The emergence of digital SLR cameras being used for TV and movie production continues to resonate within the industry, having a profound effect on the feature set of the next generation of professional video cameras as well as the price.
Sony has joined Canon, Panasonic and Red Digital in announcing plans to deliver a professional handheld film-style video camera with a single 35mm sensor for low-cost digital cinematography and a host of other applications where low noise, high sensitivity, shallow depth of field and wide dynamic range are important to creative success.
The concept behind the new PMW-F3, according to the company, is to offer users of Sony’s existing SRW-9000PL HDCAM SR 4:4:4 camcorder (now used for movies and episodic television) a smaller, less expensive option. It also hopes to attract the growing legion of independent documentary and feature filmmakers looking for high quality and lots of latitude in their images but don't want to pay a lot of money to get it. Broadcasters producing magazine-style programs and TV drama series could also benefit from the “warm” pictures the camera produces.
Sony also said it wanted to build a camera that fits in with existing HDCAM EX workflows, of which there are thousands now in the field.
Users can order the new F3 with a set of three lenses: a 35mm, 50mm and 85mm T2.0 — Sony-branded — HD prime fixed focal length lenses (the F3K package) or just the body (the F3L), which accepts all types of PL-mount lenses. The camera features a newly designed 1920 x 1080 “Super 35” CMOS sensor that measures 23.5mm x 13.3mm and provides a sensitivity of F11, 63dB S/N ratio and 460 percent dynamic range.
The camera also leverages Sony’s existing XDCAM EX (MPEG-2) codec, which captures images at 35Mb/s using 10-bit 4:2:2 HD signal processing, and stores data on Sony’s SxS ExpressCard-based recording media. A number of workflow features, such as Look Up Table (LUT) settings inside the camera that generate metadata that can be used to a production’s advantage during post production are also included.
There are also genlock and time code generation features included with the camera, as well as HD-SDI dual link outputs for external uncompressed HD (1080p/60 fps) recording or simultaneous SD/HD image capture at a variety of frame rates. It uses existing Sony BP-U60 Lithium-Ion batteries for a run time of more than three hours.
In the future (perhaps in late 2011) Sony will offer an optional zoom lens, RGB output with S-Log gamma firmware, and “3D Link” capability that allows users to remotely control a pair of F3 cameras for stereoscopic production.
For fast file transfers out of the camera and HD monitoring applications, the F3 includes Sony’s iLINK (“FireWire”), HDMI and USB 2.0 connections.
The camera is planned to ship in February 2011.