If a recent large purchase of Panasonic Varicam 35s by an educational services company is any indication, the Varicam 35 could make a serious dent in the high-end camera market.
There have been some questions as to how well Panasonic's Varicam 35, the company's flagship super35 4K shooter, could compete in today's crowded camera market. It will never sell as many units as one of the popular Blackmagic cameras, but that's really not a fair comparison, as the Varicam 35 4K body lists for $55K, while Blackmagic cameras don't cross the $10K barrier.
In terms of pricing, Varicam 35's main competition comes from the likes of RED and ARRI, two brands firmly entrenched in high-end digital image acquisition with legions of devotees. We could lump the Sony F55 here, but the body is going for roughly half of the Varicam 35 4K, so it's hard to call these two products direct competitors. Regardless of where you draw those lines, it looked like an uphill battle for the Varicam 35.
News of a recent sale of Varicam 35 4K bodies to FilmEd, an educational services company that rents out equipment to high schools in Orange County, CA, and devises film curriculums and provides other community support, is opening some eyes. Sales of cameras to institutions happen all the time and we typically don't cover these sales for the same reason why we don't cover what cameras are used on what shows; if we start down those roads, there wouldn't be time or editorial space for anything else. But the large number of units sold for what most would term an 'expensive' camera could be an indicator that the Varicam is on its way to being a relevant, maybe even important camera.
FilmEd bought 18 Varicam 35s, all the 4K variant, which, again, lists for $55K; that equals to $990K, although with discounts, we can probably assume that the amount paid was less than that. The company did alleviate some costs by working with Abel Cine, a Hollywood equipment rental house and retailer, to make an adapter to use its existing B4 lenses on a PL mount, saving the expense of new glass. However, shelling out upwards of $1M on high-end cameras, particularly a camera that's elbowing its way into the high-end camera marketplace, is noteworthy and definitely something that we'll keep our eyes on.
This could be a sign of things to come for the Varicam 35 or an interesting anomaly, depending on how well the camera sells from this point. But FilmEd placed a $1M wager on the Varicam 35 being the right camera to prepare students interested in careers in film, which says a lot about how highly it regards the camera.
Check out the full press release about FilmEd's purchase of Varicam 35s over the page
Full press release
NEWARK, NJ (September 1, 2015) – FilmEd Academy of the Arts (Newport Beach, CA), which for the past 15 years has provided production services and filmmaking training to high schools throughout Orange County, recently added 18 Panasonic VariCam 35 4K camera/recorders to its camera inventory.
FilmEd provides equipment to secondary schools to produce institutional broadcasts and cover school events. The organization also develops curricula for advanced media students, mentors film school applicants and provides core movie-making instruction in a series of two-week summer workshops for 9-12 grade-level participants. FilmEd is a sponsor for the "for student, by student" Orange County Film Festival, providing a showcase for Academy participants.
Previously, FilmEd students worked with Panasonic AG-HPX500 P2 HD and AG-HVX200 P2 HD camcorders for shoulder-mount and hand-held instruction.
FilmEd Executive Director David Junker said that he went to the NAB convention earlier this year seeking an HVX200 replacement, but couldn't stop looking at the VariCam 35's low-light capabilities.
"We were so impressed with the VariCam 35's dual native 800/5000 ISOs, and have worked with Panasonic for so long, that I began to envision the 4K camera as a switch-out for the HPX500s," Junker said. By working with AbelCine on a HD by 35 adapter, FilmEd found a way to re-use its B4 lenses on a PL mount and consequently lower the cost of entry to the VariCam 35s, which were purchased from VMI, Inc.
"The VariCam 35 is so ergonomic, requiring only minimal rigging, that we can use it as a documentary camera, but the super35 image quality and depth of field give us unprecedented cinematic options," he continued.
FilmEd rolled out the VariCam 35 at its summer workshops, which have just concluded. Beginning students shot in 1920x1080 ProRes HQ (a broad standard for school's in-house broadcasts) while the advanced students shot exclusively in 4K, 12-bit 4:4:4 and 4:2:2 LT. All students used the VariCam 35 on four test projects, encompassing the production of a PSA, spot feature, music video and short silent film. Editing was done in Adobe Premiere.
FilmEd recently made an incremental purchase of microP2 cards, which will facilitate shooting simultaneous master footage and proxies. Junker said that during the upcoming school year, all students will be encouraged in to shoot in 4K for festival entries. He is also making the VariCam 35s available to FilmEd alumni, many of whom are working at the highest level of narrative and commercial production.
"We're still amazed at the prospects of working with a camera of this caliber," Junker said. "We'll be using the VariCam 35s for years to come."
For more information about FilmEd Academy, contact David Junker at email@example.com.
About the VariCam 35
Panasonic’s VariCam 35 is an unparalleled tool for high-end filmmaking, commercials and episodic production as well as live 4K events. The camera provides superb image handling in multiple formats ranging from pristine 4K RAW to more practical 4K, UHD, 2K, HD and HD ProRes capture. Several assets set the VariCam 35 apart from other high-end cinematography cameras, including dual native ISOs of 800 and 5000, allowing DPs to realize incredible image quality in extremely low light situations; its ability to record three simultaneous video formats (4K + 2K + Proxy, or UHD + HD + Proxy); an optional high-speed 4K uncompressed RAW recorder (CODEX) that will capture uncompressed 4K VariCam RAW (V-RAW) at up to 120fps; internal AVC-Intra 4K / 2K / HD recording to 120fps; support for an ACES workflow for full fidelity mastering of original source material; and in-camera Color-Grading via CDLs / 3D LUTs.
For more information about the VariCam 35, visit www.us.panasonic.com/varicam, or contact Panasonic at 877-803-8492.
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