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A First Look at the Sony F5
Posted by Adam Shanker on 12 04, 2012 & filed under Technical.
A First Look at the Sony F5

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. We 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 seperatly, 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

Sony SxS Media Cards

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.

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Adam Shanker

About the Author: Adam Shanker

Adam Shanker has been an independent NY DP since 1983 and has worked with Crews Control since 1997. When he is not hosting F3 seminars he can be found on the set shooting documentaries, working for the networks, or capturing a CEO interview. Not...Find out more


#1 from .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on December 05, 2012

Why do you say that the F3 has a zoom rocker for a zoom lens that never happened? It’s model number SCL-Z18X140. Google it.

#2 from .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on December 07, 2012

Yes, you are correct. There was a zoom lens that Sony released last year.  It was a large, clunky and slow zoom lens.  The middle of the barrel protruded outward in a way that would smash the glass filter on a matte box.  It was forgetable, and I did forget about that. 

However, Tonight was a big unveiling of the F5 at Sony in NYC, and a few new tidbits of info.  First, Sony will not discontinue the F3 anytime soon.  They will continue to produce and market it. Also, the F5 will be Wifi enabled, and Sony will have an app, so an operator can control any settings that are on the side panel via this app on an Ipad or Iphone when connected to a wifi network.  The Oled viewfinder is sharp and the best I have ever looked through.  They are also making a new 7” thin 1080P monitor to use as a flyaway.  It can be powered from the viewfinder tap or the back external power tap.  It can be everything a viewfinder is (zebras, info, peaking), or just a monitor. The colors and the image quality were very impressive for such a small and thin monitor.  The F5 will not downconvert, so if you want something that is not HD, you’re out of luck. There are a nice variety of preset hypergamma modes that you can dial into easily.  The camera was very exciting to see in person, and I can’t wait to start using it.  Sony tells me, delivery will start first week of February.

#3 from .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on December 12, 2012

I’ve owned the F3 ever since it was introduced 2 years ago. Very happy with the look and dynamic range, especially in S-Log mode. But I need slow-mo!!!!
Enjoyed reading your piece about the F5 camera, which I had a chance to check out at the Sony launch event in Culver City a couple of weeks ago. Was disappointed to hear that 120 fps will cost an additional $6000 for the AXS-R5 recording unit. 60fps out of the box?....come on Sony…I can get that with the GH-3 for a fraction of the price. The most affordable super slo-mo solution currently is the FS700. But at high frame rates it’s too compressed….I’m hoping for that mysterious “future firmware upgrade” before I buy the FS700. At the Sony event,  I asked about specifics for the FS700 firmware upgrade but got no answers. You mention in your article that the FS700 will be able to record onto the AXS-R5….but which frame rates???  Did Sony reveal details? What is the projected date for the upgrade?

#4 from .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on December 17, 2012

Thanks for your comment, Leo—There are a lot of things that we dream of from the manufacturers, and Sony has done a great job here with the F5.  I know they are trying to get this product out in the first 2 weeks of February, so they are not focused now on their various future firmware upgrades.  I have no information on when Sony will start selling the adapter that will allow you to output any high speed data from your FS700, and record 2K or 4K with unlimited recording time.  I was told that is the plan, and sometimes these things take time.  I’m not an insider, by any means, but I did ask a lot of questions, and that is what I was told.

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