Panasonic VariCam LT – Hands-On & Exclusive 4K Footage

Panasonic VariCam LT

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.

Panasonic VariCam LT side viewIf 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.


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.

Panasonic VariCam LT natural light

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.

Panasonic VariCam LT 4k

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.

Panasonic VariCam LT silhouette

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

More info about the VariCam LT in this article and at

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Andrea Nocifora Reply
Andrea Nocifora February 11, 2016

Riccardo Lupo questa ti può interessare

Nino Leitner Reply
Nino Leitner February 11, 2016

Live aus Barcelona :)

Jonathan Constantinou February 11, 2016

Thank you Seb, the new varicam looks great, a competitive option to the c300ii .what are the details on the LT codec used for 4K 60p? 10 bit 422?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber February 11, 2016

Hi Jonathan,
I’m not sure, but I would think it is the 10-bit 4:2:0 version of the codec. According to Panasonic’s AVC Intra Whitepaper there is 444 422 and 420, there was no mention of “LT” (yet):

Tobias Mennle February 15, 2016

LT should be 10bit 4:2:2 but stronger compression. It´s used in the Varicam 35 for internal 120 f/s, so it can´t be 4:2:0.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber February 16, 2016

Interesting, why does Varicam 35 internal 120f mean it’s 4:2:2?

Tobias Mennle February 16, 2016

Common sense would strongly suggest though that a 50K high end camera by a respected manufacturer would never ever use 4:2:0 these days. I have explicitly asked my dealer about the LT Codec specs. I was promised the first LT demo day in week 10 – beginning of march.

Red Shark writes about the Varicam 35: “AVC-Intra 4K 4:4:4 12-bit represents the highest quality possible capture from the Varicam 35, while the AVC-Intra 4K-LT (4:2:2) gives the camera the ability to record those higher frame rates, albeit delivering a more compressed image.”

Somewhere else I believe I picked up it is a further 2:1 compression from AVC Intra 4:2:2. This corresponds well with RED´s strategy of different compressions for different frame rates in different models.

4:2:0 in a Varicam – except for 1K proxies – would be madness. Panasonic has really been strong in colours and I never had any issues working with their HDX900 for almost 6 years (in DVC Pro HD 8bit 4:2:2) which IMO blew away the Sonys in the colour department.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber February 16, 2016

Thanks for that insight. This still doesn’t confirm it for me though. I will ask Panasonic directly.

 Mahmoud El-Darwish Reply
Mahmoud El-Darwish February 19, 2016

And when you do get confirmation from Panasonic, please feel free to correct your rebuttals via errata. Danke!

Tobias Mennle February 19, 2016

Oh yes, please do so and let us know. I have not been able to get any definite information on the LT codec yet which could be quite important for prospective Varicam LT and 35 users.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber February 25, 2016

Panasonic has replied. The VariCam LT codec is 4:2:2 10bit.

Matthew Carmody Reply
Matthew Carmody February 12, 2016

Anyone else think they looked at the C300 and FS7 and said “let’s just mix them and see what we get?”

 Rob Goldie Reply
Rob Goldie February 12, 2016

yes, and that is a good thing as neither of the afforementioned quite nailed it. This looks like a real contender.

dave goldgaber February 18, 2016

The dual, native 800/5000 ISO looks very promising and the EF/PL mount choice was a good move for Panasonic. Certainly will have it’s place with some shooters. Just really don’t understand why they feel the need to price P2 cards at $2K a pop.

 Francesco Testoni Reply
Francesco Testoni February 29, 2016

Some footage available?

Tobias Mennle April 7, 2016 varicam 35 vs Canon C300II – short test – hello LT

Tobias Mennle May 27, 2016

17mins video review Varicam LT, also compared to Sony FS7…