Everything You Need to Know About Using s16 Lenses with the Sony F5 & F55
In late 2013, Sony released version 3.0 of the firmware for their F5 and F55 cameras. This update added a veritable plethora of new features for these two cameras, including internal 4K and more options in regards to high frame rate shooting. However, one of the most interesting features of the update was the addition of what Sony calls "Center Scan Mode" which essentially crops the sensor in order to allow native use of lenses with a smaller image circle than s35, chiefly older s16 lenses. In another informative "At The Bench" video from AbelCine, Andy Shipsides breaks down everything you need to know about Center Scan Mode on the F55. Check it out.
Using s16 lenses on an F5 or F55 is literally as easy as pressing a few buttons. Just by changing the "Image Scan Mode" in the Base Settings menu from "Normal" (which reads out the full 4K sensor) to "Center Scan," you can force the camera to physically crop the sensor, which eliminates any of the vignetting that you would see using s16 glass with a normal sensor readout. Of course, this process results in a much narrower field of view, which is essentially the same as you would see with a s16 sensor.
Initially, many people were worried that the Center Scan Mode was a great option in theory only, fearing that it would fall short in the image quality department due to the fact that it uses only a fraction of the full sensor. While Andy's tests in the above video do in fact show that the Center Scan Mode produces an inherently softer image than the Normal mode, it isn't necessarily a bad image by any stretch of the imagination. When you consider that the F5 and F55 produce extremely sharp images to begin with, the slightly softer image of Center Scan Mode is absolutely still in line with many of the other digital cinema cameras on the market today, especially when paired with the good glass.
All in all, the F5 and F55 just keep getting more and more versatile. That statement has never been more true now that an entire world of unique and relatively affordable s16 lens options have been opened up for these cameras.
What do you guys think of the Center Scan Mode on the F5 and F55? Have you had the chance to use any s16 lenses with either of these cameras yet? If so, what was your opinion of the image quality? Let us know down in the comments!