As I reflect on cameras I’ve owned, borrowed, rented or shot, close to the top of my list is the venerable Panasonic HVX-200. I even still have a couple of 8gb P2 cards somewhere in a box. Whether DSLR, mirrorless, larger digital cinema cameras or even a few high end digital cinema cameras, the HVX footage always just had a “certain look about it.” And it seems that for a few years, Panasonic just didn’t keep pace with other manufacturers, seeming to concentrate more in the broadcast and ENG areas.
All the while, Panasonic was gaining traction in the mirrorless market with its GH series, now even a more significant player with the video-centric GH5s. VariCam 35 came along followed by VariCam Pure and VaricamLT. But there was just a missing gap in the line between the VariCam LT and the mirrorless GH cameras. Panasonic knew it and in fact the company markets our topic of interest here, the EVA1, as the camera that fills the gap.
Panasonic packs a lot into this under $7,500 device and it hits both the right niche and the right price point. I had a couple of weeks with the camera in addition to attending Panasonic demos and will share some impressions. But my first comment probably summarizes my feelings toward the EVA1—it was one demo unit which deeply grieved me to return.
The first impression I had cradling this beauty was it was light and compact (body only 2.6 pounds) yet its buttons and controls did not feel cramped. I have worked with much larger cameras with controls that were too small or two closely packed together, which combined with my clumsy fingers produced some very undesirable results. Not so with the EVA1. Still, the compact size requires compromises. The lower-left WB-User-ISO/db toggle creates extra steps, but there are workarounds such as assigning custom buttons or utilizing the VF menu simulating the LCD panel on a larger camera allow for easy adjustments. Or simply download Panasonic’s EVA app and control the camera via the app. That was actually my preferred way of changing settings and avoiding both buttons and menus. In short, there are a number of ways to perform the same operation.
The removable top grip makes the camera even more compact and creates a perfect size for gimbal use.
Viewfinder is remarkably sharp. I was unable to evaluate the native loop and mounting rods since the demo unit came equipped with Zacuto’s superb viewfinder and mounting assembly. And by the way, Zacuto and other third party accessories manufacturers such as Shape, Arri, Vocas and Wooden Camera are developing camera add-ons—another vote of confidence for the anticipated wide adoption of the EVA1.
EVA1 is based around a native 5.7K sensor that with Bayer pattern mathematics calculates to a true 4K imager. Future firmware updates will enable 5.7K RAW via SDI to a third party recorder, but for the moment users can revel in 4:2:2 10 bit video up to 400 Mbps up to 4K resolutions internally to SD cards. It is worth noting at this point that SD card nomenclature is changing. For 4K, the EVA1 requires at least a V60 card with V90 cards supplied in my demo unit. That statistic refers to the write-rate of the card. Codecs, electronics and storage technology have come a long way and SDXC cards can now handle 4K.
Like the VariCam models, EVA1 has a dual sensitivity sensor rating ISO 800 and ISO 2500. I was somewhat disappointed that the EVA1 was unable to gain the ISO 5000 top rating of the VariCams but understand that lower price demands concessions. But like the three VariCam models, properly exposed footage in the ISO 2500 rating looks good. Underexposed footage can be a little noisy so it is worth the effort to try to expose the camera properly.
Panasonic introduced a focus-assist feature with EVA1, which I must say took some acclimation on my part. I personally like to focus using peaking. EVA1 uses “focus blocks,” which I finally decided is ingenious because the size of the blocks are in inverse proportion to the areas of the image most sharply in focus. In other words, using the focus blocks assists tremendously in shallow depth of field framing of shots.
Ultimately, though, it is “the look” that sells cameras and EVA1 has that Panasonic color science that wowed me even in the days of the HVX200. V-log/V-Gamut are virtually identical to the gamma curve and gamut in the VariCam’s implementation of Vlog meaning not only can the cameras be cut together easily but Panasonic’s downloadable V-log to Rec709 LUT works as effectively on the EVA1 as it does on VariCam Vlog footage. I look forward to shooting the camera again when the RAW update is released.
Panasonic advertises 14 stops of dynamic range. My unscientific impression is that it may not quite be 14 stops but nonetheless there is more than enough dynamic range to intercut VariCam footage.
The choice of EF mount is a wise one. EF glass is widely available from consumer to professional still lenses to now the whole new range of cinema glass in the say $3,500- $15,000 range. There is full electronic communication between camera and EF lens. That means that lenses with built-in electronic stabilization will work and iris can be controlled manually or automatically. EVA1 falls down a bit on autofocus and I would relegate that to communication between camera and lens. Autofocus may be the bane of cinematic purists (count me as one of them), yet for run and gun and particularly gimbal or drone uses it comes in handy.
Wooden camera is selling a $500 modification to enable PL mount glass. That expands the use of the camera and is particularly significant if used as a B or C camera to a larger VariCam shooting PL lenses. With the ability to interchange lenses with the big kids, the look is consistent.
EVA1 has SDI as well as HDMI features and a single time-code in/out BNC connector. Note that this is not genlocked so quite possibly the cameras could drift over time. For serious multicamera work that is timecode critical, I would definitely recommend an external box such as an Ambient Lock-It. This is really only going to affect a handful of users yet it still must be noted.
Build quality is superb. The handgrip attaches via a metal bayonet mount and is easily adjustable. I must note that the handgrip on my demo camera wobbled. It was a known issue with the first few week’s production run. Panasonic noted that on its web site, replaced all of the wobbly handles with a new part, and all production models now are stable. It is only worth mentioning just to give additional kudos to Panasonic. An issue was discovered early on. Panasonic responded immediately and publically on the web site and resolved the issue quickly. That’s the way it is supposed to be in the professional world but with few companies reacting so quickly, Panasonic needs to be singled out for its response.
EVA1 also includes HDR recording in the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) variant. HLG is a joint development of Sony and Panasonic and provides an “instant HDR.” It really isn’t designed for heavy grading but basically for viewing on compatible TV’s and mobile devices. HDR footage brought into PremierePro or Final Cut Pro X 10.4 can indeed be output as HLG for viewing on Vimeo or YouTube with compatible mobile devices. Playing out HLG via HDMI to a consumer HDR set is a problem, though. The signal does not seem to have the HLG flag and the TV does not interpret it as HDR.
HDR editing and delivery in the higher end though are possible since the camera itself has that dynamic range and using a LUT to transform to the standard being edited (HDR10 or Dolby, for example) and to a BT-2020 color space means that the camera can truly be used in high-end HDR work.
Panasonic has given filmmakers an affordable, feature-packed, durable camera that shoots gorgeous images with warm nuanced colors. Third party manufacturers as usual fill in the gaps with enhanced viewfinders and mounts, rigging, larger batteries, external monitor/recorders and mounting points. Even PL is possible reasonably. It is a camera well-deserving of filmmaker’s attention.
Panasonic has announced firmware version 2.0, a major free upgrade which will be available the end of March. In addition to enabling 5.7K RAW video via SDI to compatible external recorders, it adds 4K RAW output up to 60fps and 2K RAW up to 240fps. Additionally, all I-Frame codecs for HD/2K/UHD/4K in 10-bit 4:2:2 will be added. In 2K/HD modes internally, frame rates up to 120fps will be supported. For the broadcast market, there will also be interlaced codecs. Canon compact cine-zooms can be controlled via third-party hardware and there will be new home screen controls.
It’s good to have Panasonic back in this market segment.
Summary: A long-awaited entry from Panasonic that does not disappoint. Super35 sensor resolving 5.7K for true 4K; dual 800/2500 ISO. Records 4:2:2 up to DCI 4K on SD cards, convenient EF mount, versatile control options; advertised 14 stops dynamic range; HLG HDR recording. Compact form factor using EF mount lenses with a PL option via third-party modification. A reported 14 stops of dynamic range places it as a device ready for HDR editing and delivery. This camera should be seriously considered by buyers in this price range.
Application: Shorts, indie film, documentary, interviews and as a worthy B Cam to Panasonic’s VariCam and VariCam LT cameras.
Key Features: Dual 800/2500 ISO. EF native mount. Versatile and easy to understand menu structure. Panasonic’s legendary “look”