First of all. Unless you are actually using a lightmeter to determine your exposure, in custom mode it is far, far easier to use dB of gain. 0dB is always optimum and each time you go up 6dB the picture gets twice as bright (one stop brighter) and the noise doubles. ISO is in most cases nothing more than a rating to use in conjunction with a lightmeter to get the right picture brightness, it will not tell you how much noise you have or whether the camera is at it’s optimum setting. So don’t use ISO just because “ISO is cool and make me sound like I know what I’m doing, it makes me a cinematographer”. This isn’t a film camera, no matter how much you dress it up it is a video camera and dB tells you exactly what it is doing.
Because different gamma curves produce different brightness images the ISO rating will change depending on the gamma curve being used, this isn’t a sensitivity change, it’s an optimum brightness change. Because of this, even when you are at 0dB gain (the native setting) when you switch between different gammas the ISO rating changes. In addition because you have two different base sensitivity modes on the FX9 there are a lot of different base ISO’s (all of which are 0dB gain). I’ve prepared a table of the different base ISO’s.
In addition if you are not careful it’s possible to end up using too much gain to achieve a certain ISO as many ISO ratings can be realised at both Hi and Low Base sensitivity. You don’t want to be at 2500 ISO in Low Base for example, you would be better off using High base. The table below should help you understand when to switch up to High base from Low base. If you use dB gain, then it’s easy. More than +11dB – switch up. Don’t forget in dB mode you can also go down to -3dB.
The ACS have produced a video report about some of the testing that they did with a pre-production FX9. It’s quite a long video but has some interesting side by side comparisons with the FS7 which we all already know very well. You’ve heard much of what’s in the video from me already, but I’m a Sony guy, so it’s good to hear the same things from the much more impartial ACS.
With my super geek hat on it was really interesting to see the colour response tests performed by Pawel Achtel ACS at 37.08. These tests use a very pure white light source that is split into the full spectrum and then the monochromatic light is projected onto the sensor. It’s a very telling test. I was quite surprised to see how large the FS7’s response is, it’s not something I have ever had the tools to measure. The test also highlights a lack of far red response from the FS7. It’s not terrible, but does help explain why warm skin tones perhaps don’t always look as nice as they could. I do wonder if this is down to the characteristics of the cameras IR cut filter as we also know the sensor to be quite sensitive to IR. The good news is that the PXW-FX9 has what Pawel claims to be the best colour accuracy of any camera he’s tested, and he’s tested pretty much all of the current cinema cameras. Take a look for yourself.
The PXW-FX9 features a 6K Full Frame sensor. With this sensor it is possible to select various scan modes and frame sizes. It is important to understand what these mean and which scan modes can be used with which frame rates and recording formats.
There are two selectable frame sizes, Full Frame (FF) and Super 35 (s35). Full Frame is the larger of the two sensor scan sizes. When Full Frame is selected the sensor area is similar to that of a Full Frame photo camera. In the Full Frame mode you will need to use lenses designed for Full Frame. The frame size in Full Frame scan mode is also similar to the VistaVision film format.
In the Super 35mm mode a reduced area of the sensor is used that is of a similar size to a frame of super 35mm movie film. In this mode you can use lenses designed for APS-C, Super 35mm movie film as well as lenses designed for Full Frame cameras. If you use a Full Frame lens in the Super35 scan mode the field of view will be narrower than it would be in the Full Frame mode by a factor of 1.5.
FF 6K Scan is the highest quality scan mode available in the FX9. The sensor operates in the Full Frame format and a full 6K scan is used, reading 19 million pixels from the sensor. The 6K image is then downsampled to UHD (or HD) for recording. By starting at 6K and downsampling the quality of the UHD recordings will be higher than possible from a 4K scan. Noise in the image is reduced and the resolution and colour sampling is maximised. However there are some frame rate limitations in FF 6K scan. The highest frame rate that can be selected when using FF 6K scan is 30 frames per second. You can record either UHD or HD from FF 6K scan.
FF 2K scan, optimised for speed, quality is reduced. Uses the same Full Frame sized sensor area as FF 6K. However, the sensor is read at 2K instead of 6K. The reduced resolution allows the sensor to be read out much faster, currently up to 120fps. However in this mode the cameras optical filtering is less optimum and this means that the image quality is somewhat reduced compared to the FF 6K scan. This scan mode is best suited to high frame rate shooting where the ability to shoot at a high frame rate is the main priority. You can only record HD from FF 2K scan. I recommend FF 2K is only used for 120fps recording.
S35 4K Medium Balance of Quality and Speed. In this mode 4K of pixels are read out. This is similar to the scan area and number of pixels of a PXW-FS7 or FS5. As a result the resolution of the recordings will be similar to that of other 4K s35 cameras. Because there is no downsampling in this mode the image quality is not quite as high as can be achieved from the FF 6K scan mode. But the reduced number of pixels that need to be read means that the S35 4K scan can be used at frame rates up to 60fps. You can record either UHD or HD from s35 4K scan.
S35 2K scan optimised for speed with s35 or APS-C lenses, quality is reduced. As above uses the smaller Super 35mm frame area. However, the sensor is read at 2K instead of 4K. The reduced resolution allows the sensor to be read out much faster. The FF 2K scan mode can operate at up to 120fps. In this mode the cameras optical filtering is less than optimum and this means that the image quality is somewhat reduced compared to the FF 6K or S35 4K scan. This scan mode is best suited to high frame rate shooting where the ability to shoot at a high frame rate is the main priority and only Super 35mm or APS-C lenses are available. You can only record HD from S35 2K scan and I recommend you only use the mode when you need to shoot 120fps with a s35 or APS-C lens.
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.
After playing with a number of FX9’s I have noticed that the way you arrange the viewfinder rods can alter whether the viewfinder sits level or may tilt just a tiny bit. Based on experimentation with several cameras I believe the orientation of the rods and clamps shown in the pictures here works best to ensure the VF stays level.
Using the FX9 more and more in many different configurations I do every now and again come across things that can perhaps don’t work quite as expected. So I thought I would list them here and I will add to the list as I come across anything else.
When using an external recorder connected via HDMI: To remotely control the record function of the external recorder you have to enable the record control via HDMI in the Project Menu. But you ALSO have to enable the HDMI timecode output in the Timecode menu. This is not obvious and took me a while to figure out. Also remember to turn off the text overlays via “Monitoring – Output Display – HDMI” if you want a clean output.
Unable to change the SDI or HDMI output format? If Picture Cache is turned on you may not be able to change the monitoring output format settings. Temporarily turn off the picture cache function to change the output settings.
Can’t access any network functions. Before you can use any of the cameras network capabilities you must first set up a password. Until you set up a password you will not be able to access any of the other network functions.
No Hi/Lo Key Function in CineEI: Currently there is no assignable Hi/Lo Key function in CineEI (even though the user manual suggests that there is). The workaround is to simply raise and lower the EI to see what’s going on in the highlights and shadows. So if shooting at 800EI, temporarily lowering the EI to 200 allows you to see what’s going on in the highlights. Don’t forget to put the EI back to 800 when you are done.
I Can’t Select MLUTS For Just The Viewfinder or Outputs: A limitation of the FX9 is that you cannot have MLUTs on only the outputs and VF when the main recording format is not UHD. You can select a global MLUT by selecting MLUT ON for Internal Rec and then the LUT is applied everywhere but this is not what you typically want. The workaround is to not use the MLUTs but instead to use Viewfinder Display Gamma Assist which is the direct equivalent of the 709(800) LUT but it can only be applied to the viewfinder itself.
As always let me know if you feel there is anything else you would like to add. I will be creating a separate page about the cameras LUT options and limitations which are somewhat confusing.
Having shot quite a bit of S-Log3 content on the new Sony PXW-FX9 I thought I would comment on my exposure preferences. When shooting with an FS5, FS7 or F5, which all use the same earlier generation 4K sensor I find that to get the best results I need to expose between 1 and 2 stops brighter than the 41% for middle grey that Sony recommend. This is because I find my footage to be noisier than I would like if I don’t expose brighter. So when using CineEI on these cameras I use 800EI instead of the base 2000EI
However the FX9 uses a newer state of the art back illuminated sensor. This more sensitive sensor produces less noise so with the FX9 I no longer feel it is necessary to expose more brightly than the base exposure – at either of the base ISO’s. So if I am shooting using CineEI and 800 base, I use 800EI. When shooting at 4000 base, I use 4000 EI.
This makes life so much easier. It also means that if you are shooting in a mode where LUT’s are not available (such as 120fps HD) then you can use the included viewfinder gamma assist function instead. Viewfinder gamma assist adds the same 709(800) look to the viewfinder as you would get from using the cameras built in 709(800) LUT. You can use the VF gamma assist to help judge your exposure just as you would with a LUT. Basically, if it looks right in the viewfinder, it almost certainly is right.
Testing various FX9’s against my Sekonic light meter the cameras CineEI ISO ratings seem to be spot on. So I would have no concerns if using a light meter to expose. The camera also has a waveform scope and zebras to help guide your exposure.
VF Gamma assist is available in all modes on the FX9, including playback. Just be careful that you don’t have both a LUT on and gamma assist at the same time.
Below is a list of lenses that have been tested with the FX9’s advanced autofocus system. Generally any Sony E-mount lens will work just fine. The Sony G series lenses are good and the G Master series tend to be even better. For third party lenses and adapters the situation is much less clear, so I have decided to list the lenses I have tested and invite others to contribute to this list via the comments area. The list is not exhaustive at this time but I will try to keep adding to it as I am able to try more lenses and and different adapter combinations.
Inclusion of a lens on this list is not a guarantee that it will or will not work, it is simply an indication of how it worked for me or anyone else that adds information about their own experiences. I welcome updates and any further information from any lens or adapter manufacturer.
If there is a lens you have tested on an FX9 please let me know via the comments how it worked so it can be added to the list.
KNOWN TO WORK WELL:
Sony E (super 35mm) FE (full frame) lenses, G and G-Master including Zeiss ZA series. G and G Master tend to have the best AF performance.
Tamron 28-75 f2.8 Di III RXD E-mount.
KNOWN TO WORK, BUT NOT AS GOOD AS ORIGINAL SONY:
Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART with Sigma MC11 adapter. Works, but a little slow and occasionally hunts.
KNOWN TO NOT PERFORM WELL:
Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART native E-mount (very slow AF, hunting, contrast only?).
Sigma 85mm f1.4 ART native E-mount (very slow AF, a lot of hunting).
Sigma 20mm f1.4 ART Canon EF mount on metabones, comlite or viltrox adapters. Very slow AF, not really useable.
NO GOOD, NO AF:
Tamron EF 16-300mm
Sigma EF 18-250mm
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