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.
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.
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!
While I had the light meter and exposure test chart out for the FX6 I decided to do the same exposure level confirmation test for the FX9. No nasty surprises, the FX9’s ISO ratings certainly appear to be correct. Again using a DSC Labs exposure reference chart with 18% middle grey and 90% white plus my trusty Sekonic I tested the FX9 at both 800 ISO and 4000 ISO and my light meter and the camera were in good agreement. At 800 ISO the light meter was saying f4.01 while the camera was at f4, I suspect this tiny difference is probably down to transmission losses in the lens.
Here are some links to a couple of videos and some information on shooting Anamorphic with the PXW-FX9 that I prepared for Sony. The first video is a guide to how to shoot Anamorphic with the FX9 and then the second video is a short example video of som 2x Anamorphic content that I shot in some pretty grim weather conditions in the UK’s Lake District. Here’s the link to the “How To” guide to anamorphic with the FX9.
Here is what could be a nice option for Anamorphic on the FX9 (or any other Super 35mm capable camera. The new Sirui 24mm 1.33x anamorphic lens. I have not tried these yet, but at only $999 or $749 with the early bird offer it’s certainly an affordable way into the world of Anamorphic. 1.33x lenses are designed to provide a final aspect ratio of 2.40:1 when used with a 16:9 sensor. Here’s the info from the press release.
SIRUI launch 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens in Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z and Fujifi?lm X Mounts
New wide-angle anamorphic optic from SIRUI revolutionizes affordable cinematography
NEW YORK, January 4, 2021 – SIRUI have today introduced a groundbreaking new 24mm F2.8 1.33x lens that redefines what is possible from a wide-angle anamorphic optic. It features the beautiful stretched oval bokeh and streaked lens flares that Sirui’s affordable anamorphic lenses have become known for, combined with a new wider field of view.
Options for affordable wide anamorphic shooting have been very limited until now. Traditional wide-angle anamorphic cinema lenses have cost tens of thousands of dollars, while DIY anamorphic adapters based on optics designed for projection don’t cover wider angles. In addition, most of these solutions have limited close focus.
The SIRUI 24mm F2.8 is designed from the ground up to address these needs. The lens features a 1.33x squeeze factor and has an imaging circle that covers APS-C sized sensors. It is available in native mounts for Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Canon EF-M, Nikon Z, and Fujifilm X cameras and is sturdily built with an all-metal body. Front filter size is 77mm and the lens barrel is non-rotating which allows for easy use of variable ND and other filters. With persistent efforts, the SIRUI R&D team resolved key technical problems to deliver a previously impossible 0.6m minimum focusing distance – all without the need for additional diopters.
The fast F2.8 aperture of the 24mm lens allows foreground objects to stand out against smoothly blurred backgrounds and night scenes to be perfectly captured. Combining the fast aperture with the 0.6m close focus also makes for interesting close-up options.
The SIRUI 1.33x Anamorphic line-up consists of 24mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses.
The new 24mm joins the company’s existing 50mm and 35mm 1.33x anamorphic lenses to form a set of lenses that share common aesthetics and handling. Cinematographers can now use the lens trio to tell complete cinematic stories with SIRUI’s signature look, switching freely between scenes while maintaining common background rendering.
Sirui lenses truly enhance the artistic appeal of your footage and immerse your audience in an anamorphic world.
Specifications for SIRUI 24mm F2.8 Anamorphic 1.33X:
Focal length: 24mm
Maximum aperture: F2.8
Minimum aperture: F16
Lens structure: 13 elements in 10 groups
Aperture blades: 8
Maximum support frame: APS-C
Shooting distance: 0.6m (2 ft) – infinity
Focus method: Manual focusing
Maximum magnification: 1:21.99(V),1:29.07 (H)
Filter spec: M72 x 0.75
Rotation angle of the focus ring: 189.6°
Max. diameter: 74mm (2.91 inches)
Diameter of focus ring: 64.6mm (2.54 inches)
Weight(g/lbs): MFT Mount: 770/1.70; E Mount: 780/1.72; X Mount: 780/1.72; EF-M Mount: 780/1.72; Z Mount: 810/1.79
Total length (lens cap not included) (mm/inch): MFT Mount: 124.9/4,92; E Mount: 126.1/4.96; X Mount: 126.4/4.98; EF-M Mount: 126.1/4.96; Z Mount: 128.1/5.04
Price and Availability:
The SIRUI 24mm F2.8 1.33x anamorphic lens is available for super early bird price on the Indiegogo crowdfunding project at USD 749. Super early bird orders are estimated to ship by January.
Since 2001, SIRUI has always strived to move forward towards expanding the SIRUI Brand. With innovative R&D, SIRUI has become a global enterprise to develop, manufacture and market photographic products.
Interestingly the FX6 is specifically noted as NOT approved for anamorphic capture. I suspect this is down to the fact that this is a 4K sensor with no oversampling. While the PXW-FX9 is not listed as approved for anamorphic (only Venice is specifically approved) it does not have the anamorphic exclusion that the FX6 has. Perhaps the FX9 can be used on a case by case basis for anamorphic thanks to it’s 6K oversampling when using the Full Frame 6K scan mode?
Anyway, this is more good news for Sony film makers and shooters.