After a recent tease of a new, smaller VariCam, Panasonic introduced the VariCam LT at a special event in Los Angeles that I attended (check out my live tweets here). And while it’s smaller, more ergonomic footprint will be a blessing to cinematographers, in the end, it’s nothing more than “fins.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. Let’s take a look.
What do I mean by “fins?” Well, consider the 1959 Cadillac El Dorado. It was essentially the same as the 1958 model, but with one glaring exception … gigantic tail fins for tail lights. It looked really cool, and some believe that it had an aerodynamic benefit to it, but as a feature, it really wasn’t anything more than a cosmetic change to get drivers back into the showroom to sell them another car. The same was true with the 1957 Chevy Bel Air. They certainly didn’t perform any better, but the payoff was that it became the iconic definition of a Cadillac and Chevy from that era. That’s the essence of “fins,” and the VariCam LT’s smaller footprint is a no less by definition. But like I said, there isn’t anything wrong with it, as smaller is definitely a great feature.
Looking inside, it’s essentially a smaller version of Panasonic’s VariCam 35, weighing in at only 6 pounds (body only). The LT has the same Super 35mm sensor, the same 14+ stops of latitude, the same dual ISO 800 and 5000 capability, and the same dual codec recording capability.
The VLT can shoot in 4K (4096 x 2160 and 3840 x 2160) but only up to 60p, while it can go as high as 240p in 2K. And it’s “HDR ready.” Where it parts with the V35, though, is that Panasonic gives users the option of Canon EF or PL mount (the PL Mount comes at an additional cost of $1300). The VariCam LT can record in several different formats, including 4K at AVC-Intra 4K422 (60p and 30p), AVC-Intra 4KLT (30p), AVC-Intra 2K444 (2K at 30p), and more.
Here is some sample footage from the Panasonic VariCam LT:
Here are the specs of the VariCam LT (via NoFilmSchool):
- Sensor from 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 IN, TC 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
- Availability: March 2016
- List Price: $18,000 (body only), $24,000 (body + AU-VCVF10G viewfinder)
While the VariCam LT is essentially a lighter and smaller version of the VariCam 35, it’s still a great camera, priced starting at $18,000 (without lens). But Panasonic sold the mystery of this announcement by asking everyone to join them to see the “next generation of digital cinema.” When I think of that phrase, I’m thinking of looking over the horizon, much like RED has done with their 8K WEAPON and its Vista Vision style.
With 21 stops of dynamic range, the RED 8K Weapon is the next generation. Heck, it’s TWO generations beyond the VariCam LT. Even Blackmagic decided they needed more when they introduced the URSA Mini last year, and so they also added the optional 4.6K sensor as an added feature. That got everyone buzzing at NAB.
So what I was expecting is Panasonic’s move into the 8K realm. Instead, the VariCam LT is still last year’s camera, but in a smaller, more ergonomic package. I’m sure that it will be embraced by documentarians and on location shooters looking for a smaller form factor. But in the end, it’s still a very conservative, incremental little brother to the VariCam 35. Fins. It does have a gorgeous image, though.
Check out Panasonic’s VariCam LT page for more details.