Sony Gets Serious with F5 and F55 Digital Cinema Cameras: 4K, 240FPS, and Global Shutter Options
We had a few ideas about what might be coming on this day, but Sony has just dropped what seems like an infinite amount of technology in one announcement. Not only do we have two new cameras, the PMW-F5 (capable of 120fps max) and the PMW-F55 (capable of 240fps max), but we’ve got a new 4K RAW recorder, new media, new monitoring options, and new lenses. Pictured to the left is the Sony F55, which is actually identical in most ways to the F5, except for the higher frame rate options, and, oh yeah, this little thing called a global shutter. That’s right, it seems like Sony engineers have figured out how to get rid of the dreaded rolling shutter artifacts without affecting the rest of the image, like dynamic range (but we won’t know for sure until we see the camera in action). Click through for a rundown of the announcement.
The Cameras: Sony F5 and F55
Both cameras will look identical except for the silver ring on the interchangeable mount (click for larger views of most of the images below).
Both the F5 and the F55 feature a Super 35mm sized 4K sensor with 8.9 million effective pixels. The sensor in the F55 features a global shutter, a first for Sony, and both imaging pipelines are capable of 16-bit recording. The F55 also features a similar color filter array as the F65, which should allow for a higher color gamut.
The F5 sensor is reportedly ISO 2000, while the F55 is supposedly rated at ISO 1250. That compares to about ISO 800 on most current digital cinema cameras, like the Sony F3, Canon C300 (850 ISO), RED EPIC/SCARLET, Arri Alexa, and Sony F65. Here’s Sony on the dynamic range, etc.:
Cinematographers paint their images with light and shadow. So the ability to render tones from deepest shadows to brightest highlights is a crucial test of any digital camera. The F5 [and F55] excels, with an impressive 14 stops of exposure latitude, extraordinary low-light sensitivity and extremely low noise in the blacks. The result? Graceful rendering of scene contrast, even in searing sunlight.
It’s unclear exactly what kind of frame rates we’ll be getting in 4K RAW (unless I’m missing something), but it should be 60fps at a minimum for at least the F55, and likely the F5.
- 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 exceeds 12-bit RAW with 16 times as many Red, Green and Blue gradations. By design, it exceeds the capabilities of human vision!
- 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!
The Interface and Connections
AXS-R5 RAW Recorder
- 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 AXSM™ 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:
- 4K/2K RAW + XAVC 2K*/HD
- 4K/2K RAW + MPEG-2 HD42
- Amazing OLED: optional DVF-EL100. Don’t let the small size fool you. This 0.7-inch* viewfinder has the incredible clarity of 1280 x 720 High Definition. And resolution is just the beginning. Thanks to OLED technology, you get superb brightness, contrast and response.
- Higher resolution, higher contrast: optional DVF-L350. Take a major step forward in operating with the incredible image of this 3.5-inch* LCD viewfinder. Compared to previous Sony finders, this one has higher resolution (960 x 540) plus ten times the contrast. And the eyepiece flips up for direct monitoring.
- Full HD: optional DVF-L700. This compact 7-inch* LCD viewfinder enables high resolution when shooting in 2K and 4K, not to mention pixel-for-pixel 1920 x 1080 representation of your HD images.
Lenses and Lens Mount Options
With the F5, Sony introduces our second generation of cost-effective PL mount prime lenses, featuring a dramatic improvement in build quality. Thanks to refined glass, all are certified for 4K capture, while minimizing geometric distortion, vignetting and breathing. A 9-blade iris delivers beautiful bokehs. The focus rings rotate 240°. The series includes focal lengths of 20, 25, 35, 50, 85 and 135 mm. For easy lens changes, all have the same T2.0 aperture, the same external diameter, matte box diameter, and gear locations for follow focus and aperture. All are the same size except for the 135 mm.
In addition to their own new PL lenses, the F5/F55 will offer various lens mount options:
- PL-Mount Lenses. Take advantage of acclaimed cine optics from Angénieux®, Canon®, Carl Zeiss®, Cooke®, FUJIFILM®, Leica® and more.
- Still Lenses. Slip off the supplied PL-mount adaptor to reveal the native FZ mount with 18 mm flange focal distance. It’s perfect for accepting commercially available adaptors for still lenses, including Canon® EF, Canon FD, Nikon® DX, Nikon G, Leica® M and even 2/3-inch broadcast B4 lenses.
- FZ-Mount Lenses. There’s also Sony’s game-changing FZ-mount auto focus servo zoom: the SCL-Z18X140.
The AXSM 512GB module will be required for 4K RAW recording, and is a completely different media from the two SxS slots that is included internally on both Sony cameras.
The F5 is a next-generation camera, which will feature high-data-rate on-board XAVC 2K/HD recording at 120 fps with a free planned upgrade. This requires next-generation SxS recording media—Sony’s 64 and 128 GB* SxS PRO+ memory cards—and a next-generation USB card reader, the SBAC-US20.
The F55 is a next-generation camera, featuring high-data-rate on-board recording of XAVC 4K today and 180 fps XAVC 2K/HD with a free planned upgrade. This requires next-generation SxS recording media—Sony’s 64 and 128 GB* SxS PRO+ memory cards—and a next-generation USB card reader, the SBAC-US20.
Sony has been vague on pricing so far, but the cameras should be arriving sometime in February next year, with the firmware upgrades for higher frame rates coming sometime after. They also announced a new battery which is pictured above, and it fits right in with their new modular system. If you haven’t noticed, both cameras also include ND filters, which have three options: clear, 3-stop, and 6-stop filters.
As for the FS700 4K upgrade, no pricing yet, but it looks like it will need a $2,000 module to allow it to interface with the new AXS-R5 recorder. Lots more to talk about, but we’ll get to more of the details and what this means in the next post.