• Professional Camera Solutions

On the trail of the perfect wildlife film

Freelance cameraman and primary BBC Natural History Unit contributor Graham Macfarlane has put the Panasonic VariCam LT through its paces shooting in countries from Kenya to Japan.


Graham Macfarlane using the VariCam LT out on location.

Sourced through VI Rental Bristol, late 2016 saw the airing of the two-part Elephant Family & Me, presented by fellow cameraman Gordon Buchanan.

Macfarlane (Wild Thailand, Deadly 60, Planet Earth Live) used the camera handheld on the show, following a herd of orphaned elephants in Kenya’s 13,000-square kilometre Tsavo National Park. He was familiar with the VariCam thanks to its many years of affiliation with natural history production. “I used the original VariCams and they were bombproof,” he said. “The images were just beautiful and they were tough, so when it came to the VariCam LT I expected nothing less from Panasonic.”

The Bristolian, who is now based in Japan, filmed primarily at 800 ISO, but was able to make use of the VariCam LT’s dual native 5000 ISO setting a handful of times, such as at sunset.

“The weight of the LT was nice on its own, but the lenses we settled on were pretty heavy so they made a noticeable difference. However I still found the camera to be nicely balanced on the shoulder,” Macfarlane explained.

In often inhospitable environments around the world, cameras shooting natural history need to be rugged enough to put with all kinds of abuse. “The viewfinder on the LT is one of the best of the current range of super 35 cameras,” said Macfarlane.

“It’s a real headache to focus in 4K these days so I was spending a lot of time using it, and it was one of the first things I liked – it’s clear and very usable. It’s the first camera for a few years that I’ve thought about buying myself.”

Graham Macfarlane using the VariCam LT.A forthcoming series following chimpanzees in Cameroon has also seen Macfarlane putting the LT through its paces in a humid jungle environment, where the choice to go with the VariCam came about due to the darkened environment created by the thick tree cover. With the ability to move the camera’s ISO into an extended, still native range, the chimps stayed visible under the tree canopy.

After a short break he returned home to Japan to work on a Springwatch Japan special for the BBC, covering the emergence of the cherry blossoms as spring arrives and the country’s national tradition of Hanami ‘flower watching’ as the blossom emerges.

“In these kinds of situations you want a camera that you can forget about to some extent in terms of constantly adjusting settings and so on,” explains Macfarlane. “You want to just focus on the viewfinder and the images that the viewers at home are going to see, and, with the VariCam LT, I was able to do that.”

Read the full case study at https://business.panasonic.co.uk/professional-camera/on-the-trail-of-the-perfect-wildlife-film

The Springwatch Japan special can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08n5gtb

For more information on Panasonic Broadcast & ProAV, please visit https://business.panasonic.eu/broadcast-and-proav