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Sony XDCAM PMW-F3 CineAlta
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Old October 17th, 2011, 07:26 PM   #1
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New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

Here is the email I got today from my friend, DS Gant at AbelCine in Chicago(Oakbrook),
"Sony recently announced firmware version 1.20 for the PMW-F3. The new firmware, which will be released in November, will enable the use of the zoom rocker found on the F3, as well as some other very cool features. The first is the ability to turn on the 3D Link function in the camera with a new add-on key called CBK-3DLO1. On the back of the camera you’ll find the 3D link port, which will enable two F3s to be linked together for 3D. When combined with a Sony paintbox, both cameras can be controlled at the same time. Additionally, if Sony’s upcoming 14x lens is used on both cameras, a matching zoom, focus and iris can be achieved at the same time. (Read more about this new lens on our blog tomorrow.) This makes the F3 very straightforward to set up for 3D use. The CBK-3DL01 option key has a list price of $5,500 and includes the cable needed to connect both cameras.

Perhaps the most significant addition of all is Exposure Index S-Log mode. You will still need the S-Log option installed to make this work, but if you already have the S-Log option on, this will be enabled right away. The Exposure Index mode works differently than the standard S-Log mode – it sets the camera at an optimal ISO (800) and maximizes the sensor output, giving a full extra stop of exposure. Then when the gain switch is adjusted, instead of adding gain it adjusts the exposure index. A practical explanation of this is that when gain is increased the camera will push up the exposure values, and when it is decreased it will pull down those values. Because the ISO is set to get the most out of the sensor, the exposure index change works more like an adjustment in post. The extra stop in exposure is big news though, and I can’t wait to try it out.

We also learned about another firmware update coming out at the end of the year. Version 1.30 of the F3 firmware will be available around the end of December or January 2012, and will coincide with the release of Sony’s wide angle 11-16mm PL mount lens. The firmware will add one really important feature, which is the ability to output S-Log in 422. When S-Log is enabled (with the optional key), you will be able to send a 422 signal out of the Dual-Link ‘A’ output. Right now S-Log can only be sent out via the regular SDI output, by turning off the output LUT. With the new firmware, we will be able to send out S-Log over the ‘A’ output, while sending out another signal with the LUT applied over the regular SDI. This is a great feature for anyone using aKi Pro Mini, PIX240 or other external recorder."

The 2 features I am VERY excited about are the new EI S-Log and output 422 S-Log via SDI A. I was getting ready to do some tests with S-Log and recording to a PIX240 and Cinedeck Extreme, but will now wait for the EI800 S-Log. According to Sony, the Dynamic Range will increase another FULL STOP! OMG :)

Seeing how the F3 handles highlights with and without S-Log, this camera was definitely made for S-Log. And now with a rating of 14 stops for under $17,000, this is a game changer. Red can boast about its resolution, but DR is much more important to me. I would love to see a test between the F3 + 444 S-Log versus the Alexa and Red Epic.... and the F65.

On a side note, I know some are looking forward to the Gemini, but you should consider the fact that it will cost as much or more than a Cindeck Extreme (adding $1400 each for 4 512GB SSDs) while the Cinedeck gives you several Codecs, 422, 444 and uncompressed. Then, add in extra storage costs for the Gemini and the Cinedeck is looking really affordable.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 08:21 PM   #2
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

So EI mode will keep the gain on the sensor the same, and adjust the exposure in DSP, it sounds like? Applying a "LUT" in DSP, in other words?

This is essentially what Red does. Sensor gain always stays the same, and you pull the image up after compression because they figure since everything is recorded in 12 bits, it doesn't matter if you do it before A to D or after.

Unlike some other companies, I trust Sony if they say "this new way is better". Having just got my S-Log an hour ago, I'll be keen to try it out.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 08:48 PM   #3
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

I took a chance on buying a PIX240. Looks like my gamble may pay off.

I'll certainly rent a 4:4:4 recorder if I ever get a project that needs it. Its going to be great to have the choice of quality levels to match the project requirements.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 09:52 PM   #4
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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I took a chance on buying a PIX240. Looks like my gamble may pay off.

I'll certainly rent a 4:4:4 recorder if I ever get a project that needs it. Its going to be great to have the choice of quality levels to match the project requirements.
How do you plan on powering the PIX240? I don't know if you saw my post about when I tested the PIX a week or so ago and had issues with the Sony L batteries.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 09:58 PM   #5
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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So EI mode will keep the gain on the sensor the same, and adjust the exposure in DSP, it sounds like? Applying a "LUT" in DSP, in other words?

This is essentially what Red does. Sensor gain always stays the same, and you pull the image up after compression because they figure since everything is recorded in 12 bits, it doesn't matter if you do it before A to D or after.

Unlike some other companies, I trust Sony if they say "this new way is better". Having just got my S-Log an hour ago, I'll be keen to try it out.
Hey Nate,

What will you use to record the S-Log output?

You will definitely be pleased with the S-Log recording. I just can't believe the image quality of a $13k camera when you add another $5500 for the S-Log upgrade and a recorder.

I went back and read the part about the extra stop of exposure because I am confused about whether we get 1 more stop of DR or we just get one more stop of increasing the exposure. It would be amazing if the DR was increased another stop to 14 stops putting it in Alexa and F65 territory, not to mention film.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 10:45 PM   #6
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

I'll be getting a Samurai at first to give it a whirl, since two separate friends are getting Pix240s for me to try out soon.

Funny, it's size I'm most concerned about, not price. Well see how it goes.

I'm already thrilled with S-log to SxS, it fixes so many ugly picture traits of the F3 like the busted highlight handling, yellow highlight casts, etc etc.

It grades back to a normal look even in 8bit pretty well. I can see the posterizing as it hits black, but I'd rather have that than neon green foliage when it's overexposed.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 11:02 PM   #7
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

Can the Samurai remove pulldown because the Ninja cannot.

From what I have personally seen, no external recorder has a great LCD but the PIX240 has the best screen and is sooo easy to setup and use. Its no TVLogic but it works good enough for viewing and playback. It took me all of 2 minutes to set it up, format the SSD and go. For my money, I would go with a trusted manufacturer who has a proven track record of reliable equipment. I have seen how cheaply made the Ninja and its accessories are and it would make me nervous to use on paying jobs. Also, I really like the 'caddy' idea of the PIX and that it can record to an internal SSD or a CF card. I like that I can record to the CF card and take home with me while my friend takes his PIX with him. This would also work for giving a client a copy of footage at the end of the day on a CF card.
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Old October 17th, 2011, 11:16 PM   #8
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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Can the Samurai remove pulldown because the Ninja cannot..
I hadn't thought of that yet, but apparently it can.

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I would go with a trusted manufacturer who has a proven track record of reliable equipment.
I have no doubt the Pix is the one to have. But it's bigger, and I have access to two.

I'll try the Samurai and if it's NG, I'll pass it on and lose $150.

Not alarmed by reliability questions quite yet, since as I understand it I'll have to have SxS cards in the cam to roll to anyway (need rolling TC, therefore need in cam media)
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Old October 18th, 2011, 05:17 AM   #9
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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How do you plan on powering the PIX240? I don't know if you saw my post about when I tested the PIX a week or so ago and had issues with the Sony L batteries.
I'm using one of the aftermarket batteries with a D-Tap connector. Got the power cable and plugged it into the battery. Works perfectly.
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Old October 18th, 2011, 05:21 AM   #10
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

I also ordered the D-tap connector with my Pix and plan to power it from the Switronix 96 battery
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Old October 18th, 2011, 04:26 PM   #11
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

I'm already thrilled with S-log to SxS, it fixes so many ugly picture traits of the F3 like the busted highlight handling, yellow highlight casts, etc etc.

It grades back to a normal look even in 8bit pretty well. I can see the posterizing as it hits black, but I'd rather have that than neon green foliage when it's overexposed.[/QUOTE]


Do you feel the s-log to the internal SxS card is a big enough improvement that a producer can tell the difference?
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Old October 18th, 2011, 07:04 PM   #12
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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Do you feel the s-log to the internal SxS card is a big enough improvement that a producer can tell the difference?
Savvy, experienced, high-end producers and clients, yes. They won't know how or why, but the people I work for would say, "yes, that looks a little more pretty".

In my circle of D.P. and director friends, we loved the F3 but had to admit to ourselves that given the choice of using my F3 or my friends Red MX, for instance, the MX would win out just based on it having a more natural, organic image. The F3 still felt a little video.

With S-Log, even to just XDCAM codec, I think that look has been erased and replaced with something more gentle and flattering. Refined is another word I'd use.

Personally, internally at Sony, I think it was two different sets of people that did the camera tuning. The team and eyes that did the basic picture processing, and then the folks responsible for S-log. They seem to take very different approaches.
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Last edited by Nate Weaver; October 18th, 2011 at 08:20 PM.
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Old October 18th, 2011, 07:17 PM   #13
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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Originally Posted by Nate Weaver View Post
Savvy, experienced, high-end producers and clients, yes. They won't know how or why, but the people I work for would say, "yes, that looks a little more pretty".

In my circle of D.P. and director friends, we loved the F3 but had to admit to ourselves that given the choice of using my F3 or my friends Red MX, for instance, the MX would win out just based on it having a more natural, organic image. The F3 still felt a little video.

With S-Log, even to just XDCAM codec, I think that look has been erased and replaced with something more gentle and flattering.

Personally, internally at Sony, I think it was two different sets of people that did the camera tuning. The team and eyes that did the basic picture processing, and then the folks responsible for S-log. They seem to take very different approaches.
At least it should be possible for Sony to fix the highlight handling in the regular gammas by releasing a firmware update to alter how the DSP processes highlights OR Sony sees this as an opportunity to sell more S-Log 444 upgrades.

That Zacuto SCCE should have been postponed a few months so they could have included the Epic and F3 + S-Log. These 2 cameras are very popular and most people I know would have preferred to see these 2 cameras more than the others. For $20-25k, these cameras are amazing and they have no competition anywhere close in price.
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Old October 19th, 2011, 04:33 AM   #14
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

You can dramatically improve the way the F3 handles saturated highlights with the Cinegammas simply by using the Cinema matrix or reducing the Saturation level. Part of the issue is that to comply with REC-709 you can only have a peak combined chroma/luma video level of 140 IRE and anything above this clips. So when you have a highly saturated image with a high luma level you will run into chroma clipping issues. reduce the chroma level and you will have far fewer nasties and you can always tweak colour in post.

RGB Slog does not have these issues as the video does not have to comply with REC-709 so illegal record levels are just fine.

I'm shooting with a pre production Gemini and 4:4:4 Slog in Mumbai and the latitude is very impressive indeed. You can also push it very hard in post, far harder than you can with the Slog on the SxS cards.
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Old October 19th, 2011, 08:10 AM   #15
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Re: New Firmware Updates and New "EI S-Log"

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I'm already thrilled with S-log to SxS, it fixes so many ugly picture traits of the F3 like the busted highlight handling, yellow highlight casts, etc etc.
I don't understand what all this talk is about highlight handling problems with the F3. What problems? I don't have any problems with handling hightligts. Do you have any examples of what you are referring to? I just got back from a trip out West with a lot of outdoor shooting in mixed lighting and I didn't have any trouble at all controlling exposure. Most of the of this video is ungraded except for adding some vignetting in a couple of places. Contrast, color, etc, are right out of the camera.

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