Sony F65 Digital Cinema Camera

With the availability of a great range of sub-£10,000 large sensor Full HD cameras from Canon, Panasonic and Sony you might wonder why those in the know are queueing up to spend around £70,000 on Sony’s latest 4K digital cinematography camcorder, the F65?

In one word:  PERFORMANCE – The F65 is the Bugatti Veyron SuperSports of the digital cinematography world, delivering image quality that is unrivalled in any other camcorder at any price.  But of course performance is nothing without reliability – There’s no point having an uber-cool looking camera with great on-paper specifications if it falls over every time you try to use it!  The F65 therefore continues Sony’s peerless build quality, with best-in-class support delivered via a stringently vetted dealer network (Of which CVP were the first in Europe to be accredited).

Here are its headline vital statistics which I’ve  set beside those of the PMW-F3 in order to give you a point of comparison:

F65 F3
Full HD, 2K and 4K recording Full HD recording
S35mm 8K CMOS image sensor with 20Mega Pixels S35mm HD CMOS image sensor with 3.36Mega Pixels
Wider colour space than any digital camera & 35mm film  -
14 stops of latitude 12 stops of latitude (with S-Log option)
ISO 800 sensitivity ISO 800 sensitivity (with S-Log option)
Variable frame rates up to 120fps Variable frame rates up to 30fps (1080p) or 60fps (720p)
Optional rotary shutter eliminates most rolling shutter effects -
16 bit linear F65 RAW output 10 bit RGB output via dual-link HD-SDI
On-board recording to SR Memory at up to 2Gbps (F65 RAW) On-board XDCAM EX recording to SxS media at up to 35Mb/s

 

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:

The Sensor

The F65 sports an all-new Super 35mm (3-perf, 24.7 x 13.1mm) sized CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Sensor) with 20 million pixels, delivering a native resolution of 8K from which its’ 4K output is derived.

Sony F65 sensor pixel map

The F65 sensor’s pixel grid is rotated through a 45 degree angle when compared to a normal Bayer pattern sensor, allowing the higher pixel density to provide double the number of  receptor sites for red and blue colours, thus leading to a doubling of the colour resolution.

Sony F65 colour space graphic

Colour Rendition

The F65’s internal processing has a far wider colour space (gamut) than 35mm colour print film (or Sony’s F35).

This means that the camera renders more colours to deliver a more natural looking image with a colour range that closer matches the palette visible to the human eye.

This additional colour information also provides an additional benefit during the colour grading process.

 Wide Dynamic Range

The F65 delivers images with an exceptionally high signal-to-noise ratio* combined with a wide dynamic range (exposure latitude) of 14 stops which closely matches that of 35mm film.  The differential of ‘just’ 2 stops between and F3 and the F65 may not sound like much, but when you bear in mind that each stop represents a doubling of sensitivity a 2 stop increase in latitude equates to the F65 being able to cope with additional light levels (or retain shadow detail) in areas 4x as bright or dark!

*S/N ratio is not quoted by Sony

Variable frame rates up to 120fps

The F65 can shoot full resolution 4K images at frame rates from 1-120fps, delivering beautiful slow and quick motion.

Sony F65 Rotary Shutter example

Mechanical Rotary Shutter

The optional rotary mechanical shutter eliminates the rolling shutter ‘Jelly ‘ effect that is a standard ‘feature’ with all CMOS cameras.  Here is an illustration of the difference it makes when filming a fast moving subject:

Ideal for HD too!

Whilst the F65 is primarily aimed at 4K production, it can record stunning 12-bit Full HD at HDCAM SR data rates of up to 880Mb/s onto SR Memory cards.  If you want to take advantage of the F65’s 14-stop dynamic range but don’t need such a high recorded data rate then you can use the F65’s HD-SDI output to connect to an external HD recorder such as a Cinedeck Extreme.

16-bit RAW output & recording to SR Memory at up to 2Gbps

It’s the combination of these two factors that allow the F65 to capture images of unprecedented quality.

In summary:

The F65 is aimed at the highest level of production where great is not good enough!  If you want the best THIS IS IT!

 

But don’t just take our word for it -

We asked Anthony Holt from rental house Filmscape why they invested in F65…

 

Q:  You are going to be one of the first companies to take delivery of the new Sony F65 camera – what made you choose it?

A:  It wasn’t an easy decision. With us currently stocking a lot of Arri Alexas and RED Epics we already have two fantastic options to offer our clients high end digital cinema cameras and were unsure of what Sony would bring to the table. However on looking at various prototypes and having numerous meetings with Sony technicians we came to the conclusion that Sony’s history of being reliable and self contained, combined with the huge versatility and potential of the F65s sensor it was an easy decision and complemented our existing stock of cameras, lenses and grip perfectly. The F65 offers higher video quality than both the Alexa and Epic, a huge array of formats and frame rates and potentially better and more flexible workflow, along with Sony’s higher quality after sales support and servicing than the others.

 

Q:  How important do you think this new camera is – will it’s arrival have a significant impact? If so what do you think that impact will be?

A:  Whilst I doubt it’s arrival is going to have as big an impact as the original RED or Arri Alexa, it will fix the issues of both. For some the Alexa doesn’t shoot a high enough resolution despite it’s excellent sensor unless shooting with ArriRaw which can be expensive due to the extra Codec recorder needed. The Epic is often considered anthropometrically poor (for lack of a better word, haha!) and cannot shake the reputation for being unreliable that has carried over from RED One despite it being much more reliable than it’s predecessor. The F65’s onboard RAW recording caters for the highest end, and the flexible choices in terms of SRLite recording and up to 120fps caters for TV and promo work brilliantly. It’s effectively a fantastic all round camera spec, without the drawbacks that the Arri and Epic can bring to a shoot.

 

Q:  Was your decision driven by direct customer demand (i.e. customers actually asking you to provide the F65 specifically) or was it more a case of your anticipating that the demand would be there?

A:  That question sounds like a trap! We try to be a proactive business but doubts can come into mind with new cameras especially from those not established in the Digital Cinema market. We have had a few enquiries from DOPS who just love cameras and want to shoot on it for the love of images rather than always having realistic budgets for it. That said whilst we don’t anticipate the camera flying off the shelves in the first few months (as with all new formats including the Alexa) we expect the F65 to be the staple commercial and feature camera from mid 2012 for a few years. There will still be a large market for Alexas and Epics, but I imagine once the F65 begins to take some of the work it will become the favourite.

 

Q:  What kind of work will your clients be undertaking with the F65?

A:  Due to it’s price point, unless there’s a sudden demand right off the bat I imagine it will be generally for feature film and commercial clients.

 

Q:  What do you expect their reaction to be to the results they will achieve?

A:  I expect the F65 to provide images as good as if not surpassing anything out there at the minute or in the near future.

 

Q:  Do you feel the F65’s capabilities and pricing will open up new markets/niches – if so, what?

A:  Not so much, although I think 35mm days are now numbered more so than ever before.

 

Q:  What do you feel are the major benefits of the F65 – a) to your customers, b) to you as a hire company

A:  a) The highest quality images at the best price and with the most accessible workflow.  b) As a)!!, what benefits our customers benefits our business.

 

Q:  Do you have any concerns/niggles/doubts about what the F65 offers or how it offers it?

A:  There’s always the worry that people are happy to stick with what works, but past experience disproves this as generally top DOPs want to constantly strive for better images and this will lead them to every new system.

 

Our thanks to Filmscape Media Ltd for their valued input:

Filmscape media | www.filmscapemedia.com | Tel:  020 8992 3556