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Sony Breaks Down the Modularity of the New F5/F55: How Does It Compare to What We're Used To?

11.5.12 @ 5:22PM Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Some of you may have noticed something very, very interesting about the body designs of Sony’s upcoming F5 / F55 Cinealta cameras (they are, after all, nearly identical). These newcomers display something that the still rather-young F65, and for that matter, pretty much any other Sony cinema camera before now, has never featured (yes, aside from being shoulder-mount-friendly) — true modularity. Since its big announcement last week, Sony posted a video featuring Cinematography Product Specialist Richard Lewis demonstrating the level of modularity and extensibility built into the New F series — read on to check it out.

Before I go further, I’m going to just come out and say what everybody (or, at least, what I) thought right away upon seeing photos of the New Fs: they look like the RED. In fact, it’s almost as though an EPIC-style body cross-pollinated with the outer-skin look (or at least side panel) of Alexa and resulted in something somehow familiar, yet quite new for Sony at the same time. Of course I’m not saying, “hey look, Sony ripped off RED’s design!” (and please do not pull that quote out of context :) — but what I am definitely saying is, it’s clear these companies are taking some major cues from each other (even playing off each other’s PR moves).

Perhaps it would be more fair to say the F5 and F55 act like the RED more than they resemble it, but I won’t split hairs. The fact is, Jim and his RED team did several things it could have taken centuries for a conventional digital cinema behemoth to pull off, including setting precedents in modularity, not to mention price-point and sensor upgrading — the latter of which, prior to RED’s gesture, was (and to me, in a happy way, almost still is) inconceivable, and which has yet to be matched by any other manufacturer. Other industry leaders acknowledged the trends set by RED in their own various ways (though namely, uhm, yeah: RAW), though the Alexa, the upcoming Aaton Penelope Delta, and even Sony’s own F65 all retain more of a classic full-bodied-camera type of design. Sony, though, is not to be outdone, out-matched, or undercut in price — nor can I believe I get to say that, or that we mere mortals get to watch these awesome manufacturing titans try to out-under-bid each other – it’s simply an amazing time in which we live.

All that said, I won’t hold you up any longer from seeing just how Sony has learned from RED’s advancements, and perhaps, some of their perceived ergonomic oversights as well — not to mention how they’ve incorporated their own undeniable experience in quality camera design.

First impressions: well, I am pretty impressed. I do think it’s interesting that Sony has built the ability to live monitor off the F55 in 4K — this is huge — but apparently only supplied HD-SDI playback from the R5 RAW recorder. Of course, for quick-and-dirty ‘rec-review’ type of double-checking takes, the HD-SDI out will surely be fine — it’s just that if you’re going to monitor in 4K, why not always be able to monitor in 4K? Either way this is an advantage over the EPIC, so this may just be me being picky — which isn’t so bad of me though, because everything else I see here is looking great. ‘Classic’ SxS cards still fit in the new SxS Pro+ slots, and the options Sony’s providing for on board proxy recording are no joke — which is an advantage over RED if we’re still comparing — then again, RED of course has on board RAW and Sony forces opting for the R5 for full-res shooting. This isn’t new to RAW shooting, so in this regard I’d call the competition pretty evenly matched (that is, given we still don’t have pricing info on the Sony cameras). As far as other perks-for-price go, we musn’t forget the F55′s global shutter, because adding that to the list may seriously tip the scale towards Sony in the specs game (the one that translates to more filmic imagery).

And will you just look at that glorious, simple extensibility? From the size of the core camera body, it’s looking ready to be built up into anything from a hand-held run-and-gun rig to a full-on slug-and-chug cinema set-up. I think the serious difference in body — if not necessarily in size, weight, shape, or general idea — is Sony’s inclusion of the more Alexa-esque physical controls. I’m positive the numerous options available on the side panel will save some time over navigating RED’s touch-screen-only sub-menus (not to mention the saved cost of the mandatory RED LCD), though we’ll probably have to wait for reports from some First ACs out there in judging the value in convenience truly offered by the individual button and overall panel placement. The card readers seem to offer a streamlined and elegant off-loading system, though I’m wondering if there’s something a bit beefier down the line. I’m thinking multi-slot readers for serious off-site work, maybe with an even greater speed transfer protocol than USB 3.0. Something of this magnitude could also theoretically use some help from external hardware acceleration à la REDROCKET, though of course, all this is to be seen — but can’t a guy dream?

As for all my postering about the ergonomic comparability between the EPIC and the F5 / F55, perhaps I’m over-stating it. Maybe there’s only so-many ways to design a modular-centric ‘brain.’ Either way, I’d definitely say Sony has caught on to a few things here, not to imply that their technology has ever been lacking when the company really gets down to task. One can certainly not fault them for diving into serious design for the proven modular mindset, and moving forward, I’m excited to see what other sorts of items can be added to the camera package aside from the core modules demonstrated here.

How do you guys feel the modularity (yes, I just like saying it) of the F5/F55 system will compare to the SCARLET or EPIC — which seems to have more going for it out-of-the-box, given what we know? Do you think I’m completely off in my body comparison of the New Fs to RED? (If you think so, let us know! I can take a beating!)

Link: Sony Droped the F Bomb: Announces F5, F55 4K Cameras, Upgrades F65 — Nino Film


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Description image 49 COMMENTS

  • Andreas Kopriva on 11.5.12 @ 5:48PM

    Well it’s about time they caught on :) I remember doing a presentation on RED’s ‘Obsolescence Obsolete’ mantra for a class for the MBA around 4-5 years ago using the renders they had released back then showing off the modular concept. So yea, glad the competition has caught up.
    Regardless, they do seem like fine cameras and I’m personally interested in seeing how the global shutter ends up affecting image quality. Besides that, and the implied good low-light performance, I have certain issues with what Sony is doing here with the add-on recorder.
    The Epic, despite it’s aging sensor, has one huge benefit going for it in the form of onboard RAW recording at 5k. That provides additional versatility in that one has options to set-up their camera anyway they want without compromising the footage they are capturing. I’m somewhat worried that with the addition of a recorder, which looks to be half the size of the camera, that versatility will be compromised in Sony’s offering.
    Furthermore, unless they REALLY undercut these cameras (I’ve seen preorders for €18000 and €15000 for the F55 and F5 respectively – which if true, begs the question – why release two cameras if the prices are that similar?) it will be pretty hard to compete with the newly priced Epic.
    In terms of your comparison – it’s pretty accurate; the NewF does seem like the bastard child of the Alexa and the Epic :)
    Personally, I’ve already invested in the RED system through the Scarlet, so for me to switch, the image quality out of the F55 will have to be significantly better than what RED will be offering with the Dragon sensor.

    • Funny, I’m selling my scarlet for a sony f5. Great camera but sony is more inline for how I like to shoot. Sony distributes dynamic range a lot more evenly so you’ll get about another 2 stops of highlight retention than the epic or scarlet. I don’t like that I need a mattebox IRND Hot Mirror and 800 iso to shoot outside. Also Sony is more practical, 2k first 4k second. I would much rather a module for 4k rather than an external recorder wires and power needed for freakin hd! Also framerate 120 2k raw, amazing and that 2k is subsampled from the 4k so it will resolve 2k not like the Red’s 2k cropped. Codec versatility is also awesome. A lot of people don’t realize that this camera does 4:4:4 440 mbps on board without a recorder, thats amazing especially since you can record proxies at the same time.

      I’m switching because theres too many situations where Red is to cumbersome or doesn’t offer a practical solution. I don’t want to pre-grade, edit pre-debayed footage, grade, denoise, then transcode masters for every project I do. Sometimes 50 4:2:2 8 bit is just fine, the c300s success is proving that.

      • Dont you think you should wait for pricing before you sell the camera?

        • Red resale value plummets, If I wait until feb 15th then the resale value may be literally thousands less

    • Does the red not have an external recorder? Recording isn’t built into the brain. Call it a module or whatever but you need to add a box to record on the red. If the Sony had wires and all the other crap of an external recorder I could get the beef of not being considered ‘internal’ but the fact that it clips right on and interfaces with the camera seems very comparable to reds ‘module’.

      Regardless you need to buy an additional item to get raw 4K in both cameras so I don’t know why people keep finding issue on sony’s side of things.

      • +1. I am really curious about the pricing of the 4k module as an FS700 owner. I for one am kind of glad that the F5 and F55 use the same recorder as I plan to upgrade to the F55. In the meantime however, I will be able to pull 4k RAW out of my existing cam (with the unfortunately proprietary interface gizmo). As far as pricing goes I think Sony has their people analyzing the feedback after the RED pricedrops and will make sure a ready to shoot F55 will cost less than a ready to shoot epic…I guess we’ll find out at the end of the month.

      • I believe this is incorrect the ssd module is not an external recorder that happens in the brain the module is just “transfering” for lack of a better word the information to SSDs

  • I was already impressed with the F3 image so I’m sure the image quality will be up to par in the F5/F55. Regardless of price I more than likely will prefer this camera over any other on the market right now. I’m not a fanboy of any sorts but I am a practicality boy. The global shutter of the F55 is something that I’ve been waiting to see from a sub $60k camera. I love the design and footprint of this cam. I’m glad that Sony is not telling people how crappy their dslr footage is just to promote their own. They made a camera with features people want and will let them choose based on stats. This is my 1st place holder right now even before pricing is announced.

    • Joe Marine on 11.5.12 @ 9:13PM

      Well, Sony doesn’t really have a choice in the matter but let the camera speak for itself. They make every kind of camera with every kind of feature imaginable. If they say something bad about another product there is a good chance they’re selling one just like it.

  • Also you didnt mention Sony’s 16-bit 3.6:1 RAW vs RED’s 12 bit 5:1 REDCODE RAW. A world of difference in data retention and compression.

  • I like it!

  • bottom line all that counts is the image for the price. I will reserve judgement until I see footage from the Sony cameras and footage from RED’s new Dragon sensor. If Sony’s prices are comparable to Red’s (with Dragon) the quality of the image will dictate which is the next best thing to happen to the camera industry. Dragon is supposedly on a few short months away, and Sony isn’t shipping till february.

    • mikko löppönen on 11.6.12 @ 10:10AM

      “I wanna see material from the cam!” – usually means : “I won’t buy any of these cams anyone, let’s hope someone uploads something to youtube so I can still discuss them.

      • No, it means being a reasonable, patient consumer. To pre order a camera without seeing what it can do and doing your homework makes absolutely no sense to me.

  • As for modularity, Hasselblad introduced that idea for cameras back in the 50ies, years ahead of RED or Sony.

  • Do we all agree that REDRAW, isn’t really RAW ?
    I mean it is Jpeg2000 backed in a smart way in order to keep WB and gain settings in post. What I’ve saw from Scarlet footage is that it’s much less resilient than the BMC for instance…
    What do you think ?

    • Can we please put this myth to rest? Raw means it isn’t in RGB space…it has nothing to do with whether or not the data is compressed. (Canon and Nikon use compression on their raw stills as well) Raw means you take all the sensor values and stores them as is…just a monochrome image of pure sensor values. In post, the software sorts out the color based on which pixels are covered by what filters and does a bunch of processing to get an actual color RGB image.

      That raw capture of sensor values can be compressed just like any other data…and given that it’s generally possible to losslessly compress most images with a 2.5:1 ratio, there’s really no reason *not* to compress the raw data (unless low price restricts the available processing power, as is the case with the BMCC).

      Sony is being smart and offering compressed raw as well.

      • I was in the middle of answering but your response is perfect.

      • Dave Kendricken on 11.5.12 @ 11:22PM

        Yeah Gabe thanks a lot, great comment, flawless explanation. *phew*

      • Actually I do agree with most of what you said : yes RAW is data and not yet pictures (who said otherwise ?) BUT how data are compressed DOES matter and that was my point. JPEG 2000 is an effective but lossy way to compress data and I guess this is why I found that the scarlet footage on which I’ve been working were less resilient that BMC’s. Could it be an explanation ?

        • Possibly, but that depends on what you mean by resilient. Scarlet uses digital gain at 16-bit fidelity vs the BMC’s analog gain and 12 bit fidelity, so the Scarlet should be providing a lot more room for movement. On more aggressive ratios the compression can make the image softer, but that’s about it. The compression is a wavelet, not DCT, so you won’t see any blocks popping up.

          It also depends on how you handle the footage…there are a lot of sliders to use, and a lot of ways to muck up perfectly good footage…and you have to make sure they weren’t set to something bad in camera, giving you a bad starting point.

          I’ve never had trouble moving stuff around in Red footage…even Red One footage at 12-bit and higher compression has as much malleability as I would expect from other raw I’ve worked with. One of the first things I did when I first worked with Red footage was to do a super extreme levels adjustment to see how the footage breaks apart, and I was amazing at how clean it handled it…I was used to footage revealing all kinds of nasty blocks, color glitches and other visual problems.

      • The fact that Gabe doesn’t call it RAW just gives his comment more cred – like it needed any more !
        “raw should not be written RAW – it’s a word, not an acronym” _ Philip Bloom

        • Daniel Mimura on 11.15.12 @ 5:50PM

          I prefer it written RAW, despite it not being an acronym because it informs you that it is the non-RGB footage…as apprised to the time honored use of raw meaning, “we’re going over the raw footage we shot yesterday before we start editing it.” RAW gets confused with raw, and keeping the caps keeps the distinction.

  • Sony’s doing a great job with these cameras…they clearly put a lot of careful thought into everything about them. I was really skeptical of another external recording solution, but I was thinking of a huge box strapped to a huge camera with a bunch of cables hanging out…this R5 thing actually seems practical. I’m looking forward to seeing how things shape up!

  • I can’t believe Sony got Jerry Springer to explain this camera. How cool is that?

  • Its a good look, not only is it a good form factor for different rigging but also takes down on overall camera weight. As far as them stealing or taking cues from Red, H3ll thats ” the business ” so to say, You have to realize that some feel RED also took cues from DSLR form factor lightweight ability . IMO dslr especially the (5dII) was the original design that broke barriers in form factor , digital revolution, and design. The 5dII may not have been able to shoot 4k but had better low light performance, not only did RED take notice but they replied with a nice , lighter package. Arri eventually made adjustments also.

    Does anyone know the true price of the F5 and how much are the internal memory cards that will be able to record compressed 2k internally ? The external recorder is not an option in my opinion, however if the media cards are reasonable and the 2k compressed quality is good, then i might slide over to SONY.

  • Anyone else getting a little worried about all the proprietary tech surrounding this camera? Olivine batteries equals dollar, SxS pro equals dollar, you’re going to need a lot of batteries, and a lot of media, and neither are going to be even vaguely cheap. If an olivine battery is good for one hour, then a normal brick is going to be a wretched doorstop in comparison. Kitting this monkey out will likely add thousands to the price. You do at least have HDMI out.

    Not sure I agree with John that all that matters is image quality for the price either. Practicality, versatility and its appeal to both rental houses and owner/operators as a business investment are pretty important too. The BMCC is a great concept but placing such enormous emphasis on image quality has meant a ton of other important stuff is a massive compromise.

    As a package the new F’s have all the appearance of being pretty solid, but was anyone else not at all convinced by the menu navigation? Felt clunky and his assurance that the up down, left righ functions were all in the right place was somewhat contradicted by the layout of the buttons!

    • One more thing… definite plasticky feel to all the modular connections, felt like slightly cheap manufacturing… just picking nits

      • Is this first hand knowledge or did you made that up by watching the video?

        and btw, regarding proprietary accessories like cards and batteries: red offers their redvolt batteries for an added premium, too, just like they do with their SSD cards, arri uses SXS or leaves you with expensive codex packs, just like aaton`s delta ssds who also offer their own batteries – but what all these cameras and systems have in common: they`re not use-and-throw gadgets for the iphone generation, they`re made for people making their living with these things.

        • Well you’ve hit the nail on the head. That used to be the case, you could buy a camera and expect it to hold its value for probably three years. Now, the pace at which things are moving it’s very hard to justify the cost of investing in a full camera package, which you’d have to do to make full use of the F55 or F5.

          As for plasticky… use your ears, they’ll tell you a lot.

  • I only want the camera if it is backwards compatible with these.

  • did anyone notice the little fan on the sony external recorder? saying the epic/scarlet is the better solution because of it`s single block design means that you prefer coping with adding heat of both sensor and raw processing electronics which makes the epic an unpleasently loud thing the very second it`s turned off. I`m still curious how much noise these cams will produce.

  • Modularity is great, but the price is tricky…15.000 (F5 est.) just for the body!
    Add an lcd(vf); battery; storage ect…20-25.000?
    The F5/55 are very cool designed cameras, but these cheap, shiny plastic material…:(
    Waiting for the first real tests…

  • Ok let’s talk real costs estimations,
    Batteries: $500
    I haven’t seen any evidence that regular vmounts won’t work. Currently you can get a 160wh bat for 250, and since the cam draws 24w, with two you’ll be more than fine for a full day.
    Monitoring; 1000
    Dp4 plus evf mount.
    Media: 3000-4500
    Andy from Abelcine said the pro plus would not be marked up that much from pro. I’m assuming 1250 for 64 gigs and you’ll need 2-3 plus pros and maybe one pro for proxies

    I think realistically you’ll have around 6k in additional costs, so probably 24000 assuming the 18000 price, if they make it 15000 you’ll be operating for under the cost of an epic. That would require a f3 price drop to 10000, which would make their product line really competitive.

  • The F5 provides a realistic way forward for acquisition. 10 bit AVAC 422 internal at 2k will be viable for a few years and then you can make the investment to 4k. If you need too. 4k is marketing hype right now. If Bond doesn’t need it then neither do I.

    RED has the reverse philosophy. 4k internal, anything else on the Meizier module which will set you pack another $10,000.

    Both need accessories. A very minimal EPIC package will cost $28,000. Sony hasn’t released details on their pricing so hard to predict what it will take to get a F5 running, I would estimate an additional 3k to 5k.

    In addition the Sony is the newer tech. I expect better lowlight and DR than the EPIC. I don’t expect anyone outside of the RED inner circle wil be shooting with Dragon until late 2013. The F5 will be out to most by Feb 2013.

  • “Had an excellent time at the #blackmagiccinemacamera seminar here in Hong Kong. Not shipping til March though!”

    • Joe Marine on 11.6.12 @ 2:57PM

      I believe that might just be Asia. The rest of the world has already been shipping – though they are having serious issues.

  • Once the Meizler and the Dragon come out early in 2013 these two cameras will look very much alike with the v-battery on the back, lol. Plus points to Sony for the global shutter and ND-wheel-of-fortune. Nice try award for live 4K out, still not sure if it’d work as live 4K feed for the future 4KTV.

  • The reason for the modularity of the Sony is rather a legal one. RED is holding a patent for compressed onboard raw recording that is why Sony has made an external recorder for compressed raw. Have a look at their marketing talk they are always stressing it is an offboard recorder.

  • Global shutter sounds like a big jump