February 29, 2016

New Footage from the 4K VariCam LT & An Interview with Panasonic About the Camera

Panasonic VariCam LT Canon Mount
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 INTC 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)
Panasonic VariCam LT with Grip

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.      

Your Comment

23 Comments

Why Panasonic as yet has no '...professional solution for the under $10k market' is beyond any logical explanation. If anyone can give the mighty Sony a run for their money with a large chip, fully featured camera, it would and could only be Panasonic. Someone help me understand?

February 29, 2016 at 10:45AM

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Marcello Maffeis
Cameraman/editor
74

Just buy a Red.

February 29, 2016 at 9:47PM, Edited February 29, 9:47PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1792

>>>Someone help me understand?

I think it all came down to Panasonic not having their own sensor that could compete with Canon or Sony, so they stayed out of the market completely.

...But things are slowly changing. Panasonic has been working with Fuji on new sensor tech for the past 5 years and this will change things in a big way when it's finally ready for production, which still might be as much as 4 more years from now. One of the main features of this new sensor tech is 20+ stops of dynamic range with a global shutter, which should be a huge deal once Panasonic starts shipping cameras with this ability.

February 29, 2016 at 10:40PM, Edited February 29, 10:40PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
29849

4 years? Then will probably be 8K too.

March 1, 2016 at 12:14AM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1792

Seriously. With Canon floundering, Panasonic has a major opportunity. But they're laying turds like this that don't have the capabilities of a two-year-old $3K camera from BlackMagic. Panasonic offers no 4K ProRes, no built-in raw, and a laughably offensive storage format. Yes, BlackMagic has gone to overpriced CFast in later cameras, but at least they and Arri and Canon use this format. But Panasonic is still pushing this "P2" crap? That's as pathetic as Sony's media. I just spent two weeks shooting with Sony cameras and their bullshit format, SxS. It's another unreliable, proprietary rip-off.

Filmmakers need to send a clear message to companies by not voting for proprietary junk with their money. Do not reward companies that work hard to undermine industry standards and rip you off. Sony is the king of this, but Panasonic's not looking good here either.

March 5, 2016 at 3:06AM, Edited March 5, 3:10AM

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David Gurney
DP
1888

Thank you for the interview, but where's the new footage? All this footage has been released earlier.

February 29, 2016 at 12:56PM

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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
372

Hey gleb
Check out the YouTube link for a new clip from the LT.
http://youtu.be/zijCx7dTyEo

February 29, 2016 at 10:17PM, Edited February 29, 10:17PM

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Robin Darius Conz
Cameraman, Editor
95

Nice! Looking very good! Thanks for sharing.

March 1, 2016 at 12:01AM

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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
372

Thanks. We were the done once that did the launch video for the LT "Africa". We are currently working on a few more clips to come out in the next couple of weeks with more footage of the LT.

March 1, 2016 at 1:32AM

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Robin Darius Conz
Cameraman, Editor
95

I don´t get it... Why would you spend at least 27k for a useful set and just get
4K-UHD — AVC-Intra 4K422: up to 30p if you can get the newest RED SCARLET-W with 5K >> Redcode RAW up to 100frames? Or 300 frames in 2k?
The useful set with monitor would cost you below 20k and is way more powerful and comes already with Canon EF mount which will cost you on Varicam 1.300 extra?
The new RED is also a way better solution compared to the Canon C300 II which would be around 20k as well with CFast cards and second battery but only gets you 4K with 30frames and slomo only in HD up to 100frames hardly croped.
I was filming with the C300 II. Nice but not really special and absolutly not a strong camera in low light conditions.

February 29, 2016 at 1:05PM, Edited February 29, 1:05PM

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Pedro Hofmann
my own boss
93

In the past I've owned my fair share of Panasonic equipment (DVX100, HVX200, GH4) and as stated by Paul "All developments are the direct result of end user feedback and customer requests." I wonder who they're referring to? I know for a fact, people (customers definitely included) always make suggestions to Panasonic. Whether it's in regards to what they want on a new camera or additional feature sets on current cameras, etc. They need interns or straight up employees who browse these forums and see what people are saying, and not just about what they want from Panasonic cameras but other manufacturer's too - this way they can be ahead of the curve. Sometimes these manufacturers listen, most of the time they follow merely market trends. Before making a decision on a camera, I went to a few trade shows and practically annoyed the crap out of the Panasonic reps who were trained to drag their heels in answering any questions regarding Panasonic's upcoming 4K solution (this is pre-Varicam 35). They finally release the Varicam 35 and it's an awesome camera, it makes one helluva image- but it's also some insane amount of money, and not to mention, it was released a few years too late. The sole purpose of the Varicam LT (IMHO) is because they cannot charge what they have been for the Varicam 35. I think it gives both an Alexa and Red Dragon a run for their money but, people are not using it because Panasonic was so late stepping to the table with a viable 4K solution. They're listening to marketing trends and seeing what's selling and to whom but they've lost their foothold in the cinema world after having it for such a long time. And they've lost sight of who gave them that foothold and it wasn't those spending $30,000+. And as a result, they needed to make something more affordable.

I was at the DGA event where they announced the Varicam LT and personally, I think the price should come in lower than it's currently listed. I say this because by the time you fully equip the camera to shoot, it becomes a $30,000 solution...

$18,000 body
$6,000 View Finder
$4,000 for (2) 256GB P2 cards
@$2,000 for an Anton Bauer Gold Mount battery & charger setup

If they don't want to lower the cost of this, then they should definitely consider a solution that's below $10,000 to compete with other cameras like the Sony FS7 and entry level Red's. Panasonic needs something to launch them back into the game and I believe in order to do so, they need to come in at a lower cost point. While they were fiddling around brainstorming what to do with 4K, the game changed right under their noses. If Panasonic wants to play it smart, they'd put this camera body around the $10,000 range (that would be around $20K-$22K ready to shoot) and sell a ton of them, this would allow them to get some stake in the 4K market. They really could have a handle on things IF they wanted to. Hey Panasonic, a customer has spoken! Just up to y'all to listen :)

February 29, 2016 at 1:50PM, Edited February 29, 2:00PM

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Breht
Filmmaker
185

Looks more "filmic" than an Arri---if that's what one cares about.

Just buy a Red.

February 29, 2016 at 9:57PM, Edited February 29, 9:57PM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1792

I like the image from this camera and even though the price is high, it should be a reasonable rental rate in the near future. The dual ISO is a very unique feature making this a great camera for low light and the color and the skin tones are quite pleasing as well. On the positive, it is half the price of the Alexa although I still prefer the Alexa image over this one. I prefer this image to all the sony cameras except the F65 (which is way out of my league).

February 29, 2016 at 3:39PM

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Brad Jones
Director/Producer/Writer/Editor
520

I thought Canon was crazy.... But Panasonic takes the cake! They must be out of their freakin' minds charging this price for this camera. You can get a new RED Scarlet-W tricked out for $20k. Why on earth would anyone buy this camera? Image is less than impressive. Pathetically overpriced with not much room for the future not even 4k ProRes.

February 29, 2016 at 5:21PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
1120

I would suspect the dual ISO has a lot to do with the price, and the image quality. The raw options are a major letdown though, but they are offering decent codecs for broadcast/film use if you don't need raw. A lot of medium to big films use the Alexa with prores so it's within the market needs.

About the same price as a red scarlet W, similar specs but the Panasonic would obviously be much better in low light conditions.

5000 native ISO is pretty awesome, no other high end digital cinema camera has that now right? Seems to be the only high end digital camera with a usuable image at that ISO.

The new Red's fall apart after 2500, but you don't want to go that high for a usuable image. Arri is about the same if not a little lower than the new Red's. Usually people will not go higher than 1600 ISO on an Alexa.

Where the Panasonic will suffer will be in hype and not image quality/price. Red is huge right now, they own the market Panasonic is entering.

Most people would rather have a Red than a good DP, I see it all the time on the mid to high end of this industry. People hiring based on the camera you have, most of the time not caring what your work looks like.

The Red name is why I would invest my hard earned money in a scarlet-W and not the LT. I would rent the Panasonic, but if I want to make my money back renting/hiring out the Red is a much smarter choice.

March 1, 2016 at 8:26AM

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I think you're right on the money with this. So far, I'm really liking the image from this sensor. It's the first true competitor to the AlevIII sensor IMO. Beautiful color science, great highlight rolloff, and the only sensor on the market to truly compete with Arri when it comes to dynamic range. To boot it does great slow-mo and 4k.

All-around this is the perfect camera in my eyes (global shutter would be nice but we can't have everything) and the feature-set wipes the floor with everything in a comparable price-range:
-Dual Native ISO
-XLR's
-Built-in ND's
-Great Codec support (would've loved to have seen UHD ProRes though or 4444XQ)
-Removeable IR filter (this could prove very interesting indeed)
-PL and EF mounts
-Good size and weight
-Built with ergonomics in mind
-Built-in grading and LUT support

The only thing that I really would've changed is to use CFast 2.0 instead of those mad expensive P2 cards. The problem is though that it's probably going to take a few years before the rental market catches on. I've heard rumors that Panasonic are selling the Varicam35 at half-price to rental houses just to get some market-penetration. RED's rent themselves out essentially. Whereas I'd much rather have a Varicam LT as an owner-operator, a Red Scarlet-W will eventually pay for itself whereas I have a hard time believing that a Varicam LT would.

March 1, 2016 at 2:21PM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
1137

"A lot of medium to big films use the Alexa with prores so it's within the market needs."

This camera can't shoot 4K ProRes. It inexplicably tops out at HD, and Panasonic is quoted as saying they have no plans to offer 4K ProRes. Meanwhile, cameras costing 1/10 as much do.

March 5, 2016 at 3:16AM

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David Gurney
DP
1888

That...was some terrific sound design in "To each" don't ya think?

February 29, 2016 at 5:49PM

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Matthew Macar
DP
147

Here is a link of a new clip from the LT that was shot a month back in India. We will be release new content when ever we can make it available. http://youtu.be/zijCx7dTyEo

February 29, 2016 at 10:20PM, Edited February 29, 10:20PM

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Robin Darius Conz
Cameraman, Editor
95

Don McAlpine, Academy Award winner in cinematography (for Moulin Rouge!) chose the Panasonic Varicam 35, over Arri, Red, and Sony, for his current project.

He explains why in this 8 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7sGarzlbQs

March 1, 2016 at 12:57AM, Edited March 1, 12:57AM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1792

I own a Red Dragon and the reason I own it is because of these 3 things:

-Great color science, dynamic range, cinematic image
-Interchangeable Mounts
-Great over cranking options.

But I really despise black shading and I dislike Red's consistently buggy firmware. I'd honestly own an Alexa Mini if I could afford it (who wouldn't).

This camera was interesting to me because it looks like it's trying to be a cheaper Alexa Mini. At first I was pretty excited about it, but the more I look at it, the more I start to second guess it.

Pro's:
-Much better in lowlight as opposed to Red (which is terrible in lowlight).
-Built in ND's.
-Built in XLR's.
-Great layout of controls.

Con's:
-Overcranking above 60fps results in a cropped sensor. Bleh. Kind of a deal breaker for me.
-P2 cards are insanely overpriced (though Redmags are, too).
-Color Science is unproven right now. Not enough real world examples out there. It definitely has less of that video look that Sony has, but it's not quite up there with Red, Arri, or Blackmagic which just look extremely cinematic to me. I think it falls in the middle somewhere.

I am anxious to rent this camera and checkout Panasonic's color science for myself. Is it that much better than a Sony FS7 which is under half the price? Some of the sample footage from this camera has looked extremely good but some has also looked just so-so and a little too videoy.

Regardless of its flaws, it is a welcome addition. The more saturated the camera market becomes the better it is for all of us.

March 1, 2016 at 3:57PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
717

Silly question, but can someone please tell me where I can get one of these ballmount mic mounts? You can see it in the picture half way through the article.

March 2, 2016 at 10:21AM

7
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Got to look at and play with this last night. Forget everything else - native 5000 ISO is simply incredible.

Don McAlpine ASC, ACS (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005791/) was discussing why he used it for his latest feature and will use it for his next.

He said if the Varicam only had the native 800 ISO he would probably choose Alexa over the Panasonic. But for him, the native 5000 ISO was an absolute game-changer. He could light a room with candles and get noise-free footage.

March 17, 2016 at 8:30PM, Edited March 17, 8:30PM

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Manning Bartlett
Children's Television producer
80