Guest post by Emmanuel Pampuri:
Varicam S35 4K – 5000 ISO – ungraded footage from Emmanuel Pampuri on Vimeo.
I was a fan of the original Varicams a decade or so ago. Even with their 2/3 inch sensors they made great looking images. Recently I counted myself lucky to have the opportunity to spend few hours with the brand 4K Varicam S35 camera.
This camera has the unique feature of having two native ISOs. One optimised for shooting in brighter conditions, the other for low light. I was impatient to try the picture quality at the higher native setting of ISO 5000 which I had heard so much about. Check out this video to see how it works.
Turns out it is surprisingly good. There is of course some noise, but it looks like film grain and kinda sexy.
The new Varicam is a well balanced camera
I was also very impressed by the electronic viewfinder quality, it’s the best I’ve ever seen. The camera is very well balanced. The shoulder mounting system is very good and you can adjust it to balance out whatever lens you choose. The pad slides a long way back and forth and there a standard 15mm rod mounting system for follow focus and matte box etc.
The main screen is detachable and you can put it wherever you want. This is a very good idea. If you are working alone you can leave it on the camera, but if you are working with a focus puller they can place it where they want. The other good idea is you can use the LCD to manage the settings of the camera as well as a monitor. Our assistant Myriam liked the screen ergonomics a lot.
I shot the test using 4:2:2 10 bits AVC Intra Codec recorded internally. The 4:4:4 12 bit option has not yet been enabled in the firmware, but even with this limitation picture quality is very good.
Trying out the Varicam
We shot during the evening. For the shots at the night market my DP Thomas Jacquet was forced to put a ND filter in to shoot at 5000 ISO – that’s just crazy but it works. The dual native ISO of the Varicam means that you are better using 5000 ISO rather than a lower setting like 3200 ISO. That’s because the gain is effectively reset to zero when you set 5000 ISO.
For now I am posting ungraded footage. I will be posting graded footage later with some feedback from my talented colorist. But I think we can already say the skin tones are beautiful and the dynamic is very good, even in 10 bits.
The firmware still isn’t totally finished and Panasonic will improve a lot of things very soon. The menus are still a little bit slow and some of the indicators on the LCD screen are a bit too small. Panasonic tell me that the first firmware upgrade will fix these.
Panasonic is coming very late in to the high end Digital Cinema camera race, but taking their time has mean’t they have a strong alternative to compete with the likes of the Red EPIC Dragon, Arri ALEXA, AMIRA and Sony F55. I’m looking forward to doing more tests with 4:4:4 12 bit codec soon – then we’ll see how good this camera can really get.
You can watch the footage in 4K on YouTube here.
To download a full 4K 422HQ ProRes File click here.
DP : Thomas Jacquet
Focus Puller / Assistant : Myriam Robin
Many thanks to Panasonic Broadcast France and Loca Images.
You can read Emmanuel’s thoughts on the 4K Varicam 35 in French here.