Varicam, originally stylized as VariCam, is a brand name associated with specialized Panasonic video cameras that are mostly used to imitate the look and feel of motion picture cameras. They have been used to record scenes for many feature films. The recording framerate of Varicam cameras can be varied between at least 1 to 60 frames per second, offering flexibility in creating rapid or slow motion effects. Because film has traditionally been shot at 24 frames per second, while NTSC video uses 29.97 frames per second, Varicams can be used for both high end video and film production. Panasonic applied the VariCam brand for the first time to the AJ-HDC27.
Although the initial capital costs of the cameras are high, their low operating cost has made them popular among independent filmmakers, and they are often available to rent from camera rental companies. The Varicam range has now matured into its latest generation, and is widely used in TV production, as well as film.
|5+1⁄4 in × 8+1⁄16 in × 13 in
133 mm × 205 mm × 330 mm
|3×2/3"||B4||1⁄4" DVCPRO||4–60 (720p)||2001|
|5+1⁄4 in × 8+1⁄16 in × 12+3⁄8 in
133 mm × 205 mm × 314 mm
|5+7⁄16 in × 8+1⁄4 in × 12+9⁄16 in
138 mm × 210 mm × 319 mm
|7+1⁄16 in × 9+3⁄32 in × 13+21⁄32 in
179 mm × 231 mm × 347 mm
|1×Super 35[c]||PL||[d]||1–120 (4K)||2014|
|7+1⁄16 in × 9+1⁄16 in × 13+21⁄32 in
179 mm × 230 mm × 347 mm
|7+1⁄4 in × 9+1⁄8 in × 9+3⁄4 in
180 mm × 230 mm × 250 mm
|1×Super 35[c]||EF (PL optional)||1×expressP2||1–120 (4K)||2016|
|5.7 in × 6.5 in × 10.3 in
144 mm × 165 mm × 262 mm
|1×Super 35[c]||PL||[e]||1–120 (4K)||2016|
The VariCam logo was updated with the release of the 35 and HS in 2014. The new logo, colored silver, features a stylized capital letter "V", with the right half composed of blocks, intended to represent both frames of film and digital bits.In the original logo, the right half of the "V" was claw-shaped in homage to the intermittent mechanism used to advance film.
Panasonic announced the first generation VariCam, designated model number AJ-HDC27V (originally the AJ-HDC24A) on April 22, 2001. A similar camera had been introduced with a fixed 60 frames per second frame rate two months earlier. It recorded 720p video to DVCPRO tape at frame rates in integer increments between 4 and 60 frames per second. The BBC filmed the natural history series Planet Earth using HDC27FE Varicams. The second generation VariCam, the AJ-HDC27H, offered improved performance with the same basic features thanks to internal tweaks. The AJ-HDC27H was launched in 2005.
Panasonic launched two new Varicams, the AJ-HPX2700 and the AJ-HPX3700, in 2008. These new models feature Panasonic's P2 solid state media technology, representing a major advance for the VariCam line. The AJ-HPX3700 is the flagship model providing full potential 1080p capability and dual link HD-SDI output, while the HPX2700 offers more flexible frame rates at a reduced 720p resolution. NASA captured footage of a Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster recovery mission in 2011 using a HPX3700 in 1080p at 24 frames per second (fps).
In 2013, Panasonic announced the development of a 4K Varicam, with promised availability in 2014. On February 27, 2014, Panasonic announced the Varicam 35 (AU-V35C1), a camera that features a 4K CMOS Super 35-sized sensor capable of filming up to 120fps. It was announced alongside the Varicam HS (AU-V23HS1), a 3CMOS 2/3"-sensor camera capable of filming up to 240fps in Full HD. The Varicam 35 and HS are modular systems that can be separated into camera and recorder modules, with the 35 and HS sharing a common recorder, Panasonic model number AU-VREC1. The Varicam LT and PURE, introduced separately approximately six months apart in 2016, are both derived from the Varicam 35. The LT (AU-V35LT1G) is a more compact solution coupling the same sensor from the Varicam 35 with an integrated recorder (dropping the modular camera/recorder concept used in the 35 and HS), and the PURE, jointly developed with Codex Digital, uses the same camera section as the Varicam 35 (AU-V35C1G) but sends uncompressed RAW data to a computer with a newly developed recording module (AU-VCXRAW2).
Many films and television shows have been shot using Varicam, including:
What [Scott Dacko] did do is work to ensure that his HD image was as close to film as possible. Together with his cinematographer, Learan Kahanov, a veteran of six features, he decided to shoot with the Panasonic Varicam. The Varicam uses a lower resolution than its main competitor, the Sony HDW-F900—1,280 by 720 versus 1,920 by 1,080—but it offers a "film rec" mode that, in Dacko and Kahanov's opinion, comes closer to that intangible thing we call cinema.
HD isn't perfect. It lacks the distinctive grain of film, but documentary producers are enthusiastic about the more-expensive HD cameras like the Panasonic VariCam and Sony CineAlta HDW-F900, which have the ability to shoot in the film-like 24-frame-per-second progressive (24p) format. They also have innovative features like image “overcranking” for slow-motion and “undercranking” for a fast-forward effect.