Just recently Panasonic teased a new camera launch event to be held on 10th February by sending out an email invitation proclaiming “Cinema acquisition is about to change… forever. Join us for the unveiling of the newest addition to the Panasonic VariCam lineup of cinema cameras.” While the current top dog in Panasonic’s high-end pro camera division – the mighty 4K Panasonic Varicam 35 has been making its way into major productions worldwide, including Dr. Foster in the UK, and Amazon and CBS shows in the US, a new lightweight addition to the line-up will certainly give productions more options and reasons to choose the Varicam badge over arch-rivals ARRI and Sony.
With the flexibility of simultaneous recording in 4K/2K/Proxy in manageable data rates, 14+ dynamic range, dual native ISOs, ProRes on board among other features, the current Varicam 35 is a serious digital cinema camera powerhouse.
Not much is known about the new Varicam to be unveiled in two weeks time, apart from the cryptic banner above, from which we can infer a few things. Again, this is just my opinion and I have not been privy to any other facts, features or specs of the new camera.
Looking at the banner above, one can easily see the Varicam logo and a similar shape of the handle that is featured on the Varicam 35. One thing to note about the current Varicam is that it features a modular Head + Recorder design and comes in 2 versions – one Super 35 CMOS sensor based 4K version geared towards high-end broadcast and cinema acquisition and one HS (High Speed) version with a 2/3-inch type sensor and some serious slow motion capabilities in Full HD geared towards high-end docs and ENG work.
The new version however, whatever it may be called, looks like a more compact – all-in-one solution, unlike the Varicam 35 and HS, which share the same recorder module and different heads as in the photo above.
I personally think the new Varicam will be a smaller, more compact version of the current Varicam 35, with 4K/2K and slow-motion recording, Dual Native ISO’s, P2 and microP2 media cards, and possibly even higher res recording such as 6K or dare I say it – 8K. It is entirely possible, we may see a brand new sensor and a 2nd generation Varicam line-up to be expanded further at NAB 2016 or later in the year, however that seems less likely at this stage.
The prospect of releasing – “Mini” versions of big cameras, such as the case of the ARRI Alexa MINI is nothing new. The Alexa MINI in particular in the UK has been getting a lot of traction due to the popularity of the Alexa look and the prospect of a much smaller package that can be put on hand-held gimbals and drones, makes it plausible for other manufacturers like Panasonic to do the same.
The news of the new camera launch has spurred an interesting discussion over at DVXuser.com with some forum members hoping to see a lower-budget version of the camera to go head-to-head with the Sony FS7/Sony FS5 and other cameras in that all-too-elusive “$10K and below” price bracket. While, I do share their enthusiasm, I am not entirely sure that Panasonic would risk and de-value their flagship Varicam cameras and sell a new Varicam for anything less than $20K.
The Varicam 35 caters to higher end productions – Prime Time major TV networks shows and feature films; it is a Tier 1 4K camera meant for online TV dramas for new production powerhouses such as Amazon Studios and Netflix, which are heavily committed to producing more original 4K serialised content in 2016 and beyond.
It is for these reasons, I think the new Varicam will be a lighter version of the current camera in terms of size, with a unibody construction and serious horse power under the hood with a price tag in the $20-25K range or even more. We’ll all know come the 10th of February.
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