I wish to update and present the facts that I have regarding potential issues with mainly older 3rd party PB-U batteries. This isn’t here as a scare story, I’m not trying to sensationalise this, just present the facts that I have to hopefully clarify the current situation.
In 2019 I became aware that it was suddenly becoming very hard to buy 3rd party BP-U batteries. Dealers didn’t have any and you couldn’t find them anywhere. Talking to a couple of manufacturers I was informed that they had been told to stop making BP-U batteries.
Then I learnt from Sony that they had been getting an unusually large number of cameras in for repair, cameras that had suddenly and inexplicably stopped working. This they had traced to design issues in some 3rd party batteries.
As a result of this Sony took action in 2019 to prevent the manufacture of 3rd party BP-U batteries and that’s why you could no longer get them.
Since then however it would appear that the manufacture of 3rd party batteries is once again in full swing. In addition I’ve noticed that some older models have been discontinued, often with new versions replacing them, perhaps a “B” version or a model number numerically higher than before.
From this I must assume that whatever the issue was, it has now been resolved and that the 3rd party BP-U batteries on sale today should be perfectly safe to use with our cameras. I would have no hesitation in today buying a brand new BP-U battery from any of the reputable brands.
I have nothing to gain here. This is not a campaign to make you all buy Sony batteries. Even though Sony do make a very fine battery, I too use 3rd party batteries as I need the D-Tap port found only on 3rd party batteries.
But clearly there was a very real battery issue. I’m led to understand that the cost to repair these damaged cameras was over $1K. While not every user of these batteries ends up with a dead camera, I think you have to ask yourself – is it worth using batteries made in 2019 or earlier? I won’t list the batteries that I know to have problems because the list may be incomplete. Just because a battery is not on the list it would not be a guarantee that it’s safe. However if any 3rd party battery manufacturer is reading this and has the confidence to provide me with a list of batteries that they will guarantee are safe, I will gladly publish that.
Clearly not everyone ends up with a dead camera, perhaps the majority have no issue, but enough did that Sony had to take action and it appears that the manufacturers responded by checking and adjusting their designs if necessary.
So my advice is: Don’t use 3rd party batteries made prior to 2020.
If you do, then make absolutely sure the camera is completely powered down when inserting or removing the battery.
I believe that any BP-U battery made in 2020 or later should be safe to use. So please think about replacing any old batteries with new ones, or perhaps contact your battery supplier and ask if what you have is safe. However you should be aware that since 2019 Sony’s own BP-U battery chargers will no longer charge 3rd party batteries.
The information I have presented here is correct to the best of my knowledge and I hope you will use it to make your own decision about which batteries to use.
Lots of people have been asking about how to expose S-Cinetone, whether with the FX9, FX6, A7SIII or the FX3.
The short answers is: So that it looks nice!
S-Cinetone has a variable toe and knee. So exposing it brighter results in not only a brighter image but also an image with flatter skin tones and less shadow contrast, overall looking more video like.
Exposing a little bit darker results in a more contrasty film like image. Faces and skin tones have more texture. There is no one optimum exposure level. A white card could be anywhere between 78% and 88% depending on the look you want. Typical skin tones will vary from between anywhere between 55% and 75%.
Personally I like the way S-Cinetone looks when it’s exposed with Skin tones at around 63% and white at around 81%.
See the video I on S-Cinetone on the FX9 for more details as it all applies equally to the FX9 and FX6 as well as the A7SIII and FX3. The only small difference is that the base ISO’s are a little different between each camera.
I’m putting these notes here for my own reference. I will add to them as I find new things to remember. They may help others too. As I already have a Sony FX9 and an FX6 I thought it would be a good idea to have some notes about some of the difference I need to remember when using an FX3 (and A7SIII) alongside the FX6 or FX9.
S-Cinetone Low Base
S-Cinetone Hi Base
S-Log3 Low Base
S-Log3 High Base
ISO RATING: The FX3/A7SIII ISO ratings are just over 1 stop brighter than the same ratings on the FX6/FX9 except when using S-Log3 which matches correctly. So if using 320ISO for S-Cinetone on the FX6/FX9 use 100ISO on the FX3/A7SIII for the same brightness of recording.
HDMI: To use both the HDMI out and the camera’s LCD screen at the same time you have to turn off the HDMI Info in the External Output settings.
To use post production stabilisation you must turn off Steadyshot in the menu.
XAVC-S-I Codec has the same bit rates and appears to be the same quality as XAVC-I.
FX3 Uses “Imaging Edge” app and FX6/FX9 use “Content Browser Mobile” app.
The FX3 can be powered externally via the USB-C port. With a compatible USB-PD power source the camera can be run continuously.
In the course of my tests with the FX3 and comparing it with the FX6 and FX9 I discovered a strange anomaly with the FX3 and A7SIII ISO ratings when compared to the FX6 and FX9.
The FX3’s default picture profile is PP11 and S-Cinetone. If you have an FX6 or FX9 these cameras also default to S-Cinetone in SDR mode. In the FX6 and FX9 the base ISO for S-Cinetone is 320 ISO. Therefore you would assume that if you also set the A7SIII or the FX3 to 320 ISO and expose all the cameras the same, same aperture, shutter etc that the exposures would match.
BUT THE EXPOSURES DON’T MATCH!!
The FX3 and the A7SIIII are just over 1 stop brighter than the FX6 and FX9 when all the exposure settings are matched. I tested all the cameras with the same lens to ensure this wasn’t a lens issue, but it isn’t the lens.
I then went on to test other gamma/picture profile settings and I found a just over 1 stop difference between the FX3 and my FX6/FX9 in any similar combination EXCEPT S-LOG3!
When using Picture Profile 2 on the FX3 which is uses Sony’s “Still” gamma and then using the “Still” Profile on the FX6 there is a difference of around 1 stop. If I set the FX3 to PP3 (ITU-709) and the FX6 to ITU-709 then the difference is again around 1 stop, in every case the FX3 is brighter except when you select S-Log3 where the FX3 and the FX6/FX9 match almost perfectly!
I find this very strange. They should not be different. My light meter suggests to me that the FX6/FX9 are correct.
Comparing to my light meter I believe the FX6/FX9 ratings to be correct and the FX3 to be between 1 and 1.3 stops brighter than it should be when using gammas that are not S-Log3. What I really don’t understand is why the FX3/A7SIII match the FX6/FX9 when using S-Log3 but do not match when using the other profiles, normally I would expect to see a consistent offset. This further makes leads me to be sure this is not a problem with my light meter, but something else.
I would love to hear from anyone else that’s able to take a look at the ISO ratings of the A7SIII and compare it with an FX6 or FX9.
The bottom line is – DON’T EXPECT TO PUT THE SAME EXPOSURE SETTINGS INTO BOTH AN FX3 AND AN FX6/FX9 AND GET THE SAME RESULTS, because you won’t, unless you are using S-Log3, then they match.
Also in the clip metadata I found that 0dB for S-Cinetone is 100 ISO, and whether this is a coincidence or not, if I set the FX3 to 100 ISO and the FX6 to 320 ISO and then match shutter speed and aperture then the exposures are very close.
What do I think about the new Sony FX3. It’s certainly an interesting camera because it seems to be a bit confused about what it is. It’s isn’t a mirrorless stills camera like the A7SIII, but it’s very, very like the A7SIII. It isn’t a cut down FX6 or FX9, it’s very different to them.
So what is it and who is it for? Personally I see the FX3 as a great B camera option to pair with an FX6 or FX9. The FX3’s flat top and additional 1/4″ mounting points on the top and sides will making rigging it in more unusual situations much easier. It’s a camera I would use to rig in cars like a giant Go-Pro, perfect for any Top Gear or motoring shoots. It’s a camera I would use on a gimbal, it’s a camera you could sling from a drone.
In most cases it would not replace any camera I currently have, but instead compliment it. It could be a good option for FX9 owners in particular as it would give them 4K 120fps as well as a second camera when needed.
The FX3 is not much more than an A7SIII in a different housing, with the EVF removed, new mounting points added and an removable handle with XLR connectors. There are some changes to some of the button positions and these make it easier to use when shooting video providing direct access to ISO, IRIS and White Balance. The flat top makes it easier to mount in different ways and the built in 1/4″ mounting threads make it easier to mount accessories such as monitors.
Really the FX3 is an alternative version of the A7SIII biased more towards video than photos. It doesn’t replace the A7S, just gives potential owners the ability to choose between the two different form factors depending on individual preferences.
For more information why not watch this recording of my Facebook live stream on the FX3.
With the new FX6 making use of SD cards to record higher bit rate codecs the number of gigabytes of SD card media that many user will will be getting through is going to be pretty high. The more gigabytes of memory that you use, the more the chance of coming across a duff memory cell somewhere on your media.
Normally solid state media will avoid using any defective memory areas. As a card ages and is used more, more cells will become defective and the card will identify these and it should avoid them next time. This is all normal, until eventually the memory cell failure rate gets too high and the card becomes unusable – typically after hundreds or even thousands of cycles.
However – the card needs to discover where any less than perfect memory cells are and there is a chance that some of the these duff cells could remain undiscovered in a card that’s never been completely filled before. I very much doubt that every SD card sold is tested to its full capacity, the vast volume of cards made and time involved makes this unlikely.
For this reason I recommend that you consider testing any new SD cards using software such as H2Testw for windows machines or SDSpeed for Mac’s. However be warned to fully test a large card can take a very, very long time.
As an alternative you could simply place the card in the camera and record on it until its full. Use the highest frame rate and largest codec the card will support to fill the card as quickly as possible. I would break the recording up into a few chunks. Once the recording has finished check for corruption by playing the clips back using Catalyst Browse or your chosen edit software.
This may seem like a lot of extra work, but I think it’s worth it for piece of mind before you use your new media on an important job.
In some regards this is now already old news. I’m under NDA so there are limits as to what I can, or what I should write. Hopefully I won’t get into too much trouble if I point out that there are already a lot of rumours circulating right now that a new camera called the FX3 might be about to be launched. The official line is that there is going to be an announcement on the 23rd of February, just a week from now. So why not just chill out for a one week as then you will be able to get the full facts about whatever it is that’s going to be added to the Cinema Line.
If you were an alien on another planet and had access to nothing but all the latest camera demo or “film-maker” reels on YouTube or Vimeo you would quite possibly believe that much of planet Earth is in perpetual darkness.
All you see is clips shot at night or in blacked out studios. Often with very little dynamic range, often incredibly (excessively?) dark. I keep having to check that the brightness on my monitor is set correctly. Even daytime interiors always seem to be in rooms that are 90% dark with just a tiny, low contrast pool of daylight from a window filling one corner and even the light coming through the window is dim and dull.
I recently viewed a clip that was supposed to show the benefits of raw that contained nothing but low dynamic range shots where 70% of each frame was nothing but black. Sadly there were no deep shadow details, just blackness, some very dark faces and where there were highlights they were clipped. It was impossible to tell anything about the format being used.
The default showreel or demo shot is now a very dark space with a 3/4 profile person, very dimly lit, low key, by a large soft source. Throw in a shiny car with some specular highlights or a few dim practical lights into the background for extra brownie points.
Let me let you in to a little secret – it’s really, really easy to make black frames. Want a little pool of light – add a light to your mostly black frame. It’s really easy to shoot under exposed and then as a result not have any issues with dynamic range. It’s really easy to shoot a face so that it’s so dark you can barely see the persons eyes and then not have a problem with shiny skin.
But try shooting someone at a desk in a bright office and make that look really great. Try shooting a proper daytime living room scene and making that look flawless. A summer picnic on a beach with brilliant blue sky perhaps. These are all challenging to do very well for both the DoP and the camera.
We have these wonderful cameras with huge dynamic ranges that work really well in daylight too. But we seem to be losing the ability to shoot anything other than shots that have very low average brightness levels and low dynamic range. They depend on often coloured or tinted lighting to provide some interest in what would otherwise be a very, very boring images. Where are all the challenging shots in difficult lighting? Where are the bright, vibrant shots where we can see the dynamic range, resolution and natural colour palettes that separate a good camera from a great camera?
I know this is something A LOT of people have been asking for. For a long time it has always seemed odd that only the Shogun 7 was capable of recording raw from the FX9 and then the FX6 while the the little Ninja V could record almost exactly the same raw form the A7SIII.
Well the engineers at Atomos have finally figured out how to pass raw via the AtomX SDI adapter to the Ninja V. The big benefit of course being the compact size of the Ninja V.
There are a couple of ways of getting the kit you need to do this.
If you already have a Ninja V (they are GREAT little monitor recorders, I’ve taken mine all over the world, from the arctic to Arabian deserts) you simply need to buy an AtomX SDI adapter and once you have that buy a raw licence from the Atomos website for $99.00.
If you don’t have the Ninja V then you can buy a bundle called the “Pro Kit” that includes everything you need including a Ninja V with the raw licence pre-installed, The AtomX SDI adapter, a D-Tap power adapter cable, a mains power supply and a sun hood. The cost of this kit will be around $950 USD or £850 GBP + tax, which is a great price.
On top of that you will need to buy suitable fast SSD’s.
Like the Shogun 7 the Ninja V can’t record the 16 bit raw from the FX6 or FX9 directly, so Atomos take the 16 bit linear raw and convert it using a visually lossless process to 12 bit log raw. 12 bit log raw is a really nice raw format and the ProResRaw codec helps keep the files sizes nice and manageable.
This is a really great solution for recording raw from the FX6 and FX9. Plus if you already have an A7SIII you can use the Ninja V to record via HDMI from that too.
Here’s the press release from Atomos:
The Atomos Ninja V Pro Kit is here to equip you with increased professional I/O, functionality and accessories.
The Ninja V Pro Kit has been designed to bridge the gap between compact cinema and mirrorless cameras that can output RAW via HDMI or SDI. Pro Kit also pushes these cameras’ limits, recording up to 12-bit RAW externally on the Ninja’s onboard SSD. Additionally, Pro Kit provides the ability to cross covert signals providing a versatile solution for monitoring, play out and review.
What comes in the Pro Kit?
Ninja V Monitor-Recorder with pre-activated RAW over SDI
AtomX SDI Module
Locking DC to D-Tap cable to power from camera battery
AtomX 5″ Sunhood
DC/Mains power with international adaptor kit
Ninja V Pro Kit offers a monitor and recording package to cover a wide range of workflows.
Why choose Ninja V Pro Kit?
More powerful and versatile I/O for Ninja V – Expand your Ninja V’s capability with the Pro Kit with the ability to provide recordings in edit-ready codecs or as proxy files from RED or ARRI cameras.
Accurate and reliable daylight viewable HDR or SDR – To ensure image integrity, the AtomX 5″ Sunhood is included and increases perceived brightness under challenging conditions or can be used to dial out ambient light to increase the view in HDR
HDMI-to-SDI cross conversion – HDMI or SDI connections can be cross converted, 4K to HD down converts RAW to video signals to connect to other systems without the need for additional converters.
Record ProRes RAW via SDI to selected cameras*:
Three ways to power your Ninja: – DC power supply – perfect for in the studio. – DTap cable – perfect for on-set, meaning your rig can run from a single power source. – Optional NPF battery or any four-cell NPF you might have in your kit bag.
The ProRes RAW Advantage
ProRes RAW is now firmly established as the new standard for RAW video capture, with an ever-growing number of supported HDMI and SDI cameras. ProRes RAW combines the visual and workflow benefits of RAW video with the incredible real-time performance of ProRes. The format gives filmmakers enormous latitude when adjusting the look of their images and extending brightness and shadow detail, making it ideal for HDR workflows. Both ProRes RAW and the higher bandwidth, less compressed ProRes RAW HQ are supported. Manageable file sizes speed up and simplify file transfer, media management, and archiving. ProRes RAW is fully supported in Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer 2020.10 update, along with a collection of other apps including ASSIMILATE SCRATCH, Colorfront, FilmLight Baselight, and Grass Valley Edius.
Existing Ninja V and AtomX SDI module owners
While the Pro Kit offers a complete bundle, existing Ninja V owners can enhance their equipment to the same level by purchasing the AtomX SDI module for $199, and the New RAW over SDI and HDMI RAW to SDI video feature can also be added to the Ninja V via separate activation key from the Atomos website for $99.
Existing AtomX SDI module owners will receive the SDI < > HDMI cross conversion for 422 video inputs in the 10.61 firmware update for Ninja V update. You will also be able to benefit from RAW over SDI recording with the purchase of the SDI RAW activation key. This feature will be available from the Atomos website in February 2021.
Special Offer for Pro Kit buyers
The first batch of Ninja V Pro Kits will include a FREE Atomos CONNECT in the box. Connect allows you to start streaming at up to 1080p60 directly from your Ninja V!
Sony have today released version 4 firmware for the Z280 and Z190. This is a nice update for these cameras as it adds the ability to stream directly to platforms such as YouTube or Facebook using the RTMP or RTMPS protocol. There is no longer any need to go via an intermediate convertor such as OBS.
In addition the looks used in th HDR modes are adjusted to bring them into line with the latest cameras with HLG Natural and HDR Live.