Panasonic VariCam 35 Review – Challenging the Arri Alexa?

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.


varicam 35

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).



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.

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.



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 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:

Elina Lautamäki & Hussam N. Alsawah

Photos by our friend Tony Gigov

Assistant Camera
Michael Mrkvicka

Doris Konta

Special Thanks to
Meshit (Lena Krampf & Ida Steixner), Kunsthalle Berndorf BERNDORF AG (Rainer Koller, Andrea Gruber), Iva Zabkar, Carles Muñoz Camarero

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Noel Evans Reply
Noel Evans April 5, 2016

Just a note on doing 2 restarts. You can actually ignore it, go change your other setting and then do the restart.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber April 5, 2016

Hi Noel,
It depends. When you change your framerate to highspeed you sometimes need to change settings 3 times. I found that you can do 2 at once, but not all three.

Fabian Andostini Reply
Fabian Andostini April 5, 2016

das beantwortet die fragestellung aus der überschrift

Evan Shaw April 5, 2016

I guess the metaphor in the video is about how astronomically priced cameras are beginning to fall slowly to Earth into the hands of people who shoot in slow motion LOL

Evan Shaw April 5, 2016

Meaning I can’t wait to see the LT and how it does!

Tim Naylor Naylor April 5, 2016

Thanks for the review. It’s been becoming quite popular in NYC as Netflix shoots loads of their productions here and has mandated all Netflix originated programming be shot minimally in 4k. Which means no Arri (despite that its 3.2k image resolves higher than Reds 4k). That said, many camera crews have been complaining that the power outs are often too low in in voltage to run common accessories (preston, teradek, etc). Were you able to test this?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber April 6, 2016

Hi Tim,
Thanks for the info. Unfortunately we haven’t tested that feature. If you find out anything else about this please do let us know here. It would be very helpful for others.

Damon Mosier Reply
Damon Mosier April 6, 2016

You say you had to re-encode in order to edit because your machine couldn’t handle the footage. Does this mean you chose not to take advantage of the in-camera proxy function or was it this in-camera proxy footage that your computer could not handle?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber April 7, 2016

Hi Damon,
No, I did not take advantage of the Proxy recording, because I expected the computer could handle the full 4K files. But I was wrong. H.264 codecs are too intense and AVC-I seems to be even more demanding.

Tobias Mennle April 7, 2016

Great to find your Varicam review.

I recently had a very short test Varicam 35 vs C300II in v-log vs clog2…

… so I might comment on a few issues.

IMO Canon sensor and processing is CLEARLY inferior to the Varicam 35. Noise is higher in the Canon at ISO 5000 but also at ISO 800 if sloppily underexposed. The Canon has blotchy color noise where the Varicam has a more tight granular luminance noise. Ample exposure at ISO 5000 and medium to low contrast scenes yields almost noise free images with both cameras.

Color rendering of the Varicam is miles ahead of the Canon. I have yet to see really beautiful C300II footage. It is strange that C300I and C500 seem to generally look better. Maybe UHDtoHD is the way to go with the Canon. Some Varicam demos are among the most beautiful digital footage I have seen.

Varicam vs Arri, once more people start to compare these cameras, especially LT vs Mini/Amira, things might become turbulent and as Geoff Boyle stated, Arri might “have a problem”. At ISO 5000 for sure.

About booting time, mine felt fast to reboot, but I did not measure. Panasonic claimed 16s if I remember correctly. Fan stops when you push record.

What kind of color artifacts did you get? Every Bayer sensor will have some sooner or later. What is the CA performance of the lenses you used?

On a new iMac 32GB RAM editing and grading of UHD footage in Resolve is totally smooth for both codecs.

I do have high hopes for the LT. But like many cameras it feels a bit underspecced, and Panasonic would better NOT protect the Varicam 35 too much by not fully empowering the LT. They need to conquer their market share with the LT, the Varicam 35 is probably too bulky and expensive to do that and the demand should be extremely low.

Would love to see you do a comparison LT to C300MK2 or FS7 with more varied scenes.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber April 7, 2016

Hi Tobias,

Thanks for chiming in and your elaborate comment and observations. Good to have a second opinion there.

I did not go deep into comparing C300 mark II vs the VariCam 35. However I think comparing a cameras is always a question of perspective. While you might say the C300 mark II is “way ahead” of the VariCam 35. When you put all other cameras beside them, you might realize they are extremely close. At least that is my conclusion.

That said and looking into my own test charts again, I must fully disagree with you regarding both your noise and color claim. The VariCam clearly has more color noise than the C300 mark II at ISO 800. I think the colors of both cameras are very accurate and I wouldn’t prefer one over the other. Once we start shooting and watching 4K properly, aliasing on the VariCam might be a big problem that is not there on the Canon. The Canon however has problems with highlights that smear across the sensor.

If I should make a bet I would dare to say these could be the same sensors with different filters and processing. Would be curious to find out. I have never seen two cameras so extremely similar in color, lowlight performance, noise, dynamic range and rolling shutter.

Regarding your color artifacts question: It’s aliasing on a very small scale, but it affects all parts of the image.

Check out this side by side that I just rendered, it should answer your noise claim and also the aliasing question:

Tobias Mennle April 7, 2016

Well there is many opinions out there on the Varicam already :)

So, LT review next week and ISO5000…

About your side by side, Varicam looks definitely lousy. Same lens? Again, looking at a log image is IMO pretty useless, you need to delog before evaluating performance. V-log is clearly flatter than Clog2 which explains the difference in brightness in your shots – Canon looks about one stop darker, look at the black field, and therefore much more contrasty. Varicam maps that brightness higher i.e. greyer in its log curve. If you were to put on the LUTs on an then to compare identical tonal values in your side by side… then we´re talking.

Did you shoot 4K/UHD v-log rec2020? Or a cinegamma? Anyway, I monitored in native UHD and find these to be very different cameras. Moiré was never an issue with the Varicam, but a little bit with the Canon.

Sure it depends on the perspective. From my point of view I decided I would not want to spend the next three years of my life with the Canon. Neither would I recommend it to a friend. I use a lot of other Canon products happily though.

Falko Wehr April 19, 2016

Wo interesting stuff, don’t want to open a new can, but what about that comparison:

Hey Sebastian did you ever measure a red-sensor with your method? Seems that the dragon is maybe also not 16+?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber April 24, 2016

Haven’t had a chance to test the RED cameras.

Kalechi Noel April 28, 2016

When is Varicam LT review coming ? It’s been 2 weeks since you promised a review iso5000

 Noah Yuan-Vogel Reply
Noah Yuan-Vogel May 18, 2016

In your C300ii vs V35 comparison, you neglect to mention what gamma curve you were using on each camera. From the contrast I’d guess Clog vs Vlog, but Clog only has 5 stops of DR over middle grey vs Vlog’s 7 stops so it seems like it might be a mismatched comparison.

Tobias Mennle May 18, 2016

It was clog2, see text, so on paper similar DR as Varicam. I´d expect better colors with clog though. Maybe Canon will nail it with the coming clog3. They really have to. Have ordered a Varicam LT instead a C300II.

Tobias Mennle May 27, 2016

Yes, challenging Arri.