The New Sony PMW-F55 and F5 Digital Cinema Cameras

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Sony has unveiled the PMW-F55 CineAlta 4K digital cinema camera, and the spec sheet has filmmakers everywhere abuzz. Consider a hypothetical list of qualities that would be essential to your dream motion picture camera. At the top of most professional filmmakers’ list would be some combination of 4K resolution, film-like dynamic range, RAW recording formats and a global shutter. That would be a dream camera indeed. Of course, looking at the spec sheet for the F55, it's clear that camera has arrived.

A little brother of sorts, the PMW-F5 CineAlta digital cinema camera will feature much of the same hardware and system accessories as the F55. The most significant disparity is the F5’s lack of a global shutter. The other major difference seems to be the F5’s internal recorder, which will record 2K, but not 4K like its big brother. However, the AXS-R5 outboard recorder will enable 4K on the F5 and effectively negate its internal recorder’s relative shortcomings.

The AXS-R5 recorder is a key component of the F55 and F5’s modular system. The recorder attaches to the rear of the camera and enables 4K and 2K, 16-bit RAW and high speed frame rates of up to 240 fps in 2K. Another practical benefit of the recorder is its ability to simultaneous record outboard RAW and onboard 4K/2K/HD to SxS cards, with matching timecode, start frame, stop frame, file names and metadata for seamless conforming in post.

4K RAW may not be right for everyone—at least not right now—but that is the future. The current prevailing television standard is 1080p, but 4K TVs are on the way and, on the professional side, the Sony PVM-X300 is a brand new 30” 4K monitor. Moreover, 4K resolution is the current ceiling for digital cinema projectors in commercial movie theaters. These specs place these cameras in good standing as we look to the future. Of course, certain other qualities of the F55 and F5 present advantages that we gladly welcome today.

In particular, the F55’s global shutter presents a definitive edge over any digital cinema camera currently available. Before now, even the best cinema cameras employed what is known as a “rolling” shutter, a design that historically facilitated a boost to sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio but has been much maligned for undesirable artifacts like wobble, skew and smear. Such artifacts are not only unsightly but can also present difficulties when integrating visual effects. The F55’s global shutter will completely eliminate these problems.

In the ongoing war of film versus digital, dynamic range has remained a fiercely contended battle. Film has held out an advantage with approximately 14 to 15 stops of exposure latitude, and digital cameras with film-like dynamic range remain a rare breed. However, with exposure latitude rated at 14 stops, the F55 and F5 will join that elite group.

With such heavy hitters on the spec sheet, we should be careful not to overlook less-celebrated features, like color space. This is especially true of the F55, which features the same color filter array technology as Sony’s flagship F65. This technology allows the F55 a color gamut that surpasses standards set by Digital Cinema Initiatives and is even wider than motion picture film.

Sony has also announced a newly developed line of OLED viewfinders that will fit into the F55’s modular system. DVF-EL100 is a 0.7” viewfinder with 1280 x 720 resolution. DVF-L350 is a 3.5” display with 960 x 540 resolution and a flip-up eyepiece for direct monitoring. DVF-L700 is a 7” viewfinder with native 1920 x 1080 resolution for pixel-to-pixel HD. Other components will include input and output modules, V-mount Olivine batteries and a shoulder support rig.

The lens mount itself is also interchangeable, so to speak. Like the PMW-F3, the F55 and F5 both feature a native Sony FZ-mount, which provides an interface for FZ lenses like the Sony 18-252mm servo zoom lens. Perhaps the chief benefit of the FZ-mount is its short (18mm) flange focal distance, which enables a wide range of lens adapters. Moreover, the F55 and F5 will include a PL mount adapter for out-of-the-box compatibility with Sony’s brand-new line of PL mount, prime cinema lenses.

Following Sony’s official announcement, some have noted what seems like a conspicuous number of asterisks, denoting features that are to be expected as future upgrades. Sony has not yet commented on when we might expect these upgrades to be released, but at least we have a pretty solid grasp on some of the amazing features they have promised. Expect future firmware upgrades to unlock additional recording formats and high speed frame rates in 4K and 2K. Suffice it to say, 2K 16-bit RAW at 240 fps and the SR Codec with 4:4:4 color at 440 Mbps should be worth the wait.

On paper, the PMW-F55 and PMW-F5 look to be worthy challengers to today’s best digital cinema cameras. Sony seems intent on raising the bar with these offerings. If you’re like me, you’re probably excited to see what these cameras can do. Well, take heart. They’re coming soon to the B&H SuperStore.

  PMW-F55 CineAlta 4K
Digital Cinema Camera
PMW-F5 CineAlta
Digital Cinema Camera 
Sensor
Sensor Type Super 35mm equivalent single-chip CMOS
with global shutter 
Super 35mm equivalent single-chip CMOS
Pixels Total: 11.6MP
Effective: 8.9MP
Total: 11.6MP
Effective: 8.9MP
Sensitivity Luminance: 2000 lx, 89.9% reflectance
Video Gamma: T11@24p (3200K light source)
S-Log2 Gamma: ISO 1250 (D55 light source) 
Luminance: 2000 lx, 89.9% reflectance
Video Gamma: T13 @24p (3200K light source)
S-Log2 Gamma: ISO 2000 (D55 light source)
Dynamic Range 14 stops 14 stops
Signal-to-Noise Ratio 57 dB (Video Gamma, 24p, Noise Suppression OFF)  57 dB (Video Gamma, 24p, Noise Suppression OFF) 
Recording
Video Recording Format MPEG-2 Long GOP
HD 422 mode: CBR, 50 Mbps max, MPEG-2 422 @ HL
MPEG-2 Long GOP
HD 422 mode: CBR, 50 Mbps max, MPEG-2 422 @ HL
Audio Recording Format Linear PCM (2 channel, 24-bit, 48-kHz)
XAVC 4K: 4096 x 2160 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
XAVC QFHD: 3840 x 2160 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
XAVC 2K: 2048 x 1920 at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
Linear PCM (2 channel, 24-bit, 48-kHz)
XAVC 2K: 2048 x 1920 at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
XAVC HD: 1920 x 1080 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
MPEG4 SStP: 1920 x 1080 at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p
Recording Modes XAVC HD: 1920 x 1080 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
MPEG4 SStP: 1920 x 1080, 23.98p/24p/25p/29.97p
MPEG2 HD: 1920 x 1080 at 50i, 59.94i, 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p
MPEG2 HD: 1280 x 720 at 50p, 59.94p 
MPEG2 HD: 1920 x 1080 at 50i, 59.94i, 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p
MPEG2 HD: 1280 x 720 at 50p, 59.94p
Shutter Speed 1/24s to 1/6,000s  1/24s to 1/6,000s 
Shutter Angle 4.2 - 360°(electrical shutter)  4.2 - 360°(electrical shutter) 
Slow Shutter 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and
8-frame accumulation
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and
8-frame accumulation
Slow/Quick Motion XAVC 4K/QFHD: 1-60p (NTSC)
XAVC 4K/QFHD: 1-50p (PAL)
XAVC HD/2K: 1-180p (NTSC), 23.98p/29.97p with option
XAVC HD/2K: 1-150p (PAL), 25p with option
XAVC HD: 1-60p (NTSC)
XAVC HD: 1-50p (PAL) 
XAVC HD/2K: 1-120p (NTSC) at 23.98p, 29.97p
XAVC HD/2K: 1-100p (PAL)
at 25p
White Balance Preset (3200K, 4300K, 5500K), Memory, ATW  Preset (3200K, 4300K, 5500K), Memory, ATW 
Gain -3, 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 dB, AGC -3, 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 18 dB, AGC
Gamma Curve Standard (x6)
HG1, HG2, HG3, HG4, HG7 and HG8
S-Log2 Gamma 
Standard (x6)
HG1, HG2, HG3, HG4, HG7 and HG8
S-Log2 Gamma 
Interface
Memory Cards SxS (x2, ExpressCard 34 slots)
SD card slot (x1) 
SxS (x2, ExpressCard 34 slots)
SD card slot (x1) 
Video Output HD-Y or HD Sync (tri-level) V1.0
Analog Composite (VUP)
HD-Y or HD Sync (tri-level) V1.0
Analog Composite (VUP)
HD-SDI Output HD mode: SDI 1/2 Line Output, SDI 3/4 Monitor Output (character on/off)
4K mode: SDI 1/2/3/4 Line Output (character on/off), HD-SDI/3G-SDI switchable 
SDI 1/2 Line Output, SDI 3/4 Monitor Output (character on/off) 
Timecode TC IN/OUT switchable (x1) TC IN/OUT switchable (x1)
Genlock BNC input (x1)  BNC input (x1) 
HDMI A Type output (x1)  A Type output (x1) 
Audio Input: XLR-type 3-pin with Line/Mic/Mic +48V/AES/EBU selectable (x2, female)
Output: phono jack (CH-1, CH-2)
Headphone: Stereo mini jack (x1)
Speaker: monaural 
Input: XLR-type 3-pin with Line/Mic/Mic +48V/AES/EBU selectable (x2, female)
Output: phono jack (CH-1, CH-2)
Headphone: Stereo mini jack (x1)
Speaker: monaural 
USB USB device, Mini-B (x1)
USB host, type-A (x1)
USB device, Mini-B (x1)
USB host, type-A (x1)
Wi-Fi USB host, type-A (x1)  USB host, type-A (x1) 
DC Output 4-pin (x1), 11 V to 17 V DC (MAX 2.0A) with battery adapter 4-pin (x1), 11 V to 17 V DC (MAX 2.0A) with battery adapter
Remote 8-pin (x1) 8-pin (x1)
General
Lens Mount FZ-mount, PL mount (with supplied adapter) FZ-mount, PL mount (with supplied adapter)
Built-in Filters Clear, 0.9 (1/8 ND), 1.8
(1/64 ND) 
Clear, 0.9 (1/8 ND), 1.8
(1/64 ND) 
Power Requirements DC 12 V (11 V to 17.0 V)  DC 12 V (11 V to 17.0 V) 
Power Consumption Approx. 25W (while recording XAVC 4K 60p, EVF Off, LCD monitor Off, 4K SDI On)  Approx. 24W (while recording XAVC HD 60p, EVF Off, LCD monitor Off, HD-SDI On) 
Battery Operating Time With BP-FL75: approximately 150 minutes
With BP-GL95A: approximately 210 minutes 
With BP-FL75: approximately 160 minutes
With BP-GL95A: approximately 230 minutes
Operating Temperature  32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)  32 to 104°F (0 to 40°C)
Storage Temperature  -4 to 140° F (-20 to 60° C)  -4 to 140° F (-20 to 60° C)
Dimensions Without protrusions: 7.13 x 7.88 x 12.25" (15.1 x 18.9 x 21 cm)  Without protrusions: 7.13 x 7.88 x 12.25" (15.1 x 18.9 x 21 cm) 
Weight Body only: 4.88 lb (2.2 kg)  Body only: 4.88 lb (2.2 kg) 

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very nice.please send this mrp rate.

Hello;

The Sony PMW-F55  $34,927.71 and the F5 is $19,400.00.

This is a very well written article.  Thank you very much!