At BandPro Film and Digital’s annual “One World on HD” Media Forum and Open House in Burbank, Dec. 12-14, Sony Content Creation Division’s director of marketing Rob Willox was on hand to offer a “sneak peek” at some of the features of the company’s F35 camera – slated for release late next year.
“We have resisted the sin of what we call ‘premature cam-ulation’—introducing a product before it is ready,” said Willox. “If there was ever a place where you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression… it’s here in cinematography.”
But he revealed that the company has released a limited number of preproduction F35 cameras in Japan. Those units (fewer than 10) were shipped to Japanese production company Omnibus Japan as an early beta-tester, “enabling our engineers to see the camera in the real world and provide fast resolution of any issues.”
Willox stressed that many of the details of the new camera are not set in stone, but—comparing the spanking-new F35 with the still-new F23—he added, “One question we’ve been hearing since the introduction of the F23 is, ‘when are you going to introduce a larger imager?’”
In fact, the company has been bound by a non-compete agreement with Panavision since the two companies parted ways after their joint development of the Panavision Genesis.
“We had an agreement with Panavision and built them a camera platform for a period of time,” said Willox. “That period ended a little over a year ago. And we said that we would not compete against them with a 35mm [digital] camera for a set amount of time; that period has ended and now we’re responding to customer requests.”
The F35 will combine many of the features of the F23 with a 35mm CCD image sensor, enabling cinematographers to use PL-mount cine-style lenses, as opposed to the B4 mount lenses of the F23.
“The F35 takes the foundation of the F23 platform and creates a version centered on a Super 35mm sensor of greater than 10 megapixels. The camera will have a PL lens mount and support a workflow based on HDCAM SR recording of 1920 x 1080 pixels,” said Willox. “The camera itself will offer capabilities similar to the F23, including SR motion, over- and under-cranking, and will have similar ergonomics.”
“If Panavision has a large-format camera, and they now have F23 cameras, our clients are basically Panavision’s competition, so there’s something to be said for having a large-format camera, as well as a B4, in the arsenal,” said Amnon Band, president and CEO of BandPro Film & Digital.
But he acknowledged that there is concern in the marketplace about the F35 coming too fast on the heals of the F23, with a Sony 4K camera slated not too long after that. Many rental houses count on two years of use to amortize their investments, and the F23 was just released earlier this year.
“We’re keenly aware of the practical needs of our customers—a product life cycle that delivers years of return on investment,” said Willox.
But he explained that at $250,000 (not including lenses), the F35 will fill a different market niche than the F23 at about $80,000.
“The F35 will extend the CineAlta line up, and will not replace the current F23,” said Willox. “We know that some customers are committed to 2/3-inch lenses, while others prefer 35mm. Moreover, obvious differences in the size, weight and optical performance of the two lens formats make us confident that the F23 and F35 address distinct production requirements and will comfortably co-exist.”
But he promised that Sony will work with F23 owners who want to upgrade to the F35 to come up with a “reasonable” upgrade plan.
Willox also reported that Sony’s 4K camera is still two to three years away. “Sony intends to do 4K right,” he said. “This means resolution that’s 4K in more than name only. The challenges of such a camera are substantial. And the results are still a few years in coming.”
Written by Scott Lehane