Comprehensive F5 Upgrade Option Will Make It Identical to F55, Including Sensor

At its NAB press event, Sony unveiled a shoulder-mount kit for the F55 and F5 that’s intended to quickly transform those cameras so they fit better in a run-and-gun environment, where operators are used to moving quickly while holding cameras securely. The company’s strategy at this show is not to add new cameras to its F series, instead extending the functionality and usability of the existing cameras.

(Sony also announced the new α7S mirrorless full-frame camera, which outputs baseband 4K over HDMI, but that's another story. That's it on the left, up top, facing off against a shoulder-mount F55.) 

To that end, Sony also announced a hardware upgrade that makes the F5 functionally identical to the F55, adding the same global shutter sensor, color filter array and color gamut, and 4K internal recording and live output over 3G SDI and HDMI. Onboard 4K recording will be enabled via a firmware upgrade. Since the sensor has to be replaced, the upgrade will have to be performed at a Sony service center. It’s expected to be available later in 2014, and pricing has not been set.

The shoulder-mount kit, described as a “dock” at Sony’s NAB press conference, communicates with the camera through the interface currently used for the R5 raw recorder. Sony says it’s designed to be easy and quick to attach, with a sliding shoulder pad and refinements to the control interface that make it function more like a shouldercam.  The  dock adds a new handle with mic holder to the camera, puts an audio control panel on the back, and adds three assignable buttons and an audio monitor up at the front of the camera, below the lens mount.

Sony brought Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race up on stage, where he put his seal of approval on the shoulder dock, noting how important it is that camera operators on reality shows can run when the need arises. And Screen Gems' production president Glenn Gainor spoke after Sony screened a clip from the forthcoming Think Like a Man Too, which was shot in 4K with the F55 and F65. He called 4K "incredibly important" and mentioned his ideas about "subtractive lighting," noting that the film was able to shoot in parts of Caesar's Palace that had previously been off limites to feature-film production because of the amount of movie lighting that was required on the scene. Shooting in 4K with the F55 and F65, he said, much less light was required.

In addition to the F55 and F5 news, Sony has also announced new, smaller AXSM media with lower power consumption, along with an adapter allowing the smaller cards to be used in slots designed for the original AXSM media. The new cards will be introduced in 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB configurations; 120 minutes of 23.98PsF 4K raw can be recorded on one 1 TB card.

Finally, Sony showed XDCAM some love with the announcement of a new 2/3-inch optical disc camcorder, the PDW-850. The new three-CCD camcorder records 50 Mbps MPEG-2 4:2:2 P@HL and has an improved LCD panel (960×540), lower power consumption (37W) and onboard GPS. It’s slated to ship in October.  A new half-rack optical disc deck, the PDW-HD1550, should just beat it to market at the end of September.