Panasonic AU-EVA1 Hands-On Review

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The Panasonic AU-EVA1 is a much awaited cinema camera that has seen a lot of hype even before it was launched. Ever since the AU-EVA1 has been shown as a mystery camera that was wrapped under the sheets at NAB, there has been a lot of talk about its build-up, which has put a lot of pressure on Panasonic. This has probably created lot of expectations about the Panasonic cinema camera that it has to live up to, which is quite understandable.

Introduction

The following Panasonic AU-EVA1 hands on review is based on the usage for a few days that too in a news and documentary environment. But, this can be easily applied to anyone else who will be using this AU-EVA1 for any other purposes. The Panasonic cinema camera has been used to shoot a proper story as it will give a proper understanding of how well the AU-EVA1 has performed in real life situations. Testing a new camera under a controlled environment will not show the real strengths and weakness of the product.
There was no clear understanding of how the location will look like or whether shooting will be possible. In news or documentary situations this is the case most media professionals encounter and you need a camera that can adapt to any type of lighting conditions. When you are working on your own you need to work efficiently and fast, especially in these breaking news era.

To understand how the Panasonic cinema camera works in real life situations, you need to read this review in detail. Most topics are being covered and in some cases they are accompanied by a video as example footage.

So let’s begin with the AU-EVA1-Panasonic Basics

The AU-EVA1 uses all new 5.7k super 35mm sensor that downsamples to 4K, 2K, UHD and even 720p. A large sensor means the amount of color information increases and results in a finer and more accurate image. This has been noticed in other camera brands too and it has been proven to deliver a detailed image overall and also increase the cameras sensitivity.

The Panasonic AU-EVA1 cinema camera can record in 4k, UHD and HD at 60p in a 4:2:2 10-bit codec and up to 240 fps in 2K and HD (with sensor crop). It has a native EF-mount, electronic image stabilization (EIS), built-in ND with 2, 4 and 6 stops plus also an IR filter, a dual native ISO of 800 and 2500. The V-Log/V-Gamut capture is also included to capture high dynamic range.
In the future models, the EVA1 will be able to output 5.7k external RAW recording along with 400mbps All Intra Compression for in-camera recordings.

Who are the Target customers of the 5.7 K Super 35mm Panasonic Cinema Camera?

The Panasonic AU-EVA1 is priced at $7,345, which makes it a very high-end cinema camera targeted at professionals who are looking for brands like Sony FS5, FS7, Canon C200, C300 Mark II and the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro. The major rush for sales of cameras is under $10,000 and it is also that segment where most major companies are trying to sell their professional digital cinema cameras. The EVA1 falls easily under this category of cameras and will be the preferred choice of professional shooters who cover documentaries, fast news, weddings, events and even short films. If you have the GH5 or Varicam LT already, then the EVA1 seems to be good option to use along.

The EVA1 is perfect for shooters of documentaries and news, but there are a few issues, that will be discussed in detail later. What makes this cinema camera ideal for such professionals is its small weight and size, making it easier to carry around while on duty. Other great feature is that it shoots in broadcast friendly 4:2:2 10-bit codec in HD, 2K, UHD and 4K. This is quite a nice feature to have for professionals working in the broadcasting industry or a production house that require the data to be shot in 4:2:2 10 bit codec. In the Canon C200, you will need an external recorder to produce broadcast quality deliverables. This can be very difficult if you have to shoot fast news or documentaries with an external recorder attached to a small camera. Some may even argue that why should you fuss about the shooting in 4:2:2 10-bit or 4:2:0 8 bit images as they look pretty much the same, but if you are working in a production house or in a broadcast industry, this difference matters the most.

Hindrances in Sales

Panasonic has always been considered as an expensive brand and they have not been able to dust that tag to date. They have still not launched an affordable digital cinema camera since the AF101. This is a problem, since brands like Sony, Canon and Blackmagic have successfully launched newer models and there hasn’t been any from the stables of Panasonic. These above brands have evolved and successfully developed an upgrade for their popular models and as a professional you would want to upgrade to a newer model according to your professional requirements. But, in the case of Panasonic, it is like they have to start from scratch. Yes, there are models like the GH4 and the GH5, but practically speaking an upgrade to the EVA1 is huge considering the costs.

The other big problem that Panasonic faces is how to increase the loyalty of new customers to their brand and how to attract new buyers by taking them away from other brands like Sony and Canon. If you are talking about a camera like the Panasonic AU-EVA1 and its price, shooters are not likely to upgrade or change their cameras every now and then when a new model arrives, especially at the rate at which other brands like Sony are launching. Once you decide to make such a big investment you would want to make the most out of it. Moreover, if you have got a new camera just a few years or may be a year ago, then it is unlikely you would want to upgrade or change to something new, unless there is something new in the newer model that was missing in your present camera and you need it.

For the EVA1 to gain popularity, it can’t just be any regular camera, but needs to be better than the competition. Already the prices are on the higher side, so Panasonic needs to convince the potential buyers that the camera is better than the rest or is better than the ones they own at present. In the case of Canon, the C200 was already popular and had a good base for the C100 and C300, so convincing them to upgrade was easier. Introducing a new camera in the Cinema EOS series is easier since you already have a set customer base.
The other problem that the Panasonic faces is from its own model GH5. With a decent onboard recording feature and a 6k anamorphic mode, the GH5 is a very versatile camera. So, trying to convince the customers of GH5 to shift or upgrade to the AU-EVA1 with such a price difference is an uphill task.

Size and Weight

For a cinema camera, the Panasonic AU-EVA1 is a small size camera weighing only 1.2kg (2.6lbs) without any accessories, which is 475g (0.93lb) heavier than the GH5 with battery and a memory card loaded. When loaded with all the accessories, the EVA1 weighs 2.1kgs (4.5lb).Due to the compact size and weight, the EVA1 is a portable and easy to use cinema camera for professionals who travel a lot and prefer a small and light-weight camera.
Small sized cameras have their own advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of being small sized is that you can hold the camera and support it against your body and use the LCD screen to operate. This type of hold is difficult if you are not that tall and have to shoot anyone who happens to be standing. The other disadvantage is, if you are using the camera outdoors in bright and sunny conditions then you may struggle to see the screen.
Each and every individual would like to shoot differently according to their comfort levels. If you prefer to shoot using an EVF, then you may have to add some sort of shoulder support system and EVF, which is common in most modern day cameras, and is same for the EVA1. The stock EVA1 handle doesn’t move forwards or backwards and the mount that is supporting the LCD screen doesn’t have much in the way of movement, so if you are going to put the camera on the shoulder and not use an EVF you are going to struggle. There are various accessories for the EVA1 that can be purchased from third party vendors that includes different ways to push the LCD screen or an EVF away from the body of the camera for easy handheld use.
The other big advantage of a light weight camera is that it’s easy to switch from Tripod to a gimbal or even a drone, but you will require a large drone. This is the flexibility that most professionals are looking for in a camera and is the prime reason why more and more brands are designing cameras keeping this feature in mind.

Build Quality

If you talk about the build quality of this cinema camera, it looks like a cross between the Sony FS5 and a Panasonic DVX200. As we all know by now that this camera is lightweight and this is possible because of the materials used in its construction and just like any other camera it looks like a box with buttons on it. Panasonic has made some compromises to make the camera lightweight. It does feel plasticky and does not have the build quality of its rivals. However, the top handle and the LCD bracket mount all lock-off securely and feel quite solid. The quality of the buttons and the dials are ok, but again the feel is not as good as the Varicam LT. The build quality of the EVA1 is not that different from the Sony FS5 or Canon C100.

Detachable & Rotatable Handgrip

The EVA1 handgrip is similar to the handgrips found on cameras from Canon and Sony. The handgrip is rotatable and detachable and allows you to control record start/stop, the Iris or menu as well as the ability to program two other USER button. The handgrip is ergonomically designed and nice to hold on.
Using your thumb you can slide across a lock/unlock lever that allows you to rotate the grip into a variety of positions. Once you get in the position you would like to, release the switch and it locks back into place. The design is better than the competition. This adjustability allows you to go from chest height to knees, high above the head and adjust the handgrip to correct the position. For rotation there are eight positions.
The handgrip mount is not Arri rosette, but a proprietary Panasonic design. You can release it with another switch and take it off the camera quickly. The remote cable that comes with the camera is short and there is no other place to relocate the handgrip to. When using the camera in a shoulder mount position, the handgrip is placed in a wrong position. To relocate the handgrip you will have to use a third party accessory to do so. A standard LANC extension cable will allow you to extend the remote cable.
It is easy to reach most of the buttons, except the USER button 8 and if you are using the USER button 9, then it is on the backside of the handgrip. The handgrip is fairly similar to the one that comes with Varicam LT, but not exactly same. The handgrip is good to use and easy to do your focus punch in, so adjust your iris and search the menu to make the changes. If you are holding the camera in your hand without the shoulder rig the handgrip works just fine.

Canon EF Mount

The choice to go for the Canon EF Mount by Panasonic is a little limiting. While it is not versatile as the Micro 4/3 or the Sony E-Mount, the Canon EF lenses have proven to be very popular with a lot of professional shooters. There are a vast amount of lenses in the EF Mount, which you can choose from and you can easily get the EF mount cine lenses like the Canon CN-E Primes and Zeiss CP.2 or CP.3 lenses just to name a few. This is perfect if you already have the EF mount glass. But, if you don’t, there may be enough reason for you to look at other brands like the Sony FS5 or FS7.
By making the EF mount, Panasonic has tied itself with the Canon. Canon also has a big advantage when it comes integrating their own lenses with their camera. If you want a comparison between the Canon C200 and the EVA1, then the Dual Pixel Autofocus and the autofocus tracking ability of the C200 is good enough. Unfortunately, unlike the Varicam 35 and the LT, other lens mounts aren’t available.
The only reason why Panasonic has gone with an EF mount, it’s because it seems like the only option. Sony isn’t going to start licensing out their E-mount to the market and using a Micro 4/3 mount on a 5.7k super 35mm sensor would have has other problems. An interchangeable mount system would have been preferred, as it will give the owners the ability to choose the other lens.

Autofocus

The camera doesn’t have the continuous autofocus capabilities like the Canon C200, but has a one push autofocus button. If you are looking for continuous autofocus and face and object tracking, then you need to look for something else. The autofocus performance on different Canon EF lenses was a bit average and nothing great to boast about. Under low-light, it has the tendency to underperform. The autofocus of the camera looks to be center based only. Autofocus is the main weakness of the EVA1 and is certainly not the strength point. So, if you are going to use the autofocus for documentary, wedding shooting and events, then you will be disappointed by this camera.
There are the normal peaking and focus magnification options available as far as the manual focusing goes. The EVA1 also has a Focus Box Assist mode that when activated introduces a series of green boxes that change the size as your focus is turned. Once the boxes reach the biggest size, then that point is your focus. This works well, but you will notice a lot of green boxes on the screen that obscure your image. There is no indication of whether you have gone past your focus point or if you are in front of it like the ones in Canon cameras.

No Viewfinder

One thing that is missing is an EVF. According to Panasonic, there is no viewfinder because users rarely use them and this seems true to a large extent. A rear mount viewfinder is pretty useless unless you are hand holding it. Not having one, saves a lot on battery life, cost and weight. To make up for the lack of viewfinder, the LCD is relocatable to a number of mounting points on the handle and body.
The disadvantage being, the LCD screen becomes almost impossible to use under bright light conditions making it difficult to shoot under sunlight. The shots are either off focus or not exposed correctly. Using a third party EVF is the only good solution and most professional shooter are doing this.
A dedicated viewfinder is the best solution instead of depending on the LCD screen on any camera as it seems a bit practical. It can create a lot of problems on shoots and the shots may not turn correct. You can use the Panasonic viewfinder for the Varicam LT, but you need to have deep pockets.

LCD Screen

The EVA 1 comes with a 3.5” LCD screen that is also a touchscreen. You can control your camera menu settings and functionalities from here. The touchscreen is reflective and not easy to see. If you are using in bright conditions, it will be very reflective and not serve the purpose, but in dark conditions, it works fine. LCD screen is best used only for controlling the menu and for nothing else. Even inside the room with lights on, it glares more and the built-in hood opens up, but comes in the way. However, great maybe the camera, but if you cannot see the image clearly and judge the exposure and focus, then the results are not going to be great. The LCD screen is definitely a drawback in the EVA1.

Built-in ND Filters

The Panasonic AU-EVA1 uses electrically driven ND filters and you can choose from the clear, 0.6ND, 1.2 ND and 1.8 ND. This is okay, but with the limit of 1.8ND you are limiting yourself, because if you want to shoot with a shallow depth of field in bright and sunny conditions this can be an issue. The Canon C200 offers more ND options.

Batteries

The EVA1 uses 7.28v 5800mah/43 WH battery. It takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes to charge the battery. Since the camera draws 19W the single battery could work for a long time. For a day long work, you may need three batteries.

Recording Media

Unlike other brands, Panasonic has decided to stick with the affordable SD cards instead of the fast and expensive CFast 2.0 cards. The camera comes with two SD slots with various recording modes; simultaneous recording, relay recording, loop recording *1 or background recording. The EVA1 will require more than one SD cards depending on what codec flavor you decide to record. According to Panasonic you are limited to using SDXC cards up to 128GB in capacity.

Control Layout

A camera that is easy to use and operate is always a boon. You wouldn’t want a camera with badly laid out buttons, confusing menus and difficult to use switches. The 
EVA1 has most of the controls and buttons on the operator side of the camera and key buttons for changing the iris, ND, White balance and ISO are easy to access.
There are nine USER assignable buttons that can be set to a variety of functions. There is an INFO button and HOME button when used brings up a nice display screen that shows all the key operational aspects of the camera. You can easily see your ISO, frame rate, color settings, Timecode, audio, WB setting and recording codec and resolution. The HOME screen is a shortcut menu that allows quick access to some camera controls. The Toggle switch located under the Iris wheel has a center position marked USER and in this position you can preselect to control the shutter variable frame rate or monitor out.
The EVA1 has physical audio controls on the side of the camera, but they haven’t included physical switches for changing MIC/LINE or for turning on or off +48 phantom power. All you can physically do with the controls is set the CH1 and CH2 in auto or manual modes and adjust the levels.

Menu System

The menu system is easy to understand and the touchscreen functionality of the LCD is easy to use. There is a menu button on the hand control grip, which when pressed allows you to use the scroll dial to make changes. Make sure when you make changes in the USER buttons menu and set something to on, then you have to turn it off before you change the USER button to something else as it won’t be able to turn off automatically. You have to go back to the menu to turn it off.

Picture Profiles

The EVA1 can shoot in V-Log/V-Gammut and other 5 scene files that can be used. You can even customize the scene files if need be. The scene files are just labeled Scene 1-5, but can be renamed. Scene files can be saved and loaded from the SD card. You can even reset back to the factory presets. Scene 5 is for HDR and it is full HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) in the REC2020 color space.

Internal 4:2:2 10 Bit Recording

Panasonic gets it right when it comes to Codec. They understand the requirements of the people and how they want to record in good colors and at a decent bitrate, so they have included codec’s in cameras that people want. EVA1 will be able to record 10 bit 422 at up to 400mbps even in 4k to affordable SDXC cards. With the EVA1 you get a lot of footage on a relatively small card. If you want to record broadcast standard in HD 422LongGOP 50M, you can record 5 hours and 20 minutes on a 128GB card. Since the camera has two card slots you can record in codec for more than 10 hours without having to change cards.
The only drawback when it comes to internal recording on the EVA1 is that you are limited to capturing up to 29.97p in 4:2:2 10-bit when recording in UHD or 4K DCI. If you want to record 59.94 or 50p in UHD or 4K DCI you can only do so in 4:2:0 8-bit.

External RAW Recording

The EVA1 cannot record RAW internally and to do so you will need a third party external recorder. Panasonic has chosen to have the RAW recording external and have good internal recording codec’s. Putting an internal RAW recording feature means you will need a different media solution to be used.

What does it output over HDMI and SDI?

The EVA1 can output 4:2:2 10-bit up to 29.97p in 4k and UHD and up to 59.94p in HD over SDI. If you use HDMI you can output in 4:2:2 10-bit at up to 59.94p in 4K, UHD and HD. Panasonic gives an option of what to send over HDMI and SDI. The EVA1 can send signals directly from cameras LCD screen over SDI. This is useful if you are using a monitor or an EVF as you can replicate exactly the information on the LCD screen.

The major feature of the EVA1 when it comes to outputs is the ability to individually address the different video outputs and use them even when recording. You can set resolution separately on SDI and HDMI as can choosing to show the heads up info displays. When you are shooting V-Log/V-Gamut, the LCD, SDI & HDMI can individually be set to Log or Rec709. Unlike other cameras, all of these outputs are available simultaneously even while recording. As far as the RAW output is concerned the camera can output 10-bit 5760 x 3072 at frame rates up to 29.97p and in 4096 x 2160 up to 59.94p. RAW recording output will eventually be available through the firmware update.

High Frame Rates

For high-speed capture, the EVA1 offers up to 59.94fps/50fps for 4K/UHD, up to 120fps/100fps for 2K/Full HD, or 240fps/200fps (cropped area). All are internally recorded. Just be careful not to press the ISO too hard.

Colors

The Panasonic AU-EVA1 excels in this area. It produces beautiful colors and they are pretty accurate. Skin tones look really nice and the camera handles mixed lighting conditions better than its competition. For professionals shooting news, documentaries and event shooters who need to turn the material fast and don’t have the time or resources to shoot in Log profile or even grade the image, the EVA1 is a good choice.

Resolution

The 5.7K super 35mm sensor of Panasonic is the heart of the camera. The high resolution offers oversampled 4K footage resulting in sharp images with reduced aliasing and increased color fidelity compared to the native 4K Bayer pattern sensors. Video can be recorded on the SD cards, which provides high-quality recording on accessible and industry standard media.

Electronic Image Stabilization

Panasonic has incorporated the Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) into the body itself. This can be turned on or off and in use it compensates for camera shake and blurring of the images. Probably this is the first time that a professional cinema camera has featured the EIS. For professional shooters, this feature makes a lot of sense. One thing you need to remember is while using the EIS is that it does crop in quite a lot of your image. The EIS mode works regardless of whether you are shooting in HD, 2K, 4K or UHD.

Boot up Time

If you are a professional documentary, news or event shooter, the time the camera takes to boot-up is a big deal. This can be pretty irritating especially if you are missing an important shot and your camera takes time to boot-up.

White Balance

The camera allows you to store up to 12 white balance presets that you can recall, which is a good feature to have in a camera. Only way to white balance the camera is if you go into the menu and set the white balance to AWB memory, only then it will allow you to use the White balance. Not only do you have to choose the AWB memory, you also have to press set and get back out of the menu. This system is unintuitive and you should be able to white balance regardless of what you have selected. If you need the white balance in a hurry, then it’s not that easy to do so.

Audio

The camera comes with two XLR inputs that are located at the back of the camera. If you use the camera on a gimbal without a top mic the EVA1 has a built-in stereo microphone. It also comes with a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack headphone output as well as a small 20mm diameter speaker. The audio recorded was quite clear and clean. The onboard stereo microphone does a pretty reasonable job if you don’t want to use an external on-camera microphone.

Dynamic Range

Panasonic claims the EVA1 has 14 stops of dynamic range. The camera responds very well to tough and challenging lighting conditions. The results of how the camera performed under challenging conditions in real life situations where a lot of dynamic range is required was pretty good. It has more dynamic range than the GH5 and looks pretty close.

Highlight Roll-off

Having a good dynamic range is always nice. The EVA1 rolls the highlights off in a similar way to the Varicam LT and deals with bright conditions very well and the roll-off is not too harsh.
Built-in Motoring Tools

As a professional tool, the EVA1 contains several professional imaging tools, including peaking, expand, Waveform, Zebras, Spot meter. The EVA1 utilizes the Focus Squares, a feature found in Varicam Line, which displays an array of green squares that grows in size whether the local area appears to be sharp, to enable professional shooters to achieve critical focus.

Dual Native ISO

The EVA1’s Dual native ISO is 800 and 2,500, which will allow cinematographers to shoot in almost any lighting conditions. This has allowed the cinematographers variety of artistic choices as well as the ability to use less light on set saving a lot of time and money.

Low-Light Performance

The EVA1 low light performance is more than acceptable for the levels of ISO, but you cannot claim it is the best. Despite having dual native ISO of 800 and 2500, the images were really usable to up to around 5000ISO. This is dependent on what is the acceptable amount of noise. The EVA1 does have noise reduction settings and it does make a difference to the images, so you should think of using in higher ISOs.

Auto Iris

The EVA1 has an auto iris feature that can be set in the menu to be activated when you press the Iris Dial button on the camera body. This allows the compatible EF lens to function in an automatic iris mode. For fast shooting and as long as the light is fairly even, the Auto Iris mode can be pretty handy.

Iris FA (Full Aperture)

This is another feature that is included in the EVA1. You can set this in the menu to an assignable button or push the function on the iris dial and by doing that the iris on the lens will open up to the maximum settings. This is also a good option for fast shooters and a nice feature to have.

Competition

The EVA1 faces tough competition from brands that have already established itself as well as some newcomers. The competition ranges from as little as $4,750 and goes all the way up to $9,999. Each brand has their strengths and weakness and depending on your needs and requirements, one particular brand will surely meet your needs.

Conclusion

The Panasonic AU-EVA1 is not a great autofocus camera, it is an average. It works quite well under low-light conditions, but not the best. For shooting documentaries, news and events, the EVA1 is a very good camera. Look wise the camera is appealing. It is very easy to shoot high-quality images and turn them around quickly to make any adjustments. The camera works well under mixed lighting conditions, which other brands seem to struggle with. Panasonic has done a pretty decent job with the EVA1 and it has a few flaws, but which brand doesn’t. If you are looking for a sub $10,000 camera, then you should go for the EVA1.

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