Sony’s Game Changing PMW-F55
By now you might have read a handful of reviews for the new Sony 4K cameras that recently started shipping. If you had the opportunity to read Adam Shanker’s review of the PMW-F5 then you have a general idea of what you can expect from it big brother, the Sony PMW-F55.
PMW-F55 Out of the Box
The 8.9MP Super 35mm CMOS Image Sensor captures a true 4K (4096 x 2160) standard cinema image. 4K resolution exceeds the resolution of film, but the F55’s exposure latitude is just a hairline shy of having identical dynamic range to 35mm film. At 14 stops of dynamic range in the F55, the difference is so minimal that the average viewer would find it challenging to visually differentiate film from 4K.
Joseph Lipari, a New York Director of Photography, says this about the F55:
“The dynamic range is magnificent, and it’s absolutely beautiful. What made me fall in love with this camera are the gamut options. Some clients want variable levels of control in post-production color correction and color grading. With the F55, I can offer my client a range of control over what gets baked into their final image.”
Unlike the F5, the F55 is among the first digital motion picture cameras with a global shutter, this eliminates motion skewing and other “rolling” shutter problems such as flickering and jelloing.
The color gamut that the F55 incorporates is that same advanced technology that the F65 utilizes; this is how the F55 is able to have a wider color gamut than film. In addition, the F55 also adopts the Intuitive One-touch Interface for a range of controls. You get one-touch access to key shooting parameters including frame rate, shutter speed, color temperature, ISO sensitivity and gamma. Assignable buttons mean that your favorite adjustments are always at your fingertips.
In order to handle the increased data rate of on-board 4K recording Sony had to develop new SxS PRO+ memory cards. A 128 GB card will provide enough space for approximately 40 minutes of 4K video in the XAVC Intra 422 format. SxS PRO+ cards will also allow on-board recording of 2K video at up to 180 frames per second.
XAVC is the latest compression codec Sony has created to keep up with new technology in video and film production. The new codec is geared toward 4k production but can still be found useful for 2k production. Sony employs the XAVC format with MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 level 5.2; this complies with the highest picture resolution and frame rate based on industry standards.
The Sony PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 both utilize the same FZ mount found on the PMW-F3. The cameras does ship with a PL-mount lens adapter, which can be used with the Sony branded PL lenses and any other PL mount lens on the market. Additionally, the FZ mount allows for the use of several different lens adapters.
PL Mount Lenses
- Zeiss Compact Primes
- Zeiss Compact Zooms
- Arri Ultra Primes
- Zeiss Light Weight Zoom 2
- Fujinon Cabrio
- Angenieux Optimo DP Rouge Zoom Lenses
- Schneider Cine Xenars
- Sony CineAlta PL Primes
The AXS-R5 recorder docks on the rear of the PMW-F55 and enables 4K and 2K resolution video recording in 16-bit RAW. With the Sony AXS-R5 Field Recorder you can record to AXSM cards in 4K RAW up to 60 frames per second, or with a future firmware upgrade, 2K RAW up to 240 frames per second. AXSM stands for Access Memory System and currently Sony will offer the 512GB drive. The recorder can sustain 300 mb/s transfer speeds from card to recorder. Sony also has an affordable AXSM reader on the market, the AXS-CR1, which works with USB 3.0 for transfers without the mobile recorder.
Sony has also introduced a new V-Mount battery that utilizes olivine-based lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material, instead of the traditional lithium ion cathodes. What this means is faster recharge time (99% full in 30 minutes) and a longer lifespan. The BP-FL75 battery pack will power your camera for 150 minutes and takes advantage of the new BC-L90 quick charger. The camera is also compatible with Sony’s BP-GL95A, GL65A, L80S and L60S batteries, which use the BC-L70 and L160 chargers.
There are two viewfinder options, the DVF-L350 is a 3.5″ 960×540 LCD and the DVF-EL100 is a .7″ 1280×720 OLED. The DVF-L350 is a 3.5″ LCD with a higher resolution panel than any previous LCD viewfinder from Sony, and it features a flip up eyepiece. The surprisingly compact DVF-EL100 is a 1280×720 OLED viewfinder that offers unparalleled 10,000:1 contrast ratio and incredible brightness. In addition to the two viewfinder options, the Sony DVF-L700 is a compact, 7″ full raster 1920×1080 monitor. While it does utilize the new digital viewfinder interface (which provides power and the video signal), the DVF-L700 also includes a 3G-SDI input for use on other cameras.
Future Firmware Updates
Sony has created an infographic of the release schedule for all version upgrades in 2013. This way everyone owner/operator has an idea of when to expect features that were not released in version 1.0. This is what Sony says about their firmware upgrades:
“Our goal is to continue gathering industry feedback, listen to the opinions of the professionals who use these cameras every day, and then put that information back into our engineers’ hands. In that spirit of continued collaboration, we want to share our planned timeline for releasing firmware updates and enabling new features of the F55 and F5. But more important, we want your input on the further development of these cameras. In the coming months, we will expand on the cameras’ feature sets considerably, and always at no charge to the end user.”
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Stay tuned because we will be following this camera and all it’s upgrade very closely. If your camera crew already owns this, it’s not too late to tell us your first impressions. Feel free to comment below or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.