A few days ago Sony quietly released a new important firmware update for the PXW-FX9. Firmware version 2.10 adds the long awaited 4K 120fps raw function to the FX9 (you do still need the XDCA-FX9) but also importantly includes some change the the daylight white balance settings.
From my before and after testing it appears that a change has been made to the daylight white balance preset settings. For some time it has been apparent that if you used the white balance presets in the daylight range (4000K and higher) that the FX9 has a tendency to accentuate any green in the image. If you white balance of a white card this tendency is not there.
The new preset white balance settings now provide a much more neutral white balance with less green bias. This should also help those that were suffering from green fringing in extreme contrast shots as the reduced green bias will stop the camera from accentuating chromatic aberration as it did before. It won’t eliminate the chromatic aberration, but it won’t be nearly as obvious.
The first image was taken before doing the firmware update using a preset of 5500K. This test was done in a bit of a hurry as it was threatening to rain, but I wanted to use real daylight.
The second image, below, was taken after the firmware update (unfortunately the focus shifted slightly between the two shots, sorry). But you can clearly see that even though the white balance settings are the same and the same 5500K preset used this image is less green.
It is a subtle difference, but if you look at the wood panels you can see a difference. To help you see the difference here is a wipe between the before and after clips with the saturation boosted to make it more obvious.
As you can see this isn’t an “in your face” difference. But it is still none the less an important improvement as it makes it easier to match the FX9 to the FX6 and FX3 if you are using a preset white balance. I would still recommend white balancing off a white card for all cameras wherever possible as this will still normally provide the best results as it helps neutralise any lens or calibration differences. Whether you are shooting using S-Cinetone as in the examples here or using S-Log3, the new white balance preset provides in my opinion a much better colour response.
HOWEVER it’s important to consider that it will make cameras with version 2.10 and later look different to FX9’s with earlier firmware versions.
The firmware update can be downloaded via the link below. It took around 35 minutes for my FX9 to complete the update. The process is easy but when the camera gets to 80% complete it will appear that the update has stalled. It stays at 80% for around 10-15 minutes with no indication that the update is still continuing. So don’t turn the camera off thinking it’s stuck!!! Be patient and give it time to complete.
Sony today release an update covering many things. But of particular interest to FX9 and FX6 owners was news that both the FX6 and FX9 will get firmware updates to add 120fps raw. For the FX9 you will still need the XDCA-FX9 and to be honest this has always been promised, but it’s good to see it hasn’t been forgotten about. This update should be out next month.
In addition the FX9 will gain the ability to shoot Anamorphic in the version 3 firmware update which will be released later in the year. There will be both 1.3x and 2x anamorphic desqueeze as well as the addition cinemascope frame lines. This is on top of the previously announced 2K super 16mm sized center scan mode with support for B4 ENG lenses and s700PTP control over TCP/IP.
It’s no secret that the variable ND fitted to many Sony cameras does introduce a colour shift that changes depending on how much ND you use. But the cameras are setup to add an offset to the WB as you switch the ND in or out and change the amount of ND, so in practice most people are completely unaware of this shift.
If you watch carefully when you engage or disengage the ND you can sometimes see a fraction of a second where the cameras electronic offset that corrects for the shift is applied just as the filter comes in. Then once the filter is in place the colours appear completely normal again.
So when should you white balance from a white card? With or without the ND filter in place?
You can actually white balance either with or without the ND in place. Because the camera knows exactly what offset to apply for any ND value if you change the ND it will compensate automatically and generally the compensation is very accurate. So in most cases it doesn’t really matter whether the ND filter is in place or not.
However, my personal recommendation is where possible to white balance with the camera setup as it will be when you are taking your footage. This should then eliminate any small errors or differences that may creep in if you do change the ND or switch the ND in or out.
But I wouldn’t be too concerned if you do have to do a WB at one ND level and then change the ND for whatever reason. The in camera compensation is extremely good and you would only ever really be able to see any difference if you start doing careful like for like, side by side, split screen direct comparisons. It’s certainly highly unlikely that you or your audience would ever notice any difference in normal real world applications.
You will often see greater colour shifts if you add external ND filters or swap between different lenses, so treat the internal ND as you would any other ND filter and WB with your lens, filters and everything else as it will be when taking the footage. I think one of the truly remarkable things about the variable ND filter is just how consistent the output of the camera is across such a wide range of ND.
This is a very good question that came up in one of the F5/F55/FX9 facebook groups that I follow. The answers are also mostly relevant to users of the FX6, FX3 and the A7SIII.
There were two parts to it: Is the FX9’s raw out as good as the raw from the F5/F55 and then – do I really need raw.
In terms of image quality I don’t think there is any appreciable difference, going between the raw from an FX9 and the raw from an F5/F55 is a sideways step.
The F5/F55 with either Sony Raw or X-OCN offer great 16 bit linear raw in a Sony MXF package. The files are reasonably compact, especially if you are using the R7 and X-OCN. There are some compatibility issues however and you can’t use the Sony Raw/X-OCN in FCP-X and the implementation in Premier Pro is poor.
The 16 bit out from the FX9/XDCA-FX9 gets converted to 12 bit log raw by the Atomos recorders, currently the only recording options – but in reality you would be extremely hard pushed to really see any difference between 16 bit linear raw and 12 bit log raw from this level of camera.
Recording the 12 bit log raw as ProRes Raw means that you are tied to just FCP-X, Premiere Pro (poor implementation again) and Scratch. The quality of the images that can be stored in the 2 different raw formats is little different, 16 bit linear has more code values but distributed very inefficiently. 12 bit log raw has significantly fewer code values but the distribution is far more efficient. AXS media is very expensive, SSD’s are cheap. AXS card readers are expensive, SSD adapters are cheap. So there are cost implications.
Personally I feel the reduced noise levels from the FX9 makes footage from the FX9 more malleable than footage from the F5/F55 and if you are shooting in FF6K there is more detail in the recordings, even though they are downsampled to 4K raw. But the FF6K will have more rolling shutter compared to an F55/F5.
Working with Sony Raw/X-OCN in Resolve is delightfully easy, especially if you use ACES and it’s a proper grading package. If you want to work with ProResRaw in Resolve you will need to use Apple Compressor or FCP-X to create a demosaiced log file, which even if you use ProRes444 or XQ not the same as working from the original raw file. For me that’s the biggest let down. If I could take ProResRaw direct into Resolve I’d be very happy. But it is still perfectly possible to get great footage from ProResRaw by transcoding if you need to.
As to whether you need raw, only you can answer that fr yourself. There are many factors to consider. What’s your workflow, how are you delivering the content. Will the small benefit from shooting raw actually be visible to your clients?
Are you capturing great content – in which case raw may give you a little more, or are you capturing less than ideal material – in which case raw isn’t going to be a get out of jail card. Raw of any flavour works best when it’s properly exposed and captured well.
I would suggest anyone trying to figure out whether they need raw or not to start by to grading the XAVC-I from the FX9 and see how far you can push that, then compare it to the raw. I think may be surprised by how little difference there is, XAVC-I S-Log3 is highly gradable and if you can’t get the look you want from the XAVC-I raw isn’t going to be significantly different. It’s not that there is anything wrong with raw, not at all. But it does get rather over sold as a miracle format that will transform what you can do. It won’t perform those miracles, but if everything else has been done to the highest possible standards then raw does offer the very best that you can get from these cameras.
As a middle ground also consider non raw ProRes. Again the difference between that and XAVC-I is small, but it may be that whoever is doing the post production finds it easier to work with. And the best bit is there are no compatibility issues, it works everywhere.
But really my best recommendation is to test each workflow for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I think you will find the differences between each much smaller than you might assume. So then you will need to decide which works for you based on cost/effort/end result.
Sometimes best isn’t always best! Especially if you can get to where you need to be more easily as an easy workflow gives you more time to spend on making it look the way you want rather than fussing with conversions or poor grading software.
Can you tell which is genuine and which is fake? It would appear that a number of fake BP-U batteries are starting to show up on ebay and other less reputable places. The battery on the left won’t charge on a genuine Sony charger, this tells me it is not a real Sony battery.
If you look at the labels on the batteries the quality of the printing on the fake battery on the left is not as fine as on the genuine battery, in particular the ® as well as the box around the level indicator LED’s is not as crisply and finely printed.
The sellers are clever. These are not so cheap as to raise suspicion, they just seem very competitively priced. These batteries might be a little bit cheaper, but how safe are they and how long will they last? I have to say this would have fooled me and I have a lot of sympathy for others that have been tricked into buying these. But if the manufacturer can’t sell these by legitimate means under their own brand name I really do have to question their quality and safety.
This is a question that comes up a lot. Especially from those migrating to a camera with a CineEI mode from a camera without one. It perhaps isn’t obvious why you would want to use a shooting mode that has no way of adding gain to the recordings.
If using the CineEI mode shooting S-log3 at the base ISO, with no offsets or anything else then there is very little difference between what you record in Custom mode at the base ISO and CineEI at the base EI.
But we have to think about what the CineEI mode is all about. It’s all about image quality. You would normally chose to shoot S-Log3 when you want to get the highest possible quality image and CineEI is all about quality.
The CineEI mode allows you to view via your footage via a LUT so that you can get an appreciation of how the footage will look after grading. Also when monitoring and exposing via the LUT because the dynamic range of the LUT is narrower, your exposure will be more accurate and consistent because bad exposure looks more obviously bad. This makes grading easier. One of the keys to easy grading is consistent footage, footage where the exposure is shifting or the colours changing (don’t use ATW with Log!!) can be very hard to grade.
Then once you are comfortable exposing via a LUT you can start to think about using EI offsets to make the LUT brighter or darker. When the LUT is darker you open the aperture or reduce the ND to return the LUT to a normal looking image and vice versa with a brighter LUT. This then changes the brightness of the S-log3 recordings and you use this offsetting process to shift the highlight/shadow range as well as noise levels to suit the types of scenes you are shooting. Using a low EI (which makes the LUT darker) plus correct LUT exposure (the darker LUT will make you open the aperture to compensate) will result in a brighter recording which will improve the shadow details and textures that are recorded and thus can be seen in the shadow areas. At the same time however that brighter exposure will reduce the highlight range by a similar amount to the increase in the shadow range. And no matter what the offset, you always record at the cameras full dynamic range.
I think what people misunderstand about CineEI is that it’s there to allow you to get the best possible, highly controlled images from the camera. Getting the best out of any camera requires appropriate and sufficient light levels. CineEI is not designed or intended to be a replacement for adding gain or shooting at high recording ISOs where the images will be already compromised by noise and lowered dynamic range.
CineEI exists so that when you have enough light to really make the camera perform well you can make those decisions over noise v highlights v shadows to get the absolute best “negative” with consistent and accurate exposure to take into post production. It is also the only possible way you can shoot when using raw as raw recordings are straight from the sensor and never have extra gain added in camera.
Getting that noise/shadow/highlight balance exactly right, along with good exposure is far more important than the use of external recorders or fatter codecs. You will only ever really benefit fully from higher quality codecs if what you are recording is as good as it can be to start with. The limits as to what you can do in post production are tied to image noise no matter what codec or recording format you use. So get that bit right and everything else gets much easier and the end result much better. And that’s what CineEI gives you great control over.
When using CineEI or S-Log3 in general you need to stop thinking “video camera – slap in a load if gain if its dark” and think “film camera – if its too dark I need more light”. The whole point of using log is to get the best possible image quality, not shooting with insufficient light and a load of gain and noise. It requires a different approach and completely different way of thinking, much more in line with the way someone shooting on film would work.
What surprises me is the eagerness to adopt shutter angles and ISO ratings for electronic video cameras because they sound cool but less desire to adopt a film style approach to exposure based on getting the very best from the sensor. In reality a video sensor is the equivalent of a single sensitivity film stock. When a camera has dual ISO then it is like having a camera that takes two different film stocks. Adding gain or raising the ISO away from the base sensitivity in custom mode is a big compromise that can never be undone. It adds noise and decreases the dynamic range. Sometimes it is necessary, but don’t confuse that necessity with getting the very best that you can from the camera.
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.
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.
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!