The Panasonic VariCam 35 was introduced last year and marked Panasonic’s entry into the cinema camera market. We had a chance to test the VariCam 35 during a live production. In this review, I will share my thoughts on working with the camera and look at the technical performance of Panasonic’s flagship cinema tool. Photos by our friend Tony Gigov The VariCam LT was introduced two months ago. It is a smaller, lighter camera for single operator use that has the same sensor as the VariCam 35. Just like those produced by other manufacturers, it seems as though the VariCam 35 sensor is here to stay. Let’s take a look. Panasonic VariCam 35 Review As with any new camera, when the Panasonic VariCam 35 arrived at our office, we wanted to test it during a real production. There’s no better method for evaluating a camera’s performance. Fortunately, I was able to with the young musician iNana and made this music video with her. This music video had a limited budget. I had a single day of daylight to create the video, with two improvisational dancers. Along with my camera assistant, Michi Mrkvicka, I lit the whole video with a single 1000W tungsten light as a kicker. I also used an ALZO LED softlight and some minus fill for a few of the beauty shots. The dual base ISO has been one of the unique features of the VariCam 35 which Panasonic’s marketing team have given priority to. It allows you to shoot clean video at ISO 800 and ISO 5000. For this shoot, I opted for ISO 800. I found it gave me the best overall performance. We have also shot a video with ISO 5000 which will be used in our review of the new VariCam LT, scheduled for publication next week. For this shoot, I tried the Schneider Cine PL lenses as well as the Zeiss Cp2 50mm Macro. We also had the Camdolly System with us (an affordable and mobile dolly with tracks). Handling The Panasonic VariCam 35 consists of two separate parts: a recording unit and a sensor unit. This allows you to break down the size of the camera if needed, but usually, you’d go with the complete package. Immediately, I noticed that the camera is in the same weight class of the Arri ALEXA. At 6.5kg, the camera wasn’t ideal, since we had a crew of 2. The camera is certainly geared towards larger productions, with at least one or two dedicated camera assistants. The Sachtler Cine tripod I was using was too small, but it did get us through the day eventually. That said, the VariCam 35 is well-made. It is robust and has excellent ergonomics. It quickly becomes apparent that Panasonic has been absent in this game for too long because they do know how to make a camera! Its menu is straight-forward and its controls are ideally situated for a single operator. The side menu for assistants works well, too. Despite a slight lack of clarity around the edges, the viewfinder is really impressive—and the mount is well made too. Camera assistant Michi Mrkvicka intrigued by the great EVF | Photos by Tony Gigov While the intuitive Alexa-style menu is good, there is a quite frustrating aspect involved in the handling of the camera that I must mention. The boot-up time of the Panasonic VariCam 35 is about 40 seconds. This wouldn’t be a big problem if you only needed to boot once, but every change of frame rates, resolution or codec requires up to 2 restarts. That can be quite problematic, especially given that the camera cannot restart on its own. It needs your assistance with the on/off switch. Battery life was good. We had no problem getting through the day with a few V-mounts and the fan noise wasn’t a problem. Well, it was a music video, but I’d say the fan is discreet and shouldn’t be a problem at all. Working with the Footage Unfortunately, the Panasonic VariCam 35 maxes out at 120fps in 2K. For my shoot, I needed a stronger slow motion capability. To achieve this, I used the Sony FS700 with an Odyssey 7Q+ as a b-camera for the slow motion shots. Matching the two cameras wasn’t hard, especially as the Panasonic VariCam 35 produces very nice images, but also because Vlog and Slog 2 don’t seem to be very far apart. I noticed a difference and that also gave me a good perspective of the performance of the VariCam. The Sony FS700 gave me a much softer image and I also felt that the dynamic range was more limited. The noise was also much more apparent, meaning I had to process it in DaVinci Resolve. It’s nice to see the step up in quality, but the VariCam 35 costs a lot more. I still like the performance of the FS700, as it produces nice slow motion RAW images that I could fit into this video. To really match the quality of the VariCam 35 I would have needed the VariCam LT though, as it is capable of shooting at 240fps, like the FS700. Because my lighting options were limited, I did a lot with the footage of the VariCam 35 for this video. I pushed it and changed the colors quite a bit to get the high key pastel look I was going for. I felt the VariCam 35 had excellent color accuracy. The image was very crisp and clean in 4K. There was a little more noise in the shadowed areas than I had hoped for and I also found some strange color artifacts in high contrast areas. All in all, the image seems quite comparable to that of the Canon C300 mark II in terms of dynamic range, low light performance, and noise. But I must say, I felt it didn’t reach the performance and organic feel of the Arri Alexa. While the VariCam image is very neutral, it’s not as filmic and seems more in-line with offerings from Canon and Sony. Like with other 4K footage in Adobe Premiere, on my 8-core Mac Pro it was almost impossible to edit the VariCam 35 material. I felt the codec was even more intense on the machine than other H.264 based codecs. Eventually I had to re-encode to ProRes in order to edit properly. In the Lab I also looked at the Panasonic VariCam 35 in our test lab. The usable dynamic range came in at roughly the same place as the Canon C300 mark II and Sony FS7, at between 12-13 stops. See how it tested here. Looking at the charts, I must say the VariCam 35 sensor performs very similar to the C300 mark II. Also, regarding lowlight, the native ISO 5000 of the Panasonic VariCam 35 looks much alike—and gives us a similar brightness—as the Canon C300 mark II at ISO 3200. The two sensors don’t seem to be far apart. With both cameras, I observed a lot of noise in the shadowed areas, meaning a limited dynamic range. However, overall picture quality and color accuracy is excellent on both cameras at 4K resolution. Rolling shutter is there, but performance is okay, again similar to the C300 mark II and FS7. Image Quality Compared: Canon C300 mark II vs. Panasonic VariCam 35 (100% crop) Speaking of resolution there was one problem with the VariCam 35. On hard and contrasted edges, I could see color artifacts, colored pixels that appear randomly. It looks like a derivate of aliasing which becomes most apparent on star charts like the one on the left. Conclusion Every camera has its flaws. The color artifacts mentioned earlier and the noise in the shadowed areas seem to be the downside to the high resolution, color depth, and color accuracy the VaricCam 35 offers. But just like the Sony a6300 that has some minor aliasing problems, when you watch the 4K footage in motion, you should rarely see this problem. In conclusion, I really liked working with the Panasonic VariCam 35. Especially the nice 4K image and color accuracy was enjoyable. On the downside, the weight was a problem for this small scale production. The VariCam 35 offers a lot of unique features like proxy recording and in-camera color correction that help in workflows on bigger productions. It is clearly tailored at those and brings a good sensor to the field. Is it challenging the Arri ALEXA? Some DP’s do pick the VariCam 35 over the ALEXA for its clean ISO 5000 and high resolution. While the ergonomics of this camera are certainly something to consider, personally I still think the performance and organic image of the Arri ALEXA are unique in this market and no manufacturer seems to be able to compete, but Arri yet has to develop a 4K sensor for the mass market. For now, the Panasonic VariCam 35 is certainly a valid option depending on your production needs. I hope you found our Panasonic VariCam 35 Review helpful. If you have any questions or thoughts, let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed the video, please give the musician iNana a shout at www.inana.at. You can download this song from her new EP for free. To buy the Panasonic Varicam 35 we recommend you get it at CVP Find current prices on their website. Thanks to David Knapp at AV Pro for helping with the camera. Thanks to the whole team for making this production possible: Starring Elina Lautamäki & Hussam N. Alsawah iNANA Photos by our friend Tony Gigov Assistant Camera Michael Mrkvicka Makeup Doris Konta Special Thanks to Meshit (Lena Krampf & Ida Steixner), Kunsthalle Berndorf BERNDORF AG (Rainer Koller, Andrea Gruber), Iva Zabkar, Carles Muñoz CamareroRead more
Sigma just announced two new super-fast lenses. The Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM joins the “Art” family of lenses that have shown great performance. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN is made for Sony E-Mount and comes at a low price of $339. Both lenses were announced alongside Sigma’s new MC-11 (announced earlier today) which is basically a Metabones adapter for Sigma lenses. Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 The press-release says it all: Pairing a versatile range of telephoto focal lengths with a fast constant maximum aperture, this 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens from Sigma is designed for APS-C-format Canon EF-mount DSLRs, and provides an 80-160mm equivalent focal length range. The rest goes on to emphasize the high performance of the lens. It is true that many sources have reported about outstanding quality on Sigma’s “Art” line of lenses. At cinema5D we reviewed the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art lens a while back and found it was a superb lens that also offered good handling for video. The most evident downside to this zoom is that it will only work with APS-C sized sensors. This means that it will not be an ideal choice for full frame cameras like the Sony a7S II or the Canon 5D Mark III. However, in terms of filmmaking, I can see this one as a potentially good choice for super-35mm cameras like the Sony FS7, C300 mark II or Varicam LT. It is available with Canon EF, Nikon F and Sigma SA mount options. The lens is on pre-order now, and will arrive in late April with a price tag of around $1,100. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for Sony E A fast, versatile prime, this 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens from Sigma is designed for APS-C-format Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, where it provides a 45mm equivalent focal length. What’s interesting about this lens is its native Sony E-mount. The low price of $339 for such a fast lens could be very interesting for many video shooters and photographers as well, provided the quality is up to par. The native E-mount means fast autofocus performance by skipping the need for an adapter, and the low aperture of f/1.4 means that it will deliver nice shallow depth of field and help with lowlight shooting. Personally, I’m a fan of fast wide angle lenses. However, just like the 50-100m zoom mentioned above, this lens is made for APS-C sized sensors, so it will be more similar to a 45-50mm field-of-view and not cover the full-frame sensor of a Sony a7S II. Alternatively the slightly more expensive Sigma 35mm full-frame Art lens is a good option for Sony a7S II cameras. The 30mm f1.4 is available for Sony E or MFT mount. The lens is on pre-order now, will arrive in mid March and cost around $340. more info on the Sigma 50-100mm here more info on the Sigma 30mm hereRead more
Earlier today the new Panasonic VariCam LT was introduced to the world. A single-operator cinema camera that brings the quality of Panasonic’s high-end VariCam 35 (introduced last year) into a more compact and affordable package. At the release event, we had a chance to take a closer look at the new camera and share some exclusive footage from German cinematographer Matthias Bolliger, shot right here at the event. If you want to know exactly what the new Panasonic VariCam LT brings to the table regarding specs, then you should check out this article where I described the technical details. Panasonic VariCam LT Hands-On We had a chance to get our hands on the VariCam LT and see how the camera feels on the shoulder. As each shooter has different preferences in terms of a rig ergonomics, it’s hard to generalize whether a camera offers a design that works for everyone and you should always try a camera yourself. During the brief time I had with the Panasonic VariCam LT, it was easy to see that they have thought about a lot of the small things that a single-operator shooter would be concerned with. For example, the comfortable shoulder plate can be moved forwards and backward to balance the camera correctly, which is not possible on the FS7. The menu can be moved to the viewfinder, much like on the Arri AMIRA and there are dedicated menu controls on the left-hand side which can be easily accessed blindly. Unlike other “ergonomic” cameras, it seems like after a small learning curve the LT could become a tool that lets you be fast. That said, it looked like the camera booted just as slowly as the VariCam 35 which makes you wait 40 seconds until it’s ready to shoot. The camera was well balanced, and everything felt right, except maybe the EVF mount that couldn’t be positioned correctly for me as it didn’t extend far enough to the left. 3rd party EVF’s can be used, as well as Panasonic’s OLED EVF that they had on the camera. Quality Looking at the footage by cinematographer Matthias Bolliger which he kindly shared with us (the video above—watch it in 4K through Vimeo!) I got the impression that the quality is very similar if not identical to what you would get from the more expensive VariCam 35. Panasonic’s press material also suggests that the sensor and processing are mostly identical and that the main difference between the two cameras lies in the processing power and format options. If you look at the test shots, you can see the beautiful highlight roll off. It is very soft and organic and just like on the VariCam 35 it seems the color reproduction, quality, and dynamic range are preserved up and down the ISO range, which is critical when consistency and professional end results are required—an aspect that is rarely seen on cinema cameras these days. The camera can switch from native ISO 800 to native ISO 5000. It seems as though low-light shots give you a very nice image quality, and while there is some omnipresent noise, the noise difference between 800 and 5000 is minimal according to Bolliger. This makes it an interesting camera for him, that can be used for normal shooting scenarios as well as low-light situations often encountered in documentary productions. The camera also shoots slow motion at up to 240 frames per second in 2K which is a very nice add-on that, for example, the similarly priced Canon C300 Mark II doesn’t offer. In comparison to the VariCam 35 however, the LT achieves 240fps with a 2K center-crop and with a lower bitrate “LT” codec. Many thanks again to cinematographer Matthias Bolliger for sharing his first shots not only with the press at the release of the VariCam LT but also our audience at cinema5D. Make sure to check out Matthias Bolliger’s website at matthias-bolliger.de More info about the VariCam LT in this article and at panasonic.co.ukRead more
Panasonic have just released the new Panasonic VariCam LT. A lightweight 4K cinema camera that inherits its sensor and processing technology from the high end VariCam 35 and comes with numerous qualities and features for professional shooters. [UPDATE: See our hands-on video with exclusive 4K footage from the new VariCam LT] What is the Panasonic Varicam LT? These last years new cinema cameras hit the market regularly. So the first question you might ask is: Should we care about this camera? The answer is: Oh yes. Not only is this camera packed with really interesting and seemingly well thought through features, but it is actually also Panasonic’s first attempt in this market segment bringing a new camera vision to the field. So far we’ve seen Panasonic offer low end mirrorless cameras (GH3, GH4), as well as the prosumer AF101 that preceded cameras like the C300 or FS7. After a long wait Panasonic introduced the VariCam 35 last year, packed with high end studio features, superb image quality and a unique native ISO 800 + ISO 5000 feature. The camera was priced quite high with an MSRP of $55,000. In a nutshell, the Panasonic VariCam LT takes the VariCam 35 sensor, processing and codec and puts it in a smaller, lighter, more ergonomic and more affordable package. Features of the Panasonic VariCam LT Instead of describing all features in detail, here’s a list of the most important specs the camera has to offer. We will later go over the details. Same sensor as the VariCam 35 Active EF (+ optional PL mount, interchangeable) Single Operator Ergonomics with a handle that looks like FS7 4K 10bit (AVC Intra) up to 30fps (422) / up to 60fps (LT) 2K 12bit up to 30fps (444) / up to 60fps (LT) 2K crop up to 240fps Switchable ISO 800 / ISO 5000 native Integrated removable IR cut filter (user removable) P2 card media (currently 256gb max., soon 512GB) weighs 2.7 kg Timecode Genlock Integrated ND filters New optional Panasonic OLED. Alternatively: SDI out Detachable menu lcd Custom LUT files can be uploaded via WIFI In-camera grading like on VariCam 35 3 simultaneous SDI outputs (including EVF) Can record 6mbit long-gop HD proxy files to SD card (lets you quickly edit / test rushes on set) Will compatible with Atomos & Convergent Design RAW recorders (likely also PIX-E). (Still unclear if both 3G-SDI outputs will be used for high data-rate RAW.) This is a nice set of features, tailored to numerous kinds of production needs and clearly the professional workflow approach of the VariCam 35 is inherited. At this point you might ask yourself which advantages are left for the bigger brother, the VariCam 35. This graph shows how the two cameras compare: First units of the Panasonic VariCam LT will start shipping in late March of 2016 and the camera has a suggested retail price of $18,000 for the camera body only. If you are interested in the rest of the package, you will have to spend the following: Panasonic viewfinder – $6,000 US Shoulder pad – $1,500 US Grip & arm – $1,250 US PL mount option – $1,300 US 256 GByte ExpressP2 Card – $2,000 US We have to admit that this isn’t cheap at all. The quality of the VariCam LT comes at a price. The body with a single 256GB card should get you started. [UPDATE: See our hands-on video with exclusive 4K footage from the new VariCam LT] more information at the Panasonic websiteRead more
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