I was asked to prepare two tutorial videos on the PXW-FS5 for Sony. The first video covers the advanced features of the camera including super slow mo and the variable ND filter. The second video gives an overview of the picture profile settings with some suggestions for which to use and when, including the correct exposure for S-Lo2 and S-Log3.
There should be some downloadable PDF guides to go with these videos coming shortly.
Just in case you haven’t seen this, one of my seminars at Vocas in Holland was filmed in it’s entirety. There’s lot of information about the FS5 and how to shoot 8 bit log or with the cinegammas in the video from about 1 hour in.
Firmware version 2.0 has just been released for the Sony PXW-FS5. This update adds the automatic ND filter option as well as zebras that go rom 0 to 109% so now you can use Zebras with grey cards for S-Log and raw exposure…… Oh yes, of course you need firmware version 2 if you want to get the raw option for your FS5.
The raw option allows you to record 12 bit linear DCI 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps to a compatible external recorder as well as 120fps 4K raw in a 4 second burst plus up to 240fps slow motion 2K.
Also the GPS will now work (provided you have the handle attached), so footage can be geotagged for future reference and the cameras internal clock can be synchronised to the GPS time signal. This may be useful for multi-camera shoots as at least the time on each camera will be exactly the same.
Sony’s little PXW-FS5 is slowly maturing. The next firmware version will add support for automatic operation of the cameras variable ND filter. The Auto ND function can be used in conjunction with Auto Iris to get an incredible automatic exposure compensation range. Great for day to night timelapse etc. The Auto ND function has to be assigned to one of the cameras assignable buttons before it can be used, but it’s a great feature to have.
In addition Zebras will go down all the way to zero. So you will be able to set zebras to 50-55% for log skin tones or 41% for S-log3 grey card exposure etc.
GPS will work too!
All of the above will be free. For an extra $600 you will be able to get the raw output option. This will allow the camera to record to an external raw recorder in full DCI 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps. Yes, that’s right 60fps! In addition there will be a 4 second HFR burst capability that will allow you to record 4 seconds of 120fps 4K raw. If all that isn’t enough then in 2K you will have high speed recording at up to 240fps. However there won’t be any non high speed 2K modes, so no regular 30fps 2K raw.
Just like the FS700 and FS7 the raw is 12 bit linear, so not as good as an F5 or F55, but still a very nice option to have. All of this should be coming some time in June. Don’t forget for raw you will need an external raw recorder such as the Convergent Design Odyssey or the Atomos Shogun.
I’m running a workshop here in Iceland tomorrow at Nyherji. So I spent the day getting some local sample footage with my FS5.
Here’s the FS5 clip.
Shot with a stock FS5 with either the Sony 18-105mm (Geyser) kit lens or a Sigma 18-250mm Canon mount lens (Gulfoss Waterfalls). I used S-log2 with the Pro color matrix. It was edited and graded on my laptop using Premiere CC.
I have been given an official statement from Sony about the image artefacts that some people are seeing from the PXW-FS5:
“Sony has investigated the PXW-FS5 image artifact issues reported by users. Our engineers have been able to duplicate these issues and identify their root cause. Sony plans to provide a firmware update. Our goal is to issue this revised firmware toward February/end.
To ensure that users achieve the best results from the FS5, Sony is also preparing guidelines to help professional shooters take full advantage of the FS5’s features, including S-Log and S-Gamut.”
My understanding is that this primarily relates to the edge tearing issue as well as the blocking type artefacts that can be seen, particularly at higher gain levels. It’s great to see solid proof that Sony do listen to us. They always have done, but often simply went away and investigated and fixed the issue without actually saying anything.
It does still need to be remembered that in UHD the camera is an 8 bit camera and this firmware update will not change that. Nor will it change the recording bit rate. I also do not expect to see a change of the cameras base ISO, so don’t expect to see any significant difference to the cameras noise levels. So while I am sure the firmware will bring a useful and welcome improvement to the image quality, you will still need to be careful how you shoot with the camera, especially in low light or with S-log in UHD. The user guides that are being prepared will hopefully address these areas.
Sony are making a very big effort to become more customer focussed. On Monday I was asked by Sony Europe to present a free webinar for customers that have registered their cameras with Sony Prime Support. Over the coming weeks and months there is going to be a lot of new content in the form of user guides, webinars, tutorials, videos etc on the Sony website. So if you haven’t bothered to register your camera with Sony Prime Support, now is the time to do it as this will give you free access to all this new content as it becomes available.
Native ISO: The Sony PXW-FS5’s native ISO for the standard gammas and cinegammas is 1000 ISO. It is NOT 3200 ISO. If you shoot with standard or cinegammas at 3200 ISO then you are adding +10dB to +12dB of gain.
+10dB gain = noisy picture. If you add +10db of gain to most cameras the picture will get noisy and grainy, the FS5 is no exception to this. Adding +10db gain also means you will have a +10db noise increase (roughly 300% more noise, a significant increase) or have an increase in noise plus a significant increase in other artefacts as the cameras built in noise reduction has to work much harder. The FS5 does incorporate noise reduction processes and these do introduce a degree of smear when you add more than +6db of gain. At +12db or higher the smear and other artefacts (including a tendency towards banding) becomes quite noticeable, this is a typical artefact of this type of noise reduction and one of the reason why on more advanced cameras like the PMW-F5/F55 you are able to turn it off.
Ultra Compressed: In UHD the XAVC-L codec has a bit rate of 100Mb/s. Uncompressed UHD requires over 3.5Gb/s for decent quality, so you’re looking at a camera with a compression ratio of around 35:1. Is it really all that surprising that there are some compression artefacts? Consider that 35Mb/s is considered the minimum for broadcast quality H264 based HD work and that’s a compression ratio of only 25:1. So we are some way below the normal minimums for broadcast.
8 bit in UHD. UHD XAVC-L is an 8 bit codec. 8 bit codecs don’t deal with noise terribly well as the limited number of shades/steps mean that noise cannot be reproduced with small steps and as a result any noise or grain will often appear quite coarse. So is it any surprise that in UHD the camera exhibits a lot more artefacts than in HD where the codec is 10 bit and much less compressed?
S-log at high ISO’s. Oh come on people, please understand that S-log only does one thing well and that’s maximise dynamic range. If you can’t get a correct exposure or better still a 1 to 2 stop over exposed exposure at the native ISO you really, really shouldn’t be using log. It will be noisy, it will be grainy, it won’t look good and if you record it with XAVC-L in UHD it will look like rubbish as the excessive noise will stress the codec, introduce more artefacts and your exposure mid range will only represented by approx 17 code values or shades. you will have very little data to play with in post and noise and grain will look awful.
External Recorder. Adding an external recorder can really improve the UHD image quality. Again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you use an external ProRes recorder running at 880Mb/s (ProRes HQ) compared to the 100 Mb/s of XAVC-L is it really any surprise that it’s possible to record a better quality image? The FS5 has been designed as a grab and go camera recording on to cheap media. Sure adding an external recorder can increase the image quality, but your media costs go through the roof and most of the grab and go benefits are lost.
So when you see a test of XAVC-L with a standard gamma at 3200 ISO being recorded using an 8 bit, 35:1 codec don’t be surprised to see a noisy, grainy image with compression artefacts from all the extra work the codec is having to do to deal with the noise that comes from adding +10db gain. The same for low light log footage at 6400 ISO. This is not the best way to use a camera like this. It’s not clever and anyone can make even a straight forward scene look like rubbish by shooting this way. I don’t know what people are trying to say or achieve when they post a bunch of high gain clips with headline titles like “The FS5 codec is broken” or “FS5 un-usable in UHD” without even considering what it is that they are actually looking at. AT 3200 ISO with standard gammas the camera noise reduction circuits are working overtime to try and clean up the image. This results in the introduction of other artefacts such as edge tearing or smear. Stick that into a super compressed codec and it is not going to be a perfect image. 50Mb/s HD at 60fps is also very highly compressed and will also exhibit artefacts.
As I have written in other articles, the use of ISO with video cameras appears to be miss-leading many people into thinking that a camera will produce a noise free image at all kinds of ridiculous sensitivities as they often focus on the wrong ISO rating or simply believe that it’s possible to have very high sensitivities without noise. Sadly this is not the case. I don’t think people would be surprised to see noise and grain at +10dB gain, but sadly dB’s of gain isn’t hip, cool or make you sound like a film cameraman. No, ISO is much cooler sounding, but is confusing the c**p out of people that don’t really understand how it works in relation to a video camera. Also the use of log for low light is just nuts, it’s entirely the wrong type of gamma to use, especially with a sub optimum codec.
The FS5 is not simply a shrunk down FS7. It is a very different camera. You should not be expecting FS7 performance in UHD, the UHD version of XAVC-L codec is very different to the XAVC-I available in the FS7. The image processing is also different (do remember the FS5 consumes 1/2 the power of an FS7).
It is possible that over future firmware updates Sony may be able to fine tune the codec and noise reduction circuits to work a little better. It’s also possible that we may see improvements in the decoders used to decode the codec (remember the decoder is just as important as the encoder), so possibly things may get improved a little. But don’t expect miracles. Squeezing UHD into a highly compressed 8 bit codec and recording it 100% reliably on off the shelf SD cards will always be a challenge. Even at the correct native ISO’s, at 0dB gain, there will be some artefacts. But start adding in gain and yes, you will start to see more noise and more artefacts.
The FS5 is a great little camera, I really enjoy shooting with mine and I think the results I am getting are great. I know that I can get a technically better 4K/UHD image from my FS7 or F5, but sometimes it’s not just about getting the best technical quality. The FS5 allows me to shoot more freely, it’s a breeze to carry around or travel with, I can throw it on a gimbal, on the end of a microphone boom pole, chuck it and a bunch of lenses in a small back-pack, it’s fun to use! As a result I’m getting shots that I just can’t get with the FS7 or F5.
Just how terrible is the FS5’s image quality? Take a look at my Falcon video and judge for yourself.
Northern Lights 2016: I still have 2 places left on my February expedition to Norway to the Finnmarksvidda, land of the Sami people and the Northern Lights. Full details here.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.