Varicam LT Lens Tests – Canon CN-E, Leica R, Sigma 18-35, XEEN, Cooke Speed Panchros and More!

You guys may remember a while back we shared a massive 50+ minute Panasonic Varicam LT review with you that was done by LA-based filmmaker and DP, Ben Meredith. The Varicam LT, in itself is a beast of a camera, and one that certainly deserves a long form review, but this time around Ben is back with a 30+ “lens test” he shot with the Varicam LT and a bunch of highly regarded lenses for cinematic video productions.

For those of you lens nerds, who have just woken up, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy this “personal, rather than Technical lens test”.

Nevertheless, I personally think that there are quite a few useful bits in there, especially if you are wondering how does (for example) the very popular Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 wide-angle zoom fare on the Varicam LT compared to other popular lenses – which included the Leica R (cine moded by Duclos), some of the Canon CN-E primes, the budget friendly Rokinon XEENs and some Zeiss Otus thrown in for good measure.

Lenses Used:

  • Canon Cine Primes,
  • Vintage Cooke Speed Panchros,
  • Duclos Leica R Cine-Mods,
  • Duclos Zeiss ZF.2 Cine-Mods,
  • Sigma 18-35 Stills Version Zoom,
  • XEEN Cine Primes
  • Zeiss Otus Primes.

Some fellow awesome Los Angeles cinematographers and myself got together and pooled our resources for a big day of shooting with a variety of lenses and cameras (shout out to the talented Evan Butka for coordinating!). This was a very relaxed environment with numerous people moving around, changing lenses, etc. – AKA It’s not perfect!

Points of interest for aberration were the corners of the colour chart, the models hair (note – parts of her hair were dyed purple) and the holiday lights. The video will zoom in 300% occasionally to check those areas up until the longer focal lengths.

The Grade: V-Log to Rec.709 LUT, highlights brought down a little (the VariCam can see even deeper, but the Rec.709 blew some info out). I am not a professional colourist – just tried to keep it simple to show the differences in the lenses.

Panasonic Varicam LT Features and Highlights

  • 4K Super35 CMOS Sensor
  • Native Canon EF mount (PL mount extra option – easily user swappable)
  • 2K/Full HD 240fps Slow-Motion (uses sensor crop)
  • 4K/60p and Full HD ProRes 4444 & 422HQ
  • 4K/60p Raw to Convergent Design Odyssey7Q+
  • Built-in ND filters: 0.6/1.2/1.8
  • User Removable IR Cut filter
  • Single ExpressP2 card Slot for Main 4K/2K/HD recording
  • SDXC Card slot for Proxy Long GOP recording
  • Dual Native ISO – 800/5000
  • Optional OLED viewfinder
  • 3 x SDI Out (dedicated one for Viewfinder)
  • Support for 3rd Party Viewfinders like Zacuto Gratical
  • 2 x XLR inputs – 4 x Channel Audio 24bit/48kHz LPCM
  • V-Gamut – exceeds BT.2020 HDR colour space
  • 14+ Stops Dynamic Range with V-Log
  • V-Look and BC-Look Presets
  • Weight: 2.7 kg / under 6 lbs

It is worth to note that Ben and his compadres had access to an ARRI Alexa and a RED Epic-W 8K S35 Helium for this test and you can hear Ben’s thoughts after the 14:25 mark.

I am quite fond of the XEEN lenses, despite obviously their “imperfections” compared to the Zeiss Otus lenses for example, which have a lot more clinical and neutral, clean look, free of CA and colour fringing.

However, I think it’s best to leave it up to you to see how each of these lenses did and hopefully you pick-up some useful bits for your next shoot. Thanks to Ben Meredith for getting in touch with us again and sharing his test.

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