Why the Panasonic VariCam LT is going to turn heads in 2016

When I’ve thought about motion picture cameras I typically think of Sony, Canon, ARRI and RED. Panasonic has been quietly working on some pretty cool cameras in the background while the others have been at each others throats trying to convince us which new camera we should be using. 

Sony has most definitely changed the game with the lower end of the market. Having released their awesome mirrorless cameras and value capturing FS5 and FS7 camcorders. Not forgetting to mention the Sony F55 who has proved to be a great tool for higher end television and documentary filmmakers. 

RED’s been making cameras with incredible resolutions despite the world still trying to adapt to 4K. 

Canon has been losing ground to Sony in the DSLR/Mirrorless market (you can read more about this in my article DSLR vs Mirrorless) and despite everything still somehow remains relevant with the release of the (over priced) C300 Mark II

And then there is ARRI which has engrained their identity in the market as the best film-like cinema cameras that every filmmaker gets wet dreams about. I wanted to make a point about ARRI before I talk about the new Panasonic camera coming out - the VariCam LT

When the Panasonic VariCam 35 was announced back in 2014, it didn’t get a whole lot of attention despite it probably being (in my opinion) the only camera other then the ALEXA to have that incredible, distinct film look. 

Both cameras have a lot in common - similar price, gorgeous colours and are made to shoot cinema. 

The issue for Panasonic is that they have come in with the VariCam 35 at a time when ARRI is all people could talk about. I’d like to have seen some more aggressive marketing on their end to get their new beast of a camera into the minds of the filmmaking community. Despite all this - I believe in the near future, Panasonic will get the attention they deserve. 

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Introducing the Panasonic 4K VariCam LT

Panasonic Varicam LT

While the VariCam 35 is the company’s flagship Super 35mm 4K camera, heads will probably be turned to the release of the VariCam LT, the little brother to the VariCam 35. The LT is half the price, half the size and can take Canon EF or PL mounts. It also borrows the same sensor as its bigger brother with a few compromises such as 4K in 60p, instead of 4K 120fps. 

It does however include the dual ISO sensor which gives you clean images at 800 ISO or 5000 ISO, ProRes recording and when the sensor is cropped, the camera is capable of up to 240fps. 

The VariCam LT camcorder incorporates the imaging ‘DNA’ of the VariCam 35 in a more compact rendition. Its size and design facilitate a wide array of shooting styles from comfortable shoulder-mounted operation, to use on gimbals and drones.” - Mathew Alexander, Product Marketing Manager, Broadcast, Panasonic Australia

The fact that it uses the same sensor as the VariCam 35 but comes in a more budget friendly package is a big deal. 

It now competes with the Sony F5 and the Red Scarlet on price with the base model (Includes Canon EF Mount, Control Panel, Top Handle) coming in at $16,500 USD and the full package (includes EF and PL mounts, OLED Viewfinder, Shoulder Mount, Grip, 2 X 256GB Cards & Reader) for $27,600 USD. 

For more information on the the VariCam LT’s packages I recommend looking into No Film School who are frequently releasing news and updates on the Panasonic cameras.

The colour science on the VariCam’s is incredibly cinematic and more pleasing to the eye compared to the Sony F5. Another thing going for the VariCam LT is the fact that for this price it has interchangeable PL and EF mounts. Shooting in daylight and lowlight conditions will also be aided with the inbuilt ND filters and dual native ISO’s. 

The biggest pain I have with the camera is the cost of media. It records to Express P2 cards which can cost $2000 for a 256GB card.

The camera by no means is inexpensive but in comparison to whats out there and for what you get out of it, it’s going to be a very popular choice amongst filmmakers. Based on what I’ve read and heard, the VariCam LT is definitely a camera I’ll be looking to rent when I get a job that commands it. And unless something absolutely mind blowing is announced at NAB later in the year, this is going to be at the top of my list of cameras to use for my future work. 

Has Panasonic done enough with the VariCam LT to warrant you renting/buying in the future?

Here are the specs:

  • Same 4K sensor as the VariCam 35
  • 14+ Stops of DR
  • Dual Native ISO (800,5000)
  • Removable Canon EF of PL mounts
  • 4K AVC-Intra 422 up to 30p, AVC-Intra LT up to 60p
  • 2K & HD AVC-Intra 4444 up to 30p, AVC-Intra 422 & LT up to 120p
  • HD ProRes 4444 up to 30p, ProRes 422HQ up to 60p
  • One expressP2 card slot
  • SD card slot for proxies
  • RAW Output from 3x SDI coming out in Mid 2016
  • ND Filters (CLEAR, 0.6, 1.2, 1.8)
  • XLR 5 pin x1, XLR 3 pin x2
  • 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)

For Australian consumers the VariCam LT will be priced at $29,739.00 RRP (inc GST). 

Additionally you can also purchase the OLED Viewfinder ($9055 RRP), Low Profile Shoulder Mount ($2494 RRP), Grip Module ($2326 RRP) and the PL Mount Module ($2413 RRP).

Availability: April 2016

Australians can buy the camera from Lemac, Videocraft and John Barry Group