Sony Fills Gap in CineAlta 4K Camera Line With F55, F5

Having taken the budding 4K marketplace head on with the release — and subsequent IBC upgrade — of its F65 camera, Sony is looking to make the technology more available with the release of two CineAlta 4K cameras.

The cameras — models PMW-F55  and PMW-F5  — center on a new type of 4K Super 35mm image sensor with 4,096×2,160 resolution (11.6 million total pixels).

Sony’s new PMW-F5 (pictured) and PMW-F55 4K cameras are aimed primarily at feature-film and episodic-television production, but the company hopes to grab the attention of live sports and news broadcasters as well.

The cameras deliver options for HD, 2K QFHD, and 4K production. Both offer multi-codec support: Sony’s new XAVC MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format, the SR codec (MPEG-4 SStP), and XDCAM 50-Mbps 4:2:2 codec.

In-camera recording is to Sony’s new SxS PRO+ memory card (for the F55, 4K 60p:422 10-bit XAVC and HD 422 10-bit XAVC high frame rate; for the F5, HD XAVC and HD high frame rate).

The F55 and F5 are intended to fill the gap in both technology and pricing between the company’s top HD camcorder — the F3 — and the 4K/8K F65 camera system. The latter has begun to be used in feature films, commercials, and music videos (including Taylor Swift’s new “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the first music video shot and produced in 4K).

Fox Sports recently used the F65 during an NFL broadcast, and, as 4K creeps into live sports production, Sony is hopeful that these more affordable options will entice broadcasters to view the future of 4K as imminent rather than distant.

Prices have not yet been revealed by Sony, but, to “fill the gap” on price point, the F5 and F55 will fall between the $14,000 F3 and the $85,000 F65.

According to Peter Crithary, marketing manager for Sony Production, development of the F5 and F55 was a highly collaborative effort with the film-production industry.

“It was quite a long road to get to this point,” he says. “We did extensive tours around the country getting significant customer feedback. We needed to hear from a very wide range of cinematographers, DPs, DITs, postproduction representatives to understand what they need, what they think is missing, what needs to be addressed, how we can take care of their concerns. All of that was taken into careful consideration in the development of this new technology.”

Included in the announcement of the F5 and F55 were a slew of 4K accessories for Sony products. Among them: a 30-in 4K LCD professional monitor, a new PL-mount lens system, new editions of the SxS Pro memory cards, the AXSM Access Memory System for 2K and 4K RAW recording.

Using Sony’s new AXS-R5 RAW recorder, shooters can capture super-slow-motion imagery in up to 60p 4K RAW on new AXS memory; for 2K RAW, up to 240 fps with the F55 and up to 120 fps with the F5.

“[It’s] completely new everything: new imaging technology, multi-codec support, very modular design,” notes Crithary. “The camera is a system, and that’s more true now with this new engineering technology than it has been in the past. We also are really future-proofing where we go with the technology and how to invest in it.”

During a press briefing last month, Sony also added that Version 2.2 of the F65 CineAlta 4K camera will be released by the end of the calendar year. Among many additions, the update will provide remote pan and control capabilities.

Version 3.0 is expected sometime next spring — the 2013 NAB Show seems a likely launch point. Sony intends to release a software developers kit for the F65, which uses an 8K sensor but currently supports up to 4K,  that would enable cinematographers to derive 6K and 8K images from the camera.