We all fear the failure of any expensive electronics, especially if it is out of warranty. So when a user reports that their FX9 has failed, seemingly for no reason and that it is the very expensive to replace DPR-394 board it causes a lot of concern for not only the unfortunate owner, now faced with a huge repair bill but also for other FX9 users.
Failures are not common.
The first thing I will say is that there are thousands and thousands of FX9’s out there being used every single day. Over the last 2.5 years, across all of the user groups I monitor I have probably seen less than 20 instances of people reporting the unexplained failure of their FX9 ( I think I’ve seen about 15 that I can remember). But, it must be said that the most common unexplained failure does seem to involve the DRP-394 board. But, this isn’t really all that unexpected as the DPR-394 is the heart of the camera. It manages everything the camera does, performs all of the image processing, manages the power supply, provides the signals that go to the HDMI, SDI and VF.
A problem we have today with modern camera repairs is that repairs are normally done by swapping out faulty boards. Because the majority of service centers only ever go so far as to determine which board is faulty it is nearly impossible to understand what caused the problem.
Some things I have observed:
Amongst the reported failures some appear to be directly related to the use of D-Tap connectors to power monitors or other accessories. D-Tap connectors can very easily connected the live side of the connection before the negative side and this leads to power surges through the HDMI/SDI that has quite likely taken out the DPR-394 board. There is also what appears to be a higher instance of cameras powered by V-Lock adapters that suffered DPR-394 failures. It might be that this is also related to D-Tap power issues as I think a big reason why many use V-lock batts is to power not only the camera but also accessories, most commonly via the dreaded D-Tap plugs, but it could be many things and unless you isolate exactly which bit of the board has failed it’s impossible to say why it has failed.
Because the DPR-394 board does virtually everything and represents most of the cameras electronics, it is not a surprise that it is also the most common point of failure. While any failure is unwelcome, the number of failures I have seen is not in my opinion an indication of a design issue. If there really was a design flaw I believe we would be seeing a lot more failures given the thousands of cameras in use. I suspect that in many cases some external factor may have led to the failure of the board.
My advice is to take great care when using D-Taps to power accessories off the cameras battery. Always do all your power connections first, then check any accessories power up correctly before finally connecting the SDI or HDMI cables. And then do the reverse when disconnecting, SDI/HDMI disconnected first, power down the camera and accessories properly, remove the power connections last. It’s worth pointing out that many cameras from many manufacturers, including Arri, Canon etc have suffered damage due to power surge issues related to D-Tap connectors.
Additionally always power the camera up from the on/off switch and then switch it off and allow it to power down properly. Never remove or restore the power to a camera that is turned on. The cameras power switch does not connect/disconnect the power, it is a switch that instructs the camera to boot up or power down in a specific order and it needs the power to the camera to be correctly connected and stable to ensure this all happens in the right order. If using a V-Lock adapter you really need to avoid the camera suddenly losing power when the battery shuts off without warning.
EDIT: Quite a few people have been commenting about failures of boards in other cameras including Venice, failures that are often directly attributed to the use of D-Tap or other power cables powering externally attached devices off the same power source as the camera. This is not a camera design issue, it’s a connector design issue. It should be noted that Sony don’t make batteries with built in D-Tap sockets for this very reason and that Sony don’t include D-Tap sockets on their camera bodies. There is one on the XDCA-FX9 but this is a current and voltage limited, protected socket with current and voltage limiters and trips and many connected devices will cause this to trip. The one common thread across a very large number of these failures is the use of D-Taps. The issue with D-Taps is that very often the positive power pin makes contact before the negative pin and this causes power to run the wrong way through various circuits trying to find a way back to the missing ground/negative causing havoc with the sensitive electronics inside the camera.
This is an issue for Arri, Panasonic, Canon and just about every camera manufacturer.