After a five-year run for the F55 and F65 as its flagship cameras for motion picture and television capture, Sony today announced Venice, a new full-frame cinema camera with a 36mm x 24mm sensor and an integrated eight-step mechanical glass ND system.

Venice will be the new “flagship” in Sony’s CineAlta line-up, but current CineAlta cameras will continue to receive supports and updates, according to Peter Crithary, Sony’s marketing and production manager for media solutions and production technology. The camera is expected to ship next February at an MSRP of $42,000 for the camera body only, with additional licensing fees to unlock features including 4K anamorphic and full-frame recording on a permanent, monthly or weekly basis.

Sony Venice CineAlta camera system

Sony Venice CineAlta camera system

Resolution and Recording Formats

The newly developed sensor’s native resolution is 6048×4032 — around 6K — but that doesn’t tell the whole story since the Venice is designed to support a wide variety of shooting ratios, including 4×3 anamorphic at 4096×3024 (24.3mm x 18.3mm), and a broad range of lenses including Super 24, spherical, full-frame and 2x anamorphic.

“We wanted to support large-format moving forward,” Crithary said at a press briefing introducing the new camera. “That’s where we feel the industry is going — for filmmakers to be able to express their vision in formats larger than 35mm.”

Sony Venice Aspect Ratio Support

Approx. Resolution Aspect Ratio
 6K 3:2
 6K 1.85:1
 6K 17:9
 6K 2.39:1
 5.7K 16:9
 4K 6:5
 4K 4:3*
 4K 17:9
3.8K 16:9
* Super 35 2.0x anamorphic squeeze
Source: Sony

Sony rates the new sensor at greater than 15 stops of latitude and says its color range is wider than both Rec. 2020 and P3 color space when using S-Gamut3 grading. The color-filter array is borrowed from the F65 but the color science has been refined, Crithary said. Increased sensor read speeds have largely eliminated the visibility of rolling-shutter artifacts or the so-called jello effect, he noted.

When attached to Sony’s AXS-R7 raw recorder, the Venice will be able to record 6K to Sony’s recently introduced 16-bit X-OCN, which the company has claimed is visually indistinguishable from raw with about a 30 percent space savings thanks to compression. The camera will also support recording to 16-bit linear raw, as well as to XAVC Class480 4:2:2 10-bit intraframe on internal SxS cards, along with simultaneous recording to edit-friendly 10-bit 4:2:2 Apple ProRes HD files to kickstart post-production workflow.

Crithary said Venice workflow will be very similar to established F55/F5 processes, but vendors including Filmlight, Colorfront, Blackmagic Design and Adobe are preparing their tools — via “minor updates” to the existing X-OCN and Sony raw SDKs — to be ready for Venice at launch.

Designed for 2018

The Venice camera has a built-in eight-step ND filter

The Venice camera has a built-in eight-step ND filter

Aside from the recording specs, there’s a lot that’s new in the Venice camera design. For one thing, there’s that built-in eight-step ND filter, which Sony says is a first. The camera incorporates two servo-controlled ND turrets, allowing eight different settings from 0.3 to 2.4 to be dialed in during a shoot — including via remote-control when the camera is mounted on a crane or drone.

It’s also the first Sony camera to have been developed with an additional OLED display with camera controls on the assistant side of the camera. Crithary said the company has been careful to develop the camera using “film language,” making it easy and intuitive for experienced operators and assistants to quickly change settings. Extra HD and 4K SDI outputs are built-in for on-set monitoring.

Sony flirted with modular design for the F5 and F55, which can be fitted with on-board recorders as optional components. The concept goes to the next level with Venice, which features a user-changeable sensor block. That means that future hardware updates, like higher-resolution or high-frame-rate sensor options, can be changed out in the field as required.

“We believe we’re the first to do it like this,” Crithary said. “It’s easy for the user. You don’t need a clean room for service. You just remove the sensor block and put another one on there.”

Also easily changeable is the PL mount, which is secured to the front of the camera by screws. (Venice has a native E mount but comes standard with the removeable PL mount.) Even the ACS-R7 attaches to the Venice differently, requiring users to bolt it on with hex screws.

Also on the way is a new viewfinder, the DVF-EL200. It’s a 1920×1080 OLED model that doubles the brightness and resolution of its predecessor, Crithary said. It uses a standard LEMO connector and can be easily attached and detached without a screwdriver.

What’s in a K, Anyway?

If you’re wondering how this 6K camera stacks up compared to the F65, which has long been promoted as an 8K camera, you’re not alone. But consider, as one point of reference, that the F65’s sensor measure up at a relatively puny 24.7mm x 13.1mm. Also note that “K” by itself is losing currency as a measure of camera quality. For example, Crithary noted, the Venice sensor has been engineered with larger photosites that improve dynamic range, color reproduction, and signal-to-noise ratio compared to smaller photosites that would be required on a higher-resolution sensor of the same physical size.

“The technology has evolved and has been refined significantly since the development of the F65,” Crithary told StudioDaily. “The image sensor developed for Venice is focused on elegant skin tone rendition, smooth highlight handling, colorimetry and especially dynamic range. The 6K resolution of the sensor will deliver spectacular results for 4K deliverables. The F65 has an 18 megapixel sensor, whereas Venice has a 24 megapixel sensor. By referring only to ‘K,’ resolution can be misleading.”

In any event, 4K delivery is what the industry is demanding today — and the modular sensor block is designed to allow Sony to respond quickly as that changes. Crithary suggested that future options could offer different sensor sizes and resolutions as well as different capabilities such as ultra high frame rate, but there’s no firm timeline for when those could be made available.

The camera will be officially unveiled at an event in Los Angeles this evening that will include the first screening of anamorphic Venice footage. Watch for our coverage from that presentation.