Panasonic's newest VariCam, the lower-cost LT, came as a surprise to many.
Since the VariCam 35 is still relatively new in terms of actual release date, and hasn't quite penetrated the market, not many were expecting Panasonic to come out with a model using the same Super 35mm 4K sensor for less money as quickly as they have.
The LT takes a hit in the specs department compared to the VariCam 35, but Panasonic was able to bring the list price down below $30,000. It's listing at $18K and $24K depending on options, but the final street price and package price will be finalized in the coming weeks. Though the pricing of the camera itself isn't too bad considering the features and sensor, one 256GB expressP2 card and a card reader will run you $2,500, and since you'll likely need another card as a bare minimum, you're looking at $4,500 to really start shooting with it beyond the base package.
These are the specs again if you missed them:
- 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 expressP2 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 IN, TC 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
- Availability: March 2016
- List Price: $18,000 (body only), $24,000 (body + AU-VCVF10G viewfinder)
Interview with Panasonic's Paul McAniff
The product manager for the VariCam, Paul McAniff, was kind enough to take some time and answer a few questions about the camera. Though I figured I wouldn't get an answer about any new products, I thought I'd try anyway.
No Film School: Why was the VariCam LT created? Was it something shooters were asking for or did Panasonic see a need in the marketplace and a great Super 35mm sensor had already been developed?
Paul McAniff: The VariCam LT was developed for a number of reasons. Panasonic saw a need within the market to provide as many of the highly advanced capabilities of the VariCam 35 as we could fit into a smaller package. There are a lot of requests for smaller cameras in the world of digital cinema. The LT was a response to these requests from end users. The size of the LT makes it easy to put the capabilities of the VC 35 in smaller niche situations where larger cameras cannot go. It’s an ideal B camera to the VariCam 35 cinema camera or other larger cameras. Obviously, the VariCam LT has the ergonomic design and appropriately robust codecs to be positioned as an A camera on many projects all by itself. It is a uniquely strong camera for its size and price point.
NFS: Will the RAW update be free? As for recorders, Codex makes one that attaches directly to the bigger VariCam, will that work with the LT? Has Panasonic explored their own RAW recording solution besides utilizing third-party recorders like the Atomos or Convergent Design monitor/recorders?
Paul McAniff: Currently there have been no plans to charge a premium for the firmware update that enables RAW camera output from the VariCam LT. The current plan for the RAW output capability is to enable it through 3G SDI ports and have it supported by third party recorders.
NFS: How will switching lens mounts work? Is this something that's easy enough to do on set, or will it require some flange adjustment? Will both lens mounts be sold separately if you choose to buy the camera with EF or PL? The PL is reportedly $1,300, what would the Canon run for?
Paul McAniff: The VariCam LT will ship with the EF lens mount. The PL lens mount is sold as an accessory only. There is currently no PL version of the camera planned, only the PL accessory mount. All units will ship with the EF mount. The lens mounts are easy to swap. No flange adjustments should be necessary. While replacing the lens mount is simple, it is recommend that end users change out the mounts in a more controlled environment prior to being on set.
NFS: Why is ProRes limited to just the 1080p resolutions? Is this a hardware limitation or might we see ProRes 4K at some point in the future?
Paul McAniff: There are currently no plans to enable 4K ProRes recording in the VariCam LT.
NFS: Ergonomics are a big part of the VariCam LT. What was the process like coming up with the shoulder and grip solution — did Panasonic work with any shooters? Will there be discounted packages available that include all of these accessories?
Paul McAniff: All of the design traits on the VariCam LT are the result of end user feedback and requests. We are in the last stages of finalizing what accessory packages will be available for the VariCam LT. Details to come shortly.
NFS: Could this lead to a family of cameras with the same Super 35mm sensor? Panasonic developed the AF100 as a more professional solution for the under $10K market, but since then we haven't had any pro interchangeable lens cameras in this price range to compete with options like the Sony FS5, FS7, and Canon C100/C300.
Paul McAniff: We are not at liberty to discuss specific plans about future products. All development are the direct result of end user feedback and customer requests.
NFS: This camera is listed at $18K and $24K depending on options, might we see lower prices from resellers, or is this the final price?
Paul McAniff: Again, we are still finalizing the exact packages that will be available. All stated prices are list prices. Final details will be determined shortly.
Big thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer my questions!
New Footage from the VariCam LT
Though we did see some footage already, there was a bit more after the initial announcement. It's worth mentioning again that since they share the same sensor, any footage shot with the VariCam 35 and the VariCam LT should have very similar, if not identical footage.
Here's more from Panasonic:
Shot on VariCam LT at NY and NJ. All the dark scenes are shot with ISO5000. Dejan Georgevich, ASC Cinematographer.
And a vidoe from cinema5D that includes footage as well as an overview:
Resolution: 4K 24p, Codec: AVC-Intra 4K 4:2:2, Gamma: V-Log (graded). DP: Matthias Bollinger (matthias-bolliger.de)
We'll likely have a few more details finalized before or right after NAB this year, so stay tuned.