Now that Panasonic has announced its new 4K camera the Varicam 35, we decided to take a closer look at the camera and asked wildlife filmmaker John Aitchison for his views.
The first thing that you notice about the Varicam is its modular design.
Tthe separate 4K camera module docks with the recording unit which is interchangeable with the new 2/3 inch camera module Varicam HS – Panasonic’s new high speed camera head allowing frame rates up to 240fps).
The 4K version incorporates a newly-developed super 35mm MOS sensor for 4096 x 2160 capture and uses the AVC-Ultra video codec for fast data compression at 240Mb/s.
The PL mount Varicam 35 will handle multiple formats including 4K, UHD, 2K and HD and variable frame rates up to 120fps and is aimed at high-end filmmaking.
Operators can switch between super 35 and 2/3 inch heads to suit the needs of the shoot.
The super 35 sensor promises 14 stops of latitude, wide dynamic range and much enhanced colour management with a new Log mode and extended colour gamut supporting ACES workflows.
The Varicam 35 will use the new expressP2 card for high frame rate and 4K recording, with four card slots, two for expressP2 cards for up to 130 minutes of 4K/24p content, and two for microP2 cards for HD.
Panasonic have produced a recorder with alternative front modules, one of which is 4k with a large sensor while the other uses a 2/3" three-chip prism for recording 1080 but with a greater range of frame rates than the 4k version.
So far I have been disappointed that all the manufacturers seem to assume we all want to film with a shallow depth of field, hence the large sensors. For long-lens filming of animals I need all the depth of field I can get and all the magnification in a reasonably sized and portable package too.
So it’s the new 2/3" Varicam module I am interested in. Being able to use B4 mounted lenses directly without needing a light-hungry adapter (to cover a large sensor) is a great advantage when the light is low or when I’m filming at the higher frame rates.
The camera’s main drawback is that many productions are keen to shoot in 4k. I would also be interested to see how bright the OLED viewfinder is – I have recently found others too dark, making a black and white CRT more appealing.
Maybe one day someone will come out with a 4k camera with a good range of frame rates, 2/3" sensors and a B4 mount.
That might be the day I finally decide it’s worth owning a camera again.
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