    • 2 channel XLR audio inputs (MIC/LINE/+48V selectable).

    • Audio CH1/CH2 with individual level controls and input selection.
    • HDMI output, AV Multi output (D-connector, composite video and audio 2 channel), USB connector.
• Remote terminals enable remote operation of iris, focus, zoom, Rec Start/ Stop functions.

    Available at:

    In all the excitement with the GH3 (some 1200 replies in 5 days here only ) I wanted to start a new discussion, because I feel we (or at least some of us) have to face the reality. Should we buy the GH3 or start filming again with a camera that is made for it ?!

    I have the GH2 for 2 years, have 3 different lenses and tried several hacks, I bought the Tascam DR-40 for sound (and other stuff). I needed a rig to hold everything, and now it looks stupid. If you are not doing fiction, (always) filming on a tripod, or in a studio and you also want to be fast and flexible (which is often necessary) it just doesn't work! (for me ;-)

    Therefore I am considering a 'normal' video camera again. But which one? Next month the AG-AC90 will be available for only € 1800,= . I got it yesterday to try it out for 1 day. As there is no information (or footage) about the camera, I wanted to do some video comparison.

    I compare footage of the AC90 with the GH2 (As we do not have the GH3 yet, but I don't expect it to be a miracle anyway ;-). It was not my intention to make good shots, but to put both cameras in 'hard' circumstances, such as high contrast, back light, movement, moire, rolling shutter effects etc. I did different tests and tried to keep equal settings, same shooting moments and movements, tripod / handheld, slow motion, rack focus / auto focus, daylight / low-light / dark, menu / settings. I only had the camera for a day (without a manual), so I don't know it well. Most images in standard settings were a bit too bright (but this can be adjusted in the camera).

    The AC90 has a smaller sensor so less DOF (but in daylight can be achieved with a ND filter.) I didn't have one during testing (but I did use a ND in some shots with the GH2, so that is not a fair comparison). I expected the AC90 to do worse in lowlight but I am actually quite surprised!

    The video is definitely not a 'scientific' pixel tweaking test. I know little about how to test GOP, I / P/ B structure, 4:4:2, peaking, dynamic range, AVCHD profiles, etc. But you guys do! @Vitaly_Kiselev @Driftwood @Ralph_B @cbrandin and others ?! I can put some original files online for some deeper analyses. What can you tell about the footage? GOP, I/P/B, etc? Is it hackable (or worth hacking ;-) to give it a bit more Mbs? etc?

    I hope to open up the discussion (from the large sensor cameras such as the GH3) and look forward to hear everybody's opinion!

    Ps1 Some shots in the end are only with the AC90 because it was too dark for the GH2 (with the 14-140 mm lens)

    Ps2 I know YouTube is not good, but I also think it is only showing HD 25P as I rendered it 50P (and the orginal looks better and more smooth)

    Ps3 Sorry for the stupid music (without sound was even more boring)

    low light AC-90-vs-gh2.jpg
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    1920 x 1789 - 2M
  • 130 Replies sorted by
  • Oh ... The link:

  • Till October 5th you can download 2 orginal MTS files from the AG-AC90 here:

    One with only candle light, another lowlight with movement

  • @Vitaly_Kiselev Thanks! Though I do hope more reactions will follow ;-)

    So come on guys ! Are people here, still able to discuss something else than the GH3 ? ;-)

  • thx @tommy, the AG-AC90 looks real good.

  • @mozes I was quite surprised as well. I just don't understand why Panasonic doesn't put in larger sensors in this sort of cameras. On the other hand it performed quite well in low light. Anyone knows how that's possible? I hope that some of the wizkids ;-) here are able to have a short look at the raw files (for a little bit of analyzing)

  • Really good stuff for the price. I mean, a few years back, you couldn't get such a package at that price. Nice to have double XLR.

    But for me, I rather have the GH3, because of the size, and choices in lenses. I can choose to have something small, or extend it. But for many videographers, I'd say AG-AC90 is a good option -- based on those shots. At this price range, there are no large sensor camera's with XLR. One could add XLR to NEX-VG30, but that adds to bulk and cost.

    Panasonic has always been good with the 3MOS and low light.

  • Thanks Tommy, reminds me why I really should be shooting most of my event videos on a proper camcorder.

    Howis the OIS on the camera, I did not see a test for this?

  • Howis the OIS on the camera, I did not see a test for this?

    I tested the AC90 and the stabilizer is the star feature of this camera. It's a 5 axis stabilzer and the result is steadicam-like motion. I walked with it, ran with it... just great!

  • Hey! I liked that music :)

    Seems like a really solid camcorder. I'm surprised about the IQ.

  • I expected the AC90 to do worse in lowlight but I am actually quite surprised!

    A lot of people forget that they put really fast zooms on small chip cameras. I think the AC90 is f1.5?

    I like your test. I wish it could do all that in a skewless CCD version. Seems like a great camera and a lot easier to use than GH2. I was envious of the AC90's XLR jacks!

    I was trying to judge sharpness, I don't think you had focus on the GH2 on the outside bottle test because the AC looked way sharper. The inside posters and bottles looked the other way, like the AC wasn't focused right. Couldn't tell though but they seemed more or less equally sharp on my 22" Dell. Thanks for posting it. We forget what headache the GH2 is with all the extra stuff it requires, it's refreshing to see simplicity.

  • It was a relief to hold a normal video camera again (I used to have the DVX100 and it is quite similar in size but weights less)

    @John_Farragut I don't mind to spend more money, for a large sensor video camera with xlr, but which one? Filming with a GH2 (also for corporate things) just does not work for me. I always had Panasonic cameras (indeed often the best in lowlight) ), I think I would prefer a 4/3 sensor (because of the Lenses) but everyone agrees the AF100 is not (much) better than the GH2, right? So the GH3 is the only left (and again no XLR, etc) so I am quite lost now.

    @Rambo As Ralph_B said, the 5 axes OIS is very good. Sory I indeed forgot to include it in the test. I did make shots, but not many comparing it with the GH2. It is the best OIS I have ever seen (but I did not see that many cameras)

    @Ralph_B So you tested it? please tell me what you think? Do you know the high sensitive BSI 3x 1/4.57 inch sensors, because they seem so tiny, and did perform better in low light than the GH2 (14-140)? It did feel as plastic right ? What about GOP, I / P/ B structure, (4:4:2), peaking, dynamic range, AVCHD profiles, Is it good or bad? Is it easy to give some information with the original shots that I attached above (Or I can send them to you)?

    I need to buy a video camera soon, so should I buy it or what else would you (as an experienced tester) suggest with more Depth Of Field and a ND filter? Okay for the DOF I could bring the GH2 as well, but I prefer to have 1 camera to shoot with.

  • @ tommy

    In good light the AC90 puts out a nice, clean picture. Color is excellent. Fine detail is captured well, similar to the GH2. One thing I noticed was IA (intelligent auto) blew out the highlights and clipped flesh tones with yellow. When I turned off IA, eveything improved dramatically. Flesh tones looked good. DO NOT USE IA! In low light, the shadows get quite noisy. However, Panasonic uses a sophisticated noise reduction that is able to distiguish edges from solid areas. So, even though the picture is noisy, it's still sharp.

    Auto-focus worked good.

    My sense is the dynamic range is less than the GH2, but since I didn't do a side by side comparison, I can't say for sure.

    Overall, the picture has a slightly plastic look to it, even in good light. I suspect mild noise reduction is being applied full time to the picture. Maybe it's possible to turn it off in the menu. I didn't check. Depending on your sense of aesthetics, this may or may not be a deal breaker. But the AC90 has so many virtues, I would encourage people to check it out in person when it becomes available.

  • I just watched the YouTube clip again, and YouTube is really showing it bad. Especially the movement of the AC90 and detail in general is much better (Youtube is not showing 50P movement right?). Should I post it on Vimeo, will it do better?

    @brianluce It is indeed F 1.5 So with a proper ND filter it should give quite some DOF in daylight right? The problem was, I only had an extreme cheap Chinese variable ND for the GH2 (that didn't fit on the AC90). This ND you saw in the outdoor bottle test and probably therefore it was not sharp as well. (or perhaps I didn't focus well ;-)

    I also couldn't put equal settings in both cameras. The AC90 is fully manual controllable (and also the automode does an amazing job)

    For example it is very important for me to have fluent motion during movement. As the AC90 has 1080 50P I sometimes compared it with the GH2 720 50P (for the fluent motion that you can not see on youtube), and in some stills I put the GH2 on 1080 25P (that makes a different.)

    Another example and the two things that bother me most about the GH2 (except having no XLRs)

    1. GH2 needs fixed shutter speed (50/ 100). If it is set on Shutter priority, the aperture goes up and down in steps and also making noise The steps are not fluent. I have read people thought the camera was damaged, but many of us have this issue, why ??.

    2. So you need to fix the Aperture (What I would prefer as well) This is only possible in (movie) manual priority mode, right? But in the manual mode you also have to set the ISO manual. (I don't see an auto iso option in this mode). This Sucks SO hard! So for many shooting situations ( movement ), this actually makes the GH2 useless in Shutter mode, and Manual mode, so which mode is left???

  • @Ralph_B
    I agree:

    good auto focus (better than GH2 and the Rack focus, that goes in an out before it has it focused)

    little less dynamic range (this is because of the smaller sensor i suppose?),

    a bit plastic look. I did see quite some picture controls in the menu (but also didn't have time to try them) but I do suppose you can control / change this (a lot I hope) and I think I can get rid of much plastic look in post production.

    the aesthetics I don't like as much as large sensors as well, but a GH2 (or GH3 is not a videocamera.) Perhaps you can solve my 2 biggest GH2 problems in the post above? (maybe the answers are somewhere all ready?) Or could you please suggest another video camera for my needs?
    I sincerely appreciate it

  • Does the AG-AC90 have clean HDMI out?

    I think you cannot go wrong with something like the AG-AC90 if you need a videocamera. Canon only gives you an XA10 with one 1/3 CMOS.

    You could always keep the GH2 with one lens as extra (sell all other lenses).

  • @John_Farragut I haven't used a HDMI out much (as a documentary filmmaker), and I don't know how I would need to test if it was clean. I know, no camera is perfect, but like I said I don't mind to spend twice the amount of money,if I get a larger sensor, more DOF, and a better (less plastic) image (with the same easy handling / simplicity of the AC90, which is also not too heavy and big.) You don't have any other suggestion? Thnx

  • NEX VG30 with powerzoom lens and XLR box is next best option. Wait for reviews on that perhaps? November?

    Sony is coming out with some nice NEX lenses with OIS.

  • Like 35mm F1.8.

  • @tommy .. really nice test .. thanks

  • @Tommy Thanks for bringing attention to the AG-AC90

    Ive two questions from downloading the clips.

    The raw video of the candles.. what db was it? How is the EVF in say comparison to the GH2s?

    Ive recently sold my VG20 its a lovely cam but the Moire drove me nuts!

  • @Mimirsan The AC90 was on auto mode during the candles. The DB went up to 30. 30 DB seemed to be the maximum in standard settings. (Perhaps you can put this higher in the menu.) The image was 'standard' a bit too bright highlighted, so I should have gone in the settings to see if that can be solved. (There is a knee setting, and others that could solve this.) It is my first test, and I forgot to test many things. I actually don't remember if I even looked through the viewfinder ;-) so perhaps I will ask the camera one more time.

    Are you also doubting to go for this camera?
    For me it is 'almost' fine, for now (until some better large sensor video cameras shows up.) Just the lack of ND, and a bigger sensor to get more DOF would be lovely. I don't mind to spend extra money, but for what?

    •I have the GH2, and the AF100 is not supposed to be much better. Should I go for an even larger sensor of another brand ?

    • The AC130 / 160 have ND's, a bit bigger sensors, but that will not be enough for more DOF. I suppose the sensor technology of the AC90 is also more up to date as all the other models in this range (?)
    I did not test the AC130, but I think the OIS and perhaps autofocus etc is better on the AC90

    • I haven't used the VG20 but I can image you would miss the DOF as well. And like you said, moire drove you nuts (and I don't think that will be the case here). Another 'pro' for me is, that I used to have the DVX100. It works similar, has the same batteries. I also have a light that also can use the same batteries (see pictures, also compared with the DVX100 , and the viewfinder)

  • Some pictures with sound+ light and the classic DVX100

    624 x 720 - 106K
    801 x 720 - 130K
    896 x 720 - 139K
    985 x 720 - 190K
    1280 x 720 - 973K
    1280 x 720 - 820K
  • @tommy Did I miss the part in the lowlight comparison where you mention what lens, f-stop and ISO is used on the GH2 vs the AG-AC90? It seems exceedingly difficult to judge the the lowlight segment without knowing both that and the setting used on the GH2 (stock, Sedna, Flowmotion 2.02, etc.)

    EDIT: Was the 14-140mm used only at the end or for the rest too? It really is a rather poor lowlight lens - the worst one we had on site for the test we did in Pasadena this summer. :)

  • How bad is rolling shutter on AC90 compared to GH2?