Out-of-camera JPEG.
Lumix 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 @ 55mm | ISO 320 | 1/250 sec | F5.6
Photo by Carey Rose

The DC-G95/G90 uses the same Depth from Defocus AF system as countless other models from Panasonic. Unlike manufacturers who offer cameras with on-sensor phase detection, Panasonic has stuck with DFD, which is essentially an advanced contrast-detect system.

That said, DFD still performs quite well for a CDAF system, keeping up (but not surpassing) cameras that use phase detection. It's not without its frustrations though, as it's prone to 'wobbling' as it fine-tunes focus, which can be disconcerting when using continuous autofocus.

Key takeaways:

  • The G95 detects faces and eyes well, though you can't switch between them
  • It's capable of tracking randomly moving subjects, though it will miss on occasion
  • The shooting experience, especially during continuous AF and video, is frustrating due to 'hunting' from the DFD AF system

AF modes and face detection

The G95 has six different AF modes:

  • Face/eye detection (no animals, sorry)
  • Tracking
  • 49-area
  • Custom multi
  • 1-area
  • Pinpoint

Selecting the AF point can be done via the touchscreen or by pressing left and then down on the directional controller. If you aren't using the touchscreen and want to speed up AF point selection then you can redefine one of the camera's many customizable buttons to go directly to it. When your eye is to the finder, you can use the touchscreen to move the AF point around. The active area of the screen can be selected to avoid 'nose focusing', and you can choose between absolute and relative adjustments to also minimize that risk.

The face detection system on the G95 works reasonably well, though it's not as advanced compared to Panasonic's latest cameras, such as the full-frame S1. It detects faces and eyes well when your subject is looking at you or slightly offset, and sticks with them, at least until they start to look away. There's no way to switch between detected faces, even with the touchscreen, which is disappointing.

The Tracking mode will start to follow whatever's under the AF point when you tap the screen or half-press the shutter. However, like previous Panasonics, you need to cancel the tracking, rather than simply releasing the shutter, if you want to quickly change subjects. This is something that's been improved on the newer S-series cameras.

Continuous AF

To test continuous AF performance, we first try to shoot a subject approaching at a steady speed using the central AF point. This lets us see how good the camera is at assessing subject distance and whether it can drive its lens to that point quickly. We shot this sequence (and the one that follows) using the Panasonic 35-100mm F2.8 II OIS lens at 1/1000 sec and a burst rate of 6 frames/second.

Note that the images below have been brightened for better visibility.

Despite slightly back-focusing slightly in one frame (number 3), the G95 handled this type of situation well. This happened a few times in our test runs, but more often than not, the subject was sharp.

We then have the subject weave across the camera's AF region in a way the camera can't predict. Here the camera has to recognize the subject and follow it around the frame, in addition to judging distance changes and responding to them. This has the advantage that the approach rate varies as the subject changes direction. For this test we used the G95's dedicated tracking mode, selecting our subject using the touchscreen.

Again, the G95 does reasonably well, but you'll see that the camera back-focuses in two of the frames, despite the focus target following them on the LCD while shooting. That's still a pretty good performance for a camera using a contrast-detect system. Otherwise, the only other issue we have with how the camera performed in this test is the occasional 'wobbling' effect, which makes it hard to see if your subject is in focus at all, and may be disconcerting for new users.

If you want to fine-tune how the AF system works in continuous mode, the only option you'll find is 'AF sensitivity (Photo)'. The range is ±2, with lower numbers switching quickly to a closer subject and higher numbers sticking with the object the camera is tracking.