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    First Look, Panasonic AG-AC90 at DVExpo West
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    The Professor BobDiaz's Avatar
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    As I'm writing this, I'm crunching the video I shot of Jan Crittenden Livigston, from Panasonic, today at DVExpo regarding the AC90 camera. Jan was nice enough to sit down with me, let me "play" with the camera, and show me the features. In addition I have a card with 6 clips I shot with the camera at the show. However, I'm pressed to get ready for class right now, so I can only give you a little information now and a lot more later on...

    The first thing that jumps out at me is the image stabilization system in the camera. When I was in my 30s, I could hold a camera reasonably steady, but today I'm a lot older and stink at handheld shots. (Sorry, but may hands aren't as steady as they used to be.) The HMC-40 has OIS, but it's limited as to how much it can do; it helps, but not enough for me. The 5 axes image stabilization system on the AC90 is amazing. At wide angle it overcomes my shake and holds very well even at the half way zoom point. At maximum telephoto, I'm a bit too much for it, but I can see that the system helps to reduce the shake I have.

    When I get a chance to upload the 6 clips I shot from the camera to VIMEO, you will see that the last clip I wasn't waving the camera around like crazy, but pointed it at Jan as she talked about the camera. Take a good look at that part of the clip, it's VERY stable!!! You'll be able to download the source clip if you are signed up to VIMEO and if you play it on your HDTV, look at Jan's hair closely, the image is VERY sharp. I played all 6 clips on my HDTV and they look great.


    Unlike the HMC40, the AC90 has 3 rings on the lens that allow you to adjust focus, zoom, and iris. Very nice, no flipping a switch to pick two of the three items. I love how the audio volume controls are now on the side of the camera and XLR is built into the camera. You have 3 User defined buttons on the AND 4 more on the LCD. The camera has 2 slots so that you have the option of recording to one slot, record the same to both slots, or switch when full. Be aware, that switch when full will drop about a second of so of video.

    The camera is using an improved MOS sensor, which should give you about 1 stop improvement over the HMC40. I understand that Barry Green will be testing out the AC90, so we'll get the word from him as to the difference. It should prove interesting as gain increases to see how the two compare.

    Right now my brain is a bit scrambled because I have do prepare for my class tonight and at the same time I want to get the video up ASAP. Subject to how fast things work, I may or may now have the video ready in time before class.... If not, than late tonight I'll post the video. (Remember I'm in California.)

    However, I did want to tell you that IF you are about to purchase a new camera in around the $2,000 range, the AC90 is worth considering!!!



    Bob Diaz



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    Quote Originally Posted by BobDiaz View Post
    When I get a chance to upload the 6 clips I shot from the camera to VIMEO, you will see that the last clip I wasn't waving the camera around like crazy, but pointed it at Jan as she talked about the camera. Take a good look at that part of the clip, it's VERY stable!!!
    The stabilization in the AC90 is simply leagues better than on any prior Panasonic camera. It's night and day better, it's a massive improvement.

    You'll be able to download the source clip if you are signed up to VIMEO and if you play it on your HDTV, look at Jan's hair closely, the image is VERY sharp.
    At 0dB of gain, the AC90 is absurdly sharp. It's really quite fantastic. I think it's sharper than the HPX250/AC160 series, and that's saying something. Sharper than an EX3? Maybe. Now, when you start cranking up the gain that advantage gets mushed a little, but at 0dB it's super hyper sharp.

    The camera has 2 slots so that you have the option of recording to one slot, record the same to both slots, or switch when full. Be aware, that switch when full will drop about a second of so of video.
    In my testing, switching from one card to the other was seamless for video, but it did truncate about 1/2 second of audio during the swapover. I compared against the AF100 and the AF100 does it completely seamlessly. The AC90 is much less expensive, so you can't expect everything to be as good, and this aspect was surprising (I was expecting seamlessness) but it did lose that 1/2 second of audio.

    The camera is using an improved MOS sensor, which should give you about 1 stop improvement over the HMC40. I understand that Barry Green will be testing out the AC90, so we'll get the word from him as to the difference. It should prove interesting as gain increases to see how the two compare.
    In terms of base sensitivity, it isn't any more sensitive than the HMC40. They're about the same in that regard. The sensors are a little smaller in the AC90, which lowers sensitivity, but they're backlit illuminated chips, which enhances sensitivity, so the net effect is that they're about the same in terms of basic sensitivity. Where the AC90 pulls way ahead though is in gain performance. I was testing last night, trying to evaluate the noise profile, and there basically wasn't any noise, I had to go to 30dB of gain to get any appreciable amount of noise! Even at +18, it was really clean. Cleaner than I remember the HMC40 being at 12dB. As I recall, the limit of where I was really comfortable with the HMC40 was about 9dB, and 12db in an emergency, but I set the gain limit at 12db, and never let it go higher. With the AC90, I'm happy to let it go to 18db, and I'll say this, I wish I had them side by side because I think the AC90 is probably cleaner at 24dB than the HMC40 is at 12dB. And if that's the case, it means a real-world two stop advantage vs. the HMC40.

    I love the HMC40, it's a great little camera, but the intervening three years has indeed brought some technical benefits, and the AC90 is sharper, cleaner, with an absolutely gorgeous 4:2:2 output (recording the Wringer on the NanoFlash from the AC90 gave the best results I've seen yet from any camera I've tested!) It does get softer/mushier/noisier at 30dB, but ... that's 30dB! You should expect it to be soft and flat and mushy at 30dB. I think 24dB is usable, and I think 18dB is just fine, and I'm shocked to say that, because man, back in DVX days, 18dB was an unholy hailstorm of noise and grain and ugliness, but the AC90 just laps it up like it was nothing.


    However, I did want to tell you that IF you are about to purchase a new camera in around the $2,000 range, the AC90 is worth considering!!!
    Definitely agreed there. I really like the AC90. It's bigger than the HMC40, about DVX100 sized, but it's priced competitive with the HMC40, and outperforms it, and includes the XLRs, and it has the first actually "good" lens cap implementation Panasonic's done since ... oh, since ... well, several years, anyway! I still think there's room in the market for the HMC40 alongside the HMC90; the HMC40 is a micro-sized cam with a great picture and a waveform monitor, the AC90 is bigger, but in that bigger-ness you get sharper imagery, cleaner gain, XLRs, two slots, and simply superb image stabilization. It does lose the waveform monitor (only a histogram now), and oddly it uses DVX batteries instead of HMC/AC160/AC130 batteries; that's a real head-scratcher I haven't figured out, but it is what it is...

    In summation, a quite impressive camera at a really affordable price point.



    Bob Diaz[/QUOTE]


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    Can you say yet how much DR the cam is holding onto when you crank up the gain?

    No waveform? Ugg. That's probably my single favorite feature of the HMC40. Oh well. Two steps forward, one step back I guess.


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    Haven't done DR testing yet. Will do next week.


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    Hi Barry

    While you are testing would it be possible to see if autofocus works like the HMC40 and doesn't have the 130/160 issues ??? I'm guessing that the camera will use the same autoiris control as the hmc40/80 uses with iris/shutter and a built-in auto ND filter?? I'd love one to use on my stedicam at weddings so I do need a cam that can look after itself while I'm in a vest and rig!!

    Sounds an awesome camera and the size/weight is right too!!!

    Chris


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    The Professor BobDiaz's Avatar
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    I was amazed how fast and clean the auto-focus is. One of the clips I went from a close shot of Jan to someone across the hall and before I knew it, it was in focus. I just got home from teaching a class and I'm uploading the first video now, but at the current slow upload speed, I may have to give up and go to the college tomorrow to upload all the videos.

    One of the interesting things about the camera is we gain a 1080/60p mode and a 480 mode, but all the 720p modes are not available on the AC90. It's not exactly a big loss because you can shoot in a matching 1080 mode and down-res the video to 720p mode.


    Bob Diaz



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    Zoom Range....
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    Hello Bob,

    i'm interested in the AG-AC90.

    So please, can you test this:

    Panasonic describes that it has an Optical Zoom 12X beginning from 29,8mm.
    Then there is an Digital Zoom, this allows to Zoom 25X seamless.

    Is it Seamless?

    How good looks the Picture on the Digital 25X Tele?
    Always same sharpness on the complete Zoomrange, or would it soft on the Range 12X to 25X (Digital Zoom-Range) ?

    Panasonic describes an minimum of f1,5
    What minimum f-stop is on Optical 12X Zoom and what minimum f-stop is on (Digital-) 25X Zoom ?


    Thanks for check this.

    Andreas Jäger


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    Hi xandix,

    Unfortunately I only got to "Play" with the camera at DV Expo yesterday and I don't have the camera to try things. I do know from the camera that the lens said, F 1.5 on it. The HMC-40 is F 1.8, so the AC90 has about 1/2 a stop wider opening there. It acted like the F 1.5 didn't occur at the widest point in the zoom, but just a little into the zoom. Beyond that, I don't have any more information.

    Barry Green has or will have the camera and might be able to answer the question.


    Bob Diaz


    P.S. I'm having to re-render and upload the video a second time, in my rush to post ASAP, something went wrong. Sorry for the delay....



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    The Professor BobDiaz's Avatar
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    Here's the video of Jan talking about the camera.



    Link: https://vimeo.com/49936883


    I still have more to post, but it's a busy day and I have to multiplex between different tasks.


    Bob Diaz



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    Thanks Bob for your answers and the Link.

    Interesting Camera, i have to deeper check it out when its in Europe available.

    Andreas Jäger


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