REMEMBER! THESE ARE PURELY MY VIEWS AND OPINIONS. WHAT I LIKE MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU LIKE AND I AM FREQUENTLY WRONG 🙂
My blog is not a news site. There are many worthy sites that do that. I try to keep things focused on creativity, actual hands-on reviews of new cameras, tutorials and of course my current massive fundraiser. But every now and then an announcement is made that has to be reported. Again, these are all specs and just from the official press release (there is a big launch event in London today that, unfortunately, due to family commitments I cannot make) but they impress enormously, not just in specs but especially in form factor. A real bugbear of mine. Although none of what we are talking about here is for the low end. This is all for professionals with money 🙂
I have the Sony F3, FS100 and FS700 (and of course many other cameras from other companies) Let me sum up these three cameras very quickly.
The F3. Probably the most filmic looking image and best dynamic range our of any “lower end” large sensor camcorder. With a bad form factor, unusable view finder and very dated codec.
The FS100. The best bang for buck large sensor camcorder out there. Wonderful image. Atrocious ergonomics and form factor.
The FS700 Terrific features, amazing super slow motion, lovely image, minor improvements on the FS100 like ND and SDI, with slightly nicer buttons, handle and better grip. Otherwise essentially the same poor ergonomics.
So what have Sony announced today?
Two new 4k large sensor camcorders with the F5 and the F55.
A 4K raw (raw should not be written RAW – it’s a word, not an acronym) recording interface for my FS700…sweet!
The F65 says up yours to the SOOOO has been 4k with an 8K firmware upgrade.
What does this actually mean to us, the low budget filmmakers? Well to be honest this is designed for the higher-end professional, but at prices (apart from the F65) that are unheard of with these specs…again only specs, yes footage is being shown today, but footage is one thing. Shooting with them is another!
Let’s start with the 4K raw for the FS700. We have been expecting 4k out of this camera since its announcement. So far no joy, but not only are we getting 4k, we are getting it in raw too. This is what we need. If you have never shot raw, you don’t know just how much of a giant leap it makes compared to compressed codecs. Raw is one of the best features on the Blackmagic, the RED etc. The downside naturally is that this cannot work in-camera on the FS700, an external box will be required. I hate external recorders and want internal recording, but for this camera we always expected that. This won’t be available until April to June next year, and if the Mayan/ great soothsayer Roland Emmerich prophecy of our world ending in 2012 (hurry up! Only two months to go!) happens, then that will suck. Oh well. I always said 1080p looked great!
Ok, this is the really exciting part. The F5 has been expected, well, basically ever since the F3 was pushed out very fast. A great camera, hampered by a nice but totally out-of-its-depth XDCAM EX internal codec and poor EVF and poor form factor. With S-Log, external recorder and a rig, it becomes a wicked camera. Still my favourite image in this price bracket, even more so than my beloved C300.
We also have the F55. So what is what. Well this is what Sony say for starters:
The new PMW-F55 and PMW-F5 CineAlta 4K cameras deliver unprecedented creative options for HD/2K*/QFHD*/4K (PMW- F55) and 2K*/HD (PMW-F5) production. Both offer multi-codec support featuring Sony’s new XAVC MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format, the SR codec (MPEG4 SStP) and the industry-standard High Definition XDCAM 50Mbps 4:2:2 codec. In-camera recording is on Sony’s New SxS media, SxS PRO+ (Plus ) – which can be used to record XAVC in HD High Frame Rate and in 4K at up to 60fps (in the PMW-PMW-F55), and XAVC HD High Frame Rate in the PMW-F5.
In addition to on-board recording onto SxS PRO+, the PMW-F55 and PMW- F5 can also be connected to the new AXS-R5 RAW recorder. Slow-motion imagery at up to 240fps** (PMW- F55) and up to 120fps** (PMW- F5) can be captured as 4K RAW files on newly developed AXS memory.
The PMW-F55 features a global shutter to eliminate rolling shutter skew and flash band, and features a wider colour gamut for exceptional colour reproduction. The cameras are further distinguished by wide (14 stops) exposure latitude, high sensitivity, and low noise.
So what does this mean?
We now have a truly modular design for starters, which the FS100/ 700 looked like it was but really weren’t. The mid section of these cameras looks like the FS series, but with enormously improved professional buttons. Both can record raw via an external box which simply bolts onto the back. Sweet! The AXS-R5 RAW recorder can do super slow motion imagery at up to 240fps with the F55, and up to 120fps with the F5. These frame rates can be captured as 4K RAW files on newly developed AXS memory.
The F55 also has a global shutter, so whip pans return…HOORAY! This is something that only the mechanical-shutter F65 and Alexa studio offer. Both very expensive super pro cameras, out of the price range of even me with my massive billions of $ (that’s a joke!). Action scenes can be fast moving without the god awful skew. This is a BIG deal.
The modular design of these cameras is exceptionally thought out, from the images that I have seen. With their new shoulder rig that works simply and sleekly with the camera, it easily goes on your shoulder, so handheld work is a breeze…Yes, a large sensor camcorder that goes on your shoulder. The place a camera SHOULD go. Couple this with their new viewfinder – a proper viewfinder, not the F3 and FS100 nonsense – and we now have (in Sony’s words)
To get an ideas of size check out this image from FDTIMES.COM
The DVF-EL100 OLED viewfinder measures 0.7-inches with 1280 x 720 HD resolution, superb brightness, contrast and response. The DVF-L350 3.5-inch LCD viewfinder offers 10 times the contrast of previous Sony LCD viewfinders, with a flip-up eyepiece for direct monitoring. A third option is the full HD DVF-L700. This compact 7-inch LCD viewfinder enables high resolution when shooting in 2K and 4K, with pixel-to-pixel 1920 x 1080 representation of HD images.
The F55 also has the option of 4k internal recording, via their new (Sony’s words) SxS media, SxS PRO+ (Plus ) – which can be used to record XAVC in HD High Frame Rate and in 4K at up to 60fps (in the PMW-PMW-F55), and XAVC HD High Frame Rate in the PMW-F5.
For raw you do need that external module. Remember raw is not for everyone, since it adds a lot of post work and is generally used on high-end commercials and movies. Most TV shows that shoot Alexa shoot Prores HQ and ignore ARRI raw, as the post workflow is too expensive, and to be honest the ProRes HQ is exceptional with these cameras.
I have not used or seen this new format for the Sony cameras, but I doubt they would bring it out if it wasn’t pretty darn good (see I went all American there!)
One of the biggest announcements, the 8k upgrade for the F65, is out of the price range of us mere mortals, much like the Aston Martin DB9 that I have lusted after even longer than I have lusted after Zooey Deschanel (well less lust, more love…I can dream, right?). Actually her dad will like this, the amazing cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. 8K is the future. Not 4k.
Now don’t get me wrong – 4k is smashing, but the difference between 2K (essentially full HD) and4k is not the leaps and bounds that we had from SD to HD. Not to my old eyes, and by the time we all have 8K, won’t see a bloody thing but THIS is the progress leap that will make the difference.
The reason I say this is because 4K IS a great acquisition format, but it’s a format that I simply don’t feel will be taken up by the average consumer at home. That is what most of these companies want, especially TV manufacturers. But I judge these things not by geeks like me who buy every single iPad ever brought out, but by people like my mum and dad, my sister, my non TV-working friends. They won’t want 4k. They are happy with their LED/ LCD etc full HD screens and the prospect of buying another TV for a difference that will not really been seen by most on those new TVs means I doubt it will take off. I could be proved wrong. 8k, not 4k could FINALLY be that looking through a window (well a clean window) technology that we have always been promised and some people when HD came out said it was.
8K is the future (until 16K comes next year…joke) and all movies will be acquired in this format in the near future. It’s a no-brainer. This is future proof and can capture detail beyond 35mm film. We truly have a digital system that out performs 35mm film enormously in resolution. Probably…again I’ve not seen it, so let’s hang on there. Problem is: 8K projectors? 8K TVs? Not going to be common for some time. My local cinema is 2k. I know of a handful of screens in London that have 4k. 4k projectors themselves will be a slow take up and movie theatres are notoriously tight-fisted as more and more of us balk at paying $50+ to take our family to see a movie, when we can get the blu ray version 3 months later for $20 or less.
Sony have also announced loads more things, like new batteries and chargers, new PL lenses, monitor and a coffee machine that empties the grounds for you whilst making your toast (gluten free for me please) and brushing your teeth.
Today is the day that Sony declared war, not just on Canon. The C500 now has enormous competition with both the F5 and F55. Even the much lower specced C300, which is my favourite camera, will need to drop its price to remain competitive. Also the interchangeable lens mount on these cameras is a trick that Canon should have added…BUT the C300, although only full HD, is a much smaller and still broadcast approved camera and has been taken up in droves. The vast majority of TV has no interest in 4K and full HD at 50 mb/s 4:2:2 is fine for them, so I see the C300 being pretty safe in that market. It’s the cinema market and high-end commercial market that has been totally changed by these announcements.
Now remember specs are never a way to judge any camera as we have been let down again and again here…on paper, the F55 is an Epic beater (ON PAPER…proof is always in using it both shooting and post) . Yep…I love the Epic and I miss mine, amazing camera and it’s influence on the industry, along with the red one must never be underestimated. But, again on paper this out-performs that camera in every way and so it damn well should be. It’s a two year old newer camera with all these new tech developments and of course a global shutter. Now, I have been told that list price on the F55 will be around $50k body-only so not cheap, raw module probably another $10k, if it was cheaper it would beat the Epic there too…..F5 I am told will have a list price of $18k. Also the 4K on the this will only be via Sony module and won’t work on 3rd party ones…Even with these prices, two very different prices for different markets….war truly has been waged. With a global shutter, that sensitivity and that price, coupled with the reliability and backup of a company like Sony, Red are going to be in serious trouble. Please ignore my previous Red issues. I have no ill feelings towards Red. None at all. I adore their cameras, and if I hadn’t blown all my money I got when I returned my Epic on drugs and hookers (again joke PLEASE DO NOT TAKE ME SERIOUSLY, TRYING TO MAKE THIS POST LESS DRY!!!) then I would possibly have dipped my foot into it again. But now? No chance. I want an F55. I want it now. Give it to me now, or I will scream and scream until I am sick!!!! Actually problem is for me and my work…it’s just a bit too big. I love small cameras now. Am so over big cameras. Just for certain jobs. Think this will be a rental for me 🙂
EDIT: RED have slashed the prices of all their cameras. Making the Epic X brain only now just $19k, a Scarlet for $8k and a used RED one MX for $4.5k. Of course all these need lots of stuff to make them work but this is a massive price cut!! Check out the RED site for more info. This is great news for us all. The dragon upgrade chip is still needed but these.
Guy Thatcher, my buddy from hireacamera.com is, as we speak, walking into the event and will give me a first hand account on what he has seen, so do check it again and if my facts are wrong here then I will also correct them and especially pricing! 🙂
Above is the F55 with it’s 4k internal recording
Above is the F55 with its 4k internal recording AND the raw module (that bit before the battery the Cinealta logo on it)