on August 3, 2013
Dollar for dollar, the AC90 is the probably best prosumer camera on market as of August 2013. I work as a professional cameraman shooting everything from big TV cameras, to prosumer cameras like this for smaller events. I've owned or used the Panasonic DVX100, HVX200, HPX170, AC160, and this. I'll try to compare it a little to those, other cameras in this class, but mostly on it's own merits.
Here are some pro's and con's. I believe the pro's completely outweigh the cons, thus the cons are more for your awareness than criticism or faults with the camera.
* Great touchscreen LCD. It is very bright as well and decent in direct sunlight.
* Great stabilizer. Very impressive. Maybe the best I've ever used.
* Great price. This unit is comparable to Canon and Sony cameras costing a couple hundred dollars more.
* Digital zoom virtually lossless at 2x. This means you've basically got a 24x zoom lens. Great for events.
* Autofocus superior to AC series, which had problems with speed and finding focus and required (not free) firmware upgrades.
* 3 Chips. This is nice to see when Canon has moved to single chip with XA-10 and XA-20 series in it's class.
* Over and undercranks at 1080, including time lapse. This is a really nice feature that you used to have to hack in the HVX and HPX series.
* Two card slots. Many cameras today are coming with one single slot, so this is nice to see.
* 3 rings on lens (focus, zoom, iris). I like having these on the lens, and the AC90 does.
* Dual XLR inputs, on-board surround microphone works surprisingly well for capturing ambient sound (not dialog though).
* Intelligent Auto setting handy. I use the camera in manual, but for many the IA setting could be very useful.
* Surprisingly good dynamic range. It's not a Sony F5, or a Canon 1D DSLR, but it outperforms my old HVX200 in high contrast situations I believe.
* No ND filters. The camera compensates for this electronically. How well does it work? Fairly well. But if you're trying to get pro footage and want to shoot with the iris open, you are going to need to buy and use an ND filter in sunlight.
* Smaller chips. This camera has 1/4.7 sized chips. These are pretty small. Panasonic compensates by making them backside illuminated to help in low light. The iris on the lens is also very fast at f1.5, helping out as well.
* Camera has no composite out. So if you're on a multi-camera shoot, you're going to need an HDMI to composite converter.
* The camera is somewhat front heavy. Not a big deal, just something to be aware of.
* The 3 lens rings are electronic, not physical. They are also a tad stiff, even after use. If you're walking around with one hand on the lens and another on the zoom rocker you could get some unwanted stops/starts.
* Lens zoom rings aren't entirely smooth, especially the iris. You can sometimes see it step when adjusting slowly. Focus is a little like this as well if you are picky enough. Zoom ring tends to be slow for my taste, but the rocker on the handle is excellent.
* Some buttons on the side are a bit exposed and could be bumped. In more expensive Panasonic cameras these are often covered by a door or somewhat blocked by a flip-out LCD. Not here. Though the audio controls are protected by a door.
* It's a bit light and plastic. But so is everything else in this price range today, right?
Other things to know:
Despite the small chips, the camera is pretty decent in low light. I believe because of the fast f1.5 lens and noise reduction it's almost on par with the AC130 and Canon XF100, which have bigger chips. Almost. Again, don't compare it to a Sony F5 or a Canon C500, or anything else costing much more.
The camera's size is smaller than the AC series, or Canon XF100, and about the same size as the Sony NX70. It's bigger than the Canon XF10 or 20, or JVC HM150, but still fits nicely in most any bag and has a good form factor.
If you're a Final Cut Pro editor the footage was seamless into FCPX. You're going to have some workarounds with FCP7. Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 (and I thus assume CC) were seamless as well. I did not try it with PC oriented programs.
If you buy one, pick up at least two SD cards, an extra battery, and an ND filter plus a polarizer for bright conditions outside. You'll thank yourself later.
Again, for the price, I believe this is the best prosumer camcorder on the market today. The picture quality is great, it has a lot of very useful features, the shortcomings are fairly small, and the price is unbeatable.
on November 30, 2012
My school TV station (WHBS) bought this camera last week and it arrived a few days ago. I was the one to test this and here are my test notes. (Current camcorders are Canon GL1s and GL2s, and Ikegami HC-400Ws). We are going from DV tapes recording in 480i (30fps) to 1080p (30fps)
The package came with the camera, a lens cover, 2 covers for the XLR jacks, a Mini-USB cable, a cable for component/composite, a neck strap, and stuff for a microphone mounting clamp.
Build quality is solid. I'm not sure exactly sure what its made of (metal or plastic) but it doesn't feel cheap. One thing that I like about this is that the handle at the top has grooves for the fingers so its very comfortable to hold. One gripe is that its very front heavy. The whole camera itself isn't very heavy, but the front lens is heavier than the rear (even with the battery) so its not very stable when put down - it rests on the lens hood. Speaking of the battery, the battery is quite thick, but when it's in the camera, its still inside the camera; it doesn't protrude out, which was surprising, but welcome. (Extended battery will be possible). The lens has three rings for zoom, focus and iris, and I found them to be very responsive and smooth. It takes a little force (just enough that its hard to accidentally move the ring, but easy to turn when you want to). I also didn't have problems with lagging with the rings. It's there, but i didn't find it to be noticeable unless I was looking for it. The only thing with the LCD is that while it slides into the handle, which is nice, when it comes out, the hinge of the LCD is very flimsy. We need to be gentle when taking it out.
Records onto SD, SDHC or SDXC and there's two slots, so you can either continuously record onto both with one being a backup, or continuously with one after another. The only thing is that when recording one after another, theres a small delay as the camera switches to record to the other card. They should have put in some RAM to avoid that pause.
The LCD screen is crisp, and the color balancing is pretty good. Not perfect, but the menus to manually change color balancing are fantastic. Also, the screen is a touchscreen, so its easy to select options since the buttons are big and easy to tap.
It has a built in 5.1 condenser mic (which actually isn't bad-it's pretty good, just not very strong with low bass - It was able to pick up the pep band pretty well from across the high school gym with a good-sized crowd making noise) but the part that we really like is the 2 XLR inputs. The GLs needed their own boot to get the XLR for interviews and such so it was a major pain since the old boot doesn't make a good connection. Since this is built in, we shouldn't have that problem. It has switches which are covered with a plastic flap, which is nice, It has switches to use one channel XLR with one channel condenser, 2 channels of one XLR, 1 channel of each XLR, or 2 channels stereo condenser, and there's probably more. The cameras also can output +48V phantom power. Only thing we discovered was that while recording, you can't switch audio sources: I started recording from the condenser, but when I wen't to switch over to the XLRs without stopping, it still recorded the audio from the condenser. I had to stop and restart recording before it recorded the XLRs.
It has a headphone jack, remote jacks (which doesn't work with the remotes we have? I'll have to look into that), HDMI, Mini-USB and a proprietary(?) port which breaks up into component and composite. If only they had SDI...
The battery lasts about 7 hours on a full charge, and takes about 8 to fully recharge. One bad thing is that you can't use the battery while using the AC adapter.
I set his up with a side by side tripod with the AC90 on one (in 1080p, 30p-what we'd be shooting in), and the GL2 on the other (480i, 30i-what we used to shoot in), and the Ikegamis (also 480i, 30i) where appropriate.
In all cases tested, the AC90 was superbly better than the old cameras. Colors were more accurate, it was very close to being white balanced automatically, and it was more vibrant. The old stuff was a lot more dull. We tested it in indoor fluorescent lighting, in the studio with halogen lighting, in the auditorium, with house lights off and stage lights on, in the high school gymnasium, and out in the football field from the press box. In the gym and the field, I has someone go down and run around to compare how it focuses and if the camera could zoom adequately. It could. While the GL2 has a slightly closer zoom, the AC90 has so many more pixels that using digital zoom would still be better than the GL2.
We also tested all the cameras in the PAC with only a few lights (from the computer, the cracks in the doorway, etc) and the AC90 did better than even the Ikegami, which surprised me. With the AC90, I would see the outline of the seats, but with the GLs and the Ikegamis, most everything is black except the stuff right in front of the light.
We also tested the image stabilization. Its pretty good. while trying to be as steady as possible while still walking at a brisk pace, the AC90 was quite smooth.
Everyone really likes this camera. We played with it for a few days, and it really isn't hard to figure out. The menus are easy to use and any esoteric settings is a matter of knowing what that setting does, rather than finding out how to change it.
Good build quality - solid
5.1 condenser built in
2 XLR inputs
Good video quality and IS
2 SD slots
Easy to use
3 rings which is nice
Came with a bunch of stuff
Flimsy LCD hinge
Pause when using 2 SD cards
Proprietary(?) cable for composite/component
Either AC or battery: not both
Can't switch audio sources while recording (which might be good for accidents actually...)
All in all, I'd give this a 9.5/10. For our needs,this camera is fantastic and only has a few minor things that can be worked around.
Apparently, these have a 4GB file size limit, which at 1080p30 is about 27.5 minutes of continuous footage. After that, there's a short (<1s) delay in the audio while the video stutters a little. This occurs even on an exFAT formatted SDXC card, which is odd. Hopefully they'll support longer times in a firmware update.
Tony below found the solution to the 4GB file size limit: "DO NOT only copy the .mts file from the SD card, copy the entire "Private" folder from the SD Card to your computer." I can confirm this works on Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5.
on March 15, 2013
I received this pro-camcorder this week, and from the very little time that I've used it I'm very pleased with it. I purchased my AG-AC90 from an authorized Amazon store here on amazon.com, Willoughby's. Fast shipping! Ordered on-line here on amazon.com late Saturday evening March 9 and received it here in NJ on Tuesday, March 12.
I'm very satisfied with this pro-camcorder. I am impressed with it's low light performance, considering the camera's low price. Fully auto mode is good, but I use most of the controls manually. I've only used the camera's internal mic, and the audio is good. The internal mic's 5.1 surround setting is great. I've not used my Rode boom mic yet for testing. But I know that it will be good enough for me.
The user manual states that you MUST format the SD card in the AG-AC90. DO NOT format the SDHC/SDXC card in your computer. Also, when you transfer the SD card's video data from the card to your computer, be sure to copy the entire "Private" folder, which is created on SD card by the AG-AC90, to your computer's hard drive or external hard drive. DO NOT simply copy the .mts files from the SD card, copy the entire "Private" folder from the SD Card to your computer. The files on the SD card are continual while on your editing software's timeline, without stutter or hesitation. The only issue is when you have the AC90's settings for the SD cards to automatically continue from SD Card #1 to SD Card #2, there will be a 1/2 second loss of audio only, not video. Not a deal big deal to me.
I've had no issues with editing the created files from the AC90 to my editing software. I use FCP 7, FCP X, Adobe Premiere CS6, and Adobe Premiere Elements 10. Also, for the best "live" look quality, use the 1080 60p setting. For the more film like look of your video use 1080 24p.
I'm using the Lexar 64GB SDXC cards that I ordered when I bought my AC90. I can get about 6 hours of 1080 60p footage on one 64GB card. Also, Barry Green's book for using the AG-AC90 should be enclosed with the AC90's packaging. If not, there should be a card for you to send in order to get this great book! The book is a wonderful addition to get with this camcorder. You're not even able to buy this book anywhere. The only way you can get it, is by purchasing the AG-AC90. In summation, I'm very satisfied with my first pro-camcorder!
on June 10, 2013
After shooting with my AC90 for the past 1.5 years I've decided to upgrade my original review. I've learned to appreciate and really like this camera. Especially after the recent firmware updates. I purchased the AC90 to replace my aging DVX100b and to finally upgrade to HD. Panasonic wisely incorporated dual card slot recording. For weddings you only get one shot. A corrupted SD card means a lost wedding and a very un-happy bride. Battery life: I really like that it uses my DVX batteries and that I can get several hours out of each one. Prosumer external controls. I like having physical buttons and most cameras under $2,000 utilize menus to alter settings. Mid-size form factor. I like having a hand grip and the AC90 physically is just about right for steady hand held shooting. XLR inputs. Panasonic gives you the ability to plug in professional audio mics, but there's a catch-- You cannot switch between audio channels during recording. Your wireless mic fails you... you have to stop recording to switch it back to the internal mic. They stick Dolby 5.1 surround mics on the camera, but you can't even switch channels during regular 2 channel stereo recording. For event videographers, such as myself, the odd audio controls are somewhat frustrating. With that said, this is the camera that event videographers should be looking at purchasing.
on August 15, 2013
Important: Call the seller of the camera, especially if it's a marketplace seller. You want model AG-AC90PJ, that's the model with the USA warranty.
The camera is what I wanted. Great low light, great clarity, and great range. I compared to the Canon XA25 I just bought at work, and the AC90 is my camera of choice. The low noise in low light conditions is excellent. Most of my shoots are in low light (auditoriums and music halls). The 12x zoom is good enough, but the image quality on the screen is the main point of this camera. On an 80 inch Sharp LCD, the 1080 60p picture of the AC90 with low indoor light is far superior to the Canon XA25. I can read the letters on the signs next to the stage with the AC90, while the Canon picture was brighter, it was fuzzy, and the text was not readable.
I did return the camera I purchased from a Marketplace seller, as it was not the USA model, and did not carry a USA warranty. Beware of this. Amazon handled the return to my satisfaction. Thank you Amazon.
on February 25, 2013
Camera looks great but it's immediately being sent back.
Just a word of caution: Big VALUE Inc and Electronics Basket is selling grey market Canadian versions of this product. If you live in the US that means you don't get Panasonic's warranty with this purchase or Berry Green's guide book (worth $100).
Used the camera on a commercial shoot heres some points:
Image Stabilization works great, very impressed
Awesome zoom range however im not a big fan of the stiff electronic zoom ring
XLRs worked great however the volume nobs are pretty loose. Not so great for fine tuning.
Any amount of gain made the picture quite noisy and muddy especially when zoomed in under indoor lighting.
Used scene 6 but still made the image pretty saturated, will need to tweak some setting to get flat.
Other than that it's a great camera. I used it along side the Panasonic GH3 and while I think the GH3 beats it in terms of resolution and noise, this camera does much better in dynamic range and ease of use.
on May 13, 2013
After having done months of research I finally settled upon getting the Panasonic ag ac90; since it was by far the best camera I could find for the price.
Overall, amazing camera - quality is great, can intercut it with the Canon 5D's footage with the audience none the wiser, assuming you've done your post production well! This has all the professional features and gismos that cameras twice it's prize possess, and although a fellow director had warned me that Panasonic cameras are usually made of cheap plastic, this was not the case here - it feels solid enough and I can definately see it lasting for many years until breaking down.
Shipping was a tad bit of an issue, as the order was delayed by a few weeks, but I did not need the camera until then anyway, and once it was shipped an accesory kit was included as compensation - which was fantastic, so overall I bear absolutely no ill will towards them - rock on Willoughby's!
Definately a camera I would recommend to anyone looking for a professional camcorder at a price below $2,500!!
on October 25, 2014
Good camera for small business.
My first upgrade from DVCam camera and SD video.
I've shot a memorial service in low to medium light - very pleased.
I just taped a band performance inside a community center See for yourself.
Would recommend it as a first time HD Camera with limited learning curve.
on February 26, 2015
I've had it for a while and it works better than I had expected. It is loaded with good features, light weight, not too big and the manual controls are all in a good location and work smoothly. Some complained about the iris/focus/zoom rings being a sticky or stiff but I did not find that so. The XLR connections are a big plus. For low light conditions, it works acceptably with relatively low noise - not the best but it works. The time lapse feature is nice also. The standard 7.2V 5400 mAh battery that is supplied with it lasts for several hours. Also third party batteries are available with even higher mAh ratings. The dual SD card slots are also a plus. Compared to the typical HD cameras that are under $1000, I think this one is worth the money. I think it is superior to most other cameras.
on March 10, 2014
This is a good camera but it doesn't have SDI out and the focus is just to hard to work with in auto mode when shooting live music or stage presentations. Other than that, I would love to have another. Very good picture quality in 24fps.