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Panasonic Lumix G90 review: A mid-range camera that ticks a lot of boxes for travellers and vloggers

Amy Davies
3 Jun 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
899
inc VAT

Pitching itself as a mid-range travel camera, the latest Lumix with a Four Thirds sensor is a great all-rounder

Pros 
Small and light
Flexible system
4K photo and video
Articulating touchscreen
Cons 
Small sensor
Relatively expensive
Lower-resolution viewfinder than others
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Sitting in the middle of Panasonic’s Lumix G series lineup, the G90 has some great features that will appeal to photographers and videographers alike. With its lightweight construction and wide range of compatible lenses and accessories, it’s a camera that should make sense to snappers across the photographic spectrum. But in a camera world seemingly obsessed with full-frame, has the Micro Four Thirds format lost its way?

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Panasonic Lumix G90: What you need to know

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Panasonic was thinking of abandoning its Micro Four Thirds lineup, what with all the fanfare given to the S1 and S1R cameras introduced at the end of 2018.

However, Panasonic is keen to show it’s still thinking about Micro Four Thirds – good news for keen amateurs looking for a small, flexible camera at a reasonable price. The G90 follows on from the G80, and is bang in the middle of the Lumix G series lineup.

Inheriting a lot of specifications from the flagship G9, this is a mid-range model that hopes to appeal to those looking for something dependable, small and light that doesn’t cost the earth. Thanks to Panasonic’s trademark panache when it comes to video, it’s also likely to appeal to vloggers and budding filmmakers.

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Panasonic Lumix G90: Price and competition

The G90 retails for around £899 body-only. There are a few kit options for photographers who want a kit – buying the G90 with the 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 lens will set you back £1,079, while the 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 II lens is arguably the more practical option for travellers, but costs £1,259 for the lens and the G90 body.

The G90’s biggest competitor is the Fujifilm X-T30, which can be found for around £849 body-only, or £899 with a 15-45mm lens. You may also want to consider the Sony A6400, which costs around £949 body-only, or £999 with a 16-50mm lens. Importantly, both the X-T30 and the A6400 have larger APS-C sensors, meaning, in theory, better high-ISO image quality.

Image quality isn’t the only factor, particularly for those willing to work around the limitations of a small sensor. There’s plenty that puts the G90 ahead of the other models in its price bracket. It’s physically smaller and that small sensor brings with it a focal length multiplier of two, allowing photographers to magnify far-off subjects without back-breaking lenses. There are also advantages such as a fully articulating touchscreen, plus the very useful 4K Photo mode. We’ll go into these in more detail below.

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Panasonic Lumix G90: Design and key features

The G90 has a chunky grip and a centrally placed viewfinder, making it immediately familiar to those coming from traditional DSLRs. Although the G90 is smaller and lighter than the pricier G9, it still feels serious in the hand and is comfortable to use over long periods. Its smaller size makes it ideal as a travel camera, while the larger G9 is arguably a little more obtrusive.

One welcome carry-over from the G90 is weather sealing, which should see the G90 carry on when the weather lets you down. It also feels like it can withstand the odd knock, with its magnesium alloy body giving it satisfying heft.

Although suitable for beginners thanks to its well-performing automatic mode, there are lots of direct access dials and buttons across the G90, which gives it appeal to more experienced photographers. On the top is a large mode dial for quickly moving between various exposure options, plus a secondary dial for choosing a drive mode, or selecting the 4K Photo mode. Two control dials at the front and rear can be used to adjust settings depending on the shooting mode you’re in.

Many of the buttons and dials are customisable, while a button on the back directs you to a “quick” menu where you can adjust the parameters of commonly used settings without delving into the main menu.

The G90 inherits the G9’s 20.3 megapixel Four Thirds Live CMOS sensor, and just like the G9, there’s no anti-aliasing (AA) filter, which theoretically means more detailed images. It also shares the ISO range of 100 to 25,600.

To compose your images, there’s a 3in, 1,040k-dot articulating touchscreen, which again is recognisable from the G9. It is joined by a 2.36-million dot viewfinder with 0.74x magnification – a sacrifice compared to the G9, which offers a higher-resolution, 3.68-million pixel EVF.

A final killer feature is Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode – seen on other Lumix cameras but nonetheless welcome. Essentially, it allows you to record short video clips and extract a still in camera. This means that you can shoot at 30fps and freeze the action at the perfect moment, the drawback being that final images are restricted to 8-megapixel JPEGs. If you’d prefer full-resolution images, or raw files, the Panasonic’s more traditional burst modes run at up to 9fps with autofocus locked from the first frame, or at 6fps with continuous autofocus.

Other specifications of note include the single SD card slot – unsurprising at this price – Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and in-built image stabilisation.

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Panasonic Lumix G90: Image and video quality

Considering the G90 uses the same sensor as the G9, we were pretty sure of decent images and weren’t disappointed. You won’t get the same image quality as you would from cameras with larger sensors, although the price and size of the G90 might make slightly worse images a price many will be happy to pay.

If you’re the type to share images straight from the camera – think travel photography – the G90 plays a blinder. Colours are nicely saturated without going overboard, while overall sharpness is very good. You can easily make prints up to A3 that you’ll be happy with, never mind enough to satisfy the lesser quality demands of social media.

The results from our low-light tests were reasonable rather than outstanding. Output at the G90’s maximum ISO of 25,600 was best forgotten, but ISO 12,800 was just about usable in an emergency. Otherwise, those who are likely to be shooting in less-than-ideal light will be better off spending more on fast lenses rather than reaching for higher ISOs. If you’re using this as a holiday camera and mostly shoot in good light, you’ve nothing much to be concerned about. If you’re a keen caver or astrophotographer, the G90 won’t be for you.

Although the G90’s fastest frame rate is a little limited at 9fps (or 6fps if you want continuous autofocus), it makes up for that somewhat with the 4K Photo mode, giving you a much more flexible 30fps. It’s great for kids, pets and other unpredictable subjects, and while the limitation of 8-megapixel JPEGs will be a drawback for more advanced photographers, for those looking to capture the decisive moment for sharing online, it’s a great feature. It’s worth being aware that the G9 offers a similar-but-better version, shooting 4K at 60fps, or 6K at 30fps.

Vloggers are likely to be drawn towards the G90 thanks to its small form factor, reasonable price and ability to shoot 4K. Unlike some of its competition, such as the Canon EOS 250D, there’s no crop factor to consider so you can plop yourself in front of the lens and record your genius mutterings to your heart’s content without a super-wide angle lens. 4K footage is smooth and pleasing, and should meet the needs of most amateur movie-makers. High-speed modes allow you to film at up to 120fps in 1080p, while the headphone and mic sockets – along with the ability to shoot V-log footage – elevates it well above the beginner level, too.

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Panasonic Lumix G90: Verdict

In a world of full-frame obsession, there’s still a lot to like about cameras such as the G90. It’s a tightly packaged, appealing piece of kit with a pretty wide image quality sweetspot. Those going on the road for a while will be able to pack it, along with half a dozen lenses, in a small bag and be equipped for just about every situation you’re likely to come across, as well as being practical for photography closer to home.

Images straight out of the camera are bright, punchy and sharp. It can’t match its full-frame rivals for low-light performance, but we wouldn’t expect it to. Indeed, given that the G90 and G9 share a sensor, the G90 is arguably the one to go for if you’re mainly into static subjects. If action shots are your thing, the extra performance of the G9 makes it worth the extra coin.

For those looking for a solid performer that copes well with a number of different tasks and sits snugly in the mid-range – both stills and video-wise – the G90 is an excellent option.

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