I’ve been quite surprised by the number of people out there that seem to think the PXW-FX9 is made out of plastic. It isn’t. It’s made from an incredibly strong material call magnesium alloy. This metal is stiffer and stronger than aluminium. It’s highly impact and corrosion resistant but still extremely light. There are only a couple of places where plastic is used, one being the cover over the WiFi antenna where a metal cover would block the wireless signals. Here are some pictures of the FX9’s chassis. Note the box shaped areas used to isolate the electronics from the air that flows through the camera to ensure the electronics are weather sealed. Also note all the ribbing and reinforcing on the inside at the front of the camera where the lens mount an sensor block are attached keep it all very solid.
Sometimes changing modes or frame rates on the FX9 can involve the need to change several settings. For example if you want to go from shooting Full Frame 6K at 23.98fps to shooting 120fps then you need to change the sensor scan mode before you can change the frame rate. One way to speed up this process is to use User Files or All Files to save your normal operating settings. Then instead of going through pages of menu settings you just load the appropriate file.
All Files save just about every single adjustable setting in the camera, everything from you white balance settings to LUT’s to Network settings to any menu customisations. User Files save a bit less. In particular User Files can be set so that they don’t change the white balance. For this reason for things like changing the scan mode and frame rate I prefer to use User Files.
You can add the User File and/or All File menu items to the user menu. If you place them at the top of the user menu, when you enter the cameras menu system for the first time after powering it on they will be the very first items listed.
Both User Files and All Files are found under the “project” section in the FX9 menu system. The files are saved to an SD card in the SD Card Utility slot. This means you can easily move them from one camera to another.
Before you save a file, first you have to give it a name. I recommend that your name includes the scan mode, for example “FF6K” or “2KS35”, the frame rate and whether it’s CineEI or not.
Then save your file to the SD card. When loading a User File the “load customize data” option determines whether the camera will load any changes you have made to the user menu. “Load white data” determines whether the camera will load and overwrite the current white balance setting with ones saved in the file. When loading an All File the white balance and any menu customizations are always loaded regardless, so your current white balance setting will be overwritten by whatever is in the All File. You can however choose whether to load any network user names and passwords.
One of the things about the FX9 that makes no sense is it’s external DC input. When you are using just the camera body the FX9 requires a rather odd-ball 19.5 volts to power it via it’s DC in connector. Most cameras have a 12v to 16v input range so they can be used with the multitude of V-Mount or Gold Mount batteries that are common place in the world of professional video. But not the FX9. The FX9 is also fairly power hungry so the standard BP-U batteries can be a little limiting, especially if you also need to power any accessories as the camera doesn’t have a power output. A V-Mount battery will run the camera for a long time and they generally have D-Tap power outlets, but they are the wrong voltage for the FX9s external input. So if you want to use a V-Mount battery, as I do, then you need not only a mounting plate but also a voltage converter.
The adapter I have chosen to use is manufactured by Core. Why this one? One thing that was important for me is not only to be able to power the camera from a V-Mount battery, but also to be able to power it from a standard external 12 volt power supply such as found in most studios, or something like a car battery. The Core CXV-FX9 adapter includes a voltage regulator that takes the 12 to 16 volt range of a typical Lithium battery and converts it to the 19.5v needed by the FX9. It also has an industry standard 4 pin XLR connector that you can use to power the camera from a 12v external power supply.
If you have a power supply connected to the 4 pin XLR you can hot swap the V-Mount batteries. If you have a battery on the adapter you can hot swap to and from the external power. During hot swapping the adapter not only continues to feed the camera with power but also the 2 D-Tap ports on the adapter remain powered.
Low Battery Warning:
One issue that all these adapters have is that they have to convert the battery voltage up to 19.5 volts and this is what is fed to the cameras DC in connector. This means that the camera has no direct connection to the battery, so it has no way to know the charge state of the battery. All you will see in the viewfinder as an indication of the output of the voltage converter. This will remain at a constant 19.5v all the way until the battery is flat and cuts off, at which point the camera will just die. That’s not good, if you are halfway through recording something it could corrupt your media. You won’t have any warning in the camera of the battery going flat.
To try to address this at least in part the Core adapter has an LED light on the operators side that is green when the battery is well charged, but turns to red when there is only around 10% of the batteries capacity left. This does at least give some warning of a battery about to die.
As well as the adapter, I’m trying out a couple of Core’s Hypercore Neo Mini batteries. These are nice, compact 98Wh batteries. They are UN Tested and certified so meet all the requirements for air travel. These batteries have a clever LCD display that displays the available run time of the battery. This is much more advanced than a simple charge indicator (it has one of those too). The battery actually detects the load being drawn from it. It also knows the exact state of charge of the battery.
Using these it is able to calculate with great accuracy how long it will be before it will be flat. I have found this to be remarkably accurate, typically to within just a few minutes. I’ve been using this display to let me know when I need to start thinking about changing the battery. It’s accuracy gives me the confidence to continue shooting until I’m down to the last few minutes of run time. Typically I’m getting around 2.5 hours without the Atomso Ninja recorder and just under 2 hours with the Ninja from one of these excellent little batteries.
Attaching the adapter:
Attaching the adapter to the camera is easy. It uses the same mounting points as Sony’s XDCA extension unit. So there are lugs that slide into slots inside the FX9’s battery compartment as well as two small bolts that attach it to the top of the camera. This makes it incredibly secure with no wobble or other movement. I would have no concerns about supporting the entire camera rig from the battery adapter or adding perhaps a V-Mount wireless video link and then large or heavy batteries behind that. It’s very secure and it looks like it’s meant to be there. Another nice touch is that as well as the 2 D-Tap power ports on the top of the adapter there are also 3 additional 1/4″ mounting points for accessories such as monitors or wireless receivers etc.
I do have one small criticism. The position of the D-Tap ports is quite close to the edge of the adapter. If you are using a tall battery and you have a very fat D-Tap plug they can interfere with each other.
Despite this the Core V-Mount battery adapter gets a big thumbs up from me. The voltage indication is most useful as is the ability to use a normal 4 pin 12v XLR feed.
Really excited about this PXW-FX9 event in Dubai on the 14th of January at 5pm. Garage Studios are building us 3 amazing film sets full of props, great actors with great period costumes. This won’t be a PowerPoint presentation, we will shoot a short film, grade the material, showing all the FX9’s key features. It will challenge the camera. It will probably challenge me! It will be fun, you will be surprised. I’m not going to reveal the film subject yet, so come join us if you can.
Many users of the FX9 that have been shooting S-Log3 are finding that when they add the standard Sony version of the s709 LUT that their pictures have a slight green tint. I believe that this is because originally the s709 LUT was designed for the Sony Venice camera and the FX9 is very slightly different. I recently created an experimental LUT to minimise this tint but some people found this tended to push some images slightly magenta.
So I now have a new version of the LUT which really does help combat the green tint. The difference between this LUT and Sony’s original s709 LUT is very small. The idea isn’t to create a new look, just to help get rid of the tint. So you won’t see a big difference, it’s subtle, but I think it really is better.
Note: These LUTs are for S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine from the FX9. As usual I have include different versions of the LUT. There are 65x LUT’s suitable for grading as well as 33x LUT’s for monitors or grading software that doesn’t support the higher quality 65x LUTs. There are also minus1 and minus2 LUTS that have 1 and 2 stop exposure shifts for footage that has been shot brighter than the base exposure. In addition I have include the same LUTs but with Legal range input levels for use on Atomos and other recorders that record ProRes in using Legal Range.
Please feel free to share a link to this page if you wish to share these LUT’s with anyone else or anywhere else. But only share via a link to this page please.
If you find these LUT’s useful please consider buying me a coffee or other drink. To make a contribution please use the drop down menu here, there are several contribution levels to choose from.
The only way to change the perspective of a shot is to change the position of the camera relative to the subject or scene. Just put a 1.5x wider lens on a s35camera and you have exactly the same angle of view as a Full Frame camera. It is an internet myth that Full Frame changes the perspective or the appearance of the image in a way that cannot be exactly replicated with other sensor or frame sizes. The only thing that changes perspective is how far you are from the subject. It’s one of those laws of physics and optics that can’t be broken. The only way to see more or less around an object is by changing your physical position.
The only thing changing the focal length or sensor size changes is magnification and you can change the magnification either by changing sensor size or focal length and the effect is exactly the same either way. So in terms of perspective, angle of view or field of view an 18mm s35 setup will produce an identical image to a 27mm FF setup. The only difference may be in DoF depending on the aperture where f4 on FF will provide the same DoF as f2.8 on s35. If both lenses are f4 then the FF image will have a shallower DoF.
Again though physics play a part here as if you want to get that shallower DoF from a FF camera then the lens FF lens will normally need to have the same aperture as the s35 lens. To do that the elements in the FF lens need to be bigger to gather twice as much light so that it can put the same amount of light as the s35 lens across the twice as large surface area of the FF sensor. So generally you will pay more for a comparable FF like for like aperture lens as a s35 lens. Or you simply won’t be able to get an equivalent in FF because the optical design becomes too complex, too big, too heavy or too costly.
This in particular is a big issue for parfocal zooms. At FF and larger imager sizes they can be fast or have a big zoom range, but to do both is very, very hard and typically requires some very exotic glass. You won’t see anything like the affordable super 35mm Fujinon MK’s in full frame, certainly not at anywhere near the same price. This is why for decades 2/3″ sensors and 16mm film before that, ruled the roost for TV news as lenses with big zoom ranges and large fast apertures were relatively affordable.
Perhaps one of the commonest complaints I see today with larger sensors is “why can’t I find an affordable fast, parfocal zoom with more than a 4x zoom range”. Such lenses do exist, for s35 you have lenses like the $22K Canon CN7 17-120mm T2.9, which is pretty big and pretty heavy. For Full Frame the nearest equivalent is the more expensive $40K Fujinon Premista 28-100 t2.9. which is a really big lens weighing in at almost 4kg. But look at the numbers: Both will give a very similar AoV on their respective sensors at the wide end but the much cheaper Canon has a greatly extended zoom range and will get a tighter shot than the Premista at the long end. Yes, the DoF will be shallower with the Premista, but you are paying almost double, it is a significantly heavier lens and it has a much reduced zoom ratio. So you may need both the $40K Premista 28-100 and the $40K Premista 80-250 to cover everything the Canon does (and a bit more). So as you can see, getting that extra shallow DoF may be very costly. And it’s not so much about the sensor, but more about the lens.
The History of large formats:
It is worth considering that back in the 50’s and 60’s we had VistaVision, a horizontal 35mm format the equivalent of 35mm FF, plus 65mm and a number of other larger than s35 formats. All in an effort to get better image quality.
VistaVision (The closet equivalent to 35mm Full Frame).
VistaVision didn’t last long, about 7 or 8 years because better quality film stocks meant that similar image quality could be obtained from regular s35mm film and shooting VistaVision was difficult due to the very shallow DoF and focus challenges, plus it was twice the cost of regular 35mm film. It did make a brief comeback in the 70’s for shooting special effects sequences where very high resolutions were needed. VistaVision was superseded by Cinemascope which uses 2x Anamorphic lenses and conventional vertical super 35mm film and Cinemascope was subsequently largely replaced by 35mm Panavision (the two being virtually the same thing and often used interchangeably).
At around the same time there were various 65mm (with 70mm projection) formats including Super Panavision, Ultra Panavision and Todd-AO These too struggled and very few films were made using 65mm film after the end of the 60’s. There was a brief resurgence in the 80’s and again recently there have been a few films, but production difficulties and cost has meant they tend to be niche productions.
Historically there have been many attempts to establish mainstream larger than s35 formats. But by and large audiences couldn’t tell the difference and even if they did they wouldn’t pay extra for them. Obviously today the cost implication is tiny compared to the extra cost of 65mm film or VistaVision. But the bottom line remains that normally the audience won’t actually be able to see any difference, because in reality there isn’t one, other than perhaps a marginal resolution increase. But it is harder to shoot FF than s35. Comparable lenses are more expensive, lens choices more limited, focus is more challenging at longer focal lengths or large apertures. If you get carried away with too large an aperture you get miniaturisation and cardboarding effects if you are not careful (these can occur with s35 too).
Can The Audience Tell – Does The Audience Care?
Cinema audiences have not been complaining that the DoF isn’t shallow enough, or that the resolution isn’t high enough (Arri’s success has proved that resolution is a minor image quality factor). But they are noticing focus issues, especially in 4K theaters.
So while FF and the other larger format are here to stay. Full Frame is not the be-all and end-all. Many, many people believe that FF has some kind of magic that makes the images different to smaller formats because they “read it on the internet so it must be true”. I think sometimes some things read on the internet create a placebo effect where when you read it enough times you will actually become convinced that the images are different, even when in fact they are not. Once they realise that actually it isn’t different, I’m quite sure many will return to s35 because that does seem to be the sweet spot where DoF and focus is manageable and IQ is plenty good enough. Only time will tell, but history suggest s35 isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Today’s modern cameras give us the choice to shoot either FF or s35. Either can result in an identical image, it’s only a matter of aperture and focal length. So pick the one that you feel most comfortable with for you production. FF is nice, but it isn’t magic.
Really it’s all about the lens.
The really important thing is your lens choice. I believe that what most people put down as “the full frame effect” is nothing to do with the sensor size but the qualities of the lenses they are using. Full frame stills cameras have been around for a long time and as a result there is a huge range of very high quality glass to choose from (as well as cheaper budget lenses). In the photography world APS-C which is similar to super 35mm movie film has always been considered a lower cost or budget option and many of the lenses designed for APS-C have been built down to a price rather than up in quality. This makes a difference to the way the images may look. So often Full Frame lenses may offer better quality or a more pleasing look, just because the glass is better.
I recently shot a project using Sony’s Venice camera over 2 different shoots. For the shoot we used Full Frame and the Sigma Cine Primes. The images we got looked amazing. But then the second shoot where we needed at times to use higher frame rates we shot using super 35 with a mix of the Fujinon MK zooms and Sony G-Master lenses. Again the images looked amazing and the client and the end audience really can’t tell the footage from the first shoot with the footage from the second shoot.
Downsampling from 6K.
One very real benefit shooting 6K full frame does bring, with both the FX9 and Sony Venice (or any other 6K FF camera) is that when you shoot at 6K and downsample to 4K you will have a higher resolution image with better colour and in most cases lower noise than if you started at 4K. This is because the bayer sensors that all the current large sensor camera use don’t resolve 4K when shooting at 4K. To get 4K you need to start with 6K.
One of the great features of the PXW-FX9 is the ability to connect a phone or tablet to the camera via WiFi so that you can view a near live feed from the camera (there’s about a 5 to 6 frame delay).
To do this you need to install the latest version of the free Sony Content Browser Mobile application on your phone. Then you would normally connect the phone to the cameras WiFi by placing the FX9 into Access Point Mode and use either NFC to establish the connection if your phone has it, or by manually connecting your phone’s WiFi to the camera.
However for many people this does not always provide a stable connection with frequent drop outs and disconnects. Fortunately there is a another way to connect the camera and phone and this seems much more stable.
First put the cameras WiFi into “Station Mode” instead of “Access Point” mode. Then setup your phone to act as a WiFi Hotspot. Now you can connect the camera to the phone by performing a network search on the camera. Once the camera finds the phones WiFi hotspot you connect the camera to the phone.
Once the connection from the camera to the phone has been established you should open Content Browser Mobile and it should find the FX9. If it doesn’t find it straight away swipe down with your finger to refresh the connection list. Then select the camera to connect to it.
Once connected this way you will have all the same options that you would have if connected the other way around (using Access Point mode). But the connection tends to be much, much more stable. In addition you can also now use the cameras ftp functions to upload files from the camera via your phones cellular data connection to remote servers.
If you want to create a bigger network then consider buying one of the many small battery powered WifI routers or a dedicated 4G MiFi hotspot and connect everything to that. Content Browser Mobile should be able to find any camera connected to the same network. Plus if you use a WiFi router you can connect several phones to the same camera.
Last week I was at O-Video in Bucharest preparing for a workshop the following day. They are a full service dealer. We had an FX9 for the workshop and they had some very nice lenses. So with their help I decided to do a very quick comparison of the lenses we had. I was actually very surprised by the results. At the end of the day I definitely had a favourite lens. But I’m not going to tell you which one yet.
The 5 lenses we tested were: Rokinon Xeen, Cooke Panchro 50mm, Leitz (lecia) Thalia, Zeiss Supreme Radiance and the Sony 28-135mm zoom that can be purchased as part of a kit with the FX9.
I included a strong backlight in the shot to see how the different lenses dealt with flare from off-axis lights. 2 of the lenses produced very pronounced flare, so for those lenses you will see two frame grabs. One with the flare and one with the back light flagged off.
I used S-Cinetone on the FX9 and set the aperture to f2.8 for all of the lenses except the Sony 28-135mm. For that lens I added 6dB of gain to normalise the exposure, you should be able to figure out which of the examples is the Sony zoom.
One of the lenses was an odd focal length compared to all the others. Some of you might be able to work out which one that is, but again I’m not going to tell you just yet.
Anyway, enjoy playing guess the lens. This isn’t intended to be an in depth test. But it’s interesting to compare lenses when you have access to them. I’ll reveal which lens is which in a couple of weeks in the comments. You can click on each image to enlarge it.
Big thanks to everyone at O-Video Bucharest for making this happen.
I’ve had a few people comment that they feel that the PXW-FX9 is a touch green when you shoot S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine and then add the standard Sony s709 V200 LUT in post. So I have created a slightly modified version of the s709 LUT that I have tweaked specifically for the FX9. You can download it using the like below. Do let me know what you think.