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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  • Steve Oakley

    waste of time. 15 min in its revealed they shot on 3 different cameras, not all these lenses on LT. because of the camera differences its not much of a lens test outside of seeing the Cookes are warm / lower contrast. given that 3 cameras are involved + how they process color this is a bad test. would of been far more interesting to see all this glass ONLY on the LT for a reasonable comparison as well as look at how glass changes the look on the LT

    FWIW, having spent a week shooting on the LT… you can keep it. It has a lot of operating issues like having to reboot when you change settings like : Frame rate, Codec, Res and a few other things. 22 sec reboot. Also lack of dedicated audio knobs on the body. bizarre considering panasonic makes great ENG cameras and understands audio is 1/2 the picture…. doing audio on the LT is misery.

    • Bee

      Hello Steve – actually the test is all on the VariCam LT. I mention that in the beginning. There is only a brief section where I compare the cameras we had on set more so for fun, but as far as the lenses go, every comparison is all shot on the VariCam.
      Thank you for watching and for your feedback!

  • Scott Auerbach

    Oy vey. There’s a reason why tests are done properly. And why –even in a completely subjective non-test comparison– commentary isn’t generally limited to Captain Obvious statements like describing an obviously yellow image as yellow. Or, in the case of the hour-long Varicam epic thumbsucker, creating graphics to point out the on/off switch, but stating “I think the buttons are user-assignable.” [insert eye roll]

    • Bee

      I’m guessing your experience greatly outweighs the subject matter and point of these videos (not being sarcastic, I’m sure it does), but thanks for watching and for the feedback, which is always taken into consideration.