Panasonic has dropped the price of the Varicam LT to $9,995 USD. This is a significant reduction in price considering the camera was originally retailing for around $18,000 USD.
In saying that, the camera has been available for quite some time at prices as low as $14,500 USD.
Update from Mitch Gross
This is an Instant Rebate promotion on the VariCam LT. The good news is that it’s instant, so you don’t lay out more cash and then get it refunded. The Instant Rebate offer is available until the end of September.Mitch Gross, Cinema Product Manager – Panasonic
$9,995 USD gets you the camera body with top handle, EF lens mount and control panel. That control panel doubles as an LCD monitor so technically this is a complete camera kit. This base model comes with the interface, the lens mount, the monitor, the battery mount, the I/O connections. You can add stuff but you don’t have to just to make it function.
If you aren’t that familiar with the Panasonic Varicam LT it was launched 3 years ago. I reviewed the camera in June 2016 and there was a lot to like: a 4K-capable Super 35mm camera in a lightweight magnesium body with interchangeable lens mounts as well as many of the same features as its bigger brother the Varicam 35. The LT shares the same sensor as the Varicam 35 and Varicam Pure, as well as utilizing the same dual native ISO ratings of 800 and 5000. The camera records 4K at up to 60p and 2K at up to 240fps.
The Varicam LT a really nice camera, but it isn’t without its problems if you are using it as a one-man band. It’s almost as if Panasonic originally designed some of the control interfaces for a production camera and then integrated them into the LT. I still find it hard to get my head around some of the design components. On one hand, it has been really well designed as a documentary shoulder-mounted camera, but on the other, the control panel and lack of physical audio controls on the camera body itself make it feel more like a production camera.
Despite some of these problems I really enjoyed using the LT. The pictures are great, and the camera is wonderful to use on either a tripod or on the shoulder.
I still think the LT is one of the best cameras around for handheld work as it balances really easily and feels very comfortable on the shoulder. For me, it is a far better-balanced camera on the shoulder than either the Sony F5 or Canon C300 Mark II. Where it does fall over for the solo shooter is the ridiculously slow bootup times and adjusting the audio.
The camera also has the ability to do RAW recording at up to 2K/240fps (as well as 4K/60fps) to either the Odyssey 7Q or Odyssey 7Q+. Variframe is supported from 2-240 fps and you can record the following frame rates and resolutions:
HD LT RAW -> HD CinemaDNG 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94, 100, 120, 200, 240
2K LT RAW -> 2K CinemaDNG 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94, 100, 120, 200, 240
4K LT RAW -> 4K CinemaDNG 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94B
Big price drop
Both B&H and AbelCine have been selling the Varicam LT for $14,500 USD due to a special $2,000 USD rebate that was being offered. The new $9,995 USD price tag is for US customers only. Panasonic’s Cinema Product Manager Mitch Gross told me that this is not a worldwide price and that it will be up to individual regions to set pricing.
This big price drop puts the Varicam LT more in line (at least when it comes to cost) with cameras such as the Canon C300 Mark II and Sony FS7 II. Until this price drop, the Varicam LT was stuck between a rock and a hard place. At around $16,000 USD it was out of reach for a lot of shooters who ended up choosing cameras like the Sony FS7, Canon C300 Mark II, or the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro. It’s competition if you based things solely on price was from the Sony F5. Now with this reduction in price, the Varicam LT becomes a lot more attractive proposition for shooters looking at cameras that are in that 7-10K USD category.W
What does this price drop mean?
The immediate reaction to any camera price drop is there must be a replacement camera coming. According to Panasonic’s Cinema Product Manager Mitch Gross, that is certainly not the case. The Varicam LT is not being replaced or phased out. Panasonic has no current plans to replace or discontinue the Varicam LT, or release an EVA 1 version 2. Mitch also told me that Panasonic will be continuing to improve the camera with firmware updates.
Is it a case of too little too late?
I really like the Varicam LT, but at the time it came out I think it was overpriced for what it was. Panasonic was trying to target it as a more affordable F55/Red Epic/ARRI ALEXA/AMIRA, and while it is certainly a very capable camera, it was too late to market for people who had already purchased cameras like the Sony F5.
My concern is how is Panasonic going to attract new buyers to a camera that is already three years old? I would be a little hesitant to buy a camera that was already three years old, so I asked Mitch Gross this exact question, and he told me, that he firmly believes that the Varicam LT is going to be a relevant camera today and for many years to come.
Even though the Panasonic Varicam LT has now been reduced to $9,995 USD you have to factor in the cost of additional accessories, and that can certainly add up. In saying this, that is the case with almost any camera you buy these days. The only trouble with the Varicam LT is that the media is expensive and if you want the shoulder rig and the EVF they make you are going to have to outlay a lot more cash.
Here is how much some of the accessories cost:
- Panasonic 512GB B Series expressP2 Memory Card: $1,825 USD
- P2 card reader: $460 USD.
- Panasonic AU-VSHL2 Cinema Style Shoulder Mount for VariCam LT: $1,500 USD
- Panasonic AU-VGRP1 Operating Grip for VariCam LT: $1,200 USD
- Panasonic AU-VCVF10 OLED Viewfinder: $5,400 USD
There is no doubt that the Varicam LT is a very capable camera, and in a lot of ways, it is probably better than some of the other cameras that are available for under $10,000 USD. I just wish that Panasonic had done this price drop a couple of years ago. Regardless of how good the Varicam LT is, it’s going to be a tough sell to get potential customers interested in a 3-year-old camera.
In my professional opinion, the Varicam LT is certainly worth looking at if you are in the market for a digital cinema camera and are looking to spend under $10K USD. At $9,995 USD it certainly makes for a very compelling argument if you look at the competition.