Sony is releasing firmware updates for its popular F55, F5 and FS7 cameras, unlocking new functionality for these venerable favorites. But in order to take full advantage of these updates, it may cost you.
The 4K camera market is hotter than ever with the big names like Sony, Panasonic and JVC joined by relative upstarts Blackmagi, AJA and others, all producing cameras that seek to carve out a slice of the pie. Those aforementioned upstarts tempt customers with decent specs and performance at previously unheard-of prices, putting real pressure on the big boys to increase user value or decrease prices, particularly at the mid and high-end. Decreasing prices is usually the last resort, as it irreparably devalues a product, unless there's some new reason to spark demand (there usually isn't).
In the case of cameras, the most straight-forward way to add value is to release a firmware update, typically an assembly of bug-fixes and new functionality, bundled in a simple downloadable package. At the turn of the New year, Sony released firmware updates for its F55, F5 and FS7 cameras, but with a few wrinkles.
Pay for Play
The big news for owners of the F55 and F5 cameras is that Firmware Version 5.0 (download it HERE) will support the Sony CBK-55PD Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD Encoding Board, which will be helpful for shooters and productions that prefer an end-to-end Prores or DNxHD workflow. After updating to the 5.0 firmware, F55 and F5 will be able to record and playback ProRes 422 (& HQ) at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 50i and 59.94i, as well as DNxHD220x and DNxHD145 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50i and 59.94i - that is, of course, after installing the optional board. That option, according to AbelCine, one of Hollywood premiere rental houses, will set you back $2,000 and must be performed at Sony's Service Center.
Similarly, Firmware Version 5.0 will finally unleash the full potential of the F5's sensor, allowing users to finally record at 4K resolution. Well, perhaps we should say, "unleash the ability to be unleashed," as users will need to purchase the Sony CBKZ-55FX 4K Upgrade License, which is priced at $998. But at least you won't need to send your unit to a Sony Service Center. For $998, you receive a license key, which enables XAVC 4K and QFHD (i.e. UHD) recording and 4K out through SDI and HDMI.
Of course, it's up to the individual user as to whether these paid upgrades make sense. I would think that those who prefer Prores or DNxHD capture have already gravitated to models with that capability, but I'm sure there are some out there who would benefit from this option and for whom the $2,000 price tag seems like a bargain, especially given the F55 runs just under $35,000 and the F5 just under $25,000. Likewise, $998 sounds like a small sum to turn your old F5 into your new 4K camera.
Free for the FS7
Owners of the Sony FS7 will be delighted to learn that they, too, get a firmware update and new functionality, but these improvements won't cost them a cent. This firmware update (binary package V1.10, available for logged-in users HERE) represents the company's response to user requests. Key additions include a S-Log2 gamma setting, "improved sensitivity of the iris control, simplified Video Signal Monitor and LUT selection," according to Sony literature.
I doubt any of these changes will make people rush out and buy either a Sony F55, F5 or FS7, but owners of these cameras should appreciate the effforts Sony's putting into making their products even more useful to its professional customers, even if some of these upgrades aren't all free.
Check out the run-down from Sony on the F55 and F5 Firmware Version 5.0, with the full list of changes and new functionality, on Page Two.
Sony F55 & F5 Firmware Version 5.0 In Detail
From the Sony Forum:
Continuing our firmware development timeline, we are excited to announce Version 5.0 firmware for the F5, and F55. As has been the case with each firmware release, v5 implements powerful new features at no cost to the end user. In addition to new functionality, v5 adds support for the optional new hardware accessories being introduced, including the Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD® encoder board, the new ENG, Documentary Shoulder mount dock, and the optional 4K upgrade for the F5.- All of which are detailed below.
Version 5.0 can be updated from v2.0 firmware onwards. When needing to update from v1.22 and earlier, you must update to v2.0 first. Regarding the procedure and functions for updating to v2.0, please refer to this post https://community.sony.com/t5/F5-F55/NEW-Firmware-release-Version-2-0/td-p/195623 As with all firmware updates you cannot revert to earlier versions, as operational instability will likely occur.
NOTE: When using with the AXS-R5 RAW recorder, the new firmware v5.0 for PMW-F55/F5 is only compatible with AXS-R5 running firmware v4.1. If your AXS-R5 has an older firmware version installed please update to the current firmware (R5) v4.1 at the same time as you update your F5/F55 camera to v5.0. To download v4.1 for the AXS-R5 visit this post https://community.sony.com/t5/F5-F55/NEW-F5-F55-Firmware-Version-v4-11-and-AXS-R5-v4-1/m-p/410782#M1...
Major features supported in this release:
- Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD® with the optional CBK-55PD
- Interval Recording
- Support for the optional ENG and Documentary shoulder mount dock CBK-55BK
- 4K upgrade for the F5 via the optional (for purchase) CBKW-55FX
- Noise suppression in Cine EI mode
<<More features are detailed below>>
Supporting additional codecs, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD® with CBK-55PD
PMW-F55/F5 can record and playback in ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 422 on 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 50i, 59.94i and DNxHD220x, and DNxHD145 on 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50i, 59.94i by installing the optional CBK-55PD (sold separately). NOTE: PMW-F55/F5 with CBK-55PD installed is not supported with the CA-4000 and BPU-4000, 4K Live Productions system.
Supporting the optional ENG and Documentary shoulder mount dock CBK-55BK
The PMW-F55/F5 is compatible with the optional CBK-55BK (sold separately). CBK-55BK is a specialized accessory docking unit with shoulder Pad and Interface for the PMW-F55/F5. This accessory can be attached easily and allows users to access key functions such as Shutter, Gain, White Balance, Rec Button and Assignable Buttons. In addition the CBK-55BK supports Wireless slot-in audio receiver and Audio control like standard Broadcast shoulder camcorders.
Supporting the optional 4K Upgrade for PMW-F5 with CBKW-55FX
By installing the dedicated option CBKZ-55FX (sold separately), recording and playback of XAVC 4K and XAVC QFHD is available for the PMW-F5. In addition, simultaneous recording function with MPEG Proxy is available.
Interval Rec function with XAVC and RAW
Interval Rec function allows you to record frames specified at regular intervals. Interval Rec function is available with XAVC format and RAW recording with the AXS-R5.
HDCAM SR File, (SStP) SR-SQ 422 in 59.94i (PMW-F55 only)
PMW-F55 supports SStP SR-SQ 422 in 59.94i. Also simultaneous recording function with MPEG Proxy is available.
Memory A/B white balance in Custom mode
White balance Memory is expanded to Memory A and Memory B in Custom mode. The color temperature can be set independently.
Noise suppression is available in Cine EI mode
“Noise Suppression” setting in the Camera menu is available even in Cine EI mode. The default setting is OFF.
Added selectable functions for Assignable Button
“Color Bars,” “VF Focus Magnifier,” and “White Memory” (switching between Memory A/B) are added to “Assignable Button”
Direct Changing FPS (STEP) using Menu dial
During S&Q Motion, FPS can be changed by pushing and rotating the Menu dial. You can set 6 steps of Frame Rate in “Menu Dial Assign” in “Assignable Button” menu.
- When using assignable button of marker, incorrect message was displayed. This has been fixed.
- After APR in HFR mode, in some cases Frame Rate was changed to 60FPS automatically. This has been fixed.
- In some cases false color function with DVF-EL100 and DVF-L700 worked in S-Log3 incorrectly. This has been fixed. False color function is available only when S-Log2 is selected.
- While simultaneous recording with RAW and MPEG50 in 50 and 59.94, recording start frame of MPEG50 was delayed. This has been fixed.
- Double Speed VF setting was automatically turned off when HFR mode turns off. This has been fixed. Double Speed VF setting remains when changing HFR mode on/off.
Please not the following:
iOS setting for Wi-Fi Remote
While using Wi-Fi Remote with iOS devices and Safari, please turn off Private browse function.
All file Support
All files which are created with Firmware v5.0 are not compatible with an earlier firmware version.
Auto Reboot after ABB and APR on ProRes and DNxHD®
When ABB or APR is executed in ProRes and DNxHD mode, PMW-F55/F5 automatically reboots after displaying “Auto Black Balance OK” or “RPN Auto Detection OK ” and “Rebooting…..”. This sequence is normal. ABB or APR is correctly executed.
Assignable buttons setting does not remain
When you update to v5.0 from an earlier version of firmware, or load ALL File generated in an earlier version of firmware, the Assignable buttons setting does not remain. Please set each assignable buttons manually.
<< Version up procedure >>
Please refer to “Version Up Guide for PMW-F55 and F5”.
For PMW-F55: PMW-F55_V410_4.10_3_2014-05-29_21-21-09_firmware.bin
For PMW-F5: PMW-F5_V410_4.10_2_2014-05-29_21-21-22_firmware.bin