May 23, 2016

WATCH: New 4K Test Footage From Panasonic's Varicam LT

The footage from Panasonic's affordable alternative to their flagship VariCam 35 looks absolutely stunning.

Earlier this year Panasonic announced they'd be releasing a version of the VariCam specifically designed for the independent filmmaker. The VariCam LT is smaller, lighter, and less expensive than its big brother, but features the same Super 35mm MOS sensor, 14 stops of dynamic range, and Dual ISOs of 800 and 5000. You can purchase the camera in bundles ranging from $16,000 to $27,000 whereas the VariCam 35 would run you somewhere in the range of $40,000 -$50,000. 

The footage comes from director Steven Bailey and certainly shows how Panasonic has succeeded in their mission to produce a high-quality cinema camera on the level of RED or ALEXA for filmmakers on a budget. In respect to image and color quality, Mr. Bailey qualifies it as the "best I've used so far in this price range."  All the footage is 4K except for the slow motion shots at the end. He used a 120p 2K crop and a Sigma 18-35mm lens.

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/167333654​

We got a chance to check out the new camera at NAB earlier this year. Here are a few more details on Panasonic's latest release from our coverage:

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

The image quality with the VariCam LT will be essentially identical to the VariCam 35 as they share the same sensor, so the only real difference between the two is in the specs and maximum frame rates (4K 60fps vs 4K 120fps). Check out a couple more videos that have come out with footage from the VariCam LT:

Your Comment

38 Comments

Dynamic range is very nice.

May 23, 2016 at 11:04AM, Edited May 23, 11:04AM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1646

Whoa. Cool surprise to see my stuff in the header here. Thanks.

May 23, 2016 at 11:29AM, Edited May 23, 11:29AM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

"Earlier this year Panasonic announced they'd be releasing a version of the VariCam specifically designed for the independent filmmaker."

Panasonic do you know any "independent filmmaker" who can spend just $16k on the camera body? We don't... Do a $6- 8k version and try it again...

May 23, 2016 at 12:22PM, Edited May 23, 12:22PM

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Nico
D.P
234

I don't think you no the difference between independent and no budget filmmaking. I don't know any independent filmmaker who'd spend $6k on a camera, but I know a few independent production companies that would $20k+ on a camera system.

May 24, 2016 at 3:39AM

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keith
455

Just about any DP who has been working a few years could get a loan to buy any camera on the market that is in high use. $16k for a fully featured body is the standard entry level for high end cameras. The new RED Scarlet-W is going to run $17k to get it running, C300 mkII is $16k, Alexa Mini is something arond $70k and I know people who have bought it on loan.

$6k-8k isn't a professional level camera, it's a DSLR / entry beginners package. If that is the price range that you're looking at, a A7S, BMCC, or used RED Scarlet MX are both good options depending on what you value in a camera.

May 24, 2016 at 9:26AM

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Derek Means
Director of Photography
319

Everything's awesome and nobody's happy!

May 26, 2016 at 6:20PM

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James Manson
Photographer
327

More footage:

https://vimeo.com/165999334

Had a Varicam LT for 3 days and ordered one after. I´ll try to post a review with a shot by shot comparison with Sony FS7 the next days. Price is right, Amira costs twice as much without lovely ISO5000. Varicam LT offers easy workflow with 65mm, 35mm and 16mm film looks depending on how you use it, so many filmmakers will love it.

May 23, 2016 at 12:50PM

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Tobias Mennle
film production
161

I found your video on vimeo the other day and it really sold me on this camera. Beautiful work. Curious how to get 65mm film looks from this camera, though. Care to share?

May 27, 2016 at 4:06PM, Edited May 27, 4:06PM

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Stuart Philkill
Director of Photography, Producer
147

Didn't we see this 4k footage a couple months ago? Anyway, this camera and its price is a practical joke right? Image is blah and so noisy. Same price as the C300 II, $6k more than a new Scarlet-W, and about $10k more than the upcoming Kinefinity Terra. Way to go Panasonic.

May 23, 2016 at 1:51PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
1046

I agree! Nothing that impressive here, at that price point. I don't see why i would pay more than $15,000 for this camera..

May 23, 2016 at 3:11PM

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Jeremy Dulac
Director/Cinematographer/Editor
171

You realize you can't actually use a Scarlet-W out of the box at $10k right?

May 24, 2016 at 7:35AM

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Having ordered a Scarlet-W, I can tell you the cheapest you can put a package together if you buy all new components, is $17k.

May 24, 2016 at 9:28AM

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Derek Means
Director of Photography
319

Blah and noisy? Though I find the image quite pleasing, I'm open to your to defense of why you think it's 'blah'. But where are you seeing noise? Every sample I've watched from this camera has wonderful detail in the shadows with only subtle yet pleasing grain at 5000iso shooting at night. And for the record, you'll need about $16k to get a scarlet-w up and running.

May 27, 2016 at 4:16PM

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Stuart Philkill
Director of Photography, Producer
147

American Cinematographer had a good write up on the TV Show Containment using the Varicam. The thing they liked the most was shooting at 5000 ISO. Their lighting package shrunk down with many of the lights being battery powered or practicals. Sounded interesting. The price does seem expensive, but if you are using the camera with lots of crew and lighting, it will quickly save money by saving time to light a scene.

May 23, 2016 at 2:14PM, Edited May 23, 2:15PM

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I'll probably get made fun or something for this, but I don't think the price is THAT outrageous. I'd have to try it for myself, but given the color reproduction and dual native ISOs, high frame rates, it's a seriously professional cinema camera. Doesn't mean it's cheap! Still definitely expensive, but serious high-end cinema cameras are. Now I think the accessories are a bit over priced, I'll admit to that. But so are REDs. The body itself though, I think falls in line.
I'm coming hot off a weekend with the c300 Mark II, which I thought was way overpriced as well, but after using it...I kind of get the price. Yeah still probably a tad overpriced and does miss some wanted options, but the image quality is superb, I was blown away by the colors and DR. And how easy it was to use!
I just think this is meant to be compared to higher end cinema cameras, and in that range, this type of pricing isn't too shabby. NOT saying it's "better" or "worse" than any other camera though. I'd have to try it for myself.

May 23, 2016 at 2:25PM, Edited May 23, 2:25PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1426

Yeah, was shooting with the C300 Mark II for a few weeks for an ad campaign, then used the Varicam LT for pickups. I liked both a lot.

This article is similar to my experience. Panasonic has amazing highlight retention and rolloff. Felt significantly better than every time I've shot with Red:
http://www.thebriannguyen.com/2016/03/red-scarlet-w-vs-panasonic-varicam...

May 23, 2016 at 2:39PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

Nice, good information! Yeah, REDs are great but there is something very organic about the C300 Mii image, and from what I can tell (thanks to your awesome footage!) same from the Varicam. Very lively, filmic, like baked in beauty. Skin tones especially. Did the Varicam hold up well in the skin-tone /color field compared to the c300 mii?

May 23, 2016 at 2:52PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1426

I was really impressed with the Panasonic. I think the colors are better and the dynamic range is better, definitely. My hunch says the camera to really compare it to is Alexa.

Canon is close but I ran into brittle, hard clipping in extreme highlights from time to time, whereas the Panasonic always rolled off in a pleasing way. They're very comparable in terms of rental price, so I'll likely rent the Panasonic from now on, and turn to the Canon for more lightweight/documentary stuff. But it's also saying something about the Canon that it required little to no effort to match the two together.

May 23, 2016 at 3:18PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

Definitely can see what you mean by the highlight roll off. Displayed very well in your shots!
Did you test the audio out at all? Always nice to have solid in-cam audio.

May 23, 2016 at 7:20PM, Edited May 23, 7:20PM

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Ben Meredith
Cinematographer/Filmmaker
1426

Didn't get a chance to play with the audio.

May 24, 2016 at 10:04AM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

This Camera and the Varicam 35 is a joke. You're better off with a Red and I hate Reds. We had the chance to see it first hand at NAB. We work on some big name TV shows and spent some time talking with a Panasonic rep about it. He even offered to send us some cameras to try out on our show, for high end stuff we normally shoot on an Alexa or Amira. We have do stuff on Sony F5s and FS7s. Anyway he sold is on the Varicam. Hyped it up and sounded awesome. Anyway he said check out our Cinema theater you can see the footage first hand so we were excited to watch. Anyways got in and watched several shot films shot on the cameras and much to our surprised it was a major disappointment. Noise dynamic range was ok but not at the cost of quality so it's really not good. And the short films were terrible making the experience even more uncomfortable. We left embarrassed for Panasonic. What were they thinking? A major let down as Panasonic has been struggling to create a good video camera for so long. And for the price it's ridiculous. Their duo iso is a joke too.

May 23, 2016 at 5:31PM, Edited May 23, 5:31PM

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Looks like Gh4 footage honestly... Not impressed.

May 23, 2016 at 6:14PM, Edited May 23, 6:14PM

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Terrell Lamont
Director, Director of Photography
413

Please tell me how to get this unimpressive look in my Gh4. https://vimeo.com/165999334 Thanks!

May 24, 2016 at 8:57AM, Edited May 24, 8:58AM

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Lane McCall
Producer/Director
478

If you told me this was GH4 footage, I'd of believed it... maybe only slightly better. This does not look special. Panasonic's color science is very boring looking.

May 23, 2016 at 9:34PM

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Vincent Gortho
none
1105

"I'd of believed it"

What does that mean?

May 28, 2016 at 4:33AM, Edited May 28, 4:33AM

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David Gurney
DP
2389

I worked with Reds for years. Waiting for the Scarlet-W now. I downloaded these Varicam footages in their original prores format and played in Resolve. I'm just amazed. It's always a pain with Red to get right colors. It's always harsh and not nice without a lot of work. With the Varicam file it was a joy. Colors everywhere without pushing the cursors. Gorgeous DR. These footages don't do justice to the camera. People should download and work on it. I'm seriously thinking of cancelling the scarlet, which will never arrives anyway. Another thing is the second hand market. A red camera is impossible to sell. Or for the fourth of it's price after 2 years. They are doing so many upgrades. Arri and Panasonic hold way better. I also loved the "Orange is the new black" new season trailer, shot on Varicam.

May 24, 2016 at 7:09AM, Edited May 24, 7:11AM

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JoachimV
551

Nice! Glad you played with the footage.

May 24, 2016 at 9:37AM, Edited May 24, 9:38AM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

Yes, thanx for posting a prores version! It was great to try it. Your footage sold me on the Varicam. It's crazy to see how easily you can color correct it, push the colors and how nicely and immediately they react. Red has raw, but I prefer 10x prores with great colors.

May 24, 2016 at 10:02AM

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JoachimV
551

Agreed! Very very easy to grade. Easiest log footage I've ever touched. And you will have a raw option with the Varicam LT down the line, so it will end up being very versatile.

May 24, 2016 at 10:10AM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

This is my favorite looking camera. Period. I just love the colors coming off this thing. https://vimeo.com/165999334 Canon has always had great color imo and this is one step better. Now... if they would come out with a $6k to $8k cam with same sensor, cheaper accesories, maybe less connectivity but keep ND's and AVC-I they would make a serious dent in the market of independent/corporate shooters. Put this sensor in an AF200!

May 24, 2016 at 8:56AM, Edited May 24, 8:59AM

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Lane McCall
Producer/Director
478

Now what would the R&D costs of the Varicam sensor and image technology be? Panasonic has so far probably lost a lot of money with the Varicam 35 so it´s good for us and them to now have this image quality available for any serious DP/filmmaker. The LT is clearly aiming at Arri Amira, at half the price.

The Sony FS7 is the paradigm camera in the price range you mention, but also shows serious shortcomings even if you don´t compare it to a master camera as the Varicam LT (which I did).

May 24, 2016 at 12:08PM

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Tobias Mennle
film production
161

What's noteworthy is the bigger Varicam 35 is on the second hand market for cheaper than the LT body new. I've seen them go for less than $20k WITH over $4k worth of media, the $5k evf, and the shoulder rig. That makes the Varicam 35 body used for only $10k.

If the same depreciation happens to the LT, I'd pick one up.

May 24, 2016 at 11:43PM, Edited May 24, 11:44PM

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Matthew Emmanuel
Camera Operator
561

I mean, hit me up next time you see a deal like that. I'd jump on it in a second.

May 25, 2016 at 2:57PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
1150

Steven, are you UK or US... here is a offer for Europe from one of the biggest Panasonic broadcast dealers:

https://www.teltec.de/Specials-Teltec/Aktion/Panasonic-AU-V35C1-VariCam-...

I tested their Demo and ordered my LT from them.

May 27, 2016 at 12:19AM

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Tobias Mennle
film production
161

Rule Boston has a Varicam 35 package listed at $25,000 right now. It's been up since April

June 28, 2016 at 3:55PM

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Matthew Emmanuel
Camera Operator
561

Varicam LT review with shot-by-shot comparison to FS7:
https://vimeo.com/167962330

May 25, 2016 at 10:31AM

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Tobias Mennle
film production
161

No on-board raw, ridiculous proprietary P2 rip-off storage, and no bitrate specified.

No sale.

May 28, 2016 at 4:31AM, Edited May 28, 4:31AM

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David Gurney
DP
2389

If this is too expensive, why not just get an Alexa.

July 8, 2016 at 4:05PM

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Ricardo Nunez
Wannabe Cinematographer
159