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Sony F55 first impression

Even before RED Digital Cinema Camera Company was founded, or ARRI got involved in the digitization of cinema, Sony (Cine Alta) pioneered digital cinema productions with the HDW-F900 for George Lucas' film "Star Wars Episode II". The resolution of the CCD sensor and the low 300 ISO sensitivity, which were still criticized by many at the time, are now history, as is the mistaken belief that digital cameras could never replace analog cameras.

I got the opportunity to shoot „Die roten Schuhe“ by Aurora Vögeli with the Sony PMW-F55 in 4K RAW, the latest Cine Alta flagship. The 4K project was initialized by Cinegrell, EgliFilm and ZHdK and is scheduled to premiere in cinemas this fall as the first 4K project in Switzerland.

4K was nothing new for me, I already shot in 4K with the RED one in 2009. However, the workflow was in 2K back then. Also, not all 4K is the same, I could see that in the direct comparison of the test shots with the 5K RED Epic, which were made before shooting began. The Sony's image was much sharper and had more detail. the Epic's 5K image.

The right lens

The only question was: do I even want more sharpness and more details in the film? Of course it's great to have detail in a panoramic shot. But in a close-up, I don't want to lose the viewer's attention to the protagonist's blemished skin. Since 4K is going to catch on sooner or later, I have to learn to work with it. I decided not to use the soft Cooke lenses, but the new Leica Sumilux T1.4. If sharp, then sharp.

I recently shot the feature film Achtung fertig WK!. as Second Unit DP. DP Sten Mende also decided to use the new Leica lens set there. The lenses in combination with an ARRI Alexa in HD and ProRes 444 convinced us both. So lets use them on the Sony F55.

The right camera

The advancing digitalization of the feature film industry has increased the pressure on camera manufacturers: Everyone wants to be the first to bring the next super product to market. When a new camera appears today, it is usually still in the development stage.

I remember my first shoot with the ARRI Alexa, in early 2011 (before firmware update 3.0): At that time, it could neither record sound nor be fed with external timecode. It also had so many little bugs that, looking back, I have to wonder why I enjoyed working with it so much back then.

The Sony F55

It's no different with the Sony F55. Actually, the camera will not be ready for use until the end of the year, when all important firmware updates are available.

Sony responds to feedback of us DPs, which is great. A small example: The selector switch for ND filters, the small wheel to internally turn in ND0.9 or ND1.8, will be replaced this July for free. It kept causing unusable settings because the wheel pushed the filter into the image at the slightest touch. This slight vignetting in the left corner of the image was usually only noticed in post-production. Updates can therefore happen far beyond the firmware, proving that Sony cares about customer satisfaction.

Here's a list from my camera assistants Sarah Jüstrich, Ramon Königshausen and me with a few inconveniences that came up during the shoot:

Fan Control: Off in Rec Was ignored by the camera, the fan kept running anyway.

Reel Number: 001 to 999 Had to be set manually and was only used in the file name of the AXS Recorder.

Turn off camera: Often could not be turned off and had to be shut down by removing the


VF Marker: On one shooting day, the aspect ratio marker disappeared and could no longer get output to the viewfinder.

Remote Record: The camera could not be triggered with the radio focus.

Recording Delay: The REC indicator lit up, although the camera was often not yet running, so that on some takes the slate was not recorded.

What we would have liked to have:

- A better camera body (similar to the Alexa).

- A better viewfinder than the OLED DVF-EL100

- A viewfinder extension

- False Color or Waveform in the camera

- Simpler menu without many submenus

- Highspeed possibility

What we thought was great:

- The image quality and contrast range

- The great color reproduction

- The sensitivity of 1250 ISO

- The low power consumption of the camera


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