When a broadcast equipment manufacturer mentions a direct competitor by name during the launch of a new product, you know the gloves are off.
That is what Panasonic did in Barcelona last week as it unveiled the VariCam LT, a cheaper and lighter version of its VariCam 35, a camcorder that it considers to be competition to Arri’s Amira.
At the launch event, Panasonic vowed “not just to be a passenger” in the production camera market currently dominated by Arri.
For what was the European leg of a global launch, the Japan-based manufacturer also recruited Swiss director of photography Matthias Bolliger to shoot a 60-second short inside the hotel using the VariCam LT, then grade the footage, cut it and show it to the assembled press.
Bolliger told Broadcast he believed the VariCam LT was a “real competitor to the Arri Amira” for his type of work, which is features and documentaries.
Rob Tarrant, technical product manager for Panasonic UK, said the VariCam LT was developed following customer feedback.
“The response to the 35 was good but some people commented that they needed something lighter,” he said. “So we went back to the factory with the concept of designing a documentary camera. It grew from there. We have such a good sensor, so there was no need to develop a new one. Our engineers built on the original idea and have come up with a camera that could be suitable for documentary, TV drama, features or as a B-camera for the 35.”
The VariCam LT has the same Super 35mm-sized 4096 x 2160 MOS sensor as the VariCam 35 and is similarly capable of shooting 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) images – albeit with some limitations when it comes to higher frame rates – and capturing detail in low-light conditions.
Designed to be used by a single operator, the camera is 100mm shorter than the VariCam 35 and, at 2.7kg, is half its weight. It will retail at €18,000 (£14,000) for the body only, including an EF mount.
A fully kitted-out VariCam LT complete with viewfinder, shoulder mount and PL mount will cost about €28,000 (£22,000). A similarly kitted-out VariCam 35 costs €45,000 (£35,000).
The VariCam LT can also be used with view finders and RAW recorders made by third parties. In comparison, the Arri Amira, with viewfinder but no lens mount, had an RRP of €26,000 (£20,000) as of May 2015. The VariCam will be shown at BVE next week, with shipping scheduled for the end of March.
- BVE takes place 23-25 February at Excel, London