Sony Expands The 4K Market With Two New Camera Systems – The PMW-F5 and PMW-F55
Last week I attended a small press gathering at the new Sony DMPC (Digital Motion Picture Center) where Sony executives introduced the latest CineAlta 4K cameras. With Panavision and Kodak no longer the powerhouses they once were, Sony has been aggressively trying to lock up the high-end cinematography marketplace. They have released an impressive array of HD cameras the past few years in multiple categories, but they still felt they were missing a camera in one new category. That category was a camera in-between the F65 (List Price – approximately $65,000) and the F3 (List Price – $16,800). Instead of one, Sony outdid themselves by announcing two new cameras – the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 – that have a modular and compact design (a la the ARRI ALEXA) and feature a new 4K Super 35mm image sensor with a 4096 x 2160 resolution.
F65 Ver2.0 – Still The King
The F65 remains CineAlta’s flagship camera. For Ver2.0 of the 8K F65, Sony adds a new high frame rate mode for 8K 16-bit Linear RAW capture at 120p. Because this is a stunning amount of data, the Ver2.0 upgrade also makes your F65 compatible with Sony’s SRR4 recorder, as well as a new transfer station to output 8K 16-bit Linear RAW files 1.5x faster than real-time. In the near future, the F65 will also capture 4K RGB, paint and remote control, and interface with their new OLED viewfinder.
F55 and F5
The F5 and F55 give a shooter more options in terms of resolution – HD, 2K QFHD and 4K – and both cameras offer multi-codec support, which include Sony’s new XAVC MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format, the SR codec (MPEG4 SStP), and XDCAM 50Mbps 4:2:2 codec. For in-camera capture, you can use Sony’s new SxS PRO+ memory cards (F5 – HD XAVC and HD high frame rate; F55 – 4K 60p:422 10-bit XAVC and HD 422 10-bit XAVC High Frame Rate).
The F55 connects to Sony’s new 4K 30″ LCD monitor (PVM-X300), which uses four 3G-SDI interfaces for live 4K monitoring up to 60p and can also connect to Sony’s new 84″ BRAVIA 4K LED TV for large screen monitoring of 4K 60p images.
With Sony’s new RAW recorder – AXS-R5 – a shooter can capture slo-mo footage up to 60p 4K RAW on the new AXS memory, 2K RAW up to 240-fps with the F55, and up to 120-fps with the F5 without a crop factor or loss of angle of view. You can also perform dual recording in different configurations, including recording in parallel to a single SxSPRO+ card, to both SxS slots, and recording to SxS at the same time as to the AXS-R5 in RAW.
The F55 contains a global shutter to help eliminate rolling shutter skew and flash banding, delivering the same ultra wide color gamut as the F65. Both the F5 and F55 contain 14-stops of latitude with high sensitivity and low noise.
2nd Gen PL Primes
Sony also announces their second generation of priced-to-own PL mount prime lenses that are able to resolve 4K, as well as help minimize geometric distortion, vignetting and breathing. The lenses contain a nine-blade iris which will deliver a nice bokeh with focus rings that can rotate 240-degrees. Each lens has a T2.0 aperture, the same external diameter, matte box diameter, and gear locations for follow focus and aperture (with the exception of the height of the 135mm lens).
Like the F3, you can also use still lenses by removing the supplied PL-mount adaptor and adding 3rd party (Canon, Nikon, Leica, etc.) adaptors to the F5/F55′s native FZ mount.
The F5 and F55 are compatible with a new series of OLED and LCD viewfinders. The .7″ DVF-EL100 has 1280 x 720 resolution, the 3.5″ LCD DVF-L350 viewfinder has 10-times the contrast of previous Sony LCD viewfinders with a flip-up eyepiece for direct monitoring, and the full HD DVF-L700 is a 7″ LCD viewfinder that gives you pixel-to-pixel 1920 x 1080 resolution when shooting in 2K or 4K.
A RAW Deal
For RAW capture, Sony releases the new AXSM Access Memory System for 2K/4K RAW recording with a new memory card platform – AXSM (512GB capacity). AXSM uses the generic file system exFAT that mounts to your computer without a driver. For high-speed, you can record 4K RAW up to 60-fps and 2K RAW up to 240-fps with a 300MB/s sustained transfer speed.
The AXS-R5 RAW recorder can dock directly on to the F5 and F55. The AXS-R5 RAW is also the 4K RAW recorder for the FS700U via the new interface adapter HXR-IFR5. This should clearly make the FS700U an amazing camera system for its low price (List Price – $9,200).
New SxS Recording
Both the F5 and F55 support the new SxS Pro memory cards, which are available in 128 and 64 GB capacities. The SxSPRO+ cards support XAVC 4K and XAVC HD high frame rate recording and can used in camera.
New Battery and Charger
Both cameras also use Sony’s new BP-FL75 battery pack that uses Olivine – Lithium Iron Phosphate – instead of Lithium Ion cathodes, which will result in an increase in charge-discharge cycles.
New Shoulder Mount
Because of the compact size of the F5 and F55, you’re probably going to need some support when shooting handheld. Sony will bring to market a special shoulder rig for more stability and comfort. The rig is sturdy and uses industry-standard rosettes on both sides for easy use with 3rd party hand grips and other camera accessories.
OK, So When Can I Get One?
The cameras will be available in February 2013 a few months before NAB. Pricing will be announced later but I’m guessing the F5 will be in the $25K range and the F55 will be in the $50K range. Again, this is just a guess but we’re looking at categories between the F3 and F65.
For more information, please visit www.sony.com/35mm.
With RED’s 6K Dragon Sensor on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what ARRI will deliver in terms of 4K. But today, it looks as if Sony is sitting on top of the 4K world.