After the year we’ve had so far, we’ve all been looking forward to a bit of good news from Sony. After the release of the A7S MK3 and the early teaser of the Sony FX6 in September, there has been a lot of discussion on the Internet about what features the camera will and will not have. The early morning announcement reveals that the new Sony FX6 gives us pretty much everything that everyone had wished for and then quite a few other things as well.
The FX6 is the newest addition to Sony’s recently announced Cinema Line series of Digital Cinema cameras, joining the PXW-FX9 and the flagship VENICE in the range. Sony’s Cinema line represents a real change in philosophy from Sony, moving from the idea of producing cameras that produce images that try to match what we see in day to day life, to producing cameras with images that evoke a feeling. This is the basic premise of Sony’s S-Cinetone colour science and is a big step forward for Sony. Sony has been criticised over the years for producing cameras that produce ‘cold’ images out of the box, but Sony’s Cinema Line cameras certainly swing well away from the traditional ‘Sony’ look.
We expect this to be a really popular camera at Videocraft, as it will be pretty hard to beat for its extensive features and value for money at RRP $9995.
So here is why we rate the Sony FX6 as real bang for your buck?
New 4K full-frame 10.2 megapixel sensor
The new Sony FX6 boasts a newly designed back-illuminated full-frame 10.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor (that’s a mouthful!). This is a different sensor to the FX9 and the A7S MK3, designed for video capture from the start. What is really cool is that this sensor has dual native ISO on board, so you can select the ISO base (800 or 12800) to suit your needs, and keep your noise floor low. Sony also promises fast data readout speed along with 15+ stop dynamic range and a colour filter array that gives us wide colour gamut and accurate colour matching between the other cameras in the Sony Cinema line.
Variable ND Filter
The Sony FX6 has inherited from the FX9 its electronic variable ND filter and this is certainly a great time saver in production. Used in conjunction with the dual native ISO feature, operators have a really wide range of adjustment at their fingertips. The ability to finely adjust the ND filter makes it much easier to achieve correct exposure at a given iris aperture, avoiding the need for external ND filters, or even worse, using the electronic shutter.
The FX6 camera really resets the bar for video-focused cameras with the autofocus technology coming straight from the new A7S MK3. A great step forward is that we have features such as Eye Detection AF in high frame rate recording modes, which really helps change the way we can shoot high frame rate video. Paired with Gimbals such as the new Ronin RSC2, following talent in high frame rate and keeping focus will become a much simpler process, with the camera operator only needing to concentrate on framing the shots. I feel these AF features are absolutely fantastic, and a game-changer in the market. The autofocus performance in this camera will really be the standard-setter in the market for compact large sensor cameras. This new AF system is even superior to its bigger brother, the PXW-FX9.
Colour Science in digital cinema has been a very big topic in recent years, and Sony have been pioneers in Digital Cinema cameras. From Sony’s initial HD cameras built in the 1980s, through to the first 24P Digital Cinema camcorder (HDW-F900), Sony has an unmatched level of experience in the industry for building and supporting cutting edge technology and workflows. This experience within the industry, followed up by extensive consultation with leading cinematographers has led to Sony’s S-Cinetone colour science, which marks a new step forward for Sony in producing pleasing images that offer wide colour gamut for HDR production, and plenty of latitude for colour graders. In addition, this consistent colour science between the FX6, FX9 and VENICE offer camera operators a clear choice of cameras to suit all budgets and use scenarios, all with a consistent look.
The Ins and Outs of it all
Of course, the FX6 wouldn’t be complete without connection to the rest of the production! We now have simultaneous SDI and HDMI output from the FX6, even in 4K! the SDI connector is the full speed, 12G SDI, carrying full resolution 4K at up to 60P live off the camera. If you want to also connect an HDMI wireless link you can at the same time, making the whole process much easier and more flexible. We have been missing external timecode connectivity on the previous FS5 series, and now our prayers have been answered with the new FX6! External timecode can now be connected, enabling easy multi-camera production with the FX6. External DC input allows powering from external sources for all-day powering of the camera, which is separate from the battery connector.
Following on from this improved connectivity is the ability to output 16 bit RAW directly out of the camera via the 12G SDI output connector. No additional licenses or adapters are needed to get RAW out of the FX6, further adding to its flexibility. In addition, the ability to record internally as well as to RAW simultaneously is available.
Monitoring on the FX6 has changed in comparison to Sony’s FS5 in that it no longer has the small eyepiece viewfinder at the rear of the camera. However, the FX6 has the same touchscreen viewfinder as the FX9 allowing menu control via the touchscreen.
Pro Audio Inputs
Audio hasn’t been forgotten with the Sony FX6, the camera has two XLR inputs on the detachable camera handle with the usual Mic or Line Level selection with phantom power, giving you the ability to add the audio gear that best suits your needs. In addition, support is built-in for Sony’s digital radio mics, allowing direct digital connection between the receiver and camera, removing additional processing in the signal path.
It’s light! only 170 grams more (body only) than the A7S MK3 means that the FX6 can be stripped down by removing the handle and the handgrip into a really small box and put on gimbals or in other remote locations really easily with all of the feature set that we’re used to on a digital cinema camcorder rather than necessarily a modified DSLR. The Sony FX6 body only is only 890 grams so dimensionally it’s very similar to Sony’s FS5MK2, so in that regard, if you’re used to the FS5 this camera will be very familiar. The touch screen LCD which we talked about for menus you can also mount it directly to the camera body when you’ve taken off the handle so if you’ve stripped the camera down you can still use the viewfinder and the touch screen to go through the menu.
You can control the Sony FX6 camera via Wi-Fi using Sony’s content browser mobile app to control all the features of the camera, start and stop recording and see what the camera is doing very simply from your mobile phone.
Live streaming, in this year of the pandemic, has become a really critical feature and the Sony FX6 has the ability to live stream to all of your favourite social media channels built-in so you can go and set up a few different targets and then choose what you want to stream to in Full HD 1080P resolution.
Gyroscopic Metadata – fix it in post!
The Sony FX6 does not have an in-body image stabilisation system like the A7S MK3, but what it does have is all of the gyroscopes built into the camera so it can actually capture all of that movement information in the camera body. This feature is inherited from the FX9 and is very powerful. This data is stored in the metadata of the clip, and using software such as Sony’s Content Browser software, the original files can be stabilised in the post, and you can even choose the amount of stabilisation you would like! As this metadata is preserved with each clip, the processing speed is super fast and much more accurate than using separate software to process the images. A great time-saver, and really adds flexibility in the post-production process.
Vertical shooting for social
The Sony FX6 also stores the camera rotation information in the file metadata, now that we have a lot of social media channels and social media production happening in a vertical mode the Sony FX6 stores this information so when it comes into post, editing and processing software that can read this metadata will automatically orient the files in either portrait or landscape in the way it was originally captured.
The FX6 is very similar to the A7S MK3, it can record to either SD or CF Express Type A media so it has two card slots and each card slot can take either the SD or CF Express Type A cards. The CF Express Type A is necessary for the 4K and HD high frame rate mode so if you want to max out the high frame rate modes with this camera you will need the CF Express Type A card for the rest of the other codecs and lower frame rates you can use the SDXC cards we would recommend the UHSII speed so then you can capture the 4K in the XAVC Intra codec.
It’s all about Slow Motion
High Frame rate recording has become the go-to feature for every new camera, and it seems that with every new camera, the expectations are set ever higher. In this case, the FX6 does not disappoint, delivering high frame rate recordings at up to 100/120 FPS in UHD, or up to 200/240 FPS in HD. Maximum frame rate depends on the native frame rate the camera is set up, so for 25/50P environments the maximum frame rate is 100 FPS in UHD, and 200 FPS in HD. If you want to record in 4K (4096×2160), you can record in S&Q mode at up to 60FPS in 1FPS increments.
There is some image crop in the UHD 100/120 FPS mode (about 10%), in HD the Full Frame scan area is used.
The ability to record slow motion with this camera is very powerful and coupled with full AF capability in these modes, the camera will quickly become the go-to model for easy to use HFR recording.
No sweat for long recording times
One of the hot topics, so to speak, has been the ability for these cameras to continually record without overheating. The FX6 has been designed from the outset to be able to record for as long as your batteries will allow you to, so there are no limitations on record time due to the cameras overheating. This camera chassis has been designed for very efficient heat dissipation working at all frame rates full time, in a more dust and moisture resistant way. So you’re talking about 105 minutes record time with the standard BPU35 battery, 215 minutes with the BPU 70 and 290 minutes or nearly 4 1/2 hours plus with the Sony BPU100 in addition it also has an external AC input so you can run it in any way you want depending on whether you’re in a studio or out in the field.
10-bit codecs in camera
One of the things we love about the Sony FX6 in comparison to the FS5 is the fact that it can do 10-bit XAVC All Intra 4K and HD recording in-camera. This is really exciting as often external recorders were used on the FS5 to be able to record in 10-bit resolution, or to avoid LONG-GOP codecs. Now, with the FX6, we can record in-camera using Sony’s 10-bit XAVC-I codec for both HD and 4K, including in high frame rate capture modes.
While there is a lot of discussion about using RAW, and the workflow behind it, recording in-camera using an industry-proven 10-bit codec speeds up the whole production pipeline and is still very suitable for additional image processing when used in S-Log3/S-Gamut 3 mode. The S-Log 3 profiles were specifically designed for 10-bit recording pipelines, enabling HDR and wide colour gamut workflows all recording in-camera. We see this as a significant step forward, using production-grade codecs will enable operators to use more compact systems that deliver the quality needed for high-end production.
For clients that want to record 10 bit at low data rates, Sony also offers the XAVC-L codec, which keeps data rates in HD down to what we had used with the MPEG HD422 codec but now with 10-bit precision.
Finally, all of these codecs have been proven in previous Sony cameras such as the Sony F5/55, FX9 and the FS7, so all of the major NLE manufacturers have full support now.
In a nutshell, the new FX6 delivers a very deep feature set at an affordable price. Workflow is easy, it can record onto inexpensive media, has great autofocus and is nice and small. Sony has really delivered a super impressive camera with the FX6, and we can’t wait to see them in early December. Videocraft have the FX6 available now to pre-order, so go to our online store to be among the first to get your hands on the new FX6!