S-Log for the F3. From Prince Adam to He-Man…at a cost.

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…

ABELCINE CINE2 Profile
S-LOG

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!

 

World’s First Sony F3 S-Log Test from Next Level Pictures on Vimeo.

 

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86 comments

    1. Free is a word that legitimizes it as something for nothing. Available should be the word here.

      Everything digital becomes “available” eventually.

      There is nothing for free, and if you get to pirate such an upgrade you always have that to carry with you and if you ever resell the camera or need service they will probably ask for the S-Log upgrade receipt.

      I know the entire upgrade as a whole here is ridiculous, it is de-crippling device. However as Philip has shown it does bring so much to the table that a job that requires that power will be that much better than without it.

  1. From the comparison shot it looks like S-Log adds some unshaven guy to the middle of your shot? 😉 Sounds like it’s worth a few grand to me. I wonder how this will compare to the red HDRx. For some reason the sample footage they released really didn’t show it off very well.

    “Sorry pirates!”
    I think you underestimate some people. Far more ingenious forms of protection have existed before. I know. I’ve worked on software co-workers thought was secure and uncrackable. It got cracked. The only question is the demand; I don’t think there’ll be enough for groups to dedicate themselves to cracking it, so I don’t expect it to appear online more for that reason. It’s irrelevant really – S-Log is clearly aimed at the professionals, who would only use legit sources anyway.

  2. I would be careful shoulder mounting that rig, Mr. Bloom, especially with your back!

    Thanks for sharing. As always, I will wait to see how Canon will respond to all of this before I invest. Thankfully, rental houses abound with all of these choices so as not to drive my accountant nuts with depreciation math that has “end of life” at less than 12-24 months.

    Cheers.

  3. First off, thanks for the blog – you make me realize how behind I am on my camera knowledge. I’ve been focusing on the DSLR web video world for the last 18 months and now I feel like I don’t know anything about video.

    Pirate-wise: I agree with Graeme, I don’t doubt someone could find a way, I just doubt someone will. They’d have to have a camera to test on, and someone with a $15k camera and all the necessary support gear isn’t gonna really be off-put by $3 for something as great as you say S-Log is.

  4. Does the S stand for “Sexy”… Also, I wanted to ask you since Eric Kessler seems to be a great guy…if he’s open to group buys on the sliders? If so, is anyone on this site interested? Thank you, I’ll look forward to seeing more what the sony can do…images are gorgeous!

  5. wait…what am I missing? $3,860.00 USD is not that bad, As of now I have over $10,000.00 USD in DSLR accessories alone, If I were to sell it all (Not lenses) I could easily afford it…Err Umm yeah I’m doing just that!

    lets see Sony F3 $13,960.00 + S-LOG $3,860.00 = $17,820.00 Minus Sale of DSLR Accessories – $10,000.00 = $7,820.00 USD.

    That is doable, Please check Craigslist Los angeles for all my sales!

    🙂

    1. I agree. If someone is already going to spend 14k on the cam, and extra 4k shouldn’t hurt that bad. People should just pretend that this camera costs 18k plus another 6k for the Gemini to record in 444 & just live with it. 24k for a cam that can seriously compete with an Alexa sounds pretty good to me. Even if you add another 27k for the entire Ziess cp.2 set to make it 51K, it’s still cheaper than an Epic(58k) with NO lenses.

  6. Anything that is digital can and will be cracked.

    The morality and risks of whether or not people should use cracked stuff is a different and very controversial matter. But I garentee you it will be done eventually.

  7. Philip, what I find so remarkable is that you choose to spend an arm and a leg (and a kidney?) to get RAW video out of your F3, but that you forego the option (whilst there at hardly any additional cost) on your DSLR when doing timelapses… strange.

    1. it’s not raw video Richard, not at all! It’s a better gamma curve and better sensitivity. I did however spend an arm and a leg buying an EPIC M which does do RAW video. Regarding your consistent bugging about RAW timelapse, I have already answered you before! If you shoot as many as I do. Hundreds it would take up every single bit of free time I had to process them.

          1. Phil you could just process one RAW in Photoshop and decide on the desired look, save the process as an action, then batch convert the rest 🙂 hope this helps!

            1. yep, if you are talking about timelapse i know. It’s just the amount i do and generally what I use them for (fun) I would run of hard drive space so fast it’s simply not worth it for me. I know the benefits of RAW timelapse very well! If I am hired to shoot a couple of timelapses for a commercial project then sure, but things like my 24 hours of Neon which is just for fun and in itself took un huge processing and hard drive space just in JPEG no point!

  8. When will you be taking delivery of the EPIC M? I will anxiously await
    your feedback from that investment. Brings back memories of buying my Ikegami-V55 for $40,000 (body only), with lenses, $52,000. I made my money
    back and then some, hopefully, you will be able to do that with the RED.
    Of course, interest rates on loans were in the double digits in the 90’s.
    Do I dare follow in your footsteps?

                1. Have I not already answered this? Two different cameras for two different jobs. There are many jobs where the Epic is overkill but the F3 is perfect for. For example I would use the F3 one man band but never the EPIC.

  9. One more thought. Yes, the S-log makes a huge difference. However, with all due respect to Philip who is an amazing DOP, the comparison between the F3 Cine 2 gamma and the S-log stills may not tell a complete dynamic range story. Cine 1 and 2 gammas are designed to favor highlights – mid grey tones are pushed down, so the overall image will be darker at the same exposure stop. Notice that the highlights in the Cine 2 still are darker than the S-log still. Perhaps a better overall comparison would be comparing Cine 3 gamma to S-log at the same stop exposure. I would still expect improved dynamic range in the shadows and highlights. Cine 3 is an “average” gamma. Cine 4 favors shadows and pushes the mid greys higher. If this had been used, Philips face would not been as dark, but the highlights would have been more blown. Of course the beauty of the S-log is that the user doesn’t have to constantly shift between cine gammas depending on the lighting contrast conditions.

    1. Randolph, you are confusing the gamma names I have used with the gamma presets of the cameras. These are picture profile presets created by Abel Cine as linked in the blog to give the most dynamic range. Promise!

  10. Ok, I’m sorry, but am I the only one here who thinks spending $3860 on a better gamma curve is madness? Like, absolute bloody madness? First of all, this firmware update most certainly will be available — sooner rather than later — online somewhere, somehow. Secondly, why would Sony punish its customers by charging this kind of outrageous price? Every time Canon releases a firmware update for the 5D or 7D or whatever, they’re always free. It’s likely I just don’t have a good enough grasp of what exactly a gamma curve is or does (I understand you get a little over 13 stops with this S-Log), but regardless of my technological limitations I still can’t believe Sony isn’t rewarding buyers of the already overpriced F3 with this firmware as opposed to charging them. I mean, crap, that’s a Zeiss compact prime right there.

    1. yes it is crazy expensive and i am sure every f3 owner wishes it was free. but take a breath for a second and am not defending Sony here, the firmware is stupidly expensive, but your camera gets more than a new gamma curve it gets a doubling in sensitivity. Literally. The base sensitivity of the camera is now double allegedly from 800 iso to 1600 iso!! Yes it’s crazy expensive for just a firmware update. But is the F3 overpriced? Compared to what? Show me another camera sub $20k that can do what this camera can do with this firmware update.

      I think you need to remember in the era of 5Ds and 7Ds there is another market out there. A pro market video camera market. This camera is cheap. There I said it. It’s cheap. With S-Log and a 444 recorder it can outperform an ARRI Alexa in certain areas at a fraction of the cost. Not saying it’s better. It’s not. But for the money it’s a hell of a lot of camera for the money. Much like the FS100 is a hell of a lot of camera for the money but it misses out so many key features. I could go on but you have heard it all before!!

      Also waiting for it to become available online from pirates? Really Todd? Do we really even want to go there?

      1. I have to agree with Philip. The S-log upgrade cost is annoyingly high, but the quality of the image from the F3 with the S-log is amazing for only about $18K! It does come close to the Alexa in dynamic range and may even exceed it in light sensitivity. I’ve used them both and yes the Alexa is a better overall camera – and it should be. I questioned a Sony rep about the high cost of the S-log upgrade. He said that by separating the upgrade features from the base camera, they could offer a much lower cost camera to those who don’t need that feature.

        OK, that makes some sense. But I believe that they made a huge marketing/PR gaff from a psychological perspective. I believe they would have had far less complaints if they had come out with the F3 with S-log built in first (selling for under $18K). Then they could offer an F3 “lite” model (without S-log) for approx $14K. Then they could offer an S-log software upgrade for about $4K for the “lite” owners. This type of approach would give consumers price choices, upgrade choices, and an incentive to buy the more expensive camera upfront.

        People are used to getting “software upgrades” for free or a nominal fee. So this type of software price increase is really aggravating to a camera owner – even though they are getting a new camera that is much improved. In the old days, it would have been a new hardware package as well which would be even more costly. Perception is everything. Hopefully Sony will learn from this.

        1. I doubt it. When their MiniDisc format came out in the 90’s, they offered 60 and 74 minute recordable disks at different price points. However, they were exactly the same inside, except that the 60 minute disks had metadata that artificially limited them to a shorter recording time.

  11. I have a an F3 but no S-log, however I have really noticed that there is a distinct variation in sensitivity between picture profiles. For instance the standard rec 709 is much more sensitive than the cine 2 from Abel cine, although I like cine 2 for the flat profile it provides. It does use the cine1 internal gamma curve, which is for maximum range in bright light. I have noticed that when you change picture profiles, under identical conditions, that there is a need to adjust aperture to maintain the same exposure. That being said it is of course not nearly as much as what you show with the s-log which unfortunately makes me want it!
    Thanks for the post. Jon
    PS I just bought some stuff from your buddy Eric

    1. Jon, what you noticed – sensitivity changes when changing PP (standard in camera or custom PP) is what I was discussing in my last post. Philip clarified that he was using a custom PP and sent me the link to Abel Cinetech’s custom PP’s for the F3. I understand where he is coming from now. It is a flatter PP gamma overall, however, the midtones and blacks will be darker at any given exposure than a standard Rec 709 or Cine3 or Cine4 gamma. The PP that Phil used for the comparison test (JR45CIN2), starts with Sony’s Cine1 gamma which increases the highlight range. Additionally, the black levels are lifted up some to flatten the image more.

      What happens with Sony’s Cine1 gamma is that mid tones and blacks are lowered on the dynamic range scale to allow more range in the highlights. As a result, the image gets much darker than standard Rec 709. Of course, this is not a problem if you are shooting exteriors on a contrasty day. As I mentioned before, Cine3 gamma is optimized for midtones, and Cine4 is for shadow detail. That’s why you will see sensitivity shifts when you toggle between different cine gammas which makes you want to change exposure – which may or may not be a good idea depending on what part of the dynamic range scale you want to protect or emphasize.

      Yes, Rec 709 gamma is the most light sensitive, but it does not have the most range. That is why the S-log is so great – it delivers the maximum dynamic range capabilities of the camera AND maintains maximum sensitivity. Without S-log, one needs to change gammas (or use custom PP settings which start with cine gammas and lift black levels) according to prevailing lighting conditions and desired look. Cost of the S-log is another discussion.

      1. Randolph, I get your point, thanks. However, this is from Sony’s site:
        S-Log Gamma
        S-Log mode is available with a wide dynamic range (800%) in the RGB 4:4:4 10-bit signal.

        I believe that if you adjust the picture profile to the conditions, especially if you are just using the XDCAM 4:2:0 output, there is not nearly as much to be gained by S-Log compared to also using the 4:4:4 output capabilities.

        The inherent sensor sensitivity is unchanged.

  12. S-curve is something i don’t really understand…
    For me a sensor, is an electronic device who have static performance…
    An S-Curve is only a change in the way where information are optimised and recorded…
    I have put the S-Curve on my 5D, and the image is more filmic, and less contrasty, more highlight and lowlight information, but less in the middle…
    You don’t change sensitivity or dynamic range with an S-Curve… I’m sorry for my lack of understanding on this, but I really would like more scientific information on this…
    For me the only way to change the amount of information is to change the codec… I think all camera have all same kink of sensor. A red MX or allexa and now F3, record just record more information because of 4.4.4…

    I have seen the great Camera Shootout, and it seems a joke to me as the mid point (grey) is changing, particularly in the highlight shootout… So the result and conclusion particularly for the 7D is useless…

  13. Hi,

    obviously changing the settings automatically changes this camera sensitivity…I love the sony f3 the only thing I hate is the lack of the 60fps mode in 1920×1080 25p mode….I really miss this feature since the fs100 has it…I would be really happy to see this as a firmware update….I really dont want to have an external recorder because that changes the design and the weight of the whole camera…please sony allow this feature and I guess you will happy many happy users old and new…expect from this I think this is an amazing camera that can be upgraded in many different ways for many different purposes….

    1. The F3 with the 1.1 upgrade (free) allows for dual link 1920X1080 60fps through the activated connectors but you need a rather expensive recorder to capture it.

  14. Hi Philip,
    can you still use the aja kipro mini to record the video signal coming from HDSDI output after the S-log upgrade is added???
    what i mean is do you necessarily need a 4:4:4 dual HDSDI link recorder to benefit from the extra dynamic range achieved by the upgrade. or you can use your aja or any 4:2:2 recorder and benefit from the extra dynamic range that the upgrade provides.

  15. So I am going to switch careers because I can’t do labor type work for the rest of my life. I am 38 years old & getting worn down. I would like to get into shooting/lending cameras. I saved up a lot of money and am going to purchase an Arri Alexa. I have no experience but love the art of shooting, editing, & music. I live in New Jersey, what is the easiest way to get working and what should I charge for my experience, which is none, All I will have is a fat expensive cam & some nice lenses.

    Thoughts?

  16. Philip (or Preston), what are your thoughts on the lenses Sony includes in the F3K kit? Worth it, or better to save up for some Zeiss compact primes?

      1. Also, the Sony K lenses only come in 35mm, 50mm, 85mm – not a complete set of primes for most situations. The West Coast (USA) Sony rep said there weren’t any plans to make more. Too bad. Sucks that they are not compatible with other cameras. Could be a decent option for the F3 if there was a whole set to work with. The image created with these lenses is quite good for the price. Actually very close to the Zeiss CPs. Although they may not be built as well as Zeiss – but they are all T2 – unlike the Zeiss.

  17. I was thinking about getting the F3 as well, but as someone who rents RED’s alot and has gotten accustomed to seeing that quality footage, it would be difficult for me Not to get the upgrade(4K) and if i get it id definately have to get a gemini (6k), cuz from what i found the Cinedecks have some serious problems. So Thats 10k plus 13k, plus lenses, good lord,

    And that’s just to shoot 1080. doesn’t make financial sense to me.
    ill save the cash and get a RED. Dont get me wrong i think the F3 is a beautiful camera and the S-Log media is heavenly but i think it wont get enough work for the markets i service just because of the 1080 Factor.

    Was thinking about getting both but even that didn’t make sense to me

  18. Thanks for the article and follow up posts.
    I was curious about ability of using the S-log in 4:2:2 recording. Rental house guy told me that it only benefitted in 4:4:4. Not so many 4:4:4 recording devices out yet. They only carried the HDCAM SRs.
    So it’s good news I can go 4:2:2 (and 4:2:0!) Would experiment on it next week.
    Thanks again.

  19. Not that I can afford the F3 currently but they should incorporate a way to send your camera in to have the firmware installed at a cheaper price. The cost would be without a camera for a few days but if you were between shoots, you could probably get away with this and drop the 1200 dollars for the sXs for something like a lens or external recorder. Money towards external recorder I should say.

  20. Philip

    I know this may seem like a dumb question not having shot with either the F3 or the Epic, but if you could buy only one or the other which would you most likely go for?

    I would also be interested to know why you wouldn’t single person shot on the Epic (other than overkill) as it seems as if there is little difference in complexity (from what I have read / seen in setup images) between the pair once you start hanging all the necessary adornments interms of external recorder, evf options etc. etc. off the F3. I ask as the RED with a red rocket seems like a more straight forward workflow compared to using DPX files via something like the Gemini 4:4:4 (again based on not practical experience). I do appreciate that I am asking from a position of ignorance, but in overall price terms if you want relative high speed without stumping up for a Phantom with the quality of the F3 then I don’t see any other options especially as the F3 is restricted to only 30fps in 1080p.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    1. Hi Mark.

      The RED Epic is a more complex workflow full stop. A red rocket needs a mac pro or a tower pc. cannot use a laptop. the maxxx digital just gives real time playback.

      They are very different cameras. The F3 is a much simpler workflow camera that I can use for projects for clients with lesser post facilities and smaller budgets. I have no plans to use the Gemini. I use the KiPro mini and the SxS cards.

      if i had to have just one…then the Epic as it does more but i would be limited in my clients…tricky!

      1. Thanks Philip, really appreciate the reply and appreciate that its a big dilemma as to which way to go (if you could have only one… no Highlander ref, ish, intended 😉 ). As you indicated in other replies there are so many different cameras that have their niche (like a GoPro – fantastic for so many things you wouldn’t put the F3 or Epic any where near) it is as you say … tricky!

  21. hi philip! i do like your stuff good job man! 🙂
    i’m going to NY in september and i’m planning to buy the F3,i need some advices from u. first i film fashion back stages so i can’t be fully rigged it’s a mess in there… do you think i can handle the F3 without any rig or that the footage will be shaky even with a 20mm aka 32mm on super35 sensor? how’s the handling? do i need a shoulder mount in any way?and how’s the lcd? do i need a marshall to pull focus or is clear enough?
    second i have a matrox mxo2 it is noticeable the difference between sxs 4.2.0 and 4.2.2 prores over SDI? do you think even if my final print is the a full hd mp4 or f4v for streaming?
    last i have some fast nikon and canon fd primes how about the adapters did u try those? is the fd adapter clean…cause on the 5d fd lenses are blurry if u use it wide open under f.2
    thanx man!

  22. Hi Phillip, do you get the same dynamic range in S Log going 422 as 444? I’m trying to figure out if getting a 444 deck is going to be worth the extra money or just going AJA Ki Pro Mini like yourself?
    Also if you where to do a two camera job would you be happy mixing up 422(HQ) with 444 with both camera’s having the S Log update?
    Thanks
    D

  23. I’ve been looking at getting this camera for an upcoming feature because of its stunning low light, but is it just me or does the footage have a very video-is/TV feel? Based on what I’ve been seeing on vimeo, the image is so sharp, that it doesn’t seem to have the same texture as something even like a 5D? Am I the only one seeing this? I think it looks amazing, but something about it is offputting as far a using it for a film.

  24. Philip
    Couple of questions for you. For years have been servicing news and documentaries with either XDCAM 350’s or DVCPro HDX900’s. Their both good cameras and most of my colleagues shoot with similar cameras. I’d like to separate from those colleagues with the purchase of the F3 with the S-log update. My question is, if I’m primarily shooting for television, would the S-log upgrade still make sense and would the F3 be a camera that would work for covering news and news magazines… Second, the lens deal from Sony is good for the pricepoint – or should I buy other lenses and search out deals on other glass. And finally, I know that you’re fond of the AJA external recorder – but what is your thoughts about Sound Designs PIX 240 (may not have seen it yet) or the lower priced Atomos Samurai recorder. I wonder how those two match up to your AJA. Love your site and look forward to your thoughts.

    hank

    1. not sure any large chip camera is great for new Hank. When I shot news having deep depth of field and a nice big ENG lens was essential. Not used the sound designs recorder yet. looks good. waiting for samurai to come out…

  25. I have been wondering for a while if there is a technical downside in using LOG curves. Especially in de Arri Alexa, but now also in the Sony F3.

    When you record in 10bit modus, you have 1024 values to assign to the information coming from your sensor chip. Recording in LOG mode expands your dynamic range in acquisition. Especially in the highlights there is more information. But this must go at the cost of information in the midtones, because it is still 10bit. The extra information in the highlights needs a place and there is not more space then without the LOG curve. It’s always 1024 seats.

    In de Alexa you can circumvent this ‘problem’ (i’m not sure if it IS a problem) by shooting in 12 bit mode. 12 bits is more than enough: 4096 seats.

    So.. my question is: what is the price to pay in your midtones? The midtones is an important area, the skintones are usually there.

    Isn’t it better to shoot in REC709 and try to keep your highlights within boundaries than to shoot in SLOG so you can adjust them afterwards in grading while sacrificing important information in skintones?

    Of course this question is only valid if the final product will be in REC709, but for me, most of my projects are. If you make a filmprint, LOG is always better, while the file will always be LOG (and you grade with a LUT).

  26. Hi philip,
    i’m looking for buying an f3 with accessoires, zacuto viewfinder and all new equipment (sxs, charger, ect…), i was on canon since ! so everything needs to be re-buy !

    Here is the problem ! No mutch money for lenses, I have a tokina 11/16mm ef so i’m thinking to buy an adaptator from redrock and continue on ef lenses.

    I’ve got 3000€ for lens budget (sorry i’m french, 3 913,5$ !),
    so i’m interest about some ZE lenses and certainy a 24/70mm canon ef,
    witch lenses can you recommend me for this camera ? Is there any lenses to avoid ?

    And of course, in future i’ll buy s-log + kipro, if i’m not too mutch hopeless !

    thanks a lot

    fx

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