4k Here And Now

A few months back, I attended a small press gathering at the new Sony DMPC (Digital Motion Picture Center), where Sony executives introduced their latest CineAlta camera system. But hold on, hadn’t they just released the F65? And wasn’t the PMW-F3 the hottest digital camera system on the market? (The F3 sold over 2,000 cameras in the U.S. alone.) For the past few years, Sony has been killing it in the digital camera space by releasing an army of HD cameras in multiple categories, including the consumer VX900, the first full-frame-sensor camcorder. Currently, with the F65 and 4K cameras from RED (EPIC and SCARLET), Canon (EOS C500 and EOS 1D C) and even GoPro (HERO3 Black Edition) now available, it was inevitable that Sony would go long with 4K. After all, they’re the leader in 4K digital cinema with their SXRD 4K projectors, and now with their XBR 4K Ultra HDTVs hitting the market, your living room soon will be 4K-ready.

Sony’s new DVF-EL100 viewfinder contains OLED technology. Sony also debuts a new AXSM Access Memory System, including the AXSM memory card and AXS-R5 RAW recorder, which docks directly to the F5 and F55.

THE F5 AND F55: FILLING A NICHE

Instead of one, Sony introduced two new 4K systems, the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55. Why release two cameras into an already-crowded marketplace? Sony wanted to fill a niche in a category they thought they were missing, which was between the F65 ($65,000 approximate list price) and the F3 ($16,800 list price). The result is two new cameras that can capture 4096×2160 resolution on a single Super 35mm, 3-perf-format-sized CMOS sensor and also can record 4K and 2K RAW footage using Sony’s new AXS-R5 recorder. In terms of dynamic range, both cameras contain a minimum 14 stops of latitude with very high sensitivity and very low noise. According to Sony Marketing Manager Peter Crithary, "Sony spent a considerable amount of time gathering feedback from the market, and dedicated over 500 engineers to this effort, resulting in a truly next-generation technology platform suitable for any production application."

Cosmetically, the F5 and F55 look like twins, with the one exception being that the F5 has a black FZ lens mount and the F55 has a silver one. For a high-end professional system, both cameras are lightweight at only 4 pounds, 14 ounces, and when compared to the F65, the body style is much smaller and lighter than even the ARRI ALEXA, with a thin rectangular shape in which you add accessories like the recorder and battery pack to the rear of the camera. The cameras also contain three internal optical filters to give you up to six stops of neutral density.

The F5 and F55 give shooters plenty of options in resolution and formats, capturing HD, 2K, QFHD (3840×2160) and true 4K (4096×2160). They’re the first cameras to employ Sony’s new XAVC format, a cost-effective and file-size-efficient H.264/MPEG-4 Level 5.2 AVC codec that’s scalable and that can support smaller 4K data files up to 60 fps, plus 8-bit, 10-bit and 12-bit color depth. Sony recently released an SDK to developers, and so far, a number of companies have signed on as licensees for native editing, including Apple and Adobe. If you don’t want to employ a new format just yet, you also can still capture HDCAM SR (MPEG4 SStP) in both 4:2:2 and RGB, and XDCAM 50 Mb/s 4:2:2 codecs, as well.

GOING ALL IN WITH RAW

Sony brings the new AXSM Access Memory System for 2K/4K RAW recording with a new memory card platform, AXSM (512 GB capacity), that’s even faster than SRMemory capture and can mount to your computer without a driver. For high-speed capture, you can record 4K RAW at up to 60 fps and 2K RAW at up to 240 fps, with a 300 MB/s sustained transfer speed, and without cropping and/or windowing the picture.

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