May 23, 2017
REVIEW

REVIEW: Panasonic Varicam LT is a Viable Alternative to RED and Alexa

The Varicam LT is Panasonic's latest in indie-friendly 4K cameras with beautiful images and a lightweight body.

Varicam was once one of the leaders in digital cinema, and Panasonic has been back on a roll over the last few years. The Varicam LT is a $14,500 camera, so by no means is it something most of us can afford to own. But it’s competing with cameras like the Alexa Mini ($34K) and the RED Weapon ($40K), and in some respects is competing even with a full-fledged Alexa, so it's adding a valuable option to the rental market.

With its exploding popularity in the TV space—Master of None and the upcoming David Simon production The Deuce are both shooting some flavor of Varicam—we wanted to take a look at the most affordable Varicam option, the LT.

Note: We borrowed the Varicam from Panasonic for a week for the purposes of this review.

Credit: Charles Haine

Overview

RED and Alexa often feel like the only choices at the highest end of the digital cinema market. When we run articles on the cameras of the Oscar nominees, or if we profile the cinematography behind a hit show, we’re mainly talking about Alexa and RED (with the exception of projects still shot on film like Westworld) . Yes, Sony has the F65, but aside from the occasional outlier project (Billy Lynn, Cafe Society) and films from Sony studios, it just doesn’t come up in the conversation that much. That might change soon, but one of our ways of tracking camera impact is how often we get asked about a camera, how often young DPs tell us stories of being out on a set and seeing a new camera and being curious about it, and the Alexa and RED dominate those conversations.

Credit: Charles Haine

It wasn’t always this way. At the start of the digital revolution, more than a decade ago, it was Sony and Panasonic who owned the market. Between the mass market DVX 100, and then the “first of its kind” HVX 200 (No tape drive? What will we ever do without a tape drive?!), and its upper-tier Varicam line, Panasonic was a huge player. Especially known for it’s beautiful color reproduction, especially in the skin tones, the Panasonic reputation was strong enough that producers would frequently push for it.

After RED’s disruption of the industry, followed by the 5D for the indies and the Alexa for the studios, Panasonic wasn’t a name much discussed in the cinema world for a few years, other than the use of their amazing Plasma monitors for color grading. However, with the launch of Varicam 35 back in 2014, the Varicam name came back into play. Not just on a lot of the TV shows you watch, but also conversationally, it’s got a buzz. With the LT, which really hit the streets full throttle in the summer of 2016, you get all the benefits of the phenomenal Varicam 4K sensor, in a smaller body.

Credit: Charles Haine

Build Quality

Can something feel both like a tank and be light and easy on your shoulder?  Weighing in at 14 lbs, the LT never felt like a hassle to use, and spent long hours comfortably on our shoulders during testing without any frustrations. However, it also felt incredibly tough and durable. While some cameras feel a little bit like beta designs, with eyepieces that won't hold their position or connectors and buttons in odd places that are in the way or out of reach, the Varicam LT design is thoroughly thought out and incredibly solid throughout. It just feels durable. Panasonic's decades of experience designing cameras for field use really shows.

That 14lbs is body only, of course, and once you add accessories, batteries, and lenses the weight adds up, but you could potentially build a 20lb or so package that you could gimbal if you needed, and you could easily make it into a tight rig for Steadicam work. 

Ergonomics

As mentioned, the camera sits comfortably on your shoulder, and it's possible to tweak many of the controls easily while operating. If you want to do more elaborate menu work, you use an external menu panel, which gives an intuitive and easy-to-follow user interface that can help with initial set up when you first get your hands on the camera at the prep, and also enables camera assistants to keep making changes through the shoot without the operator needing to get out of the way.

Credit: Charles Haine
Credit: Charles Haine
The only possible oddity is the dual cable connection for the eyepiece, which requires one power/info cable and one SDI cable. This makes a ton of sense, since it makes it easier to use third party eyepieces that you power via d-tap and ultimately makes for a more open experience for the end user. Especially since the OLED viewfinder isn't cheap ($5400), the ability to use third party options, or just operate a small monitor, or is a nice plus.  As we move towards simpler and simpler packages with fewer cables, it’s just ever so slightly more cables than some users might be used to, but the flexibility makes the extra cables worth it.

Image Quality

While it’s true that, with enough work in post production, you can usually get a Dragon pretty close to matching an Alexa and vice versa, image quality straight out of the camera still matters. Opinions are formed by looking at dailies. Sometimes clients don’t involve the DP in post. Dailies can dictate the look of VFX. Even if you can do post work to make skin tones feel more natural, isn’t it better to just have skin tones feel natural to begin with without the extra work?

There’s a temptation to say "Alexa-like" because it’s got that creamy, low contrast, accurate-but-not-particularly-saturated look. 

Footage from the Varicam just looks great. There’s a temptation to say "Alexa-like" because it’s got that creamy, low contrast, accurate-but-not-particularly-saturated look. However, it’s not quite got the texture of an Alexa; it’s a little smoother than that, missing the granularity of Alexa footage. "Creamy" is the word that we kept saying as we shot with it, but that doesn't mean you couldn't dial in rich blacks in the grade if you wanted them.

Credit: Charles Haine

Color accuracy feels great. You look at lemons and oranges and they feel appetizing without having to isolate the color and tweak it. Color accuracy feels like it should be easy, but it's amazing how often it’s not, and the Varicam LT just feels right. In none of our shots did we have that disorienting feeling of looking at the monitor and seeing a color look dramatically wrong. While Alexa and RED have a huge foothold in the commercial market, I could see Varicam being very popular on commercials for the accuracy with which it could reproduce a brand's key assets.

Credit: Charles Haine
Credit: Charles Haine

ISO

The Varicam has two native ISOs, 800 and 5000. While some testers claim results were identical, we noticed a tiny bit more grain at 5000, but it was very minor. In reality, it's 5000 ISO on a cinema camera, which is great, and it still looked amazing. While there is a low light race going on in the mirrorless market that beats 5000 by far, the other image quality sacrifices that come with those cameras don't really compare to what you get from the 5000 ISO on the Varicam, which is exceptionally useable footage. 

Credit: Charles Haine

Latitude

Panasonic claims 14 stops of latitude, and while we have never yet felt like a manufacturer's claimed latitude matched the reality, this comes close. While we love tests from a Xyla or an Imatest with an HDR light box to give us insight into latitude, there are so many variables to consider (lenses have different contracts, and even change for different apertures, along with post processing introducing changes, along with monitoring), we tend to trust real world tests to give us a sense of useable latitude.  

While we have never yet felt like a manufacturer's claimed latitude matched the reality, this comes close.

Nothing about our results makes us doubt the 14 advertised stops or other reviewers' experiences; it felt like plenty of latitude. In the shot below, it is clear that the camera couldn't hold full detail on the reflection of the sun in the water and also hold detail in the water, but we have never worked with a camera that could, and the amount of detail we see down in the water while also holding info on the boat is enough for us.

Credit: Charles Haine

Rolling shutter artifacts were very minor, as you can see from the still below, pulled from a moving shot of a fence, which looks nearly identical to the fence when stopped (there is a bend in the physical fence, that isn't an artifact), and the cranes look correct. It's barely detectable if it's there at all, and it wasn't crippling to the footage in any way shape or form. You could easily expect to shoot action with this camera and get quality results.

Credit: Charles Haine

Lens mount swapping

The Varicam LT lets you swap between lens mounts, and works equally well with both EF mounts and PL mounts. For its price point, you are likely going to end up mostly shooting PL, but there are honestly so many beautiful EF mount lenses around today that shooting all EF to save costs while getting a body like the LT will make sense on a lot of productions.

Credit: Charles Haine

Workflow

P2 has been around forever, and while it's frustrating that Panasonic continues to use their proprietary P2 cards, with more than a decade of use in the field, cards are plentiful and familiar to many users. The camera is capable of delivering 4K raw to external recorders like the Odyssey 7Q+, but for internal recording, it uses AVC-Intra, either in 422 for 4k, or 444 for 2K. AVC-Intra is Panasonic's own implementation of H.264, and while H.264 gets a bad rap from low-bitrate recording on some consumer cameras, its implementation here is a great use of the technology, with higher bitrate encoding allowing for robust and gradable images in post. The format is supported by all the major NLEs, including Media Composer and Premiere along with Resolve.

Credit: Charles Haine

As an added bonus, the LT allows you to record your clean, ungraded footage to P2 cards, but also make proxy prores files with a look baked into them to SD cards, for a speedier process to get you editing faster. This is actually a feature that is no longer supported on the Dragon platform (you can make internal proxies, but not bake a LUT into them; you can only use the internal camera controls), and it's much appreciated to have it here.

Conclusion

If absolute resolution is your goal, Weapon (and now Helium) is still the winner, with 6K and 8K. If you need to reframe a lot, do a lot of post stabilization, or are otherwise in love with high-resolution, the 4K Varicam won’t be your choice.

If resolution isn’t your primary decider, the Varicam deserves a serious look and will likely win many conversations. For a while, on Netflix and Amazon jobs where 4K was required, Varicam was regularly chosen by productions that didn't like the look of the RED but couldn't afford to go Alexa. While there are now 4K options from Alexa and rumors that if you are a big enough director you could deliver 2.5K to those outlets, the Varicam still deserves a close look. The image quality is stunning. The ergonomics are great. The workflow is insanely well tested.

Credit: Charles Haine

Price also does matter. While, theoretically, we would all like to shoot our next movie on Alexa 65, most of us can’t afford it. But bumping up to Varicam LT rental from a C700 or an FS7 might not break the bank, and will offer a huge bump in image quality. Or, if considering an Alexa Mini job, you might be able to squeeze 2 Varicam LT bodies into the same budget range.

Credit: Varicam

Additionally, at NAB in April Panasonic teased a new camera (that appeared FS7-sized) under a tarp, and there's a press event happening at Cinegear that we assume will reveal what is under the tarp. That camera, if it matches the FS7 well in features but matches well with the Varicam for image quality, might well be a world-eater, and would make a great owner/operator camera that matches well with the Varicam on bigger jobs. The Varicam LT is just slightly too big for a full-time gimbal camera, but hopefully whatever is released in June will cover that space and make for a real third horse in the race.

Tech Specs:

  • Same 4K Sensor as the VariCam 35
  • 14+ Stops of Dynamic Range
  • Dual ISO: 800 and 5000
  • Removable Canon EF or PL Mount Option ($1,300)
  • 4K-UHD — AVC-Intra 4K422: up to 30p
  • 4K-UHD — AVC-Intra 4K-LT: 30p to 60p
  • 2K — AVC-Intra 2K444: up to 30p, AVC-Intra 2K422: up to 60p, up to 120p (cropped), AVC-Intra 2K-LT: 120p to 240p (cropped)
  • HD — AVC-Intra444: up to 30p, AVC-Intra422: up to 60p, up to 120p (cropped), AVC-Intra100: 50i/59.94i, AVC-IntraLT: 120p to 240p (cropped)
  • HD ProRes: 4444 up to 30p, ProRes 422HQ up to 60p
  • One express P2 card Slot
  • SD Slot for Proxies — AVC-Proxy G6 (6Mbps): up to 60p
  • RAW Output from SDI Coming in Summer 2016
  • ND filters (CLEAR, 0.6, 1.2, 1.8)
  • 256GB expressP2 card — 90 minutes of 4K/4:2:2/23.98p content
  • 3G-SDI OUT x3 (SDI OUT 1/ SDI OUT2/VF SDI)
  • Genlock INTC IN/OUT, LAN
  • USB HOST (for Network Connect), USB DEVICE (miniB)
  • XLR 5 pin x1, XLR 3 pin x2
  • DC OUT 4 pin Hirose x2
  • Lens/Grip Connector 12 pin
  • 12 V DC-IN 4 pin
  • Head Phone x1 3.5 mm Stereo Mini Jack
  • Proxy FTP
  • Can use Panasonic AU-VCVF10G viewfinder and 3rd party viewfinder solutions
  • Weight: Under 6 Pounds Body Only
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 184 mm x 230.5 mm x 247 mm (7-1/4 inches x 9-1/8 inches x 9-3/4 inches)
  • Power Consumption: 47 W (body only), 77 W with all ports maxed out

TL:DR

  • Varicam LT gives you great images out of the camera​

  • A lot of your favorite shows have been shooting with it and you’ve likely thought “Oh, is that Alexa?”

  • Panasonic has decades of experience designing for users and it shows

Your Comment

37 Comments

A better comparison would have been to the Red Scarlet-W. For about the same price, you get 5K, a proper RAW format, and excellent image quality.

Also, the Alexa sensors were quite amazing considering they're 7 years old now, but it would be pretty boring if everything had the "Alexa look"

May 23, 2017 at 12:32PM

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Todd Takehana
Writer/Director
101

Absolutely... Why compare this camera to the $40K Weapon when you can compare it to the Scarlet-W which is nearly the same price.

May 23, 2017 at 2:37PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
564

Totally get what you're saying. I think their point was stacking it up against the higher end models on purpose, comparing it to the 8k Helium and Alexa since it's much cheaper but performs in the same ballpark as far as image quality and features.

May 23, 2017 at 3:23PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

With my FS7 stolen a month back, but all my work now requiring RED or Alexa, this article was great to read. I had JUST been wondering if there were any options in the middle. Do I drop the $40k for an Amira, or settle for another FS7 that I don't really love. Much to consider. Thanks.

May 23, 2017 at 1:06PM

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Thomas R. Wood
Director
1

I think if they came out with an FS7 sized Varicam with the same features, it would be insane / rapid adoption. The biggest issue I see for small crews and single operators is the 14 lbs body. That's a pretty major issue for gimbals, drones and requires considerably more expensive rigging - beefier tripods, jibs and other camera support. There's a reason why smaller, lighter cameras like the Red and Alexa Mini are so popular, because you can do way more with them in terms of putting the camera where you want it without major hassle. For one of my regular crews, I shoot with large, ENG style cameras and I absolutely hate it. Breaks my back (serious issue) lugging around a massive tripod and a 25 lb+ camera is hard to go back to when I'm used to my FS7 and Epic-W.

May 23, 2017 at 1:56PM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
627

I don't know where they found those numbers but the body is 6 lbs. It will usually end up slightly lighter than an Alexa mini once you add rods and battery plates to it.

Weighs nearly exactly as much as an ursa mini pro...

May 24, 2017 at 4:50AM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
488

Stay tuned for CineGear next month ;) Panasonic will be announcing a new camera.

May 24, 2017 at 9:53AM, Edited May 24, 9:53AM

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K W
62

If this camera recorded RAW internally it would be something more professionals would use. If I have to buy an Odyssey to record RAW I might as well just use an FS7, FS700, etc...

May 23, 2017 at 2:39PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
564

Is raw really that important? 99% of the shoots I'm on, shoot ProRes and the ones that do shoot raw, do it because they're using red. The original Alexa didn't shoot raw and it did pretty alright for itself.

May 24, 2017 at 4:47AM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
488

Original Alexa could shoot raw, it just needed a bolt-on Codex box to do it. There were plenty of DOPs in American Cinematographer around 2011-2012 talking about using it and how the data rate was insane. I think later more people started using the ProRes options more as they started to feel safer with it, and the camera moved from being this incredible, new, pricey tool to something the whole industry was using (which admittedly happened pretty rapidly).

May 24, 2017 at 8:16AM

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James Barber
Director/Editor/DOP
7

Yet and still It's being used on Tons of professional shows and feature films. A little misnomer and major success of RED marketing the idea that RED records Raw. NO it does not. Compressed RAW is not RAW. what the RED records is for all intents and purposed a version of cineform RAW. It's a compressed RAW. great for low data RATEs ETC. Shooting REAL RAW (which In my experience is CODEX) is a data management and logistic nightmare for anything other than a feature film. I've owned My Varicam LT for a year now and I AVC-I 4.2.2 delivers more than I was getting in "RAW" from the Read Dragon I used to own, Also The 12 bit RAW from the Varicam LT to an ATOMOS or a 7Q+ out performs any version of R3D redcode RAW in post.

May 24, 2017 at 1:28PM

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Hello james!
Is the varicam 12 raw output on the oddyssey 7q+ available in prores or just pure raw files?
Do you know what the data rates are for 12 bit raw output?

June 7, 2017 at 2:58PM

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As an owner of both the Varicam LT and the FS700, I don't agree. The raw files are not the same, the sensors aren't. Even though the FS700 is a great camera paired with an O7Q, especially considering the used price these days, the Varicam LT is a great camera even without an external recorder.

I've even compared the FS700+O7Q 4K raw > 4K ProRes 422 with the internal AVC-Intra4K422 codec and prefered the latter.

Also, I prefer the colours from the Varicam LT.

May 27, 2017 at 12:47PM

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I did a cinematic themed music video on the Varicam at 5000 ISO if anyone is interested in seeing how it performed:

https://vimeo.com/171319465

May 23, 2017 at 3:56PM, Edited May 23, 4:00PM

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Joe Lumbroso
Director/Cinematographer
19

Incredible work on that music video. Hat's off!

May 25, 2017 at 2:49PM

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Ron Saunders Jr
Producer / Filmmaker
95

Dope video, great job! On a camera note, I'm really disappointed in the image. Its way way too noisy. Some shots look nice but others look on par with an a7s+Shogun combo.

May 26, 2017 at 3:36PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
564

Wait, but the description says:

"Filmed using Panavision® Cameras & Lenses"

June 3, 2017 at 4:21PM

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I've been using the LT regularly for over a year now, mixed in with jobs that want Red and others I shoot.

One of the key points on the Varicams that I don't see discussed is that the colour accuracy is retained through varying exposure. For example if you compare a vectorscope on a shot of a colour chart from say -6 through to plus 6 stops, the colour accuracy is retained throughout the exposures. That's a pretty big deal IMO.

May 23, 2017 at 5:46PM

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Noel Evans
Director / Director of Photography / Cinematographer
102

+1 - I love that about this camera. Makes skin tones so silky perfect throughout the whole range.
Another subtle but incredibly filmic quality is the highlight roll off. It's not only how far it sees into highlights, but they don't clip like RED or Sony, etc. - it's such a pleasant roll off.
Been using this camera almost a year as well and put it through extreme situations - it handles all of them every time, from horrid weather to crazy contrast.

May 23, 2017 at 6:43PM, Edited May 23, 6:43PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

I like this camera but I am waiting on Panasonic to get the frame rates worked out. Having to reboot and endure that lengthy startup time every time you want to change frame rates is just ridiculous. It is by far one of the biggest downsides to that camera. It doesn't seem like much when you are messing around with it in a camera store, but when you are on set and a client is standing behind you waiting on you, or if you are running behind at all on a shoot, it feels like an eternity just to change frame rates.

May 23, 2017 at 7:15PM, Edited May 23, 7:15PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
179

How long are we talking about? Minutes?

May 23, 2017 at 8:41PM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
627

Takes about 25 seconds to reboot. The new firmware has variable frame rates where you don't have to restart - for example in ProRes 2k I can switch from 23.98 to 60fps without restarting the camera very quickly.

May 23, 2017 at 8:43PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

Ben, with new firmware you can switch from 4k 24fps to 120fps without having to reboot?

It was my understanding that you have to reboot when changing the MAIN CODEC, MAIN PIXEL, or SDI RAW. So if you want to switch the main codec from one of the normal AVC-Intra settings (default standard) to AVC-Intra LT for high frame rates, you have to reboot. And if you switch from full-sensor 1080p to crop-mode 1080p for high frame rates, you have to reboot.

May 23, 2017 at 11:06PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
179

No, you can't. You are correct - but with new firmware there are SOME framerates you can change when in certain settings (like 24 to 60 in 2k, 60 to 120) - but you are correct, when changing main codec to allow these framerates you have to reboot. So they improved it a bit (before you had to reboot on all the framerate changes), but it's still not perfect.
I've spoken with them numerous times and they are aware of this - their goal is to consistently update the camera via firmware and improve anywhere they can. Hopefully they update!
But regardless...it's such a phenomenal camera.

May 23, 2017 at 11:17PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

@Gene,

Ben is right. It's 25 seconds. Right now, go ahead and try counting that down properly (1001, 1002, 1003, etc.) and then imagine doing that multiple times while on set. It's a lot longer than it seems when you're under the gun.

May 24, 2017 at 11:43AM, Edited May 24, 11:44AM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
179

my question is what are you shooting that requires changing frame rates and codecs with that level of frequency? I've been shooting professional jobs (Professional Boxing, and a few national broadcast spots) and The 16 second restart has never been and issue, and if 16 seconds when the cameras output and viewfinder are live in 3 seconds is an issue, then someone has clearly never used an Alexa or a Red. The Alexa SXT requires restarts too and those take at least a full minute and change. I Just AC'd a spot with one and no one on set was complaining. I often wonder if the people who post about "Issue" on cameras they've never used. actually shoot?

May 24, 2017 at 1:39PM

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Yeah, it's never been a big problem for me either. The only time I imagine it truly is a problem is documentary shooting or nature shooting - but in that situation I think I would record in a high frame rate to start with so the option is there.
I get both sides - the restart is annoying, for sure. But on set it's never been too much a problem for me. I just find the right time to switch over (if it's needed) while the director is talking to actors or we're setting up the next shot or something.

May 24, 2017 at 2:14PM, Edited May 24, 2:14PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

yes absolutely but it is a very Minor thing in the scheme of things, I just have no idea what people are shooting that they have to switch codecs frame rates and resolutions that frequently? for one who ever is editing that project will hate you. You don't have to reboot in any standard frame rates (23.98,24,29.97 etc), and if you are shooting high speed generally that isn't something done on a whim. So lets just say I don't get it and I shoot sports (professional boxing) quite a bit. So it's not like I'm just shooting scripted narrative work

May 24, 2017 at 2:37PM

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Having shot with the camera, the long reboot times are deadly PITA. we change frame rates on some jobs all the time.

Nobody talked about audio on this camera :
No actual audio level controls with knobs, switches. Just bizarre considering Panasonic makes great ENG cameras that do have these controls
No dedicated level meters / display
5 Pin XLR's for ins require yet another adapter... and if you don't have one you are SOL
MicroP2 - really ????? no really ????? why not CFast 2 which is a standard ? and way faster than P2/ P2micro
Did anyone mention how bad the reboots are ?????

May 25, 2017 at 12:46AM

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Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist
363

Isn't the control panel for this camera unattached? I seem to remember seeing photos where it was oddly mounted on the top/back of the camera. I don't see it in any of the pictures.

May 24, 2017 at 1:14AM

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Kenneth Merrill
Director
1131

Yeah, it's mounted at the top/back but it has other options to be mounted pretty much wherever you want it as long as it's within the 3' cable.

May 24, 2017 at 1:16AM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

Yikes. This article is in need of some editing. First off hvx-200 still had a mini dv tape deck in it. But that's getting pedantic.

As to the Varicam. Body only does not weigh 14lbs. I'm assuming he weighed it with baseplate, viewfinder, control panel, etc. you can strip the body down to about 6-7lbs plus lens and battery for gimbal or steadicam work. Pretty reasonable weight. Though the length can be problematic.

The article implies that you can use the old readily available p2 cards. And you can. But only for legacy formats. Express P2 is new for the new gen Varicams and requires a new reader. Anything above basic 1080 requires the newer cards. Or an odyssey/shogun.

C700 renters are prob not stepping UP to a Varicam LT. I'm guessing he meant c300 mk2??

I'm an owner of the camera and I can't believe the biggest gripes weren't mentioned. The lack of physical audio controls and the long boot up. I realize this review might be weighted forwards big cinema style productions since he cameras is being compared to arris and reds. But those who are looking to rent as an alternative to an fs7 or c300 should know about these issues. For me the image workflow and quality make it the superior camera for a lot of situations.

May 24, 2017 at 3:40AM

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Stephen Berke
Cinematographer
84

Yeah. I was surprised there were so few complaints in the article. It kind of seems like a paid placement. I forgot about the audio controls. That is a huge downside, especially when shooting documentary style.

May 24, 2017 at 11:47AM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
179

I agree that audio controls should've been placed on the camera, but it's not impossible to work with since there are alternatives. With the firmware released about 7 months ago, you can now assign audio control to a button.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Varicam LT records 4 audio channels. You can assign two inputs to be recorded to four channels, with different recording levels to each.

I usually record this way which gives me a lower and higher input version of a source. This way I don't have to bother with the audio so much.

May 27, 2017 at 1:01PM

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I think the c700 is an accurate comparison, not the c300 MKii. Line for line the Varicam LT matches the C700 for less than half the price. add an Atomos Shogun Inferno or 7q+ for Raw and compare that price and performance value to the c700 codex combination.
C700(production bundle $35,000.00) + Codex($6,995.00)+ 2 capture drives($5,350.00 each) = $52695

Varicam LT Pro EX Kit With 2 P2 cards and the PL mount ($24,100.00)+ Shogun Inferno($1,495.00) + (2x) 1tb Angelbird SSDs($799.00 each) = $27193.00

So yes the comparison to the Alexa and The c700 is Warranted as the varicam LT is a veritable bargain. As an early adopter and owner who has owned and shot everything else (only camera I haven't owned is an Alexa) I can say for a fact that the only camera worth discussing in comparison to the Varicam is the Alexa and Amira. The Arri Alev sensors are the only thing out there currently delivering this caliber or image

May 24, 2017 at 2:01PM

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C300 mk2 is totally fair comarison, same price range, similar specs... but C300 is MUCH nicer camera to shoot with in terms of ergonomics, quick power up, you don't reboot it for frame rate changes...

May 25, 2017 at 12:48AM

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Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist
363

Agreed, very fair comparison and a hell of a camera. I think the c300mii is much better for many situations, however it lacks 60p in 4k which is a let down for that price range.
But for larger productions or narrative, I think the VariCam beats it out. Just different tools for different jobs. Both are wonderful cameras.

May 25, 2017 at 2:45PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1054

when's the last time you updated your firmware? you're aware that the audio controls are now assignable to the control wheel right?
And yes I believe that this review was targeted at narrative work and focused on the cameras image quality which may have been overlooked by people listening to chatter about reboots or issues that were sorted three firmware revs ago. I as well as 3 other shooters switched to the LT from Sony F5 and F55 and have been nothing but thrilled, yes there were growing pains for early adopters but Panasonic can be commended for sorting 99% of them out with regular firmware revs. I came to the LT from an F5 and before the Sony F5 I owned a RED and I can honestly say this camera is in a class of it's own well above the others

May 24, 2017 at 2:11PM, Edited May 24, 2:11PM

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It's for this reason I await the new smaller Panasonic cinema camera with baited breath. At the moment the Varicam LT is still probably more than I need (mostly docs, music videos, promo material), but I've felt very reluctant to move from C300 to Sony due to colour preference. Not slamming Sony here, they're killing it with spec/price, but the Varicam footage is beautiful and if the new cam has the same sensor but lower bit-rates/rigging options etc, then it could be the one I move to instead of C300 mkii.

May 25, 2017 at 7:07AM, Edited May 25, 7:07AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
483

Finally! A sequel to the AF100! Not!
So glad Panasonic built a viable competitor to the REDs and Alexas and Ursas.
Even happier that they gave it an interchangeable mount; Canon lenses!
And smart to use their stable expressP2 format and not create new media.
ProRes 4K 4444? ND filters? Raw? OMG!

Well done Panasonic! You're a contender!

May 26, 2017 at 6:28AM

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Sathya Vijayendran
Writer/Director/Editor
291