Looks like I will have a busy day today upgrading cameras. As well as the re-release of Version 4 for the PXW-FS5, Sony have also released version 9 for the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 cameras.
Version 9 adds some additional high speed frame rates when recording with the R7 recorder. It also adds extra parallel recording functions when using the CBK-WA100 Wireless Adapter and interestingly also adds Long GoP recording (XAVC-L) when shooting at 29.97fps and 59.94fps (sadly no 24,25 or 50fps Long GoP).
Please install Version 9 ONLY if your F5 or F55 camera has been successfully updated to Firmware Version 8 or higher. Otherwise, it is very important to note that for the F5 and F55 cameras with the serial numbers range listed in the Release Notes document, the user cannot perform the Upgrade to Version 9 and should contact the Sony Service.
1) Frame rates for 4K and high frame rate recordings added.
72, 75, 90, 96, and 100 FPS have been added to the available values in “Frame Rate” when the AXS-R7 is attached to the PMW-F55.
2) Compatible with the “Parallel Rec” mode with CBK-WA100 attached.
The “Parallel Rec” mode enables synchronization with the same file name between the XAVC Proxy recording by using the wireless adapter CBK-WA100.
3) XAVC HD Long added (when the system frequency is set to 29.97 or 59.94).
The new version 4.0 firmware for the PXW-FS5 brings a new lower base ISO range to the camera. This very slightly reduces noise levels in the pictures. If you use “gain” in dB to indicate your gain level, then you shouldn’t have any problems, +6dB is still +6dB and will be twice as noisy as 0dB. However if you use ISO to indicate your gain level then be aware that as the base sensitivity is now lower, if you use the same ISO with version 4 as you did with version 3 you will be adding more gain than before.
Version 3 ISO in black, version 4 ISO in Blue
Standard 1000 ISO – 800 ISO
Still 800 ISO- 640 ISO
Cinegamma 1 800 ISO – 640 ISO
Cinegamma 2 640 ISO – 500 ISO
Cinegamma 3 1000 ISO – 800 ISO
Cinegamma 4 1000 ISO – 800 ISO
ITU709 1000 ISO – 800 ISO
ITU709(800) 3200 ISO – 2000 ISO
S-Log2 3200 ISO – 3200/2000 ISO
S-Log3 3200 ISO- 3200/2000 ISO
At 0dB or the base ISO these small changes (a little under 3dB) won’t make much difference because the noise levels are pretty low in either case. But at higher gain levels the difference is more noticeable.
For example if you often used Cinegamma 1 at 3200 ISO with Version 3 you would be adding 12dB gain and the pictures would be approx 4x noisier than the base ISO.
With Version 4, 3200 ISO with Cinegamma 1 is an extra 15dB gain and you will have pictures approx 6 time noisier than the base ISO.
Having said that, because 0dB in version 4 is now a little less noisy than in version 3, 3200 ISO in V3 looks quite similar to 3200 ISO in version 4 even though you are adding a bit more gain.
Sony have today released firmware version 4.0 for the PXW-FS5. This firmware adds the ability to directly output Hybrid Log Gamma via picture profile 10 for an instant HDR workflow. It also allows you to set the base ISO for S-log to 2000 ISO.
The PXW-FS5 and PXW-Z150 will both get a free firmware update some time around June that will add the ability to shoot using a special gamma curve called “Hybrid Log Gamma” or HLG.
In the case of the FS5 this will be added through an additional picture profile, PP10. As well as HLG the camera will also have the ability to record using Rec2020 color. As a result the camera will become compatible with the new Rec2100 standard for HDR television.
In addition the FS5 will get the ability to change the base ISO for S-Log2 and S-Log3 from 3200 ISO to 2000 ISO. This will help produce cleaner images that are easier to grade. On top of that via a paid firmware update you will be able to shoot continuously at up to 120fps in full HD, no need to use the Super Slow Motion memory cache function.
These are all great upgrades for this little highly versatile camera.
By selecting Picture Profile 10 the camera will shooting using Hybrid Log Gamma. If you were to plug the camera into an HDR TV that supports HLG then what you would see on the TV would be a HDR image with an extended dynamic range. This should give brighter more realistic highlights and a quite noticeable increase in overall contrast compared to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range). There will be no need to grade the footage to get a perfectly watchable vibrant HDR image. The real beauty of HLG (developed by the BBC and NHK) is that it is backwards compatible with normal SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) TV’s. So feed the very same signal into a conventional SDR TV and it will look just fine. Skin tones will be a touch darker than with Rec709 and it won’t be HDR, but it will be perfectly watchable picture and most people won’t realise it’s anything different to normal SDR TV.
So HLG provides a simple very fast, direct HDR workflow that is backwards compatible with SDR TV’s. As a result you don’t need any special monitors to shoot with it, you can just monitor with existing SDR monitors, although it would be beneficial to have an HDR monitor to check the HDR aspect of the signal. HLG isn’t designed to be graded, although a little bit of post production tweaking can be applied, just as with Rec709. Bottom line is it’s quick and easy, no special monitors or skills needed – simples.
If you want the very best possible HDR then you should shoot with S-Log2/S-Log3 or raw and then grade the material in post using an HDR capable monitor. But that takes time and large HDR monitors are not cheap (for a small monitor you could use an Atomos Flame or Inferno). The FS5 will give you the ability to work either way. HLG for simple and quick, S-Log for the best possible image quality.
Hopefully we will see HLG rolled out to other cameras in the near future.
By the time you get to read this you may already know almost everything there is to know about the PXW-FS7 II as it has been leaked and rumoured all over the internet. But I’m under a Sony NDA, so have had to keep quiet until now.
And I’ve been told off for calling it a MKII, the correct name is PXW-FS7 II. Sorry Mr Sony, but if you call it FS7 II, most people will think the “II” means MKII.
The FS7 camera is a mature product. By that I mean that the early bugs have been resolved. The camera has proven itself to by reliable, cost effective (amazing bang for the buck really). To produce great images and 4K files that are not too big. It can do slow-mo, 4K, 2K, HD and raw via an adapter and external recorder. As a result the FS7 is now one of the top choices for many broadcasters and production companies. It has become an industry standard.
The first and most important thing to understand about the FS7 II is that it does not replace the existing FS7. I would have preferred it if Sony had called this new camera the “FS7 Plus”. The “II” designation (which I take to mean MKII) implies a replacement model, replacing the MKI. This is not the case. The FS7 II is in fact a slightly upgraded version of the standard FS7 with a few hardware improvements. The upgrades make the MKII quite a lot more expensive (approx 10K Euros), but don’t worry. If you don’t need them, you can stick with the cheaper FS7 MK1 which remains a current model. In terms of image quality there is no real difference, the sensor and image processing in the cameras is the same.
So what are the changes?
The most obvious perhaps is the use of a square rod to support the viewfinder. This eliminates the all too common FS7 problem of sagging viewfinders. As well as switching to a square rod each of the adjustments for the viewfinder mounting system now has a dedicated clamp. Before if you wanted to slide the viewfinder forwards or backwards you undid a clamp that not only freed off the sliding motion but also controlled the tilt of the screen. So it was impossible to have the fore-aft adjustment slack for quick adjustments without the viewfinder sagging and drooping.
With the MkII you can have a slack fore-aft adjuster without the VF drooping. Overall the changes to the VF mounting system are extremely welcome. The VF mount on the Mk1 is a bit of a disaster, but there are plenty of 3rd party solutions to this. So you can fix the problems on a MKI without having to replace the camera. In addition, if you really wanted you could buy the FS7 II parts as spare parts and fit them to a MKI.
The Lens Mount.
The next obvious change is to the lens mount. The FS7 MK1 has a normal Sony E-Mount where you insert the lens and then twist it to lock it in to place. The FS7 II mount is still an E-Mount but now it has a locking collar like a PL or B4 mount. This means that you have to insert the lens at the correct angle and then you turn a locking ring to secure the lens. The lens does not rotate and once locked in place cannot twist or turn and has no play or wobble. This is great for those that use a follow focus or heavier lenses. BUT the new locking system is fiddly and really needs 2 hands to operate. In practice you have to be really careful when you mount the lens. It’s vital that you align the white dot on the lens with the white dot on the mount before you twist the locking ring.
As you rotate the locking ring a small release catch drops into place to prevent the ring from coming undone. But if the lens isn’t correctly aligned when you insert it, the lens can rotate with the locking ring, the catch clicks into place, but the lens will just drop out of the mount. When inserted correctly this mount is great, but if you are not careful it is quite easy to think the lens is correctly attached when in fact it is not.
Variable ND Filter.
Behind the lens mount is perhaps the most significant upgrade. The FS7 II does away with the rotating filter wheel and replaces it with the variable ND filter system from the FS5. I have to say I absolutely love the variable ND on the FS5. It is so flexible and versatile. You still have a 4 position filter wheel knob. At the clear position the ND filter system is removed from the optical path. Select the 1, 2 or 3 positions and the electronically controlled ND filter is moved into position in front of the sensor. You then have 3 preset levels of ND (the level of which can be set in the camera menu) or the ability to smoothly control the level of ND from a dial on the side of the camera. Furthermore you can let the camera take care of the ND filter level automatically. The real beauty of the variable ND s that it allows you to adjust your exposure without having to alter the aperture (which changes the depth of field) or shutter (which alters the flicker/cadence). It’s also a great way to control exposure when using Canon lenses as the large aperture steps on the Canon lenses can be seen in the shot.
Another physical change to the camera is the use of a new arm for the handgrip. The new arm has a simple wing-nut for length adjustment, much better than the two screws in the original arm. In addition you can now use the adjuster wing-nut to attach the arm to the camera body and this brings the hand grip very close to the body for hand held use. This is a simple but effective improvement, but again 3rd party handgrip arms are available for the base model FS7.
The viewfinder loupe has seen some attention too. The standard FS7 loupe has two fiddly wire clips that have to be done up to secure the loupe to the viewfinder. The MK2 loupe has a fixed hook that slips over the top lug on the viewfinder so that you now only need to do up a single catch on the bottom of the loupe. It is easier and much less fiddly to fit the new loupe, but the optics and overall form and function of the loupe remain unchanged.
As well as the loupe the FS7 II will be supplied with a clip on collapsable sunshade for the viewfinder. This is a welcome addition and hand held shooters will no doubt find it useful. When not in use the sunshade folds down flat and covers the LCD screen to protect it from damage.
The number of assignable buttons on the FS7 II is increased to 10. There are 4 new assignable button on the camera body where the iris controls are on the original FS7. The Iris controls are now on the side of the camera just below the ND filter wheel along with the other ND filter controls. These buttons are textured to make them easier to find by touch and are a very welcome addition, provided you can remember which functions you have allocated to them. It’s still a long way from the wonderful side panel LCD of the PMW-F5/PMW-F55 with it’s 6 hotkeys and informative display of how the camera is configured.
Tucked under the side of the camera and just above the power switch there is now a small green power LED. The original FS7 has no power light so it can be hard to tell if it’s turned on or not. This little green light will let you know.
The last hardware change is to the card slots. The XQD card slots have been modified to make it easier to get hold of the cards when removing them. It’s a small change, but again most welcome as it can be quite fiddly to get the cards of an FS7.
A further change with the FS7 II is the addition of Rec-2020 colorspace in custom mode. So now with the FS7 II as well as Rec-709 colorspace you can also shoot in Rec-2020. I’m really not sure how important this really is. If Sony were to also add Hybrid Log Gamma or PQ gamma for HDR then this would be quite useful. But standard gammas + Rec2020 color doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense. If you really want to capture a big range you will probably shoot S-Log2/3 and S-Gamut/S-Gamut3.
So – the big question – is it worth the extra?
Frankly, I don’t think so. Yes, the upgrades are nice, especially the variable ND filter and for some people it might be worth it just for that. But most of the other hardware changes can be achieved via 3rd party accessories for less than the price difference between the cameras.
With all the financial turmoil going on in many countries right now I think we can expect to see the cost of most cameras start to rise, including the original (but still current) FS7. This may narrow the price gap between the FS7 MKI and FS7 MK2 a little. But an extra 3000 Euros seems a high price to pay for a variable ND filter.
In some respects this is good news as it does mean that those that have already invested in an FS7 MKI won’t see that investment diminished, the MK1 is to remain a current model alongside the souped up MK2 version. Now you have a choice, the lower cost workhorse FS7 MK1 or the MK2 with it’s variable ND filter and revised lens mount.
Last week Sony released firmware version 8 for the PMW-F5 and F55 cameras. The main purpose of this update is to add support for the new AXS-R7 raw recorder as well as a number of bug fixes. A further addition is the inclusion of the XAVC Class 480 codec, a higher quality version of XAVC-I for more demanding applications.
An important bug fix is the ability to use the latest versions of XQD-G and M series cards.
HOWEVER IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT ATTEMPT TO INSTALL THIS FIRMWARE IF YOUR CAMERA’S SERIAL NUMBER IS IN THE FOLLOWING RANGE:
100001 – 100723
500001 – 500036
100001 – 100781
500001 – 500020
Attempting to install version 8 on cameras in the above serial number ranges may lead to the camera becoming completely unusable unless a very expensive circuit board is replaced.
If your camera’s serial number is in the ranges indicated you should contact a local service center to arrange to have the firmware installed for you (my understanding is this is a one-time requirement, you will be able to do future updates yourself).
FOR EUROPE CUSTOMERS WITH CAMERAS IN ABOVE SERIAL NUMBER RANGE:
Please supply the following information to the following email address PrimeSupport@eu.sony.com and Sony will advise next steps.
Company name if applicable
Which product do you own?
Serial Number (6 digit number)
Which firmware version is currently installed?
And confirm if the CBK-55PD option installed?*
United States service centers:
Eastern Service Facility
Sony Service Center
Sony Electronics Inc.
123 W. Tryon Avenue
Teaneck, New Jersey 07666
Western Service Facility
Sony Service Center
Sony Electronics Inc.
2706 Media Center Drive; Suite 130
Los Angeles, California 90065
For those located in Canada please contact
Sony of Canada (Customer Service Solutions Group)
211 Placer Court
Toronto, Ontario , M2H 3H9
Sony Montreal Service Center
Sony du Canada Ltée
2886 Boulevard Daniel?Johnson
Laval, QC H7P 5Z7
1469 Venables Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 2G1
Professional Technical Support (Vancouver)
In other countries please contact your Sony dealer who should be able to assist.
If, and only if your camera does not fall in the range above then you can perform the update in the usual manner by placing the firmware on an SD card.
DO NOTdownload and install version 8 firmware if your serial number falls within serial number range detailed above
This firmware can be updated from V7.02, V7.01, V6.02, V6.01 and V6.00. When you want to update F55 and F5 from V5.11 and earlier, you must update to V6.00 first. Please also ensure that your AXS-R5 firmware (if you have one) is also up to date.
A little bit of news from IBC in Amsterdam is that Sony are going to allow owners of the PXW-FS5 to buy an upgrade that adds the MPEG2 HD codec to the camera. This is the same 8 bit 50Mb/s 4:2:2 codec as used for many years for broadcast HD television production (XDCAM HD422) as well as the 35Mb/s 4:2:0 found in many lower cost Sony camcorders such as the PMW-300 or EX1.
The MPEG2 HD422 codec is one of the most commonly used codecs world wide for TV and video production. It’s supported by just about every edit system and is very easy to handle. So if you need compatibility with legacy edit software such as FCP7 this could be the option you’ve been looking for. When you buy the upgrade you will receive a special activation code that allows you to go online and enter the cameras serial number to generate an unlock key for the codec option. There’s no need to send the camera in and it takes just a few minutes to activate the option.
The upgrade option is called the CBKZ-SLMP and the list price is 500 Euro’s. It’s actually the same upgrade option/key as used to add MPEG2 HD to the PXW-X70, but now as well as the X70 you can use it to upgrade an FS5.
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.
More good news for Sony PMW-F55 owners. A rather obscure announcement over on the official Sony user group states that the PMW-F55 will gain the ability to record 4K raw at up to 120fps via an optional future accessory.
This is great news for F55 owners. We can hope that perhaps this option will get extended to the F5 as well (after all the FS700 and can do it for short bursts and possibly the FS5 will be able to do it too using their internal memory caches to cache 4 seconds of the 4K HFR before copying it to the R5 or Odyssey). I do hope that the F55 4K raw isn’t limited to a 4 second burst and that it’s the full 16 bit raw that you get at up to 60fps.
Quite what the optional accessory will be I don’t know, but my guess would be a new raw recorder or new faster AXS media, but it could also be an internal upgrade allow the high speed raw to be passed to the existing R5 and AXS media.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.