Category Archives: cinematography

Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2

This is part 2 of my 2 part look at whether small cameras such as a Sony FX3 or A1 really can replace full size cinema cameras.

For this part of the article to make sense you will want to watch the YouTube clips that are linked here full screen at at the highest possible quality settings, Preferably 4K. Please don”t cheat, watch them in the order they are presented as I hope this will allow you to understand the points I am trying to make better.

Also, in the videos I have not put the different cameras that were tested side by side. You may ask why – well it’s because if you do watch a video online or a movie in a cinema you don’t see different cameras side by side on the same screen at the same time. A big point of all of this is that we are now at a place where the quality of even the smallest and cheapest  large sensor camera is likely going to be good enough to make a movie. It’s not necessarily a case of is camera A better than camera B, but the question is will the audience know or care which camera you used. There are 5 cameras and I have labelled them A through to E.

The footage presented here was captured during a workshop I did for Sony at Garage Studios in Dubai (if you need a studio space in Dubai they have some great low budget options). We weren’t doing carefully orchestrated  camera tests, but I did get the chance to quickly capture some side by side content.

So lets get into it.


In many regards I think this is the most important clip as this is how the audience would see the 5 cameras. It represents how they might look at the end of a production. I graded the cameras using ACES in DaVinci Resolve. 

Why ACES? Well, the whole point of ACES is to neutralise any specific camera “look”.  The ACES input transform takes the cameras footage and converts it to a neutral look that is meant to represent the scene as it actually was but with a film like highlight roll off added. From here the idea is that you can apply the same grade to almost any camera and the end result should look more or less the same. The look of different cameras is largely a result of differences in the electronic processing of the image in post production rather than large differences in the sensors. Most modern sensors capture a broadly similar range of colours with broadly similar dynamic range. So, provided you know the what recording levels represent what colour in the scene, it is pretty easy to make any camera look like any other, which is what ACES does.

The footage captured here was captured during a workshop, we weren’t specifically testing the different cameras in great depth. For the workshop the aim was to simply show how any of these cameras could work together. For simplicity and speed I manually set each camera to 5600K and as a result of the inevitable variations you get between different cameras, how each is calibrated and how each applies the white balance settings there were differences between in the  colour balance of each camera.

To neutralise these white balance differences the grading process started by using the colour chart to equalise the images from each camera using the “match” function in DaVinci Resolve. Then each camera has exactly the same grade applied – there are no grading differences, they are all graded in the same way.

Below are frame grabs from each camera with a slightly different grade to the video clips, again, they all look more or less the same.

A-graded_1.1.11-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
The graded image from camera A. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


B-graded_1.2.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
The graded image from camera B. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


C-graded_1.3.4-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
The graded image from camera C. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


D-Graded_1.4.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
The graded image from camera D. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


E-graded_1.5.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
The graded image from camera E. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.

The first thing to take away from all of this then is that you can make any camera look like pretty much any other and a chart such as the “color checker video” and software that can read the chart and correct the colours according to the chart makes it much easier to do this.

To allow for issues with the quality of YouTube’s encoding etc here is a 400% crop of the same clips:


What I am expecting is that most people won’t actually see a great deal of difference between any of the cameras. The cheapest camera is $6K and the most expensive $75K, yet it’s hard to tell which is which or see much difference between them. Things that do perhaps stand out initially in the zoomed in image are the softness/resolution differences between the 4K and 8K cameras, but in the first un cropped clip this difference is much harder to spot and I don’t think an audience would notice especially if the one camera is used on it’s own so the viewer has nothing to directly compare it with. It is possible that there are also small focus differences between each camera, I did try to ensure each was equally well focussed but small errors may have crept in.


OK, so lets pixel peep a bit more and artificially raise the shadows so that we can see what’s going on in the darker parts of the image.


There are differences, but again there isn’t a big difference between any of the cameras. You certainly couldn’t call them huge and in all likelihood, even if for some reason you needed to raise or lift the shadows by an unusually large amount as done here (about 2.5 stops) the difference between “best” and “worst” isn’t large enough for it to be a situation where any one of these cameras would be deemed unusable compared to the others.


So, if we are struggling to tell the difference between a $6K camera and a $75K one why do you want a “better” camera? What are the differences and why might they matter?

When I graded the footage from these cameras in the workshop it was actually quite difficult to find a way to “break” the footage from any of them. For the majority of grading processes that I tried  they all held up really well and I’d be happy to work with any of them, even the cameras using the highly compressed internal recordings held up well. But there are differences, they are not all the same and some are easier to work with than the others. 

The two cheapest cameras were a Sony FX3 and a Sony A1. I recorded using their built in codecs, XAVC-SI in the FX3 and XAVC-HS in the A1. These are highly compressed 10 bit codecs. The other cameras were all recorded using their internal raw codecs which are either 16 bit linear or 12 bit log. At some time I really do need to do a proper comparison of the internal XAVC form the FX3 and the ProResRaw that can be recorded externally. But it is hard to do a fully meaningful test as to get the ProResRaw into Resolve requires transcoding and a lot of other awkward steps. From my own experience the difference in what you can do with XAVC v ProResRaw is very small.

One thing that happens with most highly compressed codecs such as H264 (XAVC-SI) or H265(XAVC-HS) is a loss of some very fine textural information and the image breaking up into blocks of data. But as I am showing these clips via YouTube in a compressed state I needed to find a way to illustrate the subtle differences that I see when looking at the original material. So, to show the difference between the different sensors and codecs within these camera I decided to pick a colour using the Resolve colour picker and then turn that colour into a completely different one, in this case pink.

What this allows you to see is how precisely the picked colour is recorded and it also shows up some of the macro block artefacts. Additionally it gives an indication on how fine the noise is and the textural qualities of the recording. In this case  the finer the pink “noise” the better, as this is an indication of smaller, finer textural differences in the image. These smaller textural details would be helpful if chroma keying or perhaps for some types of VFX work. It might (and say might because I’m not convinced it always will) allow you to push a very extreme grade a little bit further.

I would guess that by now you are starting to figure out which camera is which – The cameras are an FX3, A1, Burano, Venice 2 and an ArriLF.

In this test you should be able to identify the highly compressed cameras from the raw cameras. The pink areas from the raw cameras are finer and less blocky, this is a good representation of the benefit of less compression and a deeper bit depth.

A-Compression_1.1.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Camera A. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


B-Compression_1.2.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Compression and codec Camera B. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


C-Compression_1.3.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Compression and codec Camera C. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


D-compression_1.4.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Compression and codec Camera D. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


E-Compression_1.4.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Compression and codec Camera E. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.

But even here the difference isn’t vast. It certainly, absolutely, exists. But at the same time  you could push ANY of these cameras around in post production and if you’ve shot well none of them are going to fall apart. 

As a side note I will say that I find grading linear raw footage such as the 16 bit X-OCN from a Venice or Burano more intuitive compared to working with compressed Log. As a result I find it a bit easier to get to where I want to be with the X-OCN than the XAVC. But this doesn’t mean I can’t get to the same place with either.


Not only is compression important but so too is resolution. To some degree increasing the resolution can make up for a lesser bit depth.  As these camera all use bayer sensors the chroma resolution will be somewhat less than the luma resolution. A 4K sensor such as the one in the FX3 or the Arri LF will have much lower chroma resolution than the 8K A1, Burano or Venice 2. If we look at the raised shadows clip again we can see some interesting things going on the the girls hair.


If you look closely camera D has a bit of blocky chroma noise in the shadows. I suspect this might be because this is one of the 4K sensor cameras and the lower chroma resolution means the chroma noise is a bit larger.

I expect that by now you have an idea of which camera is which, but here is the big reveal: A is the FX3, B is the Venice 2, C is Burano, D is an Arri LF, and E is the Sony A1.

What can we conclude from all of this: 

There are differences between codecs. A better codec with a greater bit depth will give you  more textural information. It is not necessarily simply that raw will always be better than YUV/YCbCr but because of raws compression efficiency it is possible to have very low levels of compression and a deep bit depth. So, if you are able to record with a better codec or greater bit depth why not do so. There are some textural benefits and there will be fewer compression artefacts. BUT this doesn’t mean you can’t get a great result from XAVC or another compressed codec.

If using a bayer sensor than using a sensor with more “K” than the delivery resolution can bring textural benefits.

There are differences in the sensors, but these differences are not really as great as many might expect. In terms of DR they are all actually very close, close enough that in the real world it isn’t going to make a substantial difference. As far as your audience is concerned I doubt they would know or care. Of course we have all seen the tests where you greatly under expose a camera and then bring the footage back to normal, and these can show differences. But that’s not how we shoot things. If you are serious about getting the best image that you can, then you will light to get the contrast and exposure that you want. What isn’t in this test is rolling shutter, but generally I rarely see issues with rolling shutter these days. But if you are worried about RS, then the Venice 2 is excellent and the best of the group tested here.

Assuming you have shot well there is no reason why an audience should find the image quality from the $6K FX3 unacceptable, even on a big screen. And if you were to mix and FX3 with a Venice 2 or Burano, again if you have used each camera equally well I doubt the audience would spot the difference.


So this brings me back to where I started in part 1. I believe this is the age of the small camera – or at least there is no reason why you can’t use a camera like an FX3 or an A1 to shoot a movie. While many of my readers I am sure will focus on the technical details of the image quality of camera A against camera B, in reality these days it’s much more about the ergonomics and feature set as well as lens and lighting choices.

A small camera allows you to be quick and nimble, but a bigger camera may give you a lot more monitoring options as well as other things such as genlock. And….. if you can – having a better codec doesn’t hurt. So there is no – one fits all – camera that will be the right tool for every job.  

Do I Need To Always Overexpose S-Log3?

This is another one from Social Media and it the same question gets asked a lot. The short answer is…………


Even with Sony’s earlier S-Log3 cameras you didn’t need to ALWAYS over expose. When shooting a very bright well lit scene you could get great results without shooting extra bright. But the previous generations of Sony cameras (FS5/FS7/F5/F55 etc) were much more noisy than the current cameras. So, to get a reasonably noise free image it was normal to expose a bit brighter than the base Sony recommendation, my own preference was to shoot between 1 and 1.5 stops brighter than the Sony recommended levels (click here for the F5/F55, here for the FS7 and here for the FS5).

The latest cameras (FX30, FX3, FX6, FX9 etc) are not nearly as noisy, so for most shots you don’t need to expose extra bright, just expose well (by this I mean exposing correctly for the scene being shot). This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t expose brighter or darker if you understand how to use a brighter/darker exposure to shift your overall range up and down, perhaps exposing brighter when you want more shadow information and les noise at the expense of some highlight range or exposing darker when you must have more highlight information but can live with a bit more noise and less shadow range.

What I would say is that exposure consistency is very important. If you constantly expose to the right so every shot is near to clipping then your exposure becomes driven by the highlights in the shot rather than the all important mid range where faces, skin tones, plants and foliage etc live. As the gap between highlights and the mids varies greatly exposure based on highlights tends to result in footage where the mid range is up and down and all over the place from shot to shot and this makes grading more challenging as every shot needs a unique grade. Base the exposure on the mid range and shot to shot you will be more consistent and grading will be easier.

This is where the CineEI function really comes into its own as by choosing the most appropriate EI for the type of scene you are shooting and the level of noise you are comfortable with and basing the exposure off the image via the built in LUT will help with consistency (you could even use a light meter set to the ISO that matches the EI setting). Lower EI for scenes where you need more shadow range or less noise, higher EI for scenes where you must have a greater highlight range. And there is no -“One Fits All” setting, it depends on what you are shooting. This is the real skill, using the most appropriate exposure for the scene you are shooting (see here for CineEI with the FX6 and with the FX9)

So how do you get that skill? Experiment for yourself. No one was born knowing exactly how to expose Log, it is a skill learnt through practice and experimentation, making mistakes and learning from them. In addition different people and different clients will be happy with different noise levels. There is no right or wrong amount of noise. Footage with no noise often looks very sterile and lifeless, but that might be what is needed for a corporate shoot. A small to medium amount of noise can look great if you want a more film like look. A large amount of noise might give a grungy look for a music video. Grading also plays a part here as how much contrast you push into the grade alters the way the noise looks and how pleasing or objectionable it might be.

All anyone on here can do is provide some guidance, but really you need to determine what works for you, so go out and shoot at different EI’s or ISO’s, different brightness levels, slate each shot so you know what you did. Then grade it, look at it on a decent sized monitor and pick the exposure that works for you and the kinds of things you shoot – but then also remember different scenes may need a different approach.

Why Doesn’t My Footage Grade Well?

So this came up on social media. Someone had been playing with some sample raw footage provided by a camera manufacturer and he/she was concerned because he felt that this manufacturer supplied footage graded much better than his/her own Sony XAVC-I footage.

There is a lot to a situation like this, but very often the issue isn’t that the other footage was raw while his/her own footage was XAVC-I S-Log. Raw doesn’t normally have more colour or more DR than log. The colour range and the shadow range won’t be significantly different as that tends to be limited by the cameras sensor rather than the recording codec. But what you might have if the raw is 12 bit or greater is a larger bit depth or less compression. Perhaps a bit of both and that can sometimes give some extra precision or finer gradations as well as a bit less noise (although compression can reduce noise). This may come into play when you really start to push and pull the footage very hard in the grade, but generally, if you can’t get the image you want out of 10 bit XAVC-I, 12 bit raw isn’t going to help you. Raw might make it a bit quicker to get to where you want to be and I do love working with the 16 bit X-OCN (raw) from Venice and Burano, but I have never really felt that XAVC S-Log3 is lacking. Even a deeper bit depth might not be all it seems. The sensors in most video cameras under $20K only have 12 bit analog to digital converters and that tends to be the main image quality bottleneck (and this where Venice really shines with its 14 bit A2D).

Sony’s XAVC-I S-log3 grades really well, really, really well. A big issue however is the reliance on LUTs. 3D LUTs divide the image up into 33x or 65x adjustment bands and then it is down to the grading software to interpolate between each band. This can introduce artefacts into the image.

Some people simply skip doing a proper colourspace transform altogether and this may introduce twists into the gamma and colourspace which then makes it hard to get the colours or contrast they really want as it can be hard to bend the colours in a pleasing way without them going “weird”.

Colour managed workflows help to maintain the full range of the original content within the correct output colourspace without any unwanted twists and are often the best way to full realise the potential of the content you have shot.

Plus not all grading software is created equal. I was an Adobe Premiere user for years until I needed to do a lot more grading. When DaVinci Resolve became affordable I switched to Resolve for grading and have never looked back – after all it is a proper grading tool, not edit software with a bunch of plugins bolted on.

But as always the real key is how it was shot. Manufacturer supplied sample content is likely to have been shot very well and highly optimised, after all they want it to make their camera look as good as possible. When comparing footage from different sources you really do need to consider whether just how well it was shot. Was the most appropriate exposure index used for the type of scene. Was it shot at the best possible time of day for the best sun positioning. How much attention went in to things like the careful choice of the colours in the scene to provide pleasing colour contrast. How much time was spent with negative fill to bring down the shadow areas etc, what filtration was used to bleed off highlights or polarise the sky or windows. What lenses were used. All these things will have a massive impact on how gradeable the footage will be.

The Wingman by James Friend – shot on Burano

Screenshot-2023-11-19-at-17.10.06-600x335 The Wingman by James Friend - shot on Burano
Frame grab from The Wingman by James Friend


I was recently involved as a technical advisor for the production of this short film by James Friend ASC BSC. James is best know for his work on “All Quiet On The Western Front” which won him an academy award for best cinematography.

Screenshot-2023-11-19-at-17.09.46-600x335 The Wingman by James Friend - shot on Burano
Cockpit view from The Wingman shot by James Friend.


This film is a homage to “Top Gun”. It was hot mostly with Sony Burano’s, but there is also some Venice 2 footage in it too. It was a bit of a gamble shooting it in the UK in October, but the weather gods were kind to us and we got some really great skies. Filming took place over 3 days, mostly in Somerset. The aircraft is a Yak-50 and it was flown by renowned aerobatic pilot Paul Bonhomme.   If you follow the link to the Sony website you will find a lot more information about the production as well as a BTS film and the main film.  Click here to go to the Sony website where you will find the video.

Screenshot-2023-11-19-at-17.09.04-600x335 The Wingman by James Friend - shot on Burano

Why doesn’t every camera have a global shutter?

Global shutter cameras are not a new thing. They have been around for a very long time.  The Sony Z750 is 2.5 years old and has had a global shutter since day 1. There are also the HDC-3200 and F5500 4K global shutter cameras.
Screenshot-2023-11-15-at-11.46.52-600x435 Why doesn't every camera have a global shutter?
Global Shutter Sony PMW-F55
The PMW-F55 had a global shutter and CCD cameras had global shutters.

And now Sony have announced the new A9 MKIII stills camera that also has a global shutter:
Screenshot-2023-11-15-at-12.09.54-600x419 Why doesn't every camera have a global shutter?
Sony’s new A9 III has a global shutter.

So, given that it’s not really a new thing – why doesn’t every camera have a global shutter?

The main reason is noise – and in particular fixed pattern noise that will show up in blacks and deep shadow areas if you try to lift the shadows or use high levels of gain. With a global shutter the signal from every pixel is globally shifted into a memory cell at the end of each exposure period and then those memory cells are read out while the next frame is being capture. Each memory cell will have a slightly different very tiny signal offset and as the arrangement of the memory cells never changes these offsets get added to the signal and appear in the output as a fixed noise pattern. It can be harder to eliminate this fixed pattern noise in post production compared to random noise and it can look very ugly, not at all like film grain.

In addition the readout can be delayed by up to 1 frame more than a rolling shutter sensor as the readout from the sensor to the image processor must wait until after the frame has been captured and shifted from the pixels to the memory cells. This adds additional latency to the monitoring (not really an issue in a photo camera, but more of a problem in a video camera).


Image quality is never about one single factor. It is about the balance between noise, readout speed, DR, colour, artefacts. But when one issue, such as fixed pattern noise overwhelms any other benefits it tends to become a problem. The F55 was well know for it’s fixed pattern noise, so a good bright exposure was always desirable to avoid the noise. An under exposed F55 was ugly and generally you would always try to shoot 1 or 2 stops brighter than the cameras base ISO. Early tests of the A9 III appear to indicate that it is a bit noisier that other similar rolling shutter cameras and the limited ISO range suggests that the sensors DR is also a bit more limited – this shouldn’t really be a surprise as noise limits the shadow DR. Plus this is a single ISO camera, no dual ISO goodness with the A9 III.
So, a high end global shutter camera may well be good to have, but are you willing to give up dual ISO, exceptional low light performance or low noise? Given the A9 III sensor appears to have a native ISO of 250, what about needing to use an EI of 250 to get the best performance out of your S-Log3 or raw video camera when everything else can now be rated at 800 without issue? The F55 was 1250 ISO, but you needed to shoot at around 320-640 EI to get an image as clean as we can now get at 800EI with the newer cameras and there was no way you would want to shoot at 4000ISO/EI with an F55 but now we take for granted the ability to shoot at high ISOs without excessive noise.

I have no doubt that the A9 III is a great photo camera and that it’s global shutter can bring some benefits such as eliminating the need for a mechanical shutter and very high speed flash synchronisation. But these benefits are not essential for a video camera. In the future maybe all cameras will have global shutters, but we are not yet at the point where a global shutter doesn’t have any downsides. The extra memory cells, the extra transistors used to control the movement of the tiny signals on the sensor all add a little extra noise. The sensor might run hotter too especially if used for video. Plus the sensor is probably more expensive to make. So, while I think the A9 III is a welcome addition I don’t think it makes our rolling shutter video cameras obsolete. The majority of films shot on film had a small small amount of rolling shutter caused by the sweep of the cameras rotary shutter across the film.

Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

I was lucky enough to have been involved with a couple of the Sony Burano demo films as technical consultant and in addition I have now shot with it myself a few times.  You will find the main film I helped to shoot, shot with a pre-production Burano and mostly Cooke SP3 lenses  here:

So I though I would take a look at what it is and who it’s for. Everything written here is based on my experience with a pre-production camera, so there may be some small differences in the final release cameras.

Burano-sa1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

What is Burano?

 Sony’s Burano camera is a digital cinematography camera with an 8.6K sensor. It records to 3 different codecs, 16 bit X-OCN, and 10 bit XAVC-H and XAVC-I. It’s smaller than a Sony Venice and bigger than a Sony FX6. Overall, it is a similar size to the Sony FX9 and just a touch heavier. It has a PL lens mount and behind the PL mount there is a locking Sony E-Mount. It is expected to have a list price of 25,000 Euros.

The 8.6K sensor more than likely shares the same DNA as the sensor in the 8.6K Venice camera, but it is not the same sensor as Burano includes phase detection autofocus pixels and has a little more rolling shutter than Venice. Perhaps the Burano sensor is the same sensor as used in the Sony A1 camera. It’s no secret that the Venice 8.6K sensor and the Sony A1 sensor are very closely related. The autofocus in Burano is assisted by a dedicated AI processor.

burano-pl-mount2_1.4.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano has an 8.6K Full Frame sensor

Burano has one of Sony’s very handy variable ND filters that smoothly goes from ¼ ND to 1/128th ND (2 to 6 stops). There is also a clear position where a clear optical flat replaces the ND.

Variable ND AND IBIS!

A first in Burano is the combination of both a variable ND filter and IBIS (In Body Stabilisation). The in body stabilisation is capable of working in conjunction with almost any lens attached to the camera including PL lenses.

Burano-emount Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

CFExpress Type B.

Burano records to readily available CFExpress Type B cards, it is recommended that VPG400 cards are used but I have been able to use other fast cards not certified to the VPG400 standard (400MB/S sustained write speed). This represents a tremendous cost saving over the ultra expensive AXS cards required for Venice and while more expensive than SD cards, CFExpress cards are not crazy money. I successfully shot using 512GB Sabrent and Integral cards that cost around £150 ($200) each (the camera flashed up an unsupported media message, but I was able to record at all frame rates and resolutions including 4K 120fps and 8.6K 30fps X-OCN). The officially recommended cards are Sony’s VPG400 “tough” cards along with other brands of VPG400 cards, but these are more expensive.

Touchscreen LCD.

It is supplied with a good quality touchscreen LCD that can be used “as-is” or with a loupe attached to it. The optics in the loupe are pretty good and it uses a mirror to fold the optical path making it less long than the Loupe found on the FX9. BUT this mirror is in my opinion a very odd choice, more on that later. The LCD screen can be mounted to its mounting hardware in quite a few different ways allowing the camera to be adapted to many different shooting styles, again more details on this later.

burano-LCD_1.2.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano LCD screen

V-Mount and 14 volts.

The camera has a V-Mount for V-Mount batteries as well as a 4 pin XLR input. No silly voltages here, it’s all industry standard 12v-16v. But one small omission is a complete lack of any DC out connectors on the camera body other than a USB-C port.

The bottom and top of the camera are completely flat, so it is very easy to add various base plates and I am sure there will be plenty of 3rd party cheese plate options etc. At IBC there were options from Vocas, Chrosziel and Tilta and I know there are accessories from Wooden Camera and Bright Tangerine in the pipelines.

Burano-SDI Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Burano has an HDMI out and 2 SDI ouptuts, the top SDI is 12G, the lower SDI is 6G.



8.6K Full Frame X-OCN-LT (and 8K XAVC-H +  4K & HD XAVC-I)

Burano has a few different scan sizes. The largest is an 8.6K scan of the full frame sensor at up to 30fps and this can be recorded to 16 X-OCN-LT or to the new H265 based XAVC-H codec. X-OCN is Sony’s raw codec, it takes everything the sensor captures, compresses it and records it in a very computer friendly 16 bit file.

Burano-ungraded1_1.17.1-scaled Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Ungraded Burano X-OCN frame grab, click on the image to enlarge.

This is the same codec as used by the Venice cameras. On a Venice there are 3 versions, XT (eXtended quality) ST (Standard Quality) and LT (Light). Even though LT is the smallest version of X-OCN the quality remains exceptionally good and I’ve used X-OCN-LT when shooting with the Venice cameras many times because my experience is that for most types of production the difference between LT and  XT is so small that LT is more than enough. Shooting at 8.6K and 30fps it is around 1.5Gb/s so you will get around 30 minutes on a 512GB card.

Burano-Monitoring Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano Scan modes (approximate relative sizes).


XAVC-H is only for 8K recording. There are three versions of XAVC-H, all are 10 bit 4:2:2 and based on H265. XAVC-H-I-HQ is I frame only and goes up to 1200Mbps offering very high quality recordings. XAVC-H-I-SQ is the standard quality version going up to 800Mbps. Even at this bit rate the image quality remains very high, but if I wanted to shoot S-Log3 and grade, I would prefer XAVC-H-I-HQ. Shooting at XAVC-H-I-HQ you will get a little over an hour of 8K 30fps footage on a 512GB card when using the 8.6K scan mode.

Burano-Codecs1_1.12.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

In addition there is a long GoP version, however the Long GoP version only supports 16:9. XAVC-H-L has a maximum bit rate of 520Mbps and actually the image quality is exceptionally good, comparable to the XAVC-H-I-HQ. But this codec need a lot of processing power in post production so may not be suitable for complex productions or anything where you have layers of clips.

Full Frame Scan – 6K recording.  Full Frame crop 6K

The next smaller scan size in what Sony rather confusingly calls Full Frame crop 6K. Unlike most other cameras the “6K” refers to the size of the recorded file, not the sensor scan. Sony haven’t publicly stated the number of pixels used, but according to my calculations it appears to be an 8K scan and the crop from Full Frame is very, very small. Only about 1.07x, less than 10%. The scan is then downsampled to 6K for recording.

For me this is a really nice option. The file sizes are half the size of the 8.6K scans, but because this is a downsample from the bayer sensor there is very little, if any, resolution loss (8K bayer resolves around 6K). I’m going to guess that this downsample to 6K is necessary to make recording X-OCN to CFExpress cards at 60 fps reliable. Recording X-OCN LT using the 6K scan mode at 30fps you will get around an hour of footage on a 512GB card. 

From the FF Crop 6K mode you can also record in 4K or HD using the XAVC-I codec.

Burano-scan-modes_1.5.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Selecting a new scan mode on Burano.

Going smaller, there is a Super35 mm 5.8K scan, recorded at either 5.8K with X-OCN or 4K or HD with XAVC-I. The image quality is not compromised in any way at any of the scan sizes, so there are no extra aliasing issues, no loss of dynamic range, no extra noise. So, this means that Burano is an excellent Super 35mm camera. At 5.8K using X-OCN LT at 30fps you will get a touch over 1 hour on a 512GB card.

In a future firmware update we are promised a 4:3 scan mode. 4:3 scan is the normally used aspect ration for classic super 35mm 2x anamorphic lenses. In addition we will get extra de-squeeze modes including 1.5x and 1.8x.

4K Scan and 120fps.

To shoot at more than 60fps we need to go down to a 4K scan. This is quite a small part of the sensor, the crop is around 2.15x from Full frame.  The good side is the image quality is no different to any of the other scan modes (other than resolution). The down side is you will need some pretty wide lenses for wide shots. But, for wild life shooters this will allow you to get closer to the action when shooting at up to 120fps.

Burano-Frame-Rates-1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
As you can see from the table above, XAVC-H is only available for the FF 8.6K scan mode. Once you drop down to the FF Crop 6K scan mode you can use XAVC-I to record in DCI 4K, UHD or HD.

Picture Quality.

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Shot with a Sony Burano and Cooke SP3 lens


It’s exceptionally good. And this is the thing, despite some of the cameras limitations and oddities (more on them later) Burano produces a beautiful image. The 16 bit X-OCN gives incredible post production flexibility and this is the codec you are going to want to use if you really want to get the best out of the camera. The subtleties the camera captures when shooting faces are sublime. The colour range is staggering and the linearity, the way colours don’t change or shift with brightness allows you to capture vast amounts of colour information from the deepest shadows to the brightest highlights.

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Beautiful Skin tone textures from Sony Burano

The performance when shooting with XAVC-H is also very good, but you do loose some of the wonderful grading flexibility of the X-OCN.

When shooting at 8.6K with X-OCN-LT the images are almost indistinguishable from the images from a Venice 2, perhaps the only giveaway being more rolling shutter from Burano than Venice 2 (approx 16ms at 8.6k).

Burano’s sensor is a dual base ISO sensor, the base ISO’s are 800 and 3200 (the same as the 8.6K Venice 2). There is very little difference between the noise at each ISO and what noise there is very fine, almost film like. I actually like seeing the noise from Burano, it adds a subtle texture to the images that looks very nice.

SA-Shoot-Projector1_1.2.3-scaled Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Shot at using Burano’s high base ISO of 3200.

Cameras like Sony’s FX6 already produce very good images, so, other than perhaps resolution, what is different about Burano’s images that makes me prefer it over the others? Frankly not a vast amount, we are already seeing the FX3 and FX6 being used on feature films, so we know they are very good. But what Burano has over the FX6 (like Venice) is an image that for me is more organic. It looks less electronic, less processed and there is a subtle richness to the colours not there in the FX3 or FX6. It is not a night and day difference, but it is a difference that makes me want to shoot with a Burano or Venice whenever I can. I suspect some of this comes from shooting at 8.6K or 5.8K and then down sampling to 4K, the extra resolution really helps with fine textures, colour resolution is greatly improved over a 4K sensor and the noise has a fineness to it that is very organic.

SA-Shoot-origami1_2.2.1-copy-scaled Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera


Output Limitations:

One thing I discovered when using Burano to shoot X-OCN is that there are some output limitations. The camera has 2 SDI outputs, the top one is 12G and the lower one is 3G plus a 4K capable HDMI output. But when shooting using X-OCN these outputs are limited. You can’t have both SDI and HDMI at the same time and there is no way to get a 4K SDI output when shooting X-OCN. You can have 4K HDMI, but if you output 4K HDMI, you can’t have a LUT on the HDMI. In addition, if you are using the other codecs and want a LUT you can only get a LUT on the output when outputting HD. I was really surprised by these limitations.


Screenshot-2023-10-13-at-11.49.03 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera


This isn’t a cheap camera and the FX6 can output 4K and a LUT no matter how it’s setup. I had hoped that the FX9 was going to be the last camera with these sorts of restrictions, but alas no, Burano has them too. It’s very disappointing. But, I also acknowledge that not many people actually monitor on set at 4K (although 4K on a big monitor does make it much easier to see focus issues) and seeing as you have extremely high quality 16 bit internal recordings there isn’t really the need to output at 4K for an external recorder. 

Burano-sa7 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

Better news is that even though there is no dedicated anamorphic scan mode the camera does support 2x and 1.3x monitoring De-Squeeze (with 1.5x and 1.8x to come in later firmware updates). But this is limited to when using the X-OCN codec. For anamorphic, until the 4:3 scan mode gets added via a later firmware update you should use the 8.6K FF scan modes wherever possible as this will be the correct height for super 35mm anamorphic lenses.

Even though you do need to do some cropping in post production, shooting 2x Anamorphic with a sensor that is nearly 5K tall and after cropping will be around 6K wide is absolutely fine for any type of delivery.

Cache Record, Interval Record and S&Q

Like most of Sony’s professional cameras Burano has cache record giving up to 30 seconds of pre-record cache and an interval record function. The cache can be combined with the S&Q mode (slow and quick) for slow motion and at 120fps is still a very decent 10 seconds (immediately I start thinking about shooting lightning and thunderstorms at 120fps using the cache).

And for those that don’t want to shoot X-OCN (raw) or S-Log3 Burano does have a full custom mode with S-Cinetone and Rec-709 gamma, pretty much the same as the FX6.


It’s a box, slightly smaller than the FX9. An almost square box, no weird curved base or odd shapes. Overall the camera body seems well laid out. The flat top and bottom makes mounting base plates and top plates easy. There is a V-Mount on the back, so no silly power adapters needed. On the right side of the camera there are 2 SDI connectors and HDMI connector plus connectors for genlock and timecode. You also have 2 full size XLR inputs. But there are a couple of omissions.

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Right Side of the Sony Burano (not the 3rd party power breakout box between the battery and camera). Also the option arm and hand grip.

There is no DC power output other than a USB-C port. On a cinema camera you normally want a power output for accessories such as a follow focus or perhaps 3rd party monitor. But Burano has no power output. This means most will need to either use batteries with D-Taps or some sort of power module between the battery and camera. For the filming I’ve done with Burano I used a power breakout module between the battery and v-mount as this is a little bit safer than using D-Taps on a battery that you have to reconnect every time the battery has to be changed.

As an option you can buy an arm (Sony GPVR100) with a handgrip that is very similar to the arm used on the FX9. But the new arm includes a small lever that releases the arms pivot making it quick and easy to adjust the angle of the arm. This is a very big improvement over previous Sony arms. The new arm is also compatible with the FX6, but not the FX9. 

Top Handle and LCD Mounting.

burano-top-view Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano viewed for above.

The camera is supplied with a very solid all metal top handle that bolts onto either the front or rear of the top of the camera. The handle then has a 15mm rod running through it for the viewfinder mounting system.

Burano-from-right Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

This IS an improvement over previous similar mounting systems as now the main support bar for the viewfinder is compatible with the Nato standard rather than Sony’s unique square rod or worse still the round rods that were in the FS7. But I do feel that the viewfinder mounting and ergonomics do let the camera down a bit, especially at the target price of 25K Euro/USD. There are certainly some odd design decisions.

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Burano Nato rail for the LCD

The LCD itself has two mounting points, one on it’s rear and one on the end. It attaches to a swivel joint and then the swivel attaches to the Nato rail. The swivel joint has a fixed level of tension, it’s pretty stiff, so won’t droop or sag, even with the eyepiece attached.

Burano-LCD-back Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

The combination of 2 different mounting points on the LCD screen and two different ways the swivel can be attached to the Nato rail allows you to mount the LCD on either side of the camera, either parallel with the camera body or sticking out at 90 degrees from the body.

Burano-LCD-swivel_1.6.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
The Burano LCD swivel attached to the back of the screen


So far, so good.
By mounting the LCD on the right side of the camera it can be used by an assistant or AC much like the assistants control panel on a Venice. When you press the large “Home” button you get what Sony call the “Big 6” controls for frame rate, ISO, white balance, ND filter, shutter speed and monitoring.

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Burano LCD showing the Big 6 main camera settings.


When the Big 6 are being displayed the overlays on the SDI and HDMI are reduced to minimise clutter on an external monitor. Around the screen there are 6 buttons, one for each of the big 6 oryou can touch the screen to change the settings.

I expect most users of Burano will have the LCD screen mounted on the left side of the camera. If you attach the LCD parallel with the camera body you can then attach the high quality magnifier. This incorporates a mirror to keep the viewfinder assembly nice and compact. The housing is metal and the optics are high quality which is great. But why does it have a mirror?

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Shooting using the Sony Burano Loupe

You see – the LCD is a touch screen and I am sure there will be many times when you will want to use the magnifier/loupe as the screen is totally shaded from the sun so you see the correct contrast and you can see focus more easily. But with the LCD screen parallel with the camera body, when you flip the screen up, if the camera is on your shoulder, you can’t see the LCD making it impossible to use the touch functions or menus.

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When you open or remove the loupe the LCD can only be seen from the side of the camera


I know a lot of people don’t like the FX9 loupe because it’s long and plastic. But at least you could flip that up and see the screen. This one doesn’t make any sense. And what’s worse is that when you attach the viewfinder magnifier the buttons for the “Big 6” functions are inside the magnifier housing so can’t be used! Instead you’ll need to use the thumbstick which is on the far side of the LCD, hidden by the loupe assembly and tricky to get at. None of this makes any sense.

Burano-overlays_1.10.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
The information overlays on Sony Burano are around the edge of the LCD image.

Which is such a shame, because on the LCD screen the information overlays are no longer over the image, they are around the edge of the screen and the screen itself is of reasonable quality. When used with the loupe it is a nice viewfinder and I am sure many will want to use it this way. I suspect we will see some 3rd party adapters to eliminate the mirror or allow the screen to flip out and then all these issues go away. One note is that the overlays are only around the edge of the image on the LCD screen. If outputting to an external monitor the overlays are over the main image (I believe there will be a later firmware update to allow the output of a monitoring image with the overlays around the outside of the image via the HDMI at some point).

Audio Inputs

Another oddity is that it isn’t easy to get more than 2 channels of audio into the camera. I have become used to having my external mics on channels 1 and 2 and then using the cameras internal mic on channel 3 and 4 as a backup. But with only 2 analog XLRs you only have 2 inputs! The camera does have a small scratch mic on the operators side, but there is no other microphone built in to the camera. There is a way to get more than 2 channels of audio in and it and it involves the use of the top handle from the FX9. On the top of the Burano camera there is a little cover and under the cover there is the same connector as there is on the top of the FX9. And, Burano can take the FX9 top handle instead of the suppled handle. This then gives you the ability to use the MI Shoe on the FX9’s handle to feed 2 more channels of audio into the camera. The FX9 handle can be purchased from a Sony dealer as a spare part. But I have to say, when you are spending 25K Euro/USD  on a camera this is a bit disappointing. Please Sony, make a small breakout box.

Burano-extra-top-mounting Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Note the extra mounting points and the connector cover that allows the FX9 top handle to be used on a Sony Burano.


Variable ND and IBIS.

Burano has Sony’s Full Frame variable ND filter system. This is so easy to use and a great feature. There is a clear position and then when the ND filter comes in the minimum ND is 2 stops going all the way to 8 stops. There is a rotary dial on the left side of the camera for variable ND, or you can set the ND filter to work in 1 stop steps which can then be controlled via the Big 6 home menu or the plus and minus buttons. The variable ND can also be controlled automatically by the cameras auto exposure system which is an interesting option particularly when shooting with PL lenses. In addition when using a Sony E-Mount lens and the variable ND is engaged you can use the “Bokeh Control” function that ties the ND filter and the lenses iris together to maintain a constant image brightness. By turning the iris control you can alter the depth of field and Bokeh while the brightness stays the same.

Burano-ND-wheel_1.11.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano ND filter wheel and buttons

One of the big surprises though is the addition of IBIS in body stabilisation because for a long time Sony said that having both together wasn’t possible. IBIS works with any lens, including unstabilised PL lenses. What’s more it’s really good. There are a couple of different levels of stabilisation including an off setting. When shooting in Full Frame you are limited to the Low setting – which works very well at removing low levels of camera shake, its great for steadying up a handheld shot. When using a PL (or other non Sony E-Mount lens) you must set the focal length of the lens manually to get the best results. Set too long a focal length setting and the image will be over stabilised, making it more jittery and wobbly. Set a shorter focal length than that of the lens and you get less stabilisation, this might be handy if you want only a very small amount of stabilisation.

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Sony Burano PL Stabilisation


When shooting using the s35 5.8K scan mode and XAVC-I there is a high setting for PL and other non Sony lenses as well as an active setting for Sony E-mount lenses. This does introduce a small additional crop into the image but is very good at taking out a lot of camera shake. These modes only work when recording XAVC-H or XAVC-I, the high and active modes don’t work with X-OCN. However active mode does tend to “grab” a little bit, taking out a lot of shake and wobble until it can’t take any more out and then suddenly the image jerks a bit and then grabs a new stable position. I myself am not a big fan of the active mode, but its handy to have it in reserve for those times you are really struggling to get a stable shot, perhaps from a helicopter or boat.

One small issue with adding IBIS to a digital cinema camera is that because the sensor can move there could be small image shifts when the camera is used locked off, shut down and then restarted. 

AS well as IBIS Burano has gyro sensors and the gyro data is recorded as metadata to allow footage to be stabilised in post production. To use the Gyro data IBIS should be turned off or you should use the PL Hi or E-Mount Active modes.

One note here – when you remove or refit the PL mount you MUST turn the camera off. When you turn the camera on it checks to see whether the PL Mount is fitted or not and then makes adaptations to the menu options based on whether the camera thinks you have the PL mount attached or not.

Autofocus with AI processing.

Burano-af-tracking_2.1.1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano autofocus with AI and human tracking.


Burano has autofocus. It has Sony’s excellent fast hybrid autofocus system and we all know how good that is. It even has a new AI based processing chip to assist with the object tracking and human detection. The autofocus can be driven using the LCD touch screen, simply touch where you want the camera to focus and it will then track that object. It can be set to recognise “Humans” and will prioritise Humans over anything else in the shot, focussing on the profile of a human, even if they are not facing the camera and then when they turn towards the camear it will focus on the persons face or eyes. It works exceptionally well. It is also highly programmable with the usual settings for responsiveness and focus speed that we see in cameras like the FX6 and FX3.

I think it will be quite interesting to see whether high end film makers will, or will not, use autofocus. Burano gives Venice image quality but with the ability to use AF if you want. It might end up used on very big features for action scenes or other shots where focus is particularly challenging. It will be great for use on gimbals and stabilisers. The projects I have been involved have used gimbals and drones. Burano balances really easily, much more easily than a Venice on most drones and gimbals. And for drone work it is so much lighter than a Venice or most other 8K digital cinema cameras. I’ve even managed to get it balanced on a DJI RS3 (using the Cooke SP3 lenses).

Burano-Ronin1 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano balances really well on gimbals.

So, who is it for?

Burano seems to me to be the Sony F55 replacement that so many have been looking for since the F55 was discontinued. But it’s more than that. We have seen that it is possible to shoot a big budget feature film with the Sony FX3, so there really is no reason why you can’t use Burano on very high end features. Burano isn’t that much heavier than a Sony Rialto, so I can see some productions that might have had a Rialto on set swapping the Rialto for a Burano – with Burano there is no umbilical cable to worry about.

Burano-Ronin2 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Sony Burano on a DJI Gimbal.

It will be a great camera for documentary production where you want Venice image quality but without the expense or weight. Although it is worth noting that it is bigger and heavier than an FX6 (but very slightly smaller than the FX9), so it won’t suit every production.
Wildlife productions will likely be very happy to get a camera that can deliver both 8K resolution for re-framing as well as offering different crop modes for when tighter shots are needed. The ability to switch near instantly between the different crop modes will be highly beneficial as will the speed at which the camera turns on.

Burano-assign-crop_1.12.2 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera
Assigning Crop Select to an assignable button makes switching between the different crop modes very fast on Sony Burano

A key Burano strength is its ability to shoot over sampled super 35. I think we will see a resurgence in the use of Super 35 especially for productions that need zoom lenses. There are far more lens options for Super 35 than full frame. Super 35mm lenses have been around for a very long time so there is a wealth of lenses to choose from. So, for anyone that needs a really good s35 camera Burano will be a great option. And compared to other cameras that shoot at s35, as well as the oversampling there is the dual ISO performance,  Burano is great in low light. The base ISO’s are the same as Venice 2, 800 ISO at low base and 3200 ISO at high base. Even at high base the noise is minimal and quite pretty looking.

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Ungraded frame grab from Burano, Click to enlarge.

Burano will be a lower cost, high quality option for anyone that needs to deliver in 8K (as long as you don’t need to go above 30fps). Although I don’t think there are many actually doing this right now and it will be some time before 8K delivery becomes common (if it ever does). I’ve had to deliver a couple of 8K productions but they are the exception, most of what I deliver is 4K and its likely to stay that way for some time yet.

I think Burano will have a very broad appeal. It is perhaps a bit on the expensive side for a lot of those that currently use the FX6 or FX9, and let’s face it, the FX6/FX9 does produce really nice pictures. I think it only has limited appeal for TV News, but for those shooting docs it will be a really nice choice.

Burano-sa8 Sony Launches New Burano CineAlta Camera

But what about some of the negatives I have pointed out?

Well, I really wish they weren’t there and they are frustrating. But none of them are show stoppers. I really want the flexibility to shoot from 8K full frame to super 35, to record with 16 bit X-OCN at up to 120fps. I want the colour response and dynamic range. I love the idea of IBIS with PL lenses and autofocus with Sony lenses. I can live with only a HD SDI output when shooting full frame  X-OCN, after all I don’t need to record externally when the internal X-OCN is so good. I’ll figure out how to get around the strange LCD/Loupe situation, I’m sure there will be some 3rd party solutions.
I can perhaps live with only 2 channels of audio (unless I add the FX9 top handle). So, overall I am really am excited about doing more with Burano. It fills the gap that was left when the F5 and F55 were discontinued and will be a great option for a lot of productions looking to bridge that gap between the FX9 and Venice. For many people, myself included Venice is out of my price range, Venice is a camera I rent when I need it. Burano offers most of the same image quality but at a much more affordable price, especially when media costs are factored in (the AXS cards for needed for the 8K Venice are around £4K each). Burano’s FF Crop 6K scan modes are going to be perfect for documentary productions allowing you to benefit from the near full frame 8K scan to 6K recording, it’s oversampled  while halving the file size compared to recording at 8K.

When can you get one? Originally it was going to be available very early 2024, but in the last few days this has been put back to Spring 2024 – It’s going to be a long wait, but I think well worth the wait.

For the launch videos I helped shoot:

More information can be found here:


Cooke SP3 compact lenses – I’m in love!

I have always liked Cooke lenses, especially their anamorphic lenses. And lenses are so, so important these days. The cameras we have available to us are fantastic, they are almost all capable of producing beautiful images. Grading allows you to make almost any camera look like any other. So the one item that can really make a difference is the lens. Everything about the quality of the images you produce starts with the lens. I’d rather have a great lens on a lesser camera than a lesser lens on a great camera.

Typically Cooke lenses have been PL mount and often heavy. As cameras get smaller and lighter it has been a challenge to find beautiful looking compact lenses that work well on smaller cameras (although we do have more choices than ever before thanks to companies like Sirui).  

So, when I was first shown one of Cookes new SP3 full frame prime lenses, with a Sony E-Mount I was both surprised and excited. Then when I finally got to put one on a Sony camera for a shoot I was not in the slightest bit disappointed. I was the technical consultant and DiT for a big shoot in South Africa with DP Mostafa Fahmy. We decided to use the Cooke SP3 for this shoot and we were not disappointed.

SA-Shoot-Face1_2.1.1-copy-scaled Cooke SP3 compact lenses - I'm in love!

The SP3’s are based on the classic Cooke Panchros. They cover full frame and are T2.4. They have a single coating and initially will come in E-Mount with RF-Mount to follow very quickly. The lens mount is user swappable. L-Mount and M-Mount are planned for early 2024.

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Cooke SP3 lenses

There are 5 different focal lengths, 25, 32, 50, 75 and 100 mm and the 25 to 75mm lenses are all the same size while the 100mm is a little longer, however the pitch gears for focus and iris are in the same place with all the lenses. These are really surprisingly small lenses, looking more like a high quality compact photo lens than a bulky cinematography lens. But don’t let the size and weight fool you, these are beautiful lenses.

Screenshot-2023-09-05-at-17.08.47 Cooke SP3 compact lenses - I'm in love!

They have both metric and imperial scales and if you buy all 5 they come in a nice compact flight case. In fact, when I got to use them the first thing to really surprise me was how small and light the case was for a set of 5 prime lenses.

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Shot with a Cooke SP3


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Shot with a Cooke SP3, DP Mostafa Fahmy.


So, I guess the big question is – what do they look like? All I can say is beautiful. When using these lenses there is no doubt that you are using a Cooke lens. They just have that classic slightly warm, crisp but not razor sharp look. They don’t flare excessively, but when they do it looks very nice. They are designed to be sharpest along the lenses focal axis, this means the center of the image is very crisp and then there is a very slight sharpness fall off towards the edges of the frame. This helps draw the viewers eye into the image in a very natural way. 

The bokeh from these lenses is very nice indeed with no onion skin, no odd swirls, just nice round bokeh balls in the center of the frame that become more oval towards the edges and corners. It’s a very pleasing look – I really wish that I could have used these lenses for my circus shoot at Glastonbury this year, they would have been perfect!

SA-Shoot-red-string_2.1.2-scaled Cooke SP3 compact lenses - I'm in love!
Shot with an E-Mount Cooke SP3

On my FX3 it was like having a normal photo sized lens on the camera, except the images looked smoother and had a quality to them rarely seen with a photo lens. On the FX6 they were an absolute delight to use. If I had to choose between a Sony Venice with a typical photo lens or my FX6 with an SP3, for image quality I would in in almost every case prefer the FX6 with an SP3.

SA-Shoot-Projector1_1.2.3-scaled Cooke SP3 compact lenses - I'm in love!
Shot with an E-Mount Cooke SP3

Handing the demo samples back was tough. Each lens costs around £3,250.00 GBP.  They are proper Cooke lenses, so they were never going to be budget, low cost lenses, there are already plenty of those to choose from. But what they are is a more affordable Cooke option, an entry point into the genuine Cooke look. You can buy the full set or one lens at a time, the full set is £15,400.00 GBP. I think that due to the classic, timeless look of the images these lenses produce they are unlikely to date. So if you can’t afford a full set all in one go perhaps an option will be to slowly build a set over a number of years rather than buying all 5 in one hit. 

I can’t wait to use these lenses again. They are the perfect match for Sony’s E-Mount cameras. They are not heavy, not bulky. Don’t need any mounting adapters. And the images they produce are to die for.

All frame grabs shot using Cooke SP3 lenses, these are from a project  where I was DiT and technical advisor, the DP was Mostafa Fahmy.

The Creator, shot with the FX3.

I’ve been aware of this production, shot entirely with the Sony FX3 for some time. But I wanted to wait and see some footage before passing any comments. Well, the first trailer is out now and it looks great.

But really that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Sony FX3 is a small camera that delivers a very high quality image. It shoots S-Log3 offering 4K files with in excess of 14 stops of dynamic range. I wrote about the rise of small digital cinema cameras last year (The Rise Of The Small Cinema Camera). You don’t have to go that far back and films were being shot with digital cinema cameras with similar DR at 2.8K. And of course lens choice, lighting, composition, set design, post production etc are also key to great images. And when you have a decent budget there is no reason why any of these should be inferior just because you are using a smaller camera.  At this stage however we are only seeing highly compressed trailers online. It will be interesting to see how it looks on an IMAX screen, but I suspect it will look fine.

I do find it an interesting choice to choose to shoot the entire film with the FX3. I doubt it would have been for budget reasons, the cost of the camera is a teeny tiny part of the budget on a feature like this ($80 million?) and lets face it an FX6 doesn’t cost much more and a Venice would have been easily affordable.  The small size of the FX3 does bring some benefits, in the BTS film below you can see it being used on small lightweight gimbals (DJI RS3 I think) as well as small camera cranes. These can get into smaller spaces than bulkier gimbals and jibs, I expect this allowed for a very fluid shooting style. But at the same time you can see that they used wireless monitoring and a wireless follow focus. I also expect there would have been some kind of timecode feed as well as wireless audio. It can be difficult to find places to mount all this stuff with a small camera. In addition, with the FX3 the HDMI output has some limitations if you still want to see an image on the built in LCD and generally SDI is preferable over HDMI.  Perhaps if I had been asked to shoot this I might have used a mix of the FX3 and the FX6. Or perhaps even a Venice and then used the FX3 where portability and flexibility was paramount.  But the fact remains that it appears that a very good looking film has been shot entirely with the FX3 and audiences are unlikely to realise that the film they are watching was shot with such a relatively cheap camera.

It really is a great time to be a film maker. The majority of the cameras on the market today are perfectly capable of being used to shoot a movie. I’ve been working on a another blockbuster feature that used the FX3 alongside a Venice 2 and again the production is confident the audience won’t notice. So, really it’s up to you to develop your own skills, lighting, composition, framing and – story telling – those are the things you need to focus because you can’t blame the camera anymore.

Optical Filtration – Formatt Hitech Soft Gold.

In this modern age where almost any look can be created in post I find that there is still something extremely satisfying about creating as much of the final look of your content in camera as possible. And one thing that can make a huge difference is optical filtration.
As camera resolution continues to increase one type of filter that I find particularly useful is the diffusion filter. Diffusion filters can help take the digital edge off an electronic camera. They do this by causing some of the light passing through the filter to scatter which has a softening and contrast reducing effect, especially around highlights. 
By using different materials to scatter the light the effect can be coloured or modified for different looks.  A little bit of diffusion can really help to tame difficult highlights.

For a recent workshop where we had a scene that was designed to give the feel of an old Edwardian study,  I decided I wanted to create a very  romantic look. So I after playing with a couple of different diffusion filters I settled on a Formatt Hitech 1/4 Soft Gold filter. This filter is really nice for this type of shot as it adds a warm golden glow to high contrast areas. It also makes skin tones look a  little richer.

If you compare the first image which was shot without the filter and the other images that were shot with the filter, while I am happy with the shot without the filter, I really do feel that the filter transforms the shot into something that looks more romantic and has an “older” feel to it. Perhaps the 1/8th version of the filter might have been a better choice for a less strong effect, but this really is a filter I like a lot.

2-Shot-no-filter_1.6.1-scaled Optical Filtration - Formatt Hitech Soft Gold.
The scene without any additional filtration (click on the image to enlarge it).
Medium-shot1_1.3.2-scaled Optical Filtration - Formatt Hitech Soft Gold.
A shot from the scene with the Formatt Hitech 1/4 soft gold filter (click on the image to enlarge it).
Male-Face1_1.4.2-scaled Optical Filtration - Formatt Hitech Soft Gold.
Another shot from the scene with the Formatt Hitech 1/4 soft gold filter (click on the image to enlarge it).

The extra glow around the candles really enhances the sense of the candles being a part of the lighting while the softening of the highlights on the actors faces helps to make the images look more organic and less digital.

Candles-only1_1.10.1-scaled Optical Filtration - Formatt Hitech Soft Gold.
In this shot the only light was from the candles and the 1/4 Soft Gold filter makes the scene feel very warm and cosy.

Day For Night With Infrared.

Many of you may have already seen articles about how DP Hoyte Van Hoytema used a Panavision System 65 film camera paired with an Alexa 65 modified to be sensitive to infrared light to shoot day for night on the film “Nope”.

Can You Make It Work?

Well, I was recently asked if I could come up with a rig to do the same using Sony cameras for an upcoming blockbuster feature with an A-list director being shot by a top DP.  This kind of challenge is something I enjoy immensely, so how could I not accept the challenge! I had some insight into how Hoyte Van Hoytema did it but I had none of the fine details and often its the fine details that make all the difference. And this was no exception. I discovered many small things that need to be just right if this process is to work well. There are a lot of things that can trip you up badly.

So a frantic couple of weeks ensued as I tried to learn everything I could about infrared photography and video and how it could be used to improve traditional day for night shooting. I don’t claim any originality in the process, but there is a lot of information missing about how it was actually done in Nope. I have shot with infrared before, so it wasn’t all new, but I had never used it this way before.

As I did a lot of  3D work when 3D was really big around 15 years ago, including designing award winning 3D rigs, I knew how to combine two cameras on the same optical axis. Even better I still had a suitable 3D rig, so at least that part of the equation was going to be easy (or at least that’s what I thought).

Building a “Test Mule”.

The next challenge was to create a low cost “test mule” camera before even considering what adaptations might be needed for a full blown digital cinema camera. To start with this needed to be cheap, but it also needed to be full frame and capable of taking a wide range of cinema lenses and sensitive to both visible and infrared light. So, I took an old A7S that had been gathering dust for a while, dismantled it and removed the infrared filter from the sensor.

IMG_0078-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.
A7S being modified for infrared (full spectrum).
IMG_0092-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.
Panavised and Infrared sensitive A7S with Panavision Primo lens.


As the DP wanted to test the process with Panavision lenses the camera was fitted with a PV70 mount and then collimated in it’s now heavily modified state (collimation has some interesting challenges when working with the very different wavelength of infrared light compared to visible). Now I could start to experiment, pairing the now infrared sensitive A7S with a second camera on the 3D rig. We soon found issues with this setup, but it allowed me to take the testing to the next stage before committing to modifying a more expensive camera for infrared.

IMG_0087-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.

This testing was needed to determine exactly what range of infrared light would produce the best results. The range of infrared you use is determined by filters added to the camera to cut the visible light and only pass certain parts of the infrared spectrum. There are many options, different filters work in slightly different ways. And not only do you need to test the infrared filters but you also need to consider how different neutral density filters might behave if you need to reduce the IR and visible light. Once I narrowed down the range of filters I wanted to test the next challenge was find very high quality filters that could either be fitted inside the camera body behind the lens or that were big enough (120mm +) for the Panavision lenses that were being considered for the film.

Once I had some filters to play with (I had 15 different IR filters) the next step was to start test shooting. I cheated here a bit. For some of the initial testing I used a pair of zoom lenses as I was pairing the A7S with several different cameras for the visible spectrum. The scan areas of the different sensors in the A7S and the visible light cameras were typically very slightly different sizes. So, a zoom lens was used to provide the same field of view from both cameras so that both could be more easily optically aligned on the 3D rig. You can get away with this, but it makes more work for post production as the distortions in each lens will be different and need correcting. For the film I knew we would need identical scan sizes and matched lenses, but that could come later once we knew how much camera modification would be needed. To start with I just needed to find out what filtration would be needed.

At this point I shot around 100 different filter and exposure tests that I then started to compare in post production. When you get it all just right the sky in the infrared image becomes very dark, almost black and highlights become very “peaky”. If you use the luminance from the infrared camera with its black sky and peaky highlights and then add in a bit of colour and textural detail from the visible camera it can create a pretty convincing day for night look. Because you have a near normal visible light exposure you can fine tune the mix of infrared and visible in post production to alter the brightness and colour of the final composite shot giving you a wide range of control over the day for night look.

So – now I know how to do it, the next step was to take it from the test mule to a pair of matching cinema quality cameras and lenses for a full scale test shoot. When you have two cameras on a 3D rig the whole setup can get very heavy, very fast. Therefore the obvious camera to adapt was a Sony Venice 2 with the 8K sensor as this can be made very compact by using the Rialto unit to split the sensor from the camera body – In fact one of the very first uses of Rialto was for 3D shooting on Avatar – The Way of Water.

With a bit of help from Panavision we adapted a Panavised Venice 2, making it full spectrum and then adding a carefully picked (based on my testing) special infrared filter into the cameras optical path. This camera was configured using a Rialto housing to keep it compact and light so that when placed on the 3D rig with the visible light Venice the weight remained manageable. The lenses used were Panavision PV70 Primo’s (if you want to use these lenses for infrared – speak to me first, there are some things you need to know).

IMG_0097-2-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.
3D rig with an Infrared capable Venice Rialto and normal Venice 2 with Panavision Primo lenses.

And then with the DP in attendance, with smoke and fog machines, lights and grip we tested. For the first few shot we had scattered clouds but soon the rain came and then it poured down for the rest of the day. Probably the worst possible weather conditions for a day for night shoot.  But that’s what we had and of course for the film itself there will be no guarantee of perfect weather.

IMG_0101-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.
Testing the complete day for night IR rig.


IMG_0122-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.
Testing how smoke behaves in infrared. Different types of smoke and haze and different types of lights behave very differently in infrared.


The large scale tests gave us an opportunity to test things like how different types of smoke and haze behave in infrared and also to take a look at interactions with different types of light sources.  With the right lights you can do some very interesting things when you are capturing both visible light and infrared opening up a whole new world of possibilities for creating unique looks in camera.

From there the footage went to the production companies post production facilities to produce dailies for the DP to view before being presented to the studios post production people. Once they understood the process and were happy with it there was a screening for the director along with a number of other tests for lighting and lenses.

IMG_0114-Large-600x450 Day For Night With Infrared.

Along the way I have learnt an immense amount about this process and how it works. What filters to use and when, how to adapt different cameras, how different lenses behave in the infrared spectrum (not all lenses can be used). Collimating adapted cameras for infrared is interesting as many of the usual test rigs will produce misleading or confusing results. I’ve also identified several other ways that a dual camera setup can be used to enhance shooing night scenes, both day for night and as well as at night, especially for effects heavy projects.  

At the time of writing it looks like most of the night scenes in this film will be shot at night, they have the budget and time to do this. But the director and DP have indicated that there are some scenes where they do wish to use the process (or a variation of it), but they are still figuring out some other details that will affect that decision.

Whether it gets used for this film or not I am now developing a purpose designed rig for day for night with infrared as I believe it will become a popular way to shoot night scenes. My cameras of choice for this will be a pair of Venice cameras. But other cameras can be used provided one can be adapted for IR and both can be synchronised together. I will have a pair of Sony F55’s, one modified for IR available for lower budget productions and a kit to reversibly adapt a Sony Venice. If you need a rig for day for night and someone that knows exactly how to do it, do get in touch! 

I’m afraid I can’t show you the test results, that content is private and belongs to the production. The 3D rig is being modified as you don’t need the ability to shoot with the cameras optically separated, removing the moving parts will make the rig more stable and easier to calibrate. Plus a new type of beam splitter mirror with better infrared transmission properties is on the way. As soon as I get an opportunity to shoot a new batch of test content with the adapted rig I will share it here.