Panasonic was one of the first companies to really bring cinematic images into the HD realm with the original Varicam, but their large sensor video camera releases over the last few years have not quite matched up with the competition. What has truly been missing from their lineup is a higher-end Super 35mm camera, which they have apparently been working on for some time now. Shown off at the last few NABs, the new 4K Varicam should make a working appearance at next year's NAB. Dan Chung from Newsshooter got some time with Panasonic's Neil (Noriaki) Ugo at Inter BEE 2013 to talk about their products:
At around 3:20, the conversation turns to the 4K Varicam where it's mentioned that there should be a working model of it at NAB 2014. When I went to my first NAB in 2012, Panasonic had a mock-up of a modular sort of camera that was going to be equipped with a 4K Super 35mm sensor recording in AVC Ultra at 4:4:4. Then, in 2013, that same mock-up was in the same glass display, with no real working model in sight, and again at IBC 2013, where they did actually unveil more information about the camera, and that it will likely be able to shoot 120fps. Apparently, we're actually going to see this new camera shooting real images at NAB 2014.
Panasonic has probably not made any definitive decisions on RAW support, even though that's what most higher-end cameras from the major companies are capable of, but as stated in the video, the goal is a high-end codec that gives a lot of room for color adjustments and can be easily worked with in post. This codec will record at 240Mbps, giving you about 110GB per hour at 24fps, which is around 1/10 of what it would be if recorded as uncompressed. Assuming the quality holds up under grading, that might be an easier 4K pill for people to swallow than some of the other options out there right now.
Their reasoning for taking so long with development is that they were not happy with the quality from the sensor. Now it seems they've finally got a 14-stop Super 35mm 4K sensor that should give fantastic images (assuming Panasonic gets the color right on this model). It's also going to feature a PL mount, but it's unclear if it will be able to take any other lens mounts (unlike it's Micro 4/3 mount which can take all sorts of lenses). I'm sure we'll find out more about the 4K Varicam next spring.
For those wondering why there doesn't seem to be much coherence between their video and photo models, skip to around 11:21 for an explanation about how these companies are set up. Even though they are part of the same organization, the photo and video divisions might as well be different companies. Rumors about a GH4 with 4K video have sprung up lately, but it's development would be happening completely separate from anything in the video division. I imagine the other Japanese companies operate in a similar manner, so that probably goes a long way in explaining strategies from companies like Canon and Sony.
What would you like to see in a 4K Varicam? Where do you think it will be priced with the feature set that has been laid out so far?