This week I enjoyed taking the Panasonic AU-EVA1 Compact 5.7K Super 35mm Cinema Camera out for a spin; in a nutshell, this lightweight EF-mount camera packs a lot into its compact form. Highlights include 5.7K images that are down-sampled to 4K, 2K, etc., V-Log and V-gamut options, 14 stops of dynamic range, in-camera 10-bit recording to SDXC cards, simultaneous SDI and HDMI outputs, dual-native ISOs, and variable frame rates up to 240 fps (in 2K with a 4/3" sensor crop).
Panasonic has positioned the Super 35mm-sensor EVA1 as an under-$10,000 link between the popular Panasonic VariCam LT production camera, and the mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds DC-GH5. Its EF mount is compatible with the wide array of EF-mount digital cinema lenses available. With the EVA1 not designed with a PL mount, Panasonic may be betting that PL-mount lens users will more likely be budgeting for a VariCam. The EVA1 is poised to become a lightweight B-camera option, or a more robust video alternative for GH5 users, especially for drone and gimbal use.
While I found the EVA1 to be light and comfortable enough to hold with just the included handgrip for many positions, I used it with a shoulder mount for a more balanced, two-handed grip. The EVA1 fit nicely when I tried it on the universal SHAPE BP8000 V-Lock Baseplate Kit, which provides shoulder-mount and VCT-plate compatibility. This is handy for one-person gigs when you don’t have an assistant to whom you can hand off the camera, instead popping the camera onto a tripod, in this case the Sachtler Video 18. The smaller Panasonic handgrip configuration is handy when you’re grabbing some quick shots, are in tighter quarters, or when remaining inconspicuous is desired. The one-touch rotation on the handgrip is convenient. Soon after the EVA1’s release, Panasonic quickly addressed a torque issue with the original EVA1 grip, and it now supports a total of up to 9 lb of lens-and-accessory weight.
The EV1 does not include an EVF, and the 3.5" LCD, handle, and handgrip are easily removable, so you can streamline the camera for drone and gimbal/stabilizer configurations. With a body weight of less than 3 lb, using a compact EF-mount lens (in this case Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8), and limited accessories with the EVA1 produces a pleasingly lightweight camera rig.
The intriguing dual-ISO function of the EVA1 gives you, in essence, two base (native) sensitivity levels—in this case 800 and 2500. Each ISO setting has its own range, from 1000 to 25,600 for the 2500 ISO setting, and from 200 to 2000 in the 800 ISO native setting. Select the native ISO and range from the main menu tree; when in the Home menu, only the range of your chosen native setting is accessible. There’s also a choice that lets you select between just the two native ISOs (Native Only).
As befits a cine-style camera with a 14-stop dynamic range and a 5.7K sensor distilled to 4K, the EVA1 handled highlights and shadowed areas well. Users, especially VariCam fans, will appreciate the EVA1’s film-like V-Log and V-Gamut functions. Overall colors were pleasing, and skin tones on several subjects reproduced faithfully, even without using V-Log. The ability to output SDI and HDMI feeds simultaneously with different Log and other function settings visible enables you to tailor your displays for specific use by a DIT, AC, director, or video village.
Panasonic offers codecs for everyone with a smorgasbord of choices on the EVA1, including MOV 4K and UHD in 10-bit 4:2:2—currently at bit rates up to 100 Mbps, going up to 400 Mbps with a future firmware update. Don’t need all that firepower? The EVA1 also records MOV 2K and Full HD at various 10-bit and 8- bit rates. If maximum recording time is your priority, AVCHD Full HD and HD 4:2:0 8-bit images can be captured at rates from 8 to 25 Mbps. 5.7K RAW output for capture to external recorders is also being touted by Panasonic as a future firmware upgrade. Capture stunts, creative shots, and nature with high-speed frame rates from 240 fps in 2K to 50 fps in UHD 4K.
Dual-slot recording enables simultaneous and relay recording. If you can swing the higher cost, I would go with the faster V90 or V60-class SDXC cards so that you’re covered for all the recording choices, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. If you know for certain that you won’t be capturing in the more robust codecs, go for a larger quantity of lower-speed cards instead.
The EVA1’s 3.5" LCD offers touchscreen control for making selections in both the complete menu tree, and the more focused home screen, and for playing back clips. When creating, or ordering photo prints, you usually have a choice of finish: glossy or—my preference—matte. If only the EVA1’s LCD had such an option; I found this viewfinder’s surface to be somewhat glossy. It wasn’t really an issue, since I had the advantage of using a Zacuto Z-Finder Loupe but, in bright sunlight, the LCD’s folding hood didn’t help quite enough. Panasonic is banking on the modularity of the removable LCD and the lack of an EVF as assets enabling you to customize your rig to your liking and to allot your budget to your choice of viewing/recording devices. The EVA1 can send out simultaneous SDI and HDMI feeds for viewing or recording to external monitors, convenient when you’re shooting 4K but don’t have access to a 4K onboard monitor, etc. I used the SmallHD 702 OLED onboard monitor for my EVA1 trial.
Playback can be controlled via the touchscreen or the handgrip and menu buttons.
Function Selection and Menus
The EVA1 offers a total of nine user-assignable button, with two of those located on the handgrip. As far as function selection goes, I tended to use the handgrip scroll/select wheel on the grip while using the Menu and Exit (back) buttons on the body itself. My only caveat about the handgrip wheel is that it feels a little small when pushing to select, but that design does work as a safeguard against accidental changes.
The EVA1 offers a one-push autofocus feature that functions somewhat like focus peaking—in this case it uses overlaid green squares (Focus Squares) that grow larger as your subject becomes sharper. It took a little getting used to at first, but along with the one-push AF, it does the trick for basic, operator-controlled focusing. It is not Dual Pixel CMOS AF, however, so if that’s your preference, the EVA1 may not be your first choice.
Dial-in ND filters are always welcome, and the EVA1 provides a choice of 0.6, 1.2, and 1.8NDs, with a Clear (clean) as the fourth option. The internal IR-cut filter can be deactivated for night-vision type shots (for the next horror/stalker epic creators out there) and for creative effects. I found the EVA1’s level feature useful when handholding for helping to keep an eye out for inadvertent tilt. An in-camera image stabilization feature smoothed out moderate handheld jitter well.
Dual, balanced XLR audio inputs are situated at the back of the EVA1, a step up from the handle configuration that some cameras offer. Audio can be switched from auto to manual, and levels can be adjusted with operator-side controls.
Check out the EVA1 and the wide variety of EVA1-compatible accessories available at B&H, stop by the New York City B&H SuperStore, and share your comments on using the Panasonic AU-EVA1.
Philip Bloom did a solid overview of the EVA1 and found that some parts of the camera are not particularly robust in terms of build quality, especially the LCD viewfinder and the push buttons. If you're going to buy the device for professional use, it must be able to take some knocks and not fall apart.
If Panasonic is serious about competing with Sony and Canon, they had best put some effort into a solid structure.
Also, they needed to include a much wider selection of built-in ND filters like the Sony FS7 (and possibly more to compete). Often times, you still need an external ND or face over-exposure situations.