Sony F5 and F55 announced

Well it looks like Sony hasn’t been asleep at the wheel after all…  truth be told they’ve continuously been releasing some pretty incredible still cameras (Alpha series) and some extremely strong contenders in the video/film business as well (FS 700, FS100 and notably the Sony F3.)  

I’ve definitely been watching on the sidelines and none of the video cameras quite got me hooked.   But I’d be lying if I didn’t say this new crop of cameras didn’t  immediately get my attention.  

The specs are perfect on paper and the layout… well it’s very Arri Alexa like to be honest in terms of the button layout.   

The package: modular.   But most of all – the specs.  They’re dead on.   Many of the Canon cameras’s specs (the C100, C300, C500) tend to be a bit off in my opinion notably in terms of frame rates and resolution, and notably when you compare them to their pricing relative to what the market has to offer.  

While the C-Series from Canon is built around an incredibly impressive sensor, color rendition, and low light performance – I’ve found that the frame rate limitations when combined with price relative to other cameras to be hard to explain at times.   Yet to their credit:  they cameras are selling well…

Now two things remain unanswered by Sony:  what is the price of these two cameras?   Philip Bloom has speculated an $18K for the F5 and $50K (body only) for the F55.  But that’s only speculation and I don’t like to quote prices unless they come from a trusted retailed or preferably a manufacturer.  

The second?  Image quality…  well, if it’s anything close to (or in between which is very likely) to somewhere in the middle of a Sony F3 and a Sony F65 … then this camera might just make waves.

For now:  just the specs please – straight from Sony.    

I have to say the ergonomics, modularity, native ISO, and the lens series… are impressive…  now we just need to see these in action.

Lastly:  man it’s getting tough to be in the cine camera market these days for just about anyone…  the heat is definitely on.  

Up next on the slate:  

Panavision is set to announce their next series of digital cine cameras early next year sometime, rumoured to have multiple digital sensor sizes, including something comparable to 70mm film in size and rez….    the market is getting crowded.

Also of note:  RED just announced they would be lowering the price of their Epic cameras given that they have recouped most of the R&D costs… or was it because they knew the Sony announcement was around the corner ;)  Who knows…  they definitely beat Canon to the punch when they announced their ($10K) Scarlet ahead of the  ($17K) Canon C-300 launch in November of 2012.

I also got to play with the Epic Monochrome this past week.   I have to say that if their Dragon sensor (expected early 2013) is anything like what I saw on the Monochrome in terms of low light performance, low noise, and dynamic range… well – let’s just say it’s a whole new ball game once again.  

I shot the Epic Monochrome at night in NYC with Canon K35 lenses…. and the last time I had as much fun shooting at night was… well shooting "Reverie" with the Canon 5D MKII 4+ years ago…   except this time I was shooting in full RAW and at 5K and in gorgeous black and white… wow.   This is becoming a hackneyed saying: but damn it’s a good time to be a filmmaker!

So the specs, from Sony:

Sony PMW-F5 and PMW F55.

Both come equipped with Super 35mm CMOS 4K sensors – 8.9 million effective pixels.  Both allow for 16-bit recording (via an external recorder – the AXS-R5 recorder).   The F55 however has a global shutter, and should have a higher color gamut, slier to the F65.  

Both cameras super sample the 4K Sensor to give you the follow recording options with no crop factor:

SONY F5:

The following all record internally to Sony’s SxS Media. (Click image b slow for full size chart):

Frame rates:

  • 60 fps out of the box (XAVC HD). 
  • 120 fps with a planned upgrade (XAVC 2K/HD). Unique to this process, there is no line skipping or sensor windowing. So there’s no crop factor, no loss in angle of view. 
  • 120 fps 2K RAW, with the optional AXS-R5 outboard recorder and a planned upgrade, achieves high frame rates while retaining exceptional, 16-bit image quality. This not only ex- ceeds 12-bit RAW with 16 times as many Red, Green and Blue gradations. By design, it exceeds the capabilities of human vision! 

SONY F55:

The following all record internally to Sony’s SxS Media. (Click image b slow for full size chart):

Frame rates:

  • 60 fps out of the box (XAVC HD at launch; XAVC 4K, QFHD and 2K with a planned upgrade) 
  • 180 fps with a planned upgrade (XAVC 2K/HD). Unique to this process, there is no line skipping or sensor windowing. So there’s no crop factor, no loss in angle of view. 
  • 240 fps 2K RAW, with the optional AXS-R5 outboard recorder and a planned upgrade, achieves the highest frame rates most productions will need, while retaining exceptional, 16-bit image quality. This not only exceeds 12-bit RAW with 16 times as many Red, Green and Blue gradations. By design, it exceeds the capabilities of human vision! 

Both cameras are also capable of 4K/2K RAW recording via the AXS-R5 external recorder (pictured below):

4K or derived 2K RAW. Capture RAW at your choice of resolutions: the camera’s native 4K or beautiful, derived 2K. RAW recording preserves the greatest latitude for color correction and other post processes.

  • Incredible 16-bit precision. By design, Sony’s 16-bit recording captures more tonal values than the human eye can differentiate. Sony RAW retains 16 times as many Red, Green and Blue gradations as 12-bit RAW and 64 times as many tones per channel as 10-bit recording. Sony 16-bit linear RAW is also the ideal point of entry into the 16-bit linear Academy Color Encoding System (ACES) workflow.
  • Comprehensive production platform. More than an individual product, the AXS-R5 is the starting point for an efficient workflow. The AXS-R5 records onto sleek, optional AXSMTM memory cards, which are compatible with an affordable optional USB 3.0 reader, the AXS-CR1. Once on a PC, the RAW files can be screened using Sony’s free RAW Viewer software.
  • Simultaneous RAW + Onboard SxS recording. Instead of requiring you to patch together a science project, Sony provides a coordinated “off-line, on-line” workflow with simultaneous recording to internal SxS cards and the optional AXS-R5 RAW recorder. For seamless conforming in post, you get matching time code, start frame, stop frame, file names and other metadata. The camera supports the following RAW + Onboard combinations:

SONY F5:

  • - 4K/2K RAW + XAVC 2K*/HD
  • - 4K/2K RAW + MPEG-2 HD422

SONY F55:

  • - 4K/2K RAW + XAVC 2K*/HD 
  • - 4K/2K RAW + MPEG-2 HD422
  • - 2K RAW + XAVC 2K*

MODULARITY

(From Sony): "[Both cameras are] exceptionally small, light and modular, letting you build up the right configuration for each job—or each shot. For example, you can add the optional AXS-R5 RAW recorder whenever you need it. Or go with internal HD recording whenever size and weight are the highest priority. The time code/genlock connections and XLR audio inputs are built into two modules you can add or remove as needed. Small size is particularly welcome in stereoscopic 3D shooting. The chassis is only slightly wider than a typical PL mount prime lens, perfect for both mirror rigs and side-by-side configurations."