November 21, 2013

Panasonic Will Likely Unveil Working 4K Super 35mm Varicam at NAB 2014

Panasonic 4K VariCam 3Panasonic 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?

Link: Inter Bee 2013 Live Show Replay Panasonic Manager -- Newsshooter

Your Comment

50 Comments

Go Panasonic!

November 21, 2013 at 7:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave

As with Panasonic the video image will probably be the best in town.

What will the price be? Beyond what I can afford. ;-)

120fps, kicking Canon's butt, again.

November 21, 2013 at 8:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Always excited to hear news about Panasonic. Hopefully, with all of the added competition, they'll be more compelled to bring something really cool to market with the GH4.

Most shooters are much more interested in wide dynamic range and robust codecs than they are in 4K. Let's hope they get that part of things right.

November 21, 2013 at 8:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Looks like they are not aiming at the highest-end cameras, but somewhere between the F5 and C300. If the price is right, this could be fantastic.

Hey Joe,

Two things to fix, I think:
"the goal is a high-end codec that gives a lot of room for color adjustments but can be easily worked with in post." It should be "and" instead of "but".

"For those wondering why their doesn’t seem to be much coherence between..." It should be "there" instead of "their".

Cheers

November 21, 2013 at 8:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thanks, fixed.

November 21, 2013 at 8:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

I have to wonder about the viability of a camera two or three years late to the game. Sony already has four large-sensor ≥4K cameras, Red has three (if you count the Red One, which really started the revolution), and Canon has two. While the Varicam sounds like a high-quality, full-featured professional (and doubtless expensive) camera and the codec is impressive, the camera doesn't seem to offer significant advantages over the alternatives, all of which will be mature and well-tested by the time the Varicam arrives. I wish Panasonic the best of luck with it. It's a shame they didn't see fit to develop a 4K successor to the AF200 (but with a 14-stop DR, a 12-bit codec, and a raw option).

November 21, 2013 at 8:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tzedekh

No one late to anything. There is approximately a handful of 4K pro cameras (F 65/55/5, Red Epic, Phantom Flex ... and, C500, with a stretch). At the time when Arri is coming out with a $30K 1080p camera (Amira), a $30K 4K pro cam will fit somewhere around F55. And that would be sufficient for the TV and broadcast. Feature films may aim higher with Epic Dragon and F65 (or whatever Arri's 4K offering will inevitably be) but that's how things stand right now anyway.
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PS. Joe, I think you mean "pro" vs. "consumer" division in your next to last paragraph. The Varicam is going to be labeled as a pro product. GH4 and AC-100 replacements are going to be nominally high end consumer/prosumer. And, with Quad HD TV being on sale on Black Friday for anywhere from $500 (39") to $800 (50") to $1,200 (55"), the instruments for making affordable 4K content ought to be arriving soon too.

November 21, 2013 at 6:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Panasonic looks better than Sony and Cannon, and is less expensive than Red. :-)

November 21, 2013 at 7:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Umm?? Which Panasonic looks better than an F5? (or F55, image is the same).

November 21, 2013 at 8:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Since there is no equivalent in Panasonic to the Sony you mention how can there be a comparison? But the GH3 looks better than the A99---and costs half.

November 21, 2013 at 8:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Also, one has to admit that how well the GH2 Hacked held up with the far, far more expensive cameras in the Zacuto Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout that Panasonic makes a GREAT video image. Some will say it was a faulty test. But all shooters has to deal with the same conditions and the GH2 Hacked did great.

I wonder what Panasonic could do if they made a camera at the same price point as the ARRI?

November 21, 2013 at 8:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

That "Great" camera shootout was not the same conditions. They may have been in the same room but every camera there had entirely different lighting setups. If they wanted to really test the cameras take them outside at midday. That stupid test even made the iPhone look ok so what does that tell you?

P.s. I was wondering how long it would take before someone mentioned a GH2 in this page. I expect one day to turn on the TV to hear on the news that a GH2 lifted a car off a baby while doing your taxes at the same time!

November 21, 2013 at 8:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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There was an entire part of that shootout where each camera shot the same lighting....

November 22, 2013 at 6:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

They all did have the same conditions to work with. If ARRI did not look spectacular in comparison the the GH2 Hacked in the given setting then we need to blame those whole handled the ARRI. It could be that the ARRI was shown at its best in those conditions. If it can't put distance between itself in conditions other than the one you bring up then the GH line of cameras truly is a wonder of the video world. If there is one one set of circumstances where the $480.00 GH (with the Nick Driftwood Hack) can not stand up to the $44,000.00 ARRI then we need to acknowledge Panasonic is doing a phenomenal job.

November 21, 2013 at 9:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

You didn't say anything about the GH3 comparison to the Sony A99.

November 21, 2013 at 9:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

I didn't say anything because I'm not familiar enough with either of those cameras. I quite liked the footage I saw of the DH3 tests when it was released. The A99 I'm not up to date on. I recently upgraded from my D800 to an F5 and while I will keep the D800 as a backup and B camera, I absolutely love the F5. The pictures are really stunning. I shot these tests recently at 120fps. Cant wait for the update in december to 180fps (free firmware update).

https://vimeo.com/79547092

November 21, 2013 at 9:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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God Bless you in all your work Simon. I hope you do well in all you are going for.

I'm not trying to sound down on Sony. I do like Panasonic more than Sony and Canon though. I like the Panasonic color palette. And I like its sharpness. I think I can come across like I'm down on Sony, ARRI, and others. I'm not intending to. I probably need to work on how I word things.

November 21, 2013 at 9:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Cool I will keep an open mind on Panasonic's future cameras. I remember when the P2 came out that stole the show for a while.

November 21, 2013 at 10:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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P.s. If your open to the D800 I shot this a few months ago in Kenya and uploaded it yesterday. The second and third shots are GoProHero3Black at 120fps but the rest is D800.

https://vimeo.com/79944107

November 21, 2013 at 10:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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That's a really nice video Simon. I wouldn't have minded seeing more of that story.

November 21, 2013 at 10:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

Thanks Gene I have a lot more to add to it but need to get it translated as most of the interviews are not in english. I have 12 hours of footage that I'm editing into a doco. All on the Mathari slum in Kenya. There is something like 600,000 people in 1km x 3km. This bag making part of it was the nice part, much of the rest of the footage is very hard stuff. A very different world. I'm based in Australia and it certainly makes me appreciate the little things.

Here is another. She recited this from memory and didn't know I was going to ask for one of her poems. D800 holds skin tones really nicely too.

https://vimeo.com/69675244

November 21, 2013 at 11:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I know that Joe but the part everyone judges them on was the room and that was where each camera had an entirely different lighting setup.

November 22, 2013 at 7:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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That's some good looking footage, Simon. Which brings up the next item - F55/5 is not the only target at which Panasonic can aim. FS-700 in the detachable and Z 100 and AX 1 connected lens markets are also smack in the middle of their product range. F5 fully tricked out rusn close to $30K but Z 100 will sell for $5,500 and have very pleasing images as well - [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPrECdzo6x0 ]. Note the shallow depth of field capabilities also.

November 21, 2013 at 10:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Thanks for the link the Z100 footage looks good.

November 22, 2013 at 1:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I want full frame, a raw format, and an optional 442 codec. Anything but 4/3 mount.

That's what I will spend money on just in case anyone important is listening.

November 21, 2013 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Josh

Ultimatley pricing will play a major factor in the equation. Pricing, paried with iso/lowlight sensitivity, and color bit range will be key points here.

Now one will rush out to buy a 4k enspensive varicam or even rent one for that matter, if you could own a rumored gh4 stills/ video camera that shoots 4k with a 10bit color space for around 3or 4k.

Most rental houses want a deposit for the price of the camera or huge deposit for rentals, which in most indie film makers aka (regular folks) , which defeats the purpose, because if we have the money to put down for a big camera, we wouldnt rent one, we would just own one.

November 21, 2013 at 11:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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JAYEEE

I'm excited by this as long as it is 30 grand or less. Having 4k, 12 bit, 4:4:4 in a manageable codec is highly desirable. It really comes down to the image as the f55 seemed to tick all the boxes but the image turned out to be too clinical for cinema. The Avc Ultra codec family has great potential as well.

http://pro-av.panasonic.net/en/sales_o/p2/AVC-ULTRA_obverview_rev1.0.pdf

Spec is the first word in speculation so I will wait for the images to get excited.

November 21, 2013 at 12:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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"too clinical for cinema"
Best laugh I've had this week. There is a LOT of cinema currently being shot with F55s so you might want to make your own diffusion glasses to wear to the cineplex.
Seriously though, it always takes up to a year for the right blend of settings/LUTs/diffusion to be put together for a new sensor. Took almost 3 years for the Alexa recipe to coalesce. The F55 will be just fine.
I think this new Varicam will be right @ $30k.
Will do very well as a doco cam if the image holds up.

November 21, 2013 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Just because there our films shot with the camera does not make it cinematic. Many Dogma 95 films were shot on a Cannon xl 1 does that make that camera cinematic? Post a link to a video that shows off what the camera can do, to me it looks like uber clean video and I detest that look. I would love to be proven wrong in my assessment as I was very excited about that camera before release.

November 21, 2013 at 5:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The last camera made that really looked like video was the AF100 with its poor dynamic range and yellow highlights. The F5 and F55 have gorgeous highlight rolloff and I believe the best skin tones on any camera. To me the first cameras to have footage as beautiful as it looked to the eye when it was shot. Its not just the picture too. The ergonomics, build quality, layout, menus that are really thought out, everything just really really well crafted.

November 21, 2013 at 9:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Here is some clinical, terrible, non-cinematic Sony F55 / FS700 footage:

http://vimeo.com/77584248

for all the Red / Panasonic / what ever boys : )

It is not the camera, it is your skills, when camera is good enough. And unless you are blind, you can probably see what good enough camera means, when looking that clip...

November 22, 2013 at 2:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Juhan-i

Thanks for sharing that link. The footage is gorgeous. Love the top of the aircon on the bus at 1:13. If you said it was film I wouldn't have believed it, film doesn't look that good.

November 23, 2013 at 3:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I mean 1:40. And that sunset at the end highlight and detail in the shadows is really nice.

November 23, 2013 at 3:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I know it sounds silly, but I have thought for ages that I want a updated HD version of the DVX. Before DSLRs took off that camera was the workhorse. Such great images and ergonomics.

November 21, 2013 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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R

It was updated. The HVX.

November 21, 2013 at 2:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Adam

It's never too late to jump in the game.
But...if they want people to switch.
They need to have some INSANE pricing value.

November 21, 2013 at 5:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sammy

It just didn't match up to the aesthetic and ergo of the dvx in my opinion.

November 21, 2013 at 11:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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R

Who gives a crap about VARICAM now. I don't have that kind of money. Most of my indie filmers friends are all going to BMCC anyway. And BMCC, even BOLEX digital will just get better for a fraction of the cost. For what pan will sell a VARICAM for/ I can budget a whole 90 min indie low, low budget feature for with a BMCC and lots prep time, rehearsal storyboards, light ans shot tests. VIVA BMCC!!

November 21, 2013 at 6:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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MARK11

@Mark11, exactly, BMCC is essentially a mini Arri Alexa (lets call it Lexi!). I don't know what Panasonic has been smoking but its a little late to release this NOW. I do like their codec's though, AVC-Intra and AVC-Ultra are great ideas but thus far I haven't seen these codecs in anything popular. Maybe Panasonic will help to continue to fill in the massive gap between pretty good AVCHD cameras and full blow RAW capable cinema cameras? Who knows...

November 21, 2013 at 9:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Nate O

So by your logic nobody should have released another camera after the first year or two of HD??? Because that would have been too late?

November 21, 2013 at 10:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Varicam and AVCHD is the wrong way to go, a GH4 ( Japanese never name their product with a 4 in it ) shooting ProRes or H265 is the way to go.

November 22, 2013 at 5:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tulio

Nikon D4, Sony PMW-400 and there are more with 4.

November 22, 2013 at 6:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Toyota 4-runner.

November 22, 2013 at 12:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

at what point in time was it said this camera will give 14stops of latitude?

November 22, 2013 at 7:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jon apple

Panasonic has started a 4K channel on YouTube to give their 4K tv customers a little more to watch. It has Panasonic 4K videos, and it links to many other 4K videos on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Panasonic4K/featured

Hey, I found something before DLD did...... I think.

November 23, 2013 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

That's because I was ranting about the script readers on another post. It was a long rant. And it made me feel a little better.

November 23, 2013 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

You mean I actually did find something before you did? ;-)

November 23, 2013 at 2:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gene

But I found a (much maligned) JVC Q-10 video footage. And it looks gorgeous (at least, in the opening shots).
[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OnRrojimug ] $5K for 4K, albeit with that weird 4xHD card format.

November 23, 2013 at 7:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

It KILLS me that people just write off the Panasonic AF100 as useless and poor imaging when I see nothing but great projects in the indie feature world. The stupidest thing is that people have talked themselves out of using the camera for movies that would have benefitted greatly from the money that would have been saved instead of chasing the latest and greatest trending cameras. Mostly pixel counters without a lick of creativity in their bones. Sure the world is going 4K, sure the newer cameras have some great images and a higher price tag. But for the money...AF100 is STILL the best choice when you want to avoid that generic DSLR look. Before everyone jumps on me, view this link on DVXUSER and judge for yourself.

http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?321612-Competitive-critically-a...!

March 28, 2014 at 12:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Andre A

- Pensez-vous pouvoir encore vous améliorer en ce qui concerne le réalisme de l’interaction entre les joueurs et les tirs??

June 2, 2014 at 9:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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