Sony FX9 DPR-394 Board Failures, my thoughts.

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.


28 thoughts on “Sony FX9 DPR-394 Board Failures, my thoughts.”

  1. I wonder if Sony service could actually check the board of a damaged cameras , if it can be established the D tap had not been used , or that neither D tap or V mount were a factor ..

    1. I suspect it would be extremely difficult to categorically say whether a power surge or unexpected power routing due to a D-tap or other cable with a bad ground connection had caused the board to fail as power surges can make unexpected components fail in many seemingly random ways. And perhaps power surges may only explain some of the failures. When you have thousands of cameras in use there will sadly be some completely random failures anyway.

      You see similar odd failures happen in modern cars that have been jump started where after jump starting one of the cars ECU’s stops working resulting in odd behaviour such as perhaps the central locking or electric windows no longer working and the failures appear to be quite random and difficult to understand how jump starting could cause such an issue, but the electricity has simply taken whatever the path of least resistance happens to be depending on how the jump leads were connected.

      1. ah ok I see , so not so easy to isolate a specific reason for failure .. also was wondering if the V mount adaptors are a factor , has there ever been an incident of failure with Sony BPU batts only , to your knowledge .. ?

  2. I hope your right Alistair it gives me FS5 handgrip vibes though I remember a poll of failures suggesting that failure was as high as 50% and still Sony insisted it was our fault.

    Between this and the camera not being that old would give me big reservations are there similar issues with the fx6?

    1. If you poll a user group – which will often be mostly made up of people that have come to the group looking for help because they have an issue, you will always get a very skewed impression that faults are more common than they really are.

  3. It seems that a protection circuit is needed. In the case of MPC-3610(Venice), the board with the BNC connector is mainly damaged. The FX9 DPR board is too expensive.

    1. If you use a poor quality connector that doesn’t correctly connect the negative before the live to power accessories also connected to the camera you are asking for trouble. This is not a camera fault, this is a fault with poor power connections. Arri, Red, Panasonic all suffer similar issues.

      1. Are you likely to avoid the d-tap issue if you only plug and unplug the d-taps with the camera turned off?

        Just desperately looking for an MO to avoid another costly repair while still using the d-tap accessories which have become common place.

        1. Not necessarily. If the D-Tap ground connection hasn’t made correctly with extremely low resistance the negatative return power will take the path of least resistance back to the battery which may be via the very secure and very low loss SDi cables instead of via the D-tap. SDi and audio cables are almost always low loss and high quality. The screening braid will have very low resistance and the connectors are very secure, so they will always present an easy ground route. Meanwhile D-Tap connectors are generally made of the cheapest possible materials and the connecting wires often low quality and high resistance tin plated steel. It is very rare to find proper copper cable these days as it is expensive.

          Perhaps you should invest in some Lentquip Safetaps.

  4. Alister, It should be noted that catastrophic board failures are also an ongoing problem with the Sony Venice

    I’ve had one personal experience with a body being fried on set and I have been in touch with two other crews who had the same experience.

    In each case the DPR, DCP and AVP boards all failed due to a “suspected electrical issue”. Quote from Sony service.

    The key link we identified between the three was a sound receiver being powered via d-tap >>> with XLR into wooden camera A-Box. Each camera displayed the same nine error codes and resulted in a long turnaround on repair and a hefty bill from Sony Service.

    1. But that is a problem caused by the use of external power connectors that do not have a proper ground connection leading to power getting routed through the wrong parts of the camera. Arri, Red, Panasonic are all seeing similar issues and it’s almost always caused by the use of D-Tap connectors. It is the D-Tap that is the issue.

    2. The issue is that D-Tap connectors do not provide a ground before live connection and often the ground connection is inadequate. This cause power to be routed incorrectly through the camera. This isn’t a Venice issue it’s a D-Tap issue and it is affecting Arri and Red as well.

  5. Alister, do your recommendations still apply if using separate batteries to power the camera and, for example, a monitor?

  6. I think I have just fallen foul of the DPR-394 Board Failure. Although I had set the camera up and turned it on which was fine so turned it off. Came back 3mins later and the camera wouldn’t turn back on.
    nothing I have explored since has cured the problem. Currently away shooting in Mexico and wished I’d packed my trust worthy F55.
    Why do they not install a fuse to protect this problem?

    1. IF it is a ground issue as happens with D-Taps, a fuse won’t protect anything, besides fuses take a very long time to blow.

  7. I have been working with my FX9 for a year now, and the recent failure of its 394 board was the final crown on a terrible year with probably the worst camera I ever had to work with in my 20-year, worldwide, all-terrain career as a DP. Of course, I use D-Tap. I always did on every high-end Sony camera I had before, with no issues whatsoever, but with the amount of energy that the FX9 consumes and the size of batteries you have to put on there to have decent battery life, putting batteries on wireless receivers/transmitters, monitors, or camera lights is virtually unworkable. The ongoing technical problems have made me lose clients, sleep and my complete joy of work, to be honest. I even decided to return to my old FS7 MKII and use the FX9 as a doorstopper.

      1. It would be nice if Sony communicated warnings regarding these 12G SDI’s. I did not know about them until this thread, and now I guess I have one more reason never to touch the FX9 again.

        I bought the FX9 assuming it was an upgrade to my FS7, not a technical disaster waiting to happen. Putting 1 and 2 together regarding the issues I had over the past year, it makes sense that the 12G SDI presumably scrambled my Sony audio reception (like my audio expert told me it could) and fried my 394 board (like my technical expert told me it could). Also, my dealership told me they wouldn’t be too keen on risking health issues by carrying all this high-frequency SDI stuff next to their head all day as I do.

        Anyway, good to know. I only use the SDI port for low-res field monitoring and have no use for 12G.

      1. The issue with 6G and in particular 12G SDI connectors and power surges affects every brand, including Arri and Red prompting both to have warnings on thier websites. In order to pass the higher frequencies needed for 12G to work you can’t build in the same protections that 3G SDI has into the cameras cuicuits. As we move to ever higher resolutions needing faster processing and more complex circuitry it will become more and more difficult to design and make “bomb proof” cameras. Go back to older cameras with lower frequency outputs that are easier to protect and the issue largely goes away, that’s just the way it is.

        D-Tap and DC barrel connectors are about as poor a connector as it is possible to make. They get used because they are cheap, not because they are good. They are often made of cheap materials using metals that promote arcing and poor connectivity. There are good reasons why Sony don’t make batteries with D-Taps and instead make BP-U batteries with hirsoe connectors which have gold or silver plated contacts and an outer negative sheild/body that connects before the pins connect.

        1. Oh wow, now we, the end-users, are to blame for using inferior D-Taps? My dealership (a pretty respected one) was the one that recommended the V-Lock and D-Taps. No one warned me that using these ‘inferior budget’ options would potentially ruin my camera (and my career). I would have been glad to spend extra cash on a safe solution. But powering the FX9 solely on BP-U batteries is impossible. No airliner would ever let me carry around that many batteries, and I wouldn’t know when to charge them. Bottom line: the FX9 seems too cool for us mere human D.P’s using all kinds of crap to feed the power-hungry princess. Good to know.

          1. Sony do provide a safe option that allows you to use V-Locks and that is the XDCA-FX9 which includes both a 4 pin hirose and a protected D-Tap output. Using 3rd party accessories is indeed a choice many will make to save money, myself included. But if you choose to go down the 3rd party route, especially for power, then you need to accept that you can’t then blame Sony when something completely outside of their control leads to a camera failure.

            And as I keep saying – this issue is killing other cameras from other brands, including Arri, Red etc. It is not a problem unique to Sony or the FX9 because the problem isn’t with the camera, it’s with the power connectors being used. Fix the connectors and the problem goes away. D-Taps have been killing cameras and acessories for many years, the problem is only really surfacing now because the use of D-Taps and camear mounted external monitors and accessories powered by the same battery as the camera has increased greatly in recent years. Plus it is impossible to protect 12G SDi’s from power surges in the same way as previous lower speed SDi’s.

          2. One quick and easy thing to try to remember , to reduce the risk of this power going back down the BNC to the camera is the ( last on , first off ) rule for BNC cables . This is actually from the Arri site that has a whole video about this problem for their own camera,s . Power cable first , then BNC last on build , BNC off first when de rigging . Worth checking g out this video on the Arri site , presume its still there . Red also have this an article about this problem on their support from Oct 2020. Its really not just an Fx9 thing . You have to be really careful with D Tap now , which we old timers are not used to.. but thats how its is now .

  8. I mostly use Atomos’s Ninja V (HDMI) on the FX9 with a Core SWX V-Mount adapter. The Ninja is powered by the D-Tap outputs on the adapter when I use Bebop batteries and directly from the battery when I use IDX batteries as there are 2.

    From reading the comments I am I correct in assuming that while it’s not unique to 12G SDI connections, a board failure is more likely with a 12G SDI connection than HDMI?

    In any case I’ve made a cheat sheet to make sure I make power and signal connections and disconnections in the safest order possible. Thank you Alister for all the help you provide:-)

  9. As far as I can see, no one is reporting about an FX9 with a dead DPR 394 board while just using the camera with ordinary batteries, right? I am a new FX9-owner and I never use D-tap, and always ordinary batteries (yes, I have to swap them more often than other solutions but I really like to keep the camera as light and nimble as possible).

  10. Our company has 10 FX9’s. 2 already broken (within one month of use) and needed a new motherboard. Today I heard another story of a Dutch colleague who was filming abroad and his camera also let him down. All E91 and E95 errors and luckily within Sony’s warranty.
    The dealer (certified Sony repair center) told us Sony is looking into a version 2 motherboard. No one knows if there will be recall of all FX9’s but I think they should!
    Fact is we lost faith in this workhorse and I am thinking of taking a spare camera with me on critical foreign jobs.

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