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Sony FX9: How It Stacks Up to the FS7

Posted by Janine Cannon on April 8, 2020

Last year we shared how the Sony FS7 has continued to reign supreme on our camera usage reports for the past three years. Upon releasing that article out to you, Sony announced its newest addition to the Sony family: the Sony FX9.

When Sony introduced the PXW-FX9, they were marketing it as a new camera in the Cine Alta line, and not necessarily as a replacement to the FS7, which is one of the most successful large sensor cameras in Sony history. Having now been on the market for over half a year, several of our Crews Control DP’s have tried out this new camera on corporate video shoots.

Of course, this was before the global pandemic COVID-19 shook up the world and media industry. Now international lockdowns are being enforced and almost all on-location video productions have been postponed. But in the hopes that we can resume business as usual in the near future, we reached out to some of our top crews to ask how the Sony FX9 will impact future corporate productions.

Introducing the FX9:

Although the FX9 came out in September 2019, it wasn’t until February 2020 that the new camera hit the top 10 of our monthly camera usage report:

Previous data collected from our camera usage reports from 2014 shows that the FS7 didn’t make it into the top 10 of our most used cameras until April 2015, six months after its release. The FX9 follows the same pattern. Perhaps this is the standard for gradual pick-up for new cameras in our industry, but it is still worth noting. Right off the bat, the FX9 is following suit with the FS7. But will it overshadow the success of the FS7 for future video shoots?

Unlike the FS7, the FX9 shoots full-frame with a 6K sensor and has, what some say, the best facial-focus and most accurate, lifelike colors you can lay your eyes on. The Dual Base ISO for day or night shots is also a favorite feature for many DPs.  Here are some of the other features of the FX9:

  • Camera height 5.6in
  • Sensor resolution 19 MP
  • White Balance Exposure Mode is automatic, custom, preset or manual
  • Multiple frame rated in HD and 4K
  • XQD Cards and HD Proxy to SD Card
  • Dual Base ISO 800/4000
  • AF Face Priority and Face only modes
  • 4K 4:2:2 10bit internal recording
  • UHD up to 60 fps, HD up to 180 fps
  • 4 channels of audio
  • External 16-bit RAW recording with add-on unit
  • 10-bit S35 4K at 120fps to an external recorder
  • On Netflix Approved camera list

 

There are many similarities between the two cameras, like the dual XQD cards and XAVC-I codecs. But Sony has given the FX9 many improvements over the FS7 that could significantly impact video productions.

New Capabilities and Features:

The FS7 has been the leading champion among most filmmakers and a great bang for the buck. Yet the FX9 gives this leading camera a run for its money. Here are some FX9 favorite features from our crews:

S-Cinetone: The S-Cinetone is a game-changer when it comes to more appealing skin tones and a greater cinematic look for color gradation with a smoother pallet.  The S-Cinetone delivers super accurate skin tones that are a more accurate representation of what is in front of the camera, and more pleasing to the eye. “The S-Cinetone built-in look of the camera is awesome right out of the box,” DP Ted Yasi said. “The color science that they are using on the FX9 is light years ahead of what was employed in the FS7.”

G-Master Series: Along with the S-Cinetone, the E-mount lens works great, and the G series lenses work even better now that the G-Master (GM) series will follow. The GM series seems to have the greatest AF showing, but these lenses come at a steep cost at around $2,000. “Definitely love the super-fast and accurate Fast Hybrid Auto-Focus when using the Sony G-Master series lenses – it really works!” DP Mike Audick said.

Fast Hybrid Auto-Focus System: The most loved aspect of the FX9 across the board is the auto-focus system. The enhanced Fast Hybrid AF system includes customizable AF transition speeds and sensitivity settings. “I have never owned a camera that I have used auto-focus on, but I use it on this camera!” Yasi said.  “I was doubtful at first, but the speed and accuracy in sports, or a fast-moving subject, is better than I am! It is a game changer in 4K, where critical focus is absolutely necessary- and unforgiving.”

Face Priority/Face Only Mode: One of the most advance additions to this camera is the facial tracking option. There are face priority and face only modes, which are useful when you know you want the camera to focus on people. “I’ve now shot over 20 projects with the new FX9 camera and I am totally enjoying it,” DP Michel Bisson said. “One of the biggest pluses for this camera is the facial tracking option it. Totally helps out when shooting an interview.”

How Does It Stack Up To The FS7?

Of course, at being out for less than a year, this camera does have its downfalls. Many DP’s are enjoying the new features of the FX9 that are absent on the FS7, but there are definitely some parts where the FX9 is lacking. Several cool features also won’t be available with this camera until the first firmware update- which has not happened yet.

LUTs: The in-camera LUTs still have some limitations. “I would like to see the LUT options menu improved right away,” DP Joe Lipari said. Currently with the FX9, you cannot load a LUT into the camera, but they can be used in post.

Not Quite 24fps: A surprising aspect of this new camera is that the fps can’t make it to 24fps, while a standard iPhone can. “The new FX9 camera will do 23.98fps, but not true 24fps,” DP Jeff Granberry said. “24fps is reserved for the Sony Venice camera. Not a big deal, but my iPhone will shoot 24fps.” A Canon C300MK2 has no issues shooting 24fps as well.

Despite these flaws, the FX9 appears to be the new favorite among Sony’s cameras.  While right now may not be the best time to invest in a new camera (considering the starting price is $10,999 for the camera body, or $13,499 in a kit), the FX9 is believed to be a step above the FS7. With amazing low-light dual-base ISO, the eye-capturing S-Cinetone, impressive AF, and an easy to use menu, the FX9 is a valuable purchase for DPs everywhere.

We estimate it will take several more months, if not years, for the FX9 to beat the FS7 in our monthly camera usage reports. But with the world and industry changing so quickly, who knows? If you’ve had a chance to shoot with the new FX9, let us know below what your thoughts are. And if you’re a producer hoping to try out this new gear when video shooting resumes, reach out to us here at Crews Control to get started.

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