It was just a few short months ago that I wrote about my love affair with the Sony F3. Love affairs can be short lived, and especially with HD equipment. As I approach my two year anniversary with the camera, I’m not surprised that Sony has announced the new F5 camera system, in fact I couldn’t be more excited.
It was only two years ago that Sony released the game changing F3. The camera was born out of a HDSLR craze that saw the large 35mm sensor capable of obtaining film like depth of field while using prime and fast lenses. The HDSLR’s were fine for some, but video professionals wanted a video camera that offered that “look”, but also handled audio, and timecode in a traditional way. Our camera crews wanted a camera that was designed to be a video camera, not a stills camera that offered an option to shoot video. We wanted something more user friendly in a fast paced post world where we wouldn’t need to record sound separately, and sync it later. The F3 has been a huge success, enabling video professionals to work on higher end projects, and giving clients a “look” that was previously in a much higher budget range.
The Sony F3 Had Some Issues
The handle viewfinder in the back was useless, and the LCD flip out screen was in an awkward place for any user. The internal recording was limited to 8 bit or 35 mbps, and although they made a “rocker” for it (a servo motor for a zoom lens that never happened), there was no go to lens for run and gun style shooting. Operators started rigging their F3’s in all kinds of ways, to make it work for them. There were outboard electronic viewfinders, outboard video recorders to achieve a higher quality, outboard follow focus, and shoulder mount on any number of rig bases, A cheese plate was designed for the top of the camera so that one could screw in any attachment desired. Handheld monitors were mounted off the front of these, and on and on…
The Sony F5 Provides Solutions
Many DP’s, myself included, talked to Sony about a camera that would be everything to everybody. A camera that not only looked good on the sketchboard and on scopes, but was a camera that an operator had no limits with. The F5 looks to have taken a lot of those issues into consideration. They are offering a choice of 2 viewfinders which will have zebras to insure accurate video iris levels. The viewfinder will be able to be positioned up or down to adjust for the comfort of the operator, and allowing for a baseplate riser on the user’s rig. The recording unit is a snap on that simply elongates the camera unit with no cables needed. Looking similar to an Alexa, on the operator side is a lit panel that displays the menu settings. There is a nice large jog button to access the menus with.
New Recording Media
The Sony recorder will record either 2K or 4K onto a new card system. It will be a system that allows one to record one format internally in the camera, and another format on the recorder. FS700 owners who shoot super slo mo will have an adapter available to record onto this recorder, allowing for longer record times, and much higher quality.
The breath and clarity of image and color in this type of recording will be breathtaking coupled with the large sensor and fast lenses. 2K and 4K recording on a budget friendly level will be a game changing look to the way we see the world on our sets. The camera set up offers 14 stops of dynamic contrast, which in conjunction with 10 bit or 12 bit recording will be beautiful. This will be in the realm of shooting Alexa or Red, but with Sony set ups. If all that wasn’t enough to make you jump out of your socks and hit the buy button, The F5 will be able to record in 2 different formats at the same time, adding instant back up, and flexibility.
Sony will have software to enable easy viewing and transferring of the data. This will be a camera system that is not awkward to use, and pushes the quality of what we can offer in television production to new levels. Producers and Production companies need to understand the changes that are happening, and change with the times.
Read the Sony Specs for the PMW-F5.