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When the Sony F900 was first deployed on George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it opened up a whole world of possibilities for electronic cinematography. Now in its sixth year on the market, sales of the F900R are still going strong. Amnon Band, president of BandPro Film & Digital, reported that the Burbank-based distributor has sold 40 F900Rs over the past year.”These days, you buy a computer and it’s obsolete by the time you get it home. But the F900 has been around for six years, and it’s still going strong,” said Band. But in the interim, things have changed. “High definition is no longer high-end. Today, you can buy a $3,000 camera and, yes, it’s HD, or you can buy a $130,000 camera and it’s also HD.”Plus a whole range of high-end electronic cameras, like Thomson’s Viper, Panavision’s Genesis, ARRI’s D-20 and Dalsa’s Origin, have come on to market raising the bar to new heights.But Sony is now preparing to release the next generation CineAlta in the late spring of 2007—the F23.The camera, paired with Zeiss DigiPrimes and DigiZooms, will be available through BandPro Film & Digital, and Band stressed that training and support are a key part of his distribution strategy for the F23.Rob Willcox, director of marketing, Sony Electronics’ Content Creation Group, called it “the apex of the CineAlta line.”The camera is designed as a filmic camera, and is one of the first purpose-built cameras from Sony for a long time. It was first seen in a whisper suite at NAB as the NG-23, and Willcox explained that since then, the camera has been redesigned based on extensive feedback from the American Society of Cinematographers and other industry guilds.The F23 relies on three, 2/3-inch, 2.2-Megabit CCDs (hence the name F23). It delivers either a 4:2:2 or 4:4:4, 1920 X 1080P image. Internally is has 14-bit A–D quantization. On paper, at least, the basic specs are similar to the F950.But the F23 marks a major change for Sony, with film-like ergonomics and sensibilities tailored to cinematographers’ wish lists.”The controls are where you’d expect them to be,” said Jeff Cree, HDVS market development manager, BandPro Film & Digital. “And it’s been designed for traditional film accessories.””We’re able to stay at a reasonable cost point by staying with 2/3-inch imagers,” said Cree, adding that by staying with the tried-and-true 3-chip configurations Sony is able to achieve a “stable, repeatable, linear response” regardless of shooting conditions.The camera has a dockable HDCAM SR deck that can be quickly switched between a back-mounted or a vertical configuration, and a simplified menu system. Over the years, many DPs have complained about the complicated menu systems of its predecessors, which often require a DIT on set just to manage the computer behind the camera.While users will still have the option to drill down into complicated menus, the F23 will give DPs a simplified film mode to addresses these concerns.The camera also features variable frame rates for overcranking and undercranking from 1 to 30 fps in 4:4:4 mode or 1 to 60 fps in 4:2:2.Since it was first quietly shown at NAB, the camera has picked up the unfortunate moniker “Baby Genesis,” but Cree stressed that the F23 has little if anything in common with Panavision’s high-end electronic cinematography camcorder—which was developed in conjunction with Sony.”It’s not a baby Genesis,” said Cree. “It’s a totally new camera. It has a different imager, a new body design.”It has, however, sparked some ongoing corporate and legal squabbling between Sony and Panavision.”For Sony, this represents the top of the pyramid,” said Cree. “It surpasses any camera that Sony has produced to date.”

Written by Scott Lehane

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