Panasonic Varicam 35 has a dual native ISO of 800 and 5000 – how do they do it?

By Technical Editor Matt Allard:

The Varicam 35
The Varicam 35

The Varicam 35 has a unique feature that sets it apart from most cameras. The ability to have two native ISO settings. How can a camera have two base ISO ratings you ask? Basically there are two analog circuits right after each pixel before the gain amp, one each dedicated to 800 and 5000 ISO. This allows for two “native”, very clean settings. In one mode it has a native ISO of 800 and when you switch to another setting the camera clicks over to its other native ISO of 5000. This keeps the signal to noise ratio the same and allows for you to shoot remarkable clean images in low light conditions. The noise present at 5000 ISO is nearly identical to that at 800. It’s coming directly from the sensor, so it’s not simply a case of boosting the gain and erasing the noise. One of the reasons Panasonic has done this is to allow for high frame rate capture in lower ambient light.

Below you can watch a great demonstration of the “Dual Native ISO” feature on the Varicam 35 by Michael Cioni. Michael knows his stuff and was the Digital Intermediate Supervisor on such films as The Social Network and Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

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