I love my Sony F3. Well I co-own it with Eric Kessler. But I have licked every part of it and have my DNA all over it, we spoon most nights… so I doubt he will ever want it back. Sorry Eric! 🙂 It really is a wonderful camera. Initially I was a little indifferent to it. I felt it was overpriced and missing things like full HD overcrank. I still think it is….BUT, the more I saw of it, the more I realised actually it is an incredibly powerful camera. What convinced me initially was the SCCE/ Zacuto shootout. It performed so well. Since then I have shot with it a fair bit, and I have been blown away by its incredible images and amazing low light performance. I have coupled it with an AJA KiPRO to record in 10 Bit PRO RES HQ or just plain old 422 to drop straight into an FCP 7 timeline. The quality is simply superb.
Now S-Log is out. Previously only available for their high end cinema cameras, it enables 444 RGB dual link SDI recording for an incredible leap in quality. It changes the gamma curve, which effectively changes the dynamic range from around 11 to almost 14 stops. We are talking ARRI ALEXA numbers here at a fraction of the cost. Not only does the dynamic range change enormously, but also so does the sensitivity. Abel Cine measured 18db of the F3 as 6400 ISO although the camera itself, in one of the hidden menu settings, displays that in the LCD as 3200 ISO. Anyway, when you enable S-LOG suddenly your sensitivity doubles. 6400 ISO is displayed in the camera (I would like to see what Andy Shipside of Abel actually measures this as…) and we literally see a doubling of sensitivity in the LCD screen. Just take a look at these two screen grabs of a practically pitch black kitchen with me sitting at the table. I have a RED zoom at T3. First shot is an ABELCINE flat Cine2 profile and the second is the S-LOG screen grab. Night and day…
As you can see, just the difference in sensitivity is astonishing. Let alone what we will be gaining from the 3 stops of dynamic range.
Downside. Money. It is NOT a free update. It will cost you. An arm AND a leg AND possibly a kidney. Granted you get a 32gb reusable SxS card with it, which costs around $1200, but it’s NOT a cheap upgrade. $3860. Isn’t that like 3 Canon 7D’s? Almost a whole Sony FS100? Is it worth it to you? If you are a professional and you want to turn your F3 into a baby ALEXA, yes. It’s a shame it’s so damn expensive. At least they could have stuck it on a cheap card to save money… The point of you getting this upgrade is you really won’t be using SxS cards anymore anyway – maybe just for proxies – so you don’t really need another 32gb card…Also, because it is on SxS cards, the upgrade is in very short supply due to the aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami and shortage of cards.
Thinking about getting it from bit torrent? Sorry. The way it works is you stick the card in your camera, select Option…Update then select a 4 digit pin. It then transfers the firmware from the SxS card into the camera. It’s now off of the card. Don’t think you can take it to another F3 and stick it on there. It’s not on the card any more! So if you want to transfer it to another F3, put any SxS card in, go to Option…Remove, select your pin and it puts the update on that card ready for transfer. Sorry pirates!
It does make an amazing difference. Will I be getting a Gemini or Cinedeck Extreme? Not for the foreseeable future. Just the extra sensitivity and the much improved gamma curve couple with my AJA KiPRO mini, which is simply a SUPERB device in case you were wondering, means my F3 is twice the camera it was and that is worth the money in my book. Downside of not using the dual link 444 is that I don’t get to use any of the LUTs and have to monitor in S-LOG.
Check out the collaborative effort from NAB by Next Level Pictures and many others of the first S-LOG footage below. Looks lovely!