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Header image for article The New Sony F5 and F55 Cameras

The New Sony F5 and F55 Cameras

For the last month Sony has been teasing the release of a new camera, when in fact they have two new cameras coming. The F5 and F55 cameras are a huge advancement in Sony's line of large sensor cameras. The two cameras both have 4K resolution, Super 35mm sized sensors, and they both share the same basic body design. However, there are some big differences inside that we'll explain below.

First though, let's go over some of the big features of both cameras. The body is lightweight, at under 5 lbs without any accessories or a lens, and is designed for shoulder-mounted use with a detachable viewfinder. That's right, the camera uses external viewfinders from Sony that can be positioned in the right place. This is something we've wanted for years now from Sony, and they have delivered it with both of these cameras. Sony will offer two viewfinders for the camera, a high-resolution LCD (960x540) version and an even higher resolution .7" OLED (1280x720) version. The OLED version is quite small, and Sony promises that it delivers an extremely clear and sharp picture. The viewfinders will mount to the top handle of the camera, and will have a sliding mechanism that lets you place the viewfinder in different locations. The viewfinders connect to a new digital connector, which can also be used by a new 7" 1920x1080 LCD screen that Sony will be releasing.

The F5 and F55 camera bodies are very small overall and have a basic box-like shape with mounting points on the top and bottom. The operator's side has an LCD screen which displays camera settings. This screen displays the basic menu settings, and allows for quick adjustment. This simple design is something we've all requested and Sony has tried to keep the menus no more than three layers deep. On the side of the camera you'll also find assignable buttons, and a large jog wheel for moving through the menus. In the front, you'll find a wheel for ND filters, which are built right into the camera. The lens mount is the same 'FZ' mount found on the PMW-F3, which means all the same lens adapters will work with these new cameras. The camera does come with a PL adapter though, just like the F3. A small difference between the F5 and F55 is that the FZ mount tie down on the F55 comes in silver, while the F5 mount comes in black.

Recording wise these new cameras really shine. They both feature a new Sony DSP which gives them many different recording options. Both cameras record to SxS cards internally at 50 Mbps 4:2:2 8-bit but that's just the start. Beyond that, they can record in the Sony HDCAM SR (SStP) format at 220 Mbps 4:2:2, with plans for the 440 Mbps 4:4:4 compression coming sometime after release. Additionally, the cameras can record in a new compression called XAVC. This new format is based on the AVC standards, and is a 100 Mbps Intra-Frame 4:2:2 codec. The F5 can record internally up to 60fps in XAVC HD, and up to 120fps in 2K with the planned XAVC 2K update. The F55 takes this one step further and can record XAVC in 2K up to 180fps and 4K video at up to 60fps with the planned XAVC 4K update. These formats will all record internally to new SxS Pro+ cards that sport higher data rates, up to 1.5 Gbps. The cameras also have the option of recording to two cards at once for instant backup, and the new Pro+ cards can be set up for recording two formats at the same time. So, in many frame rates, 50 Mbps 4:2:2 could be recorded at the same time as XAVC. These are amazing internal options, XAVC and HDCAM SR are very high quality compressions and both promise to have a solid workflow before the launch of the camera. But what about Raw? Well, they got that too.

The new AXS-R5 recorder from Sony has also been announced and is designed to directly attach to the back of the F5 or F55. This small Raw recorder is completely controlled by the F5 and F55 and doesn't require any cables to integrate. It will record 4K Raw data from the F55 up to 60fps and up to 240fps in 2K Raw. The F5 will be able to record up to120fps in 2K Raw, all in the same Sony 3:1 compression format found on the F65. Because the 4K Raw data out of these cameras is less data than the 8K Raw format found on the F65, the data rates are quite a bit smaller than what the F65 does. The R5 records to new recording media called AXSM cards. These new cards are very high speed, but share a similar price point to the SxS Pro+ cards. The Raw format, like all of the new Sony compressions, will be stored in MXF and will be supported by all the major color grading and dailies tools. Last, but not least, the R5 with an adapter can also be used to record Raw data from the NEX-FS700. Using an adapter called the HXR-IFR5, the FS700 can be attached to the R5. The price of the adapter should be right around $2000, so you FS700 owners should know this solution is in the works.

So beyond the recording options, what does the F55 offer beyond the F5? Well it's all in the sensor. The F55 has a Global Shutter CMOS sensor, which is unique at this resolution. That means no more trouble with skew and flash frames. Both the F5 sensor and F55 sensor sport 14 stops of dynamic range, which is huge in itself. On top of that F55 sensor also has the full wide color gamut of the F65, the biggest in the business, while the F5 has the standard wide gamut similar to the F3.

Sony also has a new line of Olivine (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries to go with the camera, which snap directly on the back via a traditional V-lock wedge. These batteries are the traditional 14.4 Volt design but have improved chemistry for faster charging and longer run times. They also have a shorter profile making them look sleek on the F5 and F55. Batteries attach to the camera via an adapter which also supplies two Hirose 4-pin accessory outputs. Anton Bauer to V-lock adapters will work on this attachment as well.

On top of all the camera technology, Sony is also releasing new lenses. Sony has totally rebuilt the lenses that we saw packed with the F3, making them out of metal and really improving the mechanics overall. They have a full set of these new lenses, all at T2.0 with matching front diameter. Lens focal lengths include 20, 25, 35, 50, 85, and 135mm. Unlike the lenses found in the F3 packages, these new lenses will be sold separately from the camera only.

That's a lot of new stuff from Sony, and we can expect it to start shipping around February 2013. Give us a call to get on an interest list. In the meantime, stay tuned for more information and future blogs!

Andy Shipsides
Chief Technology Officer / Camera Tech Specialist, AbelCine LA

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