Panasonic has been teasing a 4K VariCam for a few NAB shows in a row now, but the camera has, up until now, just been a prototype hidden under glass. Back in the fall it became clear that the real thing was coming at NAB 2014, and now the company has unveiled the first images of the final model, along with a number of specs, which include 4K RAW and 4K variable frame rates up to 120fps. They've also got a brand new 2/3" VariCam high-speed camera, which can do 1080p up to 240fps.

Here are the main specs of the camera:

  • 4096 x 2160 Super 35mm CMOS sensor
  • 14+ Stops of Dynamic Range
  • PL Mount
  • Internal 4K up to 120fps
  • Records 4K & UHD in AVC-ULTRA 4K
  • Records 2K & HD in AVC-Intra 100/200
  • Capable of 4K RAW
  • 1.5 to 6 Mbps Proxies
  • Two expressP2 card slots (Record 130 minutes of 4K/24p with these cards)
  • Two microP2 card slots (for HD and 2K)
  • Four 3G-HD-SDI Outputs for 4K QUAD
  • Two 3G-HD-SDI Outputs for RAW
  • HD-SDI out for monitoring (down-converting from 4K)
  • Two XLR inputs can record four channels of 24-bit, 48KHz audio
  • Removable Control Panel
  • OLED Viewfinder with Optical Zoom
  • Availability: Fall 2014
  • Price: TBA



And a particularly interesting part from their press release courtesy of Creative COW (click for larger):

With its innovative design, the 4K camera module unit (AU-V35C1) is separate but dockable to the recording module unit (AU-VREC1), which is also interchangeable with Panasonic’s new 2/3” camera module unit (AU-V23HS1) (see separate news release). This system flexibility can be expanded with an umbilical cable between the s35mm 4K camera and the AVC-ULTRA recorder, providing “box” camera functionality for jibs, cranes and other “remote” camera needs. This common recorder module is also interchangeable with Panasonic’s new 2/3” 1080p camera, enabling professionals to switch between s35mm and 2/3” camera heads to best suit their creative needs.

It's also unclear right now how similar the final design will be to the prototypes, but it likely won't be too different. Here is a video showing off the camera as it was back in September (thanks to cinema5D):

Panasonic has stuck with their modular design concept, which means the sensor head and recording modules will not be one piece. Regarding the 4K RAW, Panasonic isn't completely clear on whether this will ever be able to be recorded internally, though with a modular design there is no reason they couldn't create a new 4K RAW module for the camera. We do know for sure that the camera will output 4K RAW from its 3G-HD-SDI outputs (likely uncompressed), so you'd need an external recorder like the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q to record that (and obviously they would have to release an update supporting the camera). We don't yet know precisely what frame rates will be available in 4K RAW, but from the press release it seems like it will at least be able to do 4K compressed internally up to 120fps.

Panasonic Varicam HS

Here are the specs for the VariCam HS:

  • Three 1920 x 1080 2/3" CMOS Sensors (Red, Green, Blue)
  • 14 Stops of Dynamic Range
  • AVC-Intra Class 100 at 1080/24p/30p/60p with VFR (up to 240p)
  • AVC-Intra Class 200 up to 1080/30p/60i
  • 12-bit AVC-Intra Class 4:4:4 up to 1080/30p
  • 1.5 to 6 Mbps Proxies
  • Log, FilmRec, VideoRec and Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS) image contrast management controls
  • Two expressP2 card slots (32 minutes of 1080p 240fps)
  • Two microP2 card slots (Record HD/2K at more typical production frame rates)
  • RGB 4:4:4
  • One 3G-HD-SDI supports 1080/60p
  • HD-SDI out for monitoring
  • Two XLR inputs can record four channels of 24-bit, 48KHz audio
  • Availability: Fall 2014
  • Price: TBA

Panasonic has smartly made the modules interchangeable between these two cameras, so if you're a production that intends on using them at different times for different purposes, you could just use the same modules. It doesn't look like this second camera will be capable of RAW in any way, but it will probably be used more for news, sports, and docs where RAW may not be as necessary -- and compressed codecs are actually preferable.

The VariCam 35 is definitely going to be interesting if Panasonic gets the pricing somewhere near, or below, Sony's F5 or F55. The original VariCam (even the 720p version) produced some gorgeous images, so if the new Super 35mm camera can build off that, it will find its way onto plenty of productions. Panasonic was once at the forefront of digital filmmaking -- with the DVX at the low-end and VariCam at the high-end -- and only time will tell if these new offerings get them back there.

More will likely be revealed at NAB this year, so we hopefully won't have long to wait before we can see some actual images from the camera.