New Panasonic Varicam LT ISO 5000 Night Footage is Impressive

LA-based filmmaker Andy Rydzewski got in touch with us and shared a test he’s just done on the brand new Panasonic Varicam LT. Eager to test the impressive low-light capabilities of the latest “baby Varicam”, Andy had a very short period of time during which he shot some awesome footage at night in LA at ISO 5,000 taking advantage of the unique to the Varicam family Dual Native ISO (800/5,000) feature. This Dual Native ISO feature is shared with the bigger Varicam 35, however unlike the Varicam 35, which utilised a sensor head + recorder modular structure, the Varicam LT is a single-piece, lightweight and more compact digital cinema camera, aimed at single shooters and handheld operation.

The Varicam LT shares the same 4K Super 35 CMOS sensor as its bigger brother the Varicam 35 giving it the same impressive 14+ stops dynamic range, organic feel with pleasing highlight rolloff. Much like the Varicam 35, the LT will record 4K, but up to 60fps (the Varicam 35 goes up to 120fps) however in 2K the slow-motion is upgraded to 240fps on the LT.

The footage above was shot on a pre-release version of Varicam LT at ISO 5000 with the exception of one shot, all handheld using the Varicam LT shoulder mount. He also used a set of Rokinon DS lenses in EF mount namely the 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm.

Image by Andy Rydzewski

Image by Andy Rydzewski

Alex found the detachable control panel to be very intuitive and easy to navigate through the settings. The control panel can also double as a little monitor, a very useful feature indeed. He also found the camera very easy to balance on the shoulder and a joy to use handheld. The Varicam LT Viewfinder may be expensive at $5,400, but according to Alex, he found it performed exceptionally well.

The Varicam LT uses a standard 3G-SDI feed for the viewfinder, so if the Zacuto Gratical or any other viewfinder with SDI is your thing, you can use that as well.

Panasonic Varicam LT Leica

Here’s more of Andy notes from his experience with the Varicam LT:

Notes on Specific Shots
– The shots I de-noised:
1:02-1:21(shot on the 14mm, which is the weakest and slowest of the Rokinon bunch)
— 2:09-2:13(also on the 14mm)
– The best example of a shot that I was tempted to de-noise, but didn’t: 2:13-2:26.
This shot for me exemplifies that line between what some might find aesthetically pleasing noise (me) and others might call too noisy. Obviously this is subjective, but I wanted to leave it untouched so you could see how the noise plays in close ups.
– Most exemplary shot of what I think the Varicam LT can achieve in low light: 1:21-1:29
Final Thoughts
I’m not going to give too much of a summary here, other than to say I’m very, very happy to have Panasonic back in the fold. The DVX100 & HVX200 were big cameras in my life and it’s great to have Panny back on the map. The Varicam LT firmly places Panasonic in the conversation when choosing a camera for any job.
To read more about his experience you can visit his blog here.

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  • Eno

    If the operator didn’t had “Parkinson” and would have used a stabilizing system, man could better appreciate the short film and the image quality. 🙂

  • Eno

    If the operator didn’t had “Parkinson” and would have used stabilizing systems, man could better appreciate the short film and the image quality.

    • Jim

      I liked the handheld shots. Stabilizers are soooo overused.
      Second, the handheld shows how well the AVC-Intra codec holds up.
      Nice job….

      • Eno

        Well I hate any handheld shots…with passion! I know a lot of films ruined by this disgusting “modern art”. 🙁

        • Synchronicity Motion Pictures

          Agree. Handheld is more an artistic choice now, but since he didn’t have a Movi or Steadicam to shoot with, then this is fine. I have the Varicam 35 and this camera can get noisy….especially with the internal NR turned off. It’s alright in low light but not a Canon Cine series low light killer by any means. One must always light and not depend in a camera to light a scene for them. You lose depth and quality of a scene.

  • ff

    The image from this camera is awesome. I just spent an hour with it at Abel Cine but it just feels so bulky and heavy compared to the C300, Red cameras, and the Alexa mini.

    I guess that’s fine for studio work but as a run and gun shooter I just can’t do that to my back!