Recently I was contacted by Panasonic to demo their EVA 1 and Varicam LT. They were kind enough to provide me with the cameras for several days along with some lenses, media, batteries and everything I would need for a proper evaluation. I met the Panasonic rep at a production store here in Houston. He gave me a full demo for a couple hours on each camera separately, so that when I walked out of the store I was pretty well versed in the functionality of each.
I hadn't shot on either of these cameras before, only the GH series from Panasonic. (I'm a GH4 owner and used to have the GH2.) Over the past several years my main camera has been a Canon C100. I have also shot quite a bit on the C300. We have also used the Sony line quite a bit, some Blackmagic and shot a little on RED.
I was very excited to use the Varicam LT specifically, as the footage I have seen online from the camera is some of my favorite. Panasonic has always had nice color - way back to their original Varicam models that were shooting 720p. The newer LT didn't disappoint.
I'm going to jump straight to my impressions of both cameras here. First thing that struck me... "Dang, the LT is heavy". The reality is, I really like light cameras. On our shoots, many times we go for long hours and are trying to get as much footage as possible. (That actually holds true on shorter days as well.) The sheer weight of the LT is not something I am used to. I see guys with their rigs decked to the hill with wireless monitoring, huge batteries, heavy lenses, external screens and more... and it kind of turns me off. I get it... I like all those bells and whistles. And I actually like it when I don't have to run the camera! I like having it there, just not carrying it. I like a camera to be light, mobile and able to sling around like a third arm. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for the weight of the LT - and I completely understand that it can make "steadier pictures." But, it's simply not something I'm crazy about. Outside of the weight... I really like the LT. It's strong, has great features, well laid out controls and makes a pretty picture.
The EVA 1 gave me a different initial impression. Honestly, it wasn't a good first impression. The grip felt plasticy, the control dial felt cheap, the screen... frankly the screen is the worst one I have used in a very very long time... and there is no viewfinder to use instead. The very first thing I would do after buying that camera would be to buy a smallhd sidefinder. But, on the bright side, the image was nice. Nice colors, nice dynamic range, nice skin tones. It was certainly not as good in low light as the LT, but does just fine if you keep your ISO managed properly and your exposure dialed in. A pretty solid camera over all. Form factor reminds me of the C100. It feels about the same holding it in your hands.
I did use the EVA 1 on a proper shoot. We had mixed lighting and a run and gun situation. At first I considered using the LT, but I was shooting solo and had a short window of time to run around and grab shots. If I could have shot on the shoulder - I would have used the LT. It feels pretty nice on the shoulder and the weight isn't as much of an issue... but I had to shoot on a tripod per the clients request. Shots had to be locked off or have some slight movement on the sticks. Carrying the LT around while it sits on top of the tripod would have been a massive pain. I was happy I chose the EVA 1 and it did just fine. The footage was nice, but frankly it's not leaps and bounds better than anything in this category in my opinion. The Sony FS5/7 produce images that are just about as nice. If you really want a superior image, I think you need to go to a RED, maybe a Ursa Mini - but those cameras have their own challenges.
I did a quick "blind" side by side with my GH4. The results appear after the jump below the video. In that section of the post I will also try to sell you a knife set valued at $129.99 for only $39.99 plus shipping and handling.
Sorry, the knife set is sold out! But here are the results from the video:
A: EVA 1
C: Varicam LT
You can tell that the colors between the EVA 1 and LT match up great. I did notice a nicer amount of detail in the skin with the LT. Some of the test footage I shot with it looked just gorgeous. It has a creamy beautiful feel with very nice highlight roll off and a smoothness throughout the exposure. I didn't have quite this feeling with the EVA 1, but it does match up nicely. The EVA 1 image may improve slightly with the new codec update expected soon. That said - I have no problems with it's image. If you can't get nice pictures out of the EVA 1, its likely operator error. The LT is a nice step up, but one that most viewers likely won't notice. Heck, you probably didn't even get the right answers on the video here! Congrats if you did.
On a side note, you can see the GH4 looked over sharpened. It was. The sharpening was set to 0 in this test. I would re-do it at -5, but the cameras have gone back to Panasonic so no such luck.
Panasonic sent me these cameras because we make TV and are in the market for some new gear. After the trial, I am still undecided on whether to purchase these over Sony or Canon. Both the LT and EVA 1 are good in their own ways. If I were to pick only one for my work, I think the EVA 1 makes the most sense. I value moving fast. I value light. Finally Panasonic is competitive again to this mid-level segment of the market. I really hope they continue improving and innovating the EVA line-up. I'm sure they didn't name it "1" without plans for a "2".
Do you own either of these cameras? What are your thoughts?