Ever since 'digital' became synonymous with 'cinema,' digital motion picture cameras have held a kind of dual citizenship. Now, any such camera can be considered either a video camera or a digital cinema camera. The only difference is how the camera's used. Manufacturers such as JVC and Panasonic have mostly stuck to professional broadcast and prosumer video solutions -- leaving the expressed digicine market in the hands of peers like Sony. Regardless, the push for 4K and UHD has leaked into broadcast and prosumer realms, leaving some folks (such as myself) wondering: when will Panasonic get to the party? And, in what way? Read some details on Panasonic's upcoming 4K Varicam, and reasoning behind its 4K hesitancy, below.
This info comes to us from Cinema5D's coverage of IBC 2013, accompanied by a write-up by Nino Leitner. Over the course of the material, both Panasonic and Nino outline the company's leap into 4K -- or lack thereof, for the time being at least.
It's interesting to hear that Panasonic neglected the market so far because they say "the demand for 4K isn’t there yet", especially in Panasonic's core market – which is still broadcast. They are focusing on developing solutions that allow for faster and more efficient 4K workflow, and -- an entire pipeline [for] producers and broadcasters -- especially using their new AVC Ultra codec.
Codecs always have been Panasonic’s strength and I think they are doing right in taking their time to get everything ready for 4K -- I just hope they are not giving away market share that they won’t be able to regain.
As reported earlier at Cinema5D, the 4K Varicam will image with a Super35-size sensor, boast "wide dynamic range, extended colour space, and support for Log," and shoot AVC-Ultra onto new Ultra P2 cards and recorder. As far as the question of timing goes, I think both Panasonic and Nino bring up good points.
There isn't much point to Panasonic rushing a 4K camera out the gate for the sake of earliness, especially if a proper infrastructure isn't in place in its target market. The question is, of course, will Panasonic's new Varicam 'miss the boat,' as it were?
It seems like we as filmmakers have been talking about 4K for quite some time already, but broadcast is a whole other animal. (An animal which, in my eyes, could still use some time to iron-out over-the-air HD.) The adoption of 4K in broadcast will likely be more gradual, and arduous, than in the realm of cinema. This, I think, will work to Panasonic's advantage.
Again, though, just because a camera is geared towards certain applications doesn't mean it can't be appropriated for others. Despite Panasonic's positioning towards broadcast and prosumers, its AF100 (left) did in fact see some action on set. Its variable frame rates and outboard 4:2:2 HD-SDI feed are apparently desirable qualities, though somewhat overshadowed by the camera's Micro 4/3" sensor. The Raid, for instance, shot on AF100, but adapted for PL glass.
The prosumer market is admittedly a strange one: consider that the 3-chip EX1R is still going for $6K on B&H and the $4K AF100 is a single/larger chip camera. If Panasonic had been able to put an APS-C sensor in the AF100 and keep the price within its original range, the company could've really shaken things up. It could have carved out a good slice of the (at left) Sony F3's pie, and at that rate, muscled a few slices away from the more expensive Canon C300.
As we know, this was not to be, but I don't think the Varicam will be 'too late,' in its target market or otherwise. The real question is, when the 4K Varicam does become available, will you be shooting with one?