Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sony F55 using Canon FD lenses, first looks, part 2

The last blog talked about my first impressions of the Sony F55 camera in general terms and the screening of MAHOUT at the Omega Broadcast Groups presentation in Austin Feb. 28th.

I outlined my frustration not being able to see test clips because of the lack of access to a free browser or NLE plug-in. Since then, new develops have begun. Sony now offers Content Browser 2.0 for free for the next three months.  They email you a serial number. Ureka! I can actually view XACV HD footage I shot at Omega. I downloaded the viewer, and it works pretty much like all Sony XDCAM viewers do, except you can't transcode the files into another format. (Darn!) I was able to see the shots I took, both inside and outside. However, they were shot using Sony S-log2 so of course the images look like log images do, milky and flat, lacking much chroma. So I can view the footage but can't grade it to evaluate further.

However, for the interior shots, I did record in 4K Raw and that footage I could actually load into Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 using this plug-in: . I was using my older HP xw8400 WS because I wasn't planning really editing anything. It is modestly equipped with (2) Xeon processors and 8 gigs of ram and Nvida FX 1500 graphics card. But it was displaying through my Dreamcolor monitor and allowed me to grade the images enough to get a feel for the codec. Surprisingly, the files played so long as I didn't go above 1/4 resolution on the playback setting. 1/4 resolution is plenty on a 4K image. And mind you, I was playing from a Caldigit USB 3.0 raid (no where near the 600 MB/s recommendation. More like 111MB/s read speed).

I'm showing these samples as screen print Jpegs to show the PPCS6 interface and reference monitor, for those who like to see video levels. This first image is of the Omega show room. Allan Barnswell sits on the sofa. I captured him talking to the boss using a Canon FD 24mm prime photo lens via a MTF adapter. There is a 1.5x crop factor. This is 4K Raw at 1250 ISO, no correction, 4300 balance, and that gave me about F5.6 on the lens under available lights. I was kind of surprised the image didn't look all milky like log. It had abundant chroma and contrast already. It might have to do with the settings Allan set me up on. I was taking so much in at the time, and had little at that, to really write it all down, (like I should have).

Click to magnify and even download the image files for a closer look. The great thing about the FD lenses on the MTF is that I can control the aperture on the lens ring, where I guess you can't with Nikons.

This next image is graded using NewBlueFX Colorfast plug-in in PPCS6. No where near the grading power as Resolve but adequate for the test.
As you can see, it corrected up pretty nicely with very little effort. The below images are the same before-and-after samples using a Canon 85mm FD lens.
I used pretty much the same correction in each clip, white balancing, and pulling up the midtones. All were exposed to zebras set for 70% on skin midtones. It was nice to know that with a Sony firmware upgrade in the fall, I think, you will be able to send a LUT to monitor and EFV while you continue to record S-log2 to cards and 4K Raw to the AXS recorder. That was a badly missed feature in the Sony F3 that I think Arri Alexa might have clued them in on.

Now I realize these screen grabs are not the best way to show motion footage (or even single frames) but 4K clips are huge! Nor does it really show the complete story of using a photo prime on a Super 35mm sensor. (I've had great results with that on F3). But I was pleased to playback this footage in my NLE with a certain relief that the worse case scenario actually looked reasonably good, passable even for low-end projects. In fact, I almost want to say that the lower quality glass might have chipped the edges off the ultra sharp video look of Mahout. I'm certain this camera would yield different image quality using Cookes compared to Primos compared to Ultraprimes or Superspeeds.

Unfortunately, I couldn't shoot test clips with the 4K recorder onboard outside so I could have judged those shots too. Best I could do there was view the the HD clips in the Content Browser and grab still BMP frames and do a color grade on the them, which look like these before-and-afters below.

Again, not the most ideal test because a BMP isn't going to react in grading like the S-log2 footage, but they did correct up. There is no fill lighting at all. I simply exposed for a midtone at 70% ire. I liked being able to roll in ND so I didn't have to change the ISO from 1250. I think I exposed at F8, so not going to get a shallow depth of field as preferred.

My overall impression of the camera and it's features are positive. It's lighter than the Alexa and the OLED EFV is almost as good as the Alexa's. The menu is a little more complex than F3 but nothing like the old HDCAM menus. Early prototypes of the camera revealed a poor design in the way the EVF cable stuck out from the camera and this model showed off the new angled cable, though still a point of concern that it is proprietary in design should you bust it on location far from a Sony repair center.

My hope is to shoot something substantial with it and really put it through it's paces, perhaps after NAB. Then I'll use my Z800 WS and see what looks I can give it. Dang! I might have to add a second processor and more ram! Does it ever end?

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff, Alan. Thanks for taking the time to share this.