Quick Look: Sony F65 4K Digital Cine Camera
BandPro's Jeff Cree shows off the F65 at Videofax in San Francisco.
By Adam Wilt | January 29, 2012
Last week, San Francisco rental house extraordinaire Videofax took delivery of Sony F65 #15, and on Thursday BandPro's Jeff Cree came up to show off the camera to local DPs, ACs, and DITs. I was able to shoot some photos and take some notes, which I have pulled together and annotated, in a somewhat scattershot manner, for your viewing pleasure. [Update 2012.01.29: typo & terminology fixes]
Serial #15! Note the bilingual English/Russian labeling, and the build date.
The F65s have just started shipping, and what's in the field is still unfinished: raw recording only, no variable frame rates, a few mostly inconsequential bugs. But they are functional, usable cameras nonetheless, and they make very nice pictures.
F65 with SR-R4 solid-state recorder, HDVF-C30WR EVF, Leica 18mm T1.4 lens.
F65 right side: power and lens connectors at bottom; 2x USB (behind cover), AUX, and SDI 2 at top.
Overall, it looks pretty much like an F35. Same blocky wedge shape; bright status panel on the operator's side, docked recorder with detachable control panel.
The F65's and SR-R4's status panels are readable in low light.
F65 left-side controls.
At the top, there's the Memory Stick / SD card slot for camera setups, behind a rubber flap.
The camera has four assignable buttons, each with an embedded white LED when it's active or activated.
A DIAGNOSIS LED glows green when shooting is enabled, red when a fault is detected, or flashes red for fatal errors. The diagnostic status is available on page 3 of the side-panel status display.
Mechanical and Electronic shutter selectors, each with a white LED, let you choose shuttering (mechanical will work from 1-60fps; from 60-120fps you must use the electronic shutter). Spinning up or stopping the rotary shutter takes a few seconds as the motor is sized for low power draw as opposed to spin-it-up-in-a-frame heftiness. When switching to electronic, there's a brief image glitch about 15 seconds after pushing the button, as the CMOS registers are reset for electronic shuttering—one of the bugs that Jeff mentioned.
There's a slide switch to lock out side-panel controls; a VF DISPLAY button to toggle data displays, and VF MENU to toggle the camera's setup menus.
There's a big REC button with its own LED and a locking switch.
The side-panel display shows three pages of data, and three buttons—BACK, PAGE, and SETTINGS—let you change shutter angle, ISO rating, and viewing parameters without having to go into the VF MENU.
Page 1 of the side controls: frame rate, shutter angle, ND, E.I., stops of headroom at this E.I., viewing color temp, viewing LUT.
Page 2 of the side controls: fan mode, voltages, media remaining, timecode.
Page 3 of the side controls: button assignments, panel brightness, camera status.
Notice AS2, "Mag Position". When you magnify the image 2x or 4x with "Mag", you can choose any of nine positions onscreen by repeatedly pressing Mag Position. You're not limited to seeing the center of the image magnified; you can choose any corner, the center top, center bottom, center left, center right, or center of the picture. The position is remembered even when Mag is turned off, too.
"Mag" and "Hi/Lo" (described below) time out after about ten seconds, and will turn off immediately if you press REC to start shooting.
Selecting the color temperature parameter on page 1 of the side controls.
A big rotary selector lets you scroll through the side-panel settings or the VF MENU items. Pushing it in selects or sets the current parameter.
The camera uses a Super35mm-sized single CMOS sensor, 1.8:1 (a.k.a. 17x9) aspect ratio suited for the new DCI specs (4096x2160 4K imaging).
Sensor's active area is 17x9, the full-raster DCI projection aspect ratio. © 2011 BandPro.
8K horizontal resolution; diagonal-photosite arrangement; appears to be the development of the Q67 pattern Sony discussed at the 2010 HPA Tech Retreat.
F65's sampling grid vs. 4K bayer-pattern. © 2011 BandPro.
Color gamut: yellow is F65, small triangle is Rec.709, film is in between. © 2011 BandPro.
The sensor has 20 million photosites overall, of which 18.7 million are active, according to Jeff (compared to a "typical 4K Bayer-pattern sensor" with 8.8 million photosites). The extra photosites are used for dynamic correction of noise, black, output level; partly as a result, the camera has no need for a black balance button (there is an automatic "residual pixel noise" masking function in the camera's maintenance menu, so any dead or stuck pixel can be fixed).
[Sony quotes the "effective resolution" of the sensor as 8192x2160 (true 8K horizontally, 2x HD vertically), which would be 17.7 million effective photosites, not 18.7 million; I don't know if the difference is due to a typo sneaking in or due to differing interpretations of the "effective resolution" numbers, which have had a tendency to be somewhat slippery and hard to pin down on diagonally-arrayed sensors; I've seen different "effective resolution" numbers for the same ClearVid CMOS HD sensor from different folks at Sony.]
17.7 (or 18.7) million active photosites lurk behind that shutter module.
Backlit design, new circuitry layout with 90-94% fill factor, vs. 60% fill factor on previous backlit-CMOS sensors (standard, non-backlit CMOS is typically 45% fill factor). 16-bit A/D, with 35,400 gradations (14.5 bits) available from the sensor; the remaining bits are, according to Jeff Cree, used for "dynamic noise reduction". Jeff spoke to a couple of independent CMOS fabs about the tech used; they said Sony's fab is 3 years ahead of what they can do.
The photosite density, arrangement, and fill factor give the F65 a 50% MTF (modulation transfer function, a measure of contrast at different spatial frequencies) at 4K; 80-90% at the limits of 1920x1080. 14 stops of dynamic range, exposure indices (ISO ratings) of 200-3200, EI800 nominal. At EI800, there are 6.2 stops of highlight headroom. Changing EI doesn't affect dynamic range, it simply redefines where the midgray lies (this is the sort of thing we see also on RED and Alexa; changing ISO simply trades off between headroom and footroom). The camera's side panel shows what your headroom is for the selected EI (see the photos above).
The sensor is claimed to have fewer rolling-shutter flash frames even with electronic shutter (and far less jellocam) due to a very fast readout.
No White Balance, Black Balance settings; three color temps in the settings menu: 3200K, 4300K, 5500K, for the viewing outputs only (and stored as metadata with the raw file). 4096x21060 4K raster; 3840x2160 ("4K HD" or "QuadHD" for 1.77:1). Progressive only, no interlace. No sharpening, no black gamma, no saturation, no coring, no knee... just a dead-simple camera setup where you choose your viewing LUT and color temperature, set your shutter angle and frame rate, and decide whether or not to see displays in the EVF and on the SDI—that's it. It's a raw-recording digital cine camera after all. Art Adams chortled when he saw how empty the menus were, saying, "less stuff for an operator to screw up!"
F65 VF Menus, displayable on SDI feed as well as in viewfinder. Note 6.2 stops of headroom shown: should be 5.2 @ EI400; this is another bug in the current version. The side panel showed the correct info.
The camera will eventually shoot 1-60fps in 4Kx2K (April), or 60-120 fps in half-vertical-res, subsampled at the recorder (July).
Mechanical shutter option (all BandPro's cameras were ordered with the mechanical shutter) also adds internal NDs, all of them IR corrected.
The F65's rotary shutter module.
The rotary shutter module is a sealed unit with a variable shutter and four NDs. © 2011 BandPro.
The mechanical shutter runs from 11.2-180 degrees and operates up to 60 fps. Shutter pulses locked for Stereo3D shooting, using the SHUTTER connector on the right side of the camera.
Genlock accepts analog HD-Y signals; "shutter" is an auto-negotiating shutter sync lock signal for S3D applications.
Neutral density: ND .9, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8. The entire RS (Rotary Shutter) option allows 31.5mm clearance behind the flange, so Optimo Rouge and other "digital" lenses (those not designed to clear 45-degree mirror shutters) can be used; the shutter sits parallel to the sensor, as it's used for shuttering the picture only, not for reflecting pix to an optical finder: the F65 does NOT have an optical finder option the way Alexa Studio does.
16-bit linear F65raw recording (10- or 12-bit S-Log SR-mode recording later this year; only F65raw today), very data intensive! The raw image needs viewing LUTs (look-up tables). Two are provided; S-Log and Rec.709(800%).
How to view a 14-stop camera on a 10-stop (at best) display? The hi/lo functions shift the tonal scale through the LUT, showing you the highlight detail or the shadow detail properly "centered" in the monitor's tonal range, so you can see clipping (in the highlights) or crushing (in the shadows) clearly and unambiguously. Brilliant!
Default monitor output, with data display.
"Hi" display to see what's in the highlights: no clipping here!
"Lo" display to see what's in the shadows: that zoom lens is separable from the black card behind it.
Same EVF as F35; HDVF-C30WR. It's a 960x540 EVF, half HD's linear resolution (even so it's an eyeball-filler with a 2.7" panel and plenty of eyepiece magnification).
Monitor outputs are 4:2:2 1920x1080 at 10 bits, 2 frames delayed (same as f35). No PAL or NTSC outputs. The camera offers both 2x and 4x magnification on the EVF and SDI (at the same time), working from the camera's original 4K image. This mag is done in the camera's main processor, so it can't be used while recording; OTOH it has access to the raw data directly so will be as good as it can get, without downconversion aliasing. That 4x mag means a 4K HD image WILL be pixel-to-pixel in the EVF, and 2x pixel-for-pixel on full HD monitor.
In practice, the 4x magnified SDI out looks like a Photoshop 2x enlargement using "nearest neighbor" sampling; you can see each output pixel clearly. I looked at fine details: contrasty edges (a backlit skylight with a metal grille); thin, pixel-wide diagonals (delicate stems of a floral still-life); in the 2x and 4x mag modes I saw NO trace of luma or chroma aliasing, nor any other imaging artifacts we'd normally associate with a color-filter-array single sensor camera. That 2x oversampling from an 8K sensor looks like it really does the trick. It'll be fun to put this camera up on some of DSC Lab's nastier test charts, but based on my informal evaluation I'd guess it's going to look pretty darned clean and sharp.
Menus can be driven from deck or camera. 8 pin remote for CCU, so you can hook up your usual Sony CCUs and control panels, but you can only control shutter, remote start/stop, as there's so little to tweak on this camera! You can also use iPad and Android tablet remote controls via WiFi; they replicate the side panel plus VF menus.
The tablet interface will have the side controls, VF Menu, and output map... and a copy of the ops manual! © 2011 BandPro.
Both iPad and Android tablets will be supported. © 2011 BandPro.
You can FTP clip data right from the camera, or remote-access over wired Ethernet as well as wireless for setup and control.
Genlock using 1080p HD-Y input (which the camera also outputs). Two USB ports, one for the WiFi dongle for remote control via iPad / Android, one for a USB keyboard for adding metadata. Not enough WiFi dongles to go around just yet, alas [what, Sony can make enough freakin' 8K 20 Mpixel S35mm sensors to build F65s, but it can't make enough USB WiFi transmitters? It's a funny old world, isn't it?].
External I/O port for Arri WRC-2 ramping controls. Same 8 pin LEMO as F35 for RMB-150/750, 4-amp fisher ports for both 12 and 24 volts, 20-pin lens-control port.
Camera setups can be saved to your choice of Memory Stick or SD card.
The F65 is a 12 volt camera, has a 24 volt pass-thru circuit for 24v accessories. The camera draws 62 watts, recorder 37 watts, with EVF the entire package draws 105-109 watts; this is pushing the limits of the V-mount battery connector, which is designed with a 10-amp rating. Weight 15 lbs 6 oz for the camera, recorder, and EVF. Perhaps 25 lbs with lens, lighter than f35. The F35 did multiple downconversions on-board, separate monitoring / recording LUTs, etc., so it had 4 200-pin chips to handle image processing that aren't needed on the F65, which is one reason the F65 is less expensive than the F35, and lighter and less power-hungry than it would be otherwise.
Jeff had with him four pre-production Leica cine primes; the 18mm was on the camera during the demo. The Leica primes have been designed "out to 8K", all ate T1.4. They are the "only primes that will provide full performance on the f65." $190,000 for a set of eight, or $23,750 / lens on average. Start saving those pennies...
Preproduction prototype Leica 18mm T1.4 prime lens.
I looked at the 18mm in 4x mag mode on the Cine-tal monitor. Looked plenty sharp, highly rectilinear (no visible distortion), and no lateral chromatic aberration to speak of. Tasty!
The F65 uses a docked recorder, the SR-R4, recording to SRMemory "slabs".
A half-terabyte 5.5 Gbps (black) SRMemory slab in the SR-R4.
A half-terabyte 2.5 Gbps (blue) SRMemory slab.
SR-R4 recorder weighs under 4 lbs, vs. 12 lbs for the SRW-1 HDCAM-SR tape deck. Connection is through a fiber-optic port, with automatic covers on both camera and deck to keep dirt out. Can't presently run the deck untethered; Sony developed a Fiber extender for internal testing purposes (which also has 4x 3G SDI ports for quadHD monitoring); Jeff is hoping to convince Sony to make that a product.
SR-R4 Remote Panel displays main screen in portrait as well as landscape orientations.
SRMemory "slabs", available in three different, guaranteed write speeds: 5.5Gbps black, 2.5 Gbps blue, 1.5 Gbps orange. All cards read at 5.5 Gbps guaranteed. A 24fps F65raw feed requires a 2.5 Gbps card, going to higher frame rates will require the 5.5 Gbps card. The cards are "self-healing". They will also allow for password protection and device authentication, that capability coming "after 2012".
Either the 512MB black or the 1TB blue costs $6060; a 1TB card hold 59 minutes of F65raw. Given the 2x cost-per-byte difference, use blue cards for normal work, black for high speed.
All you folks complaining about how much your SxS and P2 cards cost, just stop right now: we don't want to hear from you ever again.
Sony has been traditionally great on acquisition, less great on the post workflow. With the F65, Sony set up the SRMASTER partnership with storage, processing, post companies. Partners handle NLEs, color correction / grading, data conversion / transcoding / dailies, etc. Currently focus appears to be in tools for simultaneous demosiac, color grade, dailies. Codex Vault will be redesigned have SR card slot. Current options: YoYotta for $8750 (not sure exactly which particular product this is), Assimilate, FotoKem's nextLAB, colorfront's On-Set Dailies at $15k and up... It may be a while before we can download cheap/free NLE plugins for FCP, Premiere Pro, or AVID to deal with F65raw!
F65RAW is 16-bit linear raw (all 17.7 or 18.7 million photosite values, unprocessed), with 3.2:1 wavelet compression. SR-R4 will be able to record MPEG4 HD (SR format) in "early 2012" [possibly late February; not sure if I heard this correctly]. If power is lost while recording, leave the cards in the deck; the SR-R4 auto-closes the file when power is restored. 59 minutes on 1TB in raw mode, 311 minutes in SR SQ.
[I'm not 100% sure, but I get the impression that all SR-format recording will 1920x1080 HD. The only way to get 4K out is to record raw, then demosaic "[y]our choice of resolution: gloriously supersampled HD, supersampled 2K, true 4K or even 8K", as Sony says in the F65 brochure.]
Variable frame rates 1-60fps in April, to 120 fps in July, using "HFR", which (in some ways similar to—but not identical to!—the high-frame-rate modes on some of the 1080-line XDCAM HD disc-based products) will lower vertical resolution as low as 4Kx1K @ 120fps, to avoid exceeding recording bandwidth: the full-res 60fps signal fills the 5.5Gbps capability of the black SRMemory slabs as it is. Ramping will be possible over as few as 4 frames.
16 channels of 24 bit audio, two analog inputs on the deck (with 2-frame delay as needed, to match the camera's 2-frame video processing delay). The AUX connector on the camera's top right side will, in the future, be enabled to accept the input of a digital audio multiplexer to feed up to 16 channels through the camera's fiber connections to the deck.
SRPC-4 eSATA / GigE SRMemory transfer station with a blue slab inserted.
SRPC-4 transfer station. Has Gigabit Ethernet, can be fitted with 10GigE. Separate eSATA port to go straight to a hard drive, bypassing the connected PC or Mac as a data-transfer bottleneck (in this case, the computer simply acts as a controller). Will be possible to see thumbnails, will be an upgrade for HD monitoring (there's an SDI output on the back of the box).
There's also an SRPC-5 flat, 1RU rackmount-compatible box with an SRW-5800 interface, 10GigE interface, and eSATA ports, designed as a companion / transfer station for the SRW-5800 tape deck. An SR-R1000 4-slot "slab deck" with dual 10GigE ports, and the ability to run the unit as four separate player/recorders in the same box, will also be available; I have a picture of a prototype halfway down the page in my HPA Tech Retreat 2011 Day 4 coverage. (It's listed for $43,560 at AbelCine.)
January 2012: F65s shipping to customers; first one delivered to Otto Nemetz on 12 January; #15 to Videofax this past week.
April 2012, pre-NAB: programmed speed ramps, varispeed 1-60fps; SRMASTER SQ (440Mbps) and Lite (220Mbps) recording.
July 2012: varispeed HFR 60-120fps, SRMASTER HQ (880Mbps) recording.
Oh, one more thing...
"Additional 4K products at NAB".
For more info
Sony's F65 page
SRMASTER Family brochure
Disclosure: Videofax invited me to the F65 showing, which was co-organized with the Digital Cinema Society. I am a customer of Videofax, and an (inactive) member of DCS; beyond that I have no material connection to Videofax, DCS, BandPro, Sony, or any other company mentioned. Nobody offered me cash, free cameras, fine wines, or other considerations to attend or to write about the event. Although Videofax put on a spread of cheese 'n' crackers, sushi, cookies, and coffee for the attendees, and I did partake thereof, this in no way influenced my decision to report on the event, even though it did help me maintain the energy to do so (there was no time to go out for dinner between the afternoon preso for DPs and the evening preso for DITs).
Videofax also gave each attendee a tiny USB drive with ops manuals for all the cameras Videofax rents, which I used to verify / clarify some of the numbers in my writeup—but Videofax didn't treat me any differently than any other attendee in this matter.
This writeup hasn't been fact-checked by Sony, BandPro, or Videofax. I apologize in advance for any mistakes I have inadvertently introduced.
All graphics © 2011 BandPro Film & Digital, Inc. Used with permission.
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