Getting Up Close & Personal with Panasonic's Less Expensive 4K Super 35mm VariCam LT

Back in February, Panasonic unveiled the VariCam LT, which is essentially a smaller, lighter, and less expensive version to their flagship camera, the VariCam 35.

With only slightly reduced specs compared to its big brother, the 4K VariCam LT features a Super 35mm MOS sensor, 14 stops of dynamic range, and Dual ISOs of 800 and 5000. According to Panasonic, the LT was designed specifically with indie filmmakers in mind. The size and weight allow it to be mounted onto drones and gimbals, and the $16.5K price tag is a far cry from the VariCam's, which is upwards of about $55K.

Our own Andy Zou spoke with Panasonic's VariCam expert Doug Leighton about the VariCam LT.

Panasonic VariCam LT Side 1
Panasonic VariCam LT Canon Mount

Technical Specifications

  • 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
  • Price: $16,500

No Film School's complete coverage of NAB 2016 is brought to you by My RØDE Reel, Shutterstock, and Blackmagic Design.

No Film School's complete coverage of NAB 2016 is brought to you by My RØDE Reel, Shutterstock, and Blackmagic Design.

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Your Comment

19 Comments

I really love Panasonic with my GH4... and I'm looking to upgrade to something kinda serious, and this is on my radar, but the Red Raven and at this price point even the Scarlet-W are there and shooting 140-150 FPS in 4k, 4.5k and 60p in 5k for the Scarlet-W. The workflow I've heard with the Reds is just great too, so I dunno... tough decisions all!

April 19, 2016 at 2:50PM

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Brennan Martin
Director, DP, Actor
69

This was on my radar too, but the fact that it heavily crops the sensor for anything over 60p is a bummer. Also, Panasonic's color science has not been proven either. Back in the day, the original Varicam had one of the best pictures in the business. But that was compared to a bunch of regular video cameras at a time when the camera manufacturers didn't understand the indie film market. Things have changed in the world of digital sensors. RED's color science is proven. Love them or hate them, RED makes an incredibly "cinematic" image.

From the samples I've seen online, I'm not sure what I think of the Varicam LT right now. I've seen a lot of stuff from that camera that has a clinical video look. I'm still waiting until it gets out into the real world before I make my final judgements. I do like the built-in ND's and the lowlight capabilities. Those are the Varicam LT's two biggest strong points. If this camera was priced (ready to shoot) at $15k or below, I think they'd move a lot more inventory. As it stands, it will cost above $20k for a ready to shoot package and I think that's a little pricey considering the FS7 does almost the same thing for half the price.

April 19, 2016 at 3:14PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
819

Red color has improved, but color response, shadow detail, and highlight falloff is just alot more refined and "filmic" in the alexa.

April 19, 2016 at 3:36PM

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I don't really consider the Alexa a competitor to the Varicam LT because they have no offerings that fall anywhere within the price range of this camera. As it stands, I'd say the real competition for the Varicam LT are RED Scarlet-W, RED Raven, BlackMagic Ursa Mini, Sony FS7 and the Canon C300 MK II.

April 19, 2016 at 9:22PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
819

The NetFlix series "Master of None" was shot with the larger Varicam 35 camera ( the LT has the same sensor and same look ) and I thought the color was good on that show. There are a few other shows coming this Fall that are shooting with the Varicam 35 ( they could have used the LT but it's only coming out now ), and given Varicam's heritage I expect you could get any look you want out of this camera.

And the free RAW upgrade coming in June will give you more options in how you shoot and grade your shots. ( this will require an external 4K recorder like the Atomos or Oddyssey models to capture your RAW footage )

April 20, 2016 at 6:03PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33714

"this will require an external 4K recorder"

Totally ridiculous. Welcome to 1985, carrying a pack around to record your video.

Red put a stop to this crap years ago. Anyone still peddling a camera for more than $10K that can't record raw without an external pack is living in the past and shouldn't be voted for with your money.

April 22, 2016 at 1:47AM

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David Gurney
DP
2462

If the camera WERE priced at $15K or below...

it would still be a rip-off.

April 22, 2016 at 1:45AM

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David Gurney
DP
2462

Carrying a pack? Its a monitor.

Comparable priced systems from Red (using Scarlet w) and Varicam LT is 36K for Scarlet W vs 28K for Varicam LT. Admittedly I had to spec the Scarlet to match the LT with I/O etc and didn't include power for either. The LT cost includes Odyssey 7Q and media.

I use the LT and Epic Dragons right now. I like them both.

October 3, 2016 at 5:41PM

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Noel Evans
Director / Director of Photography / Cinematographer
195

Serious question: what advantages does it have over much cheaper URSA cameras?

April 19, 2016 at 4:39PM

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Wojciech Mosiejczuk
Director / head of post
154

Not a ton. The most notable things are built-in ND's, dual native ISO's (much better in lowlight) and interchangeable lens mounts. There aren't a ton of these cameras out in the wild right now, so we will know more in the next couple months as more real world examples start showing up.

April 19, 2016 at 9:26PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
819

the fixed noise in the BM cameras render them useless for a professional production. plus the ability to shoot in low light is a major reason to pick up the LT.

April 20, 2016 at 4:52AM

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keith
335

When people are watching documentaries, blogs, videos by the millions on YouTube with the wrong color temperature, out of focus, wrong camera orientation (portrait) and enjoying it, I find concerns like "fixed pattern noise", "magenta shifts", etc so over-rated. I've never heard anyone say, "hey wait, those random pixels in the black values weren't set to 0. This movie sucks."

April 21, 2016 at 1:38AM

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K W
831

"I find concerns like "fixed pattern noise", "magenta shifts", etc so over-rated."

Way to cheerlead for degraded standards that cater to YouTube dipshits.

Bravo. The future looks bright.

April 22, 2016 at 1:42AM, Edited April 22, 1:43AM

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David Gurney
DP
2462

Panasonic color-science ( their Varicam cameras have a history of producing top notch color ), dual base ISO with ISO 5000 closely matching the look of ISO 800 ( some well known cinematographers have stated that with a small amount of noise-reduction it's extremely difficult to tell the 5000 footage from the 800 ), removable IR filter ( more of a special effect than anything else, but still something fun to try ), and support for a wide range of shooting formats.

April 20, 2016 at 6:13PM, Edited April 20, 6:13PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33714

Well, Panasonic can actually ship a camera on time and don't use their general users as beta testers (srs).

April 20, 2016 at 7:21PM

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Tim Brennan
Big Boss
169

I'm at NAB currently attending a post-production seminar but I had the opportunity to check out Panasonic's booth and see their theatre in action. To be honest, I was disappointed to see that the Varicam was incredibly noisy (video noise, not cinematic grain) at high ISOs that essentially compared to my GH4. Yes, there's more dynamic range. Yes, the highlights roll off in a more pleasing way than my GH4 but there was rarely any shot in their demo that was too far out of the reach of my GH4 which is a fraction of the cost.

If you're going to charge me that much for a camera, I expect better performance.

You know what really impressed me, though? Kinefinity's Terra.

Small body (somewhere between the GH4 and the RED Raven), 13-16 stops DR (depending on the version 5k or 6k and whether it's on rolling or global shutter), Prores 4:2:2 OR RAW CDNG)... in person it looked and felt great.

Now, considering that the URSA (and every Blackmagic camera for that matter) has failed to follow up with their promises (they just announced the URSA will not have global shutter as promised) it was kind of refreshing to see a camera that could live up to their specs.

The downside? The company is in China, and so far hasn't negotiated American distribution... but I'm definitely impressed and certainly interested given their price point. $6k at the highest level.

April 19, 2016 at 9:25PM

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E. David Nazario
Filmmaker
188

I was looking forward to this camera until I discovered it lacks physical audio trimming controls like the FS7, c300 MKII, etc. without going through at least 3 menu screens, or that the audio levels aren't even shown on the EVF overlays! (You do see it on the movable external data screen)

Sure at this price point, you're most likely doing dual system and your cam is jamsynced so audio doesn't matter as much...but for having that dual native iso feature, I was hoping the Varicam LT could function as a cinematic run and gun documentary camera or for small one man band corporate work.

Maybe Panasonic will add the audio overlays with a software update and find a way to map the audio controls to a physical dial on the body.

April 20, 2016 at 2:30AM, Edited April 20, 2:31AM

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Matthew Emmanuel
Camera Operator
589

This camera has everything I want and need in a high-end professional camera. Just wish it wasn't $25k+ for the full kit. Would be a lot easier to justify if it was closer in price to the C300 Mk2 or the Scarlet-W.

April 20, 2016 at 12:25PM

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Rip-off. The camera is way overpriced, and still uses bullshit proprietary P2 cards.

Vendors need to know that we're rejecting their rip-off storage media, with Sony and Panasonic being the prime offenders. CFast is bad enough, but at least it's being used by multiple vendors.

Message to camera manufacturers: Get rid of your bullshit media and standardize on CFast or SSD, or die. It's that simple.

April 22, 2016 at 1:39AM

0
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David Gurney
DP
2462