The legendary Panasonic VariCam returns - and it's ready to take on everyone!
We've criticised Panasonic in the past for being late to the table with a high-end professional camera (or any type of 4K camera for that matter, apart from the acclaimed GH4 still-camera-that-does-4K video-rather-well).
But now it seems that the wait might have been well worth while, because with the new VariCam 35, Panasonic is taking on ARRI's Alexa, pure and simple.
We know this because they told us in a meeting at last month's IBC show in Amsterdam. Until then we hadn't really appreciated the scope and depth of the new VariCam, although we shouldn't really have been surprised given the pivotal role of the original HD VariCam at the start of the HD era about eleven years ago.
Back then, there was fierce competition with Sony's HDCAM format. Both were good and so much better than any format of SD, but in side-by-side trials, the VariCam, even in 720p, had a certain indefinable but yet distinct quality to its image that made it the choice for many broadcasters keen to build a repertoire of HD material.
So the new camera is entirely credible as a high end program maker as well as a camera for making feature films.
The technical specs are all there: it comes in two versions, one with a front end with a 2/3" sensor and designed for very high quality HD and slow motion, and the other, with a Super 35mm 4K sensor for filmic shooting. The Super 35mm sensor outputs 4096 x 2160 images which can be stored as ProRes 4444 and 422HQ, as well as the more parsimonious AVC-ULTRA. (It's interesting to see Panasonic adopt ProRes as an edit-ready production format.)
Dynamic Range is an impressive 14 stops plus, and Panasonic's new log curve, "V-Log", maps this dynamic range into "traditional" file formats.
The camera head and body are separable and are effectively the imaging unit and the recorder. For 4K raw recording there's a separate, custom designed, Codex recorder option.
There's a lot more detail in the press release over the page, and we'll be returning to this important new camera as soon as we get more information.
PANASONIC SHIPPING NEW VARICAM 35 4K
AND VARICAM HS CAMERA/RECORDERS
VariCam 35 Boasts Super 35MM Sensor, 4K and HD Simultaneous Recording,
In-Camera Color Grading; VariCam HS Offers Image Capture to 240FPS
NEWARK, NJ (October 15, 2014) – Panasonic today announced the immediate availability of its highly-anticipated VariCam models, the VariCam 35 and VariCam HS.
The VariCam 35’s superb image handling in multiple formats ranging from pristine 4K RAW to more practical 4K, UHD, 2K, HD and ProRes capture formats make it an unparalleled tool for high-end filmmaking, commercials and episodic production as well as live 4K events. With high-speed 1080p image capture of up to 240fps, the companion 2/3” VariCam HS produces extraordinary high-definition imagery for the most demanding documentary, sports or SFX slow-motion applications.
The VariCam 35 and VariCam HS will both offer Apple ProRes 4444 and ProRes 422 HQ* support for HD recording, positioning the new camera/recorders within a well-established and widely accepted HD workflow.** Both VariCams include Panasonic’s AVC-ULTRA family of advanced video codecs.
The VariCam 35 and VariCam HS incorporate an innovative design whereby the 4K and 2/3” camera heads are separate from but dockable to the common, shared recording module, enabling professionals to switch between s35mm and 2/3” camera heads to best suit their creative needs. This system flexibility can be expanded with an umbilical cable between the s35mm 4K camera and the AVC-ULTRA recorder, providing “box” camera functionality for jibs, cranes and other remote camera needs.
Both models feature a removable control panel to facilitate real-time control and easy menu access when the camera is in a fixed or remote position. They offer a production-tough aluminum alloy body to assure durability and reliability in the most challenging shooting locations.
The VariCam 35 utilizes a new Panasonic super 35mm MOS sensor for 4096 x 2160 (17:9) 4K image capture; this imager when combined with the AVC-ULTRA codecs for 4K enables very manageable and practical 4K production file sizes. The new imager boasts an impressive 14+ stops of latitude, and faithfully captures high-contrast, wide dynamic range imagery without compromise.
Through a strategic product development alliance with Codex Digital, Panasonic will deliver a high-speed 4K uncompressed RAW recorder for the VariCam 35 camera.*** This dedicated recorder will capture uncompressed 4K VariCam RAW (V-RAW) at up to 120fps, bolstering the VariCam 35’s suitability for high-end cinema applications.
Powerful color management capabilities provide a much extended color gamut for impeccable image fidelity, and permit support for an Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) workflow for full fidelity mastering of original source material. The VariCam 35 also affords in-camera color grading.
To maximize the dynamic range of the recorded images, Panasonic has developed a new log curve (V-Log) which elegantly maps the 14+ stops of image data to the recorded file. The VariCam 35 permits the assignment of various LUTs to individual recording channels and camera outputs. For example, shoot UHD and record non-destructively with the V-Log LUT, but assign a ”baked-in” 709 LUT on the HD / proxy recording for a real-time normal contrast look for editing and pre-grading. The camera’s monitor, EVF and EVF outputs have similar selectable LUT capabilities. The VariCam 35's In Camera Grading feature is fully flexible, with the camera able to record an ungraded 4K master (with associated metadata grading information) and graded (baked in) HD image simultaneously.
Among the camera/recorder’s top-level production features are real-time, high frame rate, variable speed 4K recording up to 120fps, and advanced workflows with parallel, simultaneous 4K/ UHD, reference 2K/HD and proxy recordings for in-camera on-set color grading and monitoring / editing ease. The camera also features a newly-developed OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) with optical zoom functionality. 24-bit LPCM audio is added for in-camera audio master recording.
The VariCam 35 delivers an unprecedented breadth of recording formats, including 4K and UHD in AVC-ULTRA 4K, and 2K and 1080p HD in AVC-Intra 100/200**** and ProRes. Addressing the need for high-speed file exchange, the camera encodes a high-resolution 3.5Mbs proxy in parallel with 4K and 2K production formats, enabling fast, efficient offline editing. Metadata management will also be available and any metadata is written to all recording formats to enable easy match-back to high resolution or 4K master files.
Professional interfaces include: 3G-HD-SDI x4 for 4K QUAD output; an HD-SDI out for monitoring (down-converting from 4K); a dedicated VF HD-SDI output complete with all of the EVF status and display data; and two XLR inputs to record four channels of 24-bit, 48KHz audio. The VariCam 35 features a standard 35mm PL mount.
The VariCam 35 uses Panasonic’s new expressP2 card for high frame rate and 4K recording. The camera is equipped with a total of four memory card slots, two for expressP2 cards and two for microP2 cards. The new 256Gbyte expressP2 card can record up to 90 minutes of 4K/4:2:2 content. The microP2 card is designed for recording HD or 2K at more typical production frame rates.
VariCam HS Offers 12-bit 4:4:4 AVC-ULTRA Acquisition for Field Mastering and Archiving, Efficient 4:2:2 10-Bit Recording for Documentaries and Sports
The VariCam HS utilizes three newly-developed, 1920 x 1080p MOS imagers with 14 stops of latitude, providing full control over a wide range of lighting conditions for unparalleled 1080p native recording/operation. The camera/recorder incorporates a classical RGB imager/prism system that provides equi-band full resolution color processing for critical applications.
Among the camcorder’s key features are real-time high frame rate and off-speed recording to 240fps in 1080p (using AVC-Intra Class100), plus the ability to ramp / change frame rates during record. To complement the impressive video quality, the new VariCam HS offers 24-bit LPCM audio capabilities. Powerful yet creative image controls such as matrix, detail, gammas and a new Log recording capability allow ultra precise, powerful creative control over image parameters.
The VariCam HS features a range of high-quality recording formats including AVC-Intra Class100 (recording as 1080/24p, 25, 30p, 50 or 60p with VFR up to 240p), AVC-Intra Class200 (up to 30p/60i) and 12 bit sampled AVC-Intra Class4:4:4 (up to 30p). Both AVC-Intra Class200 and AVC-Intra Class4:4:4 deliver spectacular performance in applications where image quality is the utmost consideration.
The VariCam HS is equipped with V-Log in addition to FilmRec and Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS) image contrast management controls. The VariCam HS features Panasonic’s Emmy® Award-winning Chromatic Aberration Compensation (CAC) technology to minimize lateral chromatic aberrations and dramatically improve the Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) of the optical system. The VariCam HS also affords in-camera color grading.
The VariCam HS encodes a high-resolution 3.5Mbs proxy file in parallel with higher bandwidth production formats, enabling fast, efficient offline editing. Professional interfaces include: RGB4:4:4; a 3G-HD-SDI out to support 1080/60p; an HD-SDI out for monitoring; and two XLR inputs to record four channels of 24-bit, 48KHz audio. The camera’s 2/3” B4 lens mount enables use of a remarkable variety of prime lenses and servo zooms, lensing possibilities simply not available on larger formats.
The VariCam HS also uses Panasonic’s new expressP2 card for high frame rate recording (frame rates above 60fps). The new 256Gbyte expressP2 card can record about 32 minutes of 240p 1080 HD video.
The VariCam 35 has a suggested list price of $55,000; the VariCam HS has a suggested list price of $46,000. Both prices include the AU-V35C1G s35mm 4k or AU-V23HS1G 2/3" 1080p camera head, plus the AU-VREC1G common recorder, AU-VCVF1G OLED viewfinder, and the AU-VSHL1G shoulder pad/tripod mount.
For more information about the VariCam 35, VariCam HS and other Panasonic professional video products, visit www.us.panasonic.com/varicam or contact Panasonic at 877-803-8492.
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* The Apple ProRes format is licensed from Apple Inc.
** ProRes support will be available in December 2014 through a free firmware upgrade.
*** The Codex Digital RAW recorder will be available in December 2014.
**** AVC-Intra200 is available only for FHD recording.