Panasonic Launch Varicam LT Camera

Posted on Feb 11, 2016 by Julian Mitchell

At a worldwide launch in Barcelona Panasonic has launched their new magnesium bodied Varicam LT to extend the range downwards from the 35 and HS. Downwards means a lighter, cheaper, smaller, slightly less-featured camera. You get the same sensor as the 35 but you don’t get the performance, but that’s fine for a camera that is half the price of its big sister. Basic price for the LT is €18,000. Fully kitted out that can rise to €28,000. Pound sterling price has as yet to be confirmed but it could be sub-£15k. The camera will be available from late March, early April this year.

You also don’t get the de-coupled ability of the 35 which offered two front ends so you could switch to a B4 mount from your PL without going back to the camera shop. The LT’s body is half the size of the 35 mainly as there aren’t as many DYNA FPGAs and recording choices (The 35 has five DYNA chips, the LT only three). LT only offers P2 and SD recording slots. So getting rid of all that heat distribution and recording housing ‘Mini’s’ the camera up. We ‘felt’ the camera after about five hours of it being on and it was only slightly warm.

There is fan noise when you’re recording which maybe something Panasonic can help with. At the moment it’s annoying in ‘on the shoulder’ shooting. When the BBC shot with the Varicam 35 for the award winning drama Doctor Foster, they managed an override to halt the fan for recording.

Because the sensor structure of the 35 includes all the circuitry for the twin ISOs (800 and 5,000) you get both on the LT, you also get a choice of two lens mounts, PL and EF (PL is an option). To change lens mounts literally takes two minutes. You also get a removeable optical IR filter (this too you can do but it takes a steady hand). The LT includes a scrolling wheel to work the aperture on Canon lenses.

You also get the cabled control panel from the Varicam 35 but it’s not nested on the side but can be rigged on bars or handheld. You can do away with it altogether and get the menu structure through viewfinder if you want.

Other new features for the LT are a new sensor centre crop mode, allowing 240fps for slow motion in both HD and 2K. This is not processing but a native crop. It will already do 4K at 60p. Not included in the price is the great OLED viewfinder, it’s an option but you can add your own. You can’t however take the 35’s viewfinder and put it on the LT.

“AFRICA” The Sample Footage of Panasonic’s New Cinema VariCam LT from Cinema VariCam™ on Vimeo.

There is also a new codec called appropriately LT, this is AVC-Intra and enables the 4K 60p ability by de-bayering on playback after recording the RAW signal. They in fact only debayer the green and the red and the blue are debayered on playback. So they can compress much more efficiently.  You don’t get the 444 high end codec from the 35 but you do also get a 10-bit AVC-Intra 4K 422.

Other options are a grip module, think Sony FS7, a couple of shoulder mounts, the viewfinder and the PL mount.

The weight of 2.7Kg takes it very close to the Arri Mini at 2.5Kgs. No accident as the Panasonic presentation started with a slide of the word ‘ARRI’. Panasonic were quite bullish about the market they wanted and were targeting.

The camera has a claimed dynamic range of 14+ stops using Panasonic’s “V-Log”. The VariCam LT also features an in-camera colour grading function (3D LUT/CDL). This enables colour tuning on set as well as in the field when using the camera control panel or 3rd party software. This means dailies which had been created after shooting can now be produced on set with the camera.

Grading information such as 3D LUT files and CDL files can be recorded together with the image data, allowing you to provide the same vision that you created on set to the editorial staff.

In addition to the main codec recording the VariCam LT has the ability to record files to an SD memory card as long as it’s fast enough. This feature lets you record an ungraded 4K master with V-Log in the main expressP2 card recorder while simultaneously recording graded HD files on the SD memory card.


Basic Spec

Weight – 2.7kg/5.95lb (body only)

Lens Mount – EF mount (PL mount option)

Media Slot – Express P2 Card Slot x 1 /  SD Card Slot x1 for Proxy Meta Data

Connectors – 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 Hirose x2 / Lens/Grip Connector 12 pin /  12 V DC-IN 4 pin / Head Phone x1 3.5 mm Stereo Mini Jack

Rec Format:

4K/UHD – AVC-Intra 4K422: up to 30p / AVC-Intra 4K-LT: 30p to 60p

2K – AVC-Intra 2K 444: up to 30p / AVC-Intra 2K 422: 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-Intra100: 50i/59.94i / ProRes 4444: up to 30p / ProRes 422HQ: up to 60p


Subscribe to the Definition newsletter to get the latest issue and more delivered to your inbox.

You may opt-out at any time. Privacy Policy.