Sony launched VENICE at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City on Sept 6. The European premiere was in London at Pinewood on Sept 7. VENICE is the new Sony Full Frame and S35 high-end cine camera.
“When I went to Venice, I discovered that my dream had become incredibly, but quite simply, my address,” Marcel Proust uncharacteristically succinct, described the city.
“VENICE is the first camera I want to own,” Claudio Miranda ASC, uncharacteristically loquacious in his enthusiasm, described VENICE, Sony’s new Full Frame camera, after shooting its product launch demo. “I can light tabletop pop tarts or a giant night exterior. I can easily work with VENICE on any job.”
This is the Full Frame 24×36 camera that Sony signaled in June. The big news was the big picture. Few details were revealed then.
The camera is named VENICE. In one of the fastest whispers-to-product launches we’ve ever seen, the camera was presented to the world on September 6. It was shown with PL mount, S35 format, with Full Frame, E-mount and updates coming soon.
No more number names. Not F246. VENICE is a high-end, 6K, Full Frame camera with an entirely new Sony designed 24x36mm sensor that has 15 stops of dynamic range and an artistic look. VENICE supports every format from Full Frame 3:2 to Super35 4K full 18mm height 4:3, Anamorphic and Spherical, and everything in between.
Sony Manager Peter Crithary explained, “We really went back to the drawing board for this one. It is the next generation camera system, a ground-up development initiative encompassing a completely new image sensor. We carefully considered key aspects such as form factor, ergonomics, build quality, ease of use, a refined picture and painterly look—with a simple, established workflow. We worked in close collaboration with film industry professionals. We also considered the longer term strategy by designing a user interchangeable sensor that is as quick and simple to swap as removing four screws, and can accommodate different shooting scenarios as the need arises.”
VENICE is compact and comfortable. Sony answered the wish lists and complaints of cinematographers, crews and rental houses. Controls are where you expect them to be. There are LED panels with menus and buttons on both camera left and right sides—ready for operator, assistant or DIT. Menus are streamlined, logical and intuitive.
- Full Frame Sensor 24×36 mm
- Painterly Look
- 6K Full Frame 6048 x 4032 maximum resolution
- 4K Super35 window
- Full Frame, full 6048 photosite width of the sensor
- Widescreen spherical 2.39:1 or Large Format ‘Scope
- Super35 full height 2.0x squeeze Anamorphic
- 8-Step, 8-Stop Internal NDs
- PL and Ruggedized E-mount
- Spherical FF & S35
- Anamorphic FF & S35
- 15+ Stops of Exposure Latitude
- Native ISO 500 (maybe 800)
- Retains highlights and color detail 6 stops overexposed and 9 stops into the shadows
- Power: both 12 VDC and 24 VDC
Why is VENICE’s big picture such a big deal?
- Full Frame is a familiar format — a worldwide standard of still photography for 100 years.
- A Full Frame image has a more natural perspective and magnification than its Super 35mm counterpart.
- Fewer distortions at wide angle.
- Natural depth of field. Shallower if desired.
- A 50mm FF at T2.8 has same field of view and depth of field as a 35mm S35 at T1.4. Equivalent of 2 stops difference.
- Full Frame shares many characteristics of the 65mm format, but the lenses are smaller.
- VENICE Full Frame is backwardly compatible and can work with all Super35 lenses—windowing the S35 image in the 24x36mm sensor area.
- Full Frame sensors offer more flexibility for the designer — sensitivity, dynamic range, resolution, etc.
Aspect Ratio Agnostic
VENICE is aspect ratio agnostic. Sony’s new Full Frame sensor can conjure up almost any conceivable aspect ratio permutation within Full Frame and S35: widescreen spherical, widescreen anamorphic (1.3x, 1.5 and 2x squeeze), 2.39:1, 1.85:1, 1.66:1, 1.33:1, 17:9, Univisium, and the list goes on.
Studio to Steadicam
VENICE will be welcome on almost any production setup: Studio to Steadicam, stabilizers, gimbals, drones, remote heads, and handheld. The modular and open design has an abundance of mounting points to attach on-board monitors, wireless video, audio and focus systems and other accessories.
VENICE Image Areas
- 24x36mm Full-Frame 6K Sensor
- Full Frame 24×36 up to a maximum resolution of 6048 x 4032 (firmware update)
- S35 Window mode, Super35 18.66 x 24.89 mm, 4096 x 3024
- (4-perf film equivalent)
- S35 Window mode 14 x 24.89 mm, 4096 x 2160 resolution, similar height as previous Sony CineAltas (3-perf equivalent)
- In other words, VENICE’s new Full Frame sensor can capture a plethora of permutations, including Full Frame 24mm high anamorphic, S35 18mm high anamorphic, S35+ 20mm high anamorphic, FF spherical, S35 spherical, S35 14mm high (as in F65, F55), etc. That translates into being able to use almost any cine or still photography lens the world has ever seen.
Sony designed and manufactured VENICE’s new sensor with a fresh approach to color science and image processing. High dynamic range captures shadow detail in the darkest areas and retains highlight colors and textures. Skin tones are natural, smooth and silky.
Claudio Miranda described the look of VENICE: “It has a very cinematic look. Colors are really beautiful. It is a sort of softer, cosmetic, tonally well rounded look, with skin tones that are gorgeous. It doesn’t feel video-like. It’s not harsh. This is a leap forward. Color rendition is really nice. Tonal values hold true in the lower toe of exposure. It holds highlight detail and color information. It doesn’t go red in the shadows. I would say there’s more dynamic range than the F65”
During development, Claudio was invited by Sony to talk with the engineers. “I wanted them to make a camera that I would use. If it was good enough for me, hopefully it would be good for others. So I went to Japan to talk about menus, look and feel. The camera should be something you could take anywhere: to the North Pole or the Sahara. It should be rugged enough to be dropped off a table.”
I’m sure the Sony engineers were cringing at that thought. Don’t even think about subjecting VENICE to a drop test. Nevertheless, VENICE is extremely rugged and has a very solid feel.
The silent fan in VENICE can easily be cleaned or replaced on set. The airflow is totally isolated from electronic components to keep hostile environments away from delicate parts.
8 Steps, 8-Stops of Optical ND Filters Inside
Among many suggestions, Claudio told the engineers to build the 8 ND dual turret with the same familiar steps that most DPs use in their mattebox filters, and Sony did.
VENICE has two servo-controlled, mechanized optical ND filter wheels to reduce exposure up to 8 stops in 8 steps. It goes from clear to ND0.3 (1/2 = 1 stop) to ND2.4 (1/256 = 8 stops).
So: ND.3, ND.6, ND.9, ND1.2, ND1.5, ND1.8, ND2.1, ND2.4.
Claudio got excited here: “Rather than settling for just a few internal NDs, the built-in ND filter selection is one of the best things. As the sun goes down, you don’t have to scramble with a massive number of mattebox filters.” The NDs can be controlled remotely for drone, crane and remote shots.
Control Panels on Both Sides
VENICE has menu displays on both sides of the camera. The main display is on the camera-right side for easy access by the camera assistant or DIT. The camera operator gets a smaller display on the “smart side”—camera left. This display shows helpful status reports as to frame rate fps, shutter angle, ISO, ND, and White Balance. The menus are intuitive, refreshingly logical and highly customizable.
The DVF-EL200 electronic viewfinder has a 1920×1080 OLED display that is sharp enough to see whether the shot is in focus. You can attach and adjust the EVF quickly, without tools. Plug it in with a standard LEMO connector. A dial lets you adjust brightness (it is 2x brighter than DVF-EL100), contrast and peaking.
VENICE supports in-camera XAVC or ProRes recording onto SxS cards. Attach an AXS-R7 recorder with 4 screws and it lets you record visually lossless RAW or X-OCN onto AXS cards.
With the AXS-R7, you can record 16-bit linear RAW in 4K.
Also with an AXS-R7, record 6K (future upgrade)16-bit with significantly smaller files.
XAVC is H.264/AVC intra-frame—for cost-efficient recording in 4K 10-bit and HD high-frame-rates.
VENICE can record two streams simultaneously onto two separate media cards. For example: RAW or X-OCN on the AXS-R7 as a digital negative and XAVC or ProRes onto internal SxS cards for editing. VENICE will also, with a firmware update, record RAW or X-OCN on the AXS-R7 and XAVC 4K internally at the same time. When not using the AXS-R7, VENICE can record both XAVC 4K and ProRes simultaneously. If you’re using one SxS card, it would be ProRes 422 Proxy.
Production to Post
With 15 stops of latitude and a wide color gamut, VENICE follows familiar Sony workflows of the F65 and F55. VENICE can work in the same color space as the F65 and F55 and Rec. 2020. Your images will flow seamlessly from camera to cart, dailies to grading, and ultimately to theaters, screens, tablets and displays.
Browse and View
Catalyst Browse and the RAW Viewer are free Sony software downloads for grading and transcoding.
Catalyst Browse lets you browse files, see and edit metadata, view video, apply color correction and establish looks. Use Catalyst Browse to transcode and copy files to connected hard drives, network storage or Sony’s Media Cloud.
RAW Viewer is an application that provides highest quality debayering of RAW files, enables QC of recorded files, does color grading and supports a number of control panels.
VENICE has a modular design. The sensor block can be exchanged and swapped. When the next Sony sensors arrive, you’ll be able to upgrade without having to buy a new camera.
VENICE Q&A with FDTimes
Are there Anamorphic Full Frame lenses?
Yes: Ultra Panavision, Hawk65 and most recently, Scorpio AFF.
What Spherical Full Frame lenses are here now?
Many: ZEISS CP.3, Leica Thalia, Cooke S7/i, Leica M0.8, Angenieux Type EZ-1 and EZ-2, new Angenieux Optimo Ultra, Sigma FF High Speed Cine Lenses, IB/E Optics Raptors…
What about still photography lenses?
More than 300 million Full Frame still photography lenses are out there, waiting to be outfitted with a lens mount adapter.
What about Sony E-mount still and cine lenses?
Absolutely, including superb Sony G-Master lenses. My guess is that Eastern Enterprises, P+S, TLS. Duclos and others will soon be very busy modifying G-Masters and other E-mount still lenses with 0.8M gear rings. Also, remember the FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS Zoom Lens. It’s E-mount, Full Frame, with optical image stabilization that will be very helpful for aerials and bouncy vehicles.
We’ll get to mounts in a minute. Meanwhile, rest assured, VENICE’s E-mount is very rugged. VENICE accepts not only E-mount but also PL mount lenses.
If I’m a rental house, what about my enormous inventory of existing PL-mount lenses?
Not to worry. VENICE will accept any PL-mount Super35mm lens and format—anamorphic or spherical. VENICE’s Full Frame sensor offers a significantly larger image canvas within which existing Super35 (and maybe 16mm and B4) formats can be used.
Sony says the S35 configuration of VENICE should ship in February 2018. The Full Frame capability is a firmware update, due a few months after that, but no dates have been announced.
The lens mount is delightful, ingenious, and much better than what I expected. I assumed it would be an E-mount with traditional lens adapters.
But Shigeki Ishizuka, President of Sony’s Digital Imaging Group, Kimio Maki, Senior General Manager, and the VENICE design group have come up with a native Sony E-mount over which a PL mount, and conceivably almost any other mount, can be screwed onto the front of the camera.
Therefore, VENICE works with your entire inventory of existing PL lenses, will accept Panavision mounts and is future-proof for almost any mount that comes along in S35, FF or Large formats.
VENICE’s lens mount system works as follows. It is a solid E-mount with a breech-lock (rotate counter-clockwise to lock). The entire mount and front end were beefed up to support heavy cine lenses. VENICE will open up a whole world of high-end cine E-mount lenses with Firmware Update 2.0 . Many E-mount lenses are very compact, lightweight and great on drones, rigs, gimbals and stabilizers. The E-mount is fitted with 10 standard Sony metadata and power contacts at 6 o’clock.
An additional set 14 of “pass-through” lens metadata and power contacts sit below the E-mount contacts, ready to communicate with additional lens mounts.
The installation of a PL mount on VENICE is very clever. It is not a traditional lens mount adapter that inserts into the existing E-mount. It is much more solid and secure. Attach the PL mount with 6 solid screws directly in front of the existing E-mount. There’s plenty of space because the E-mount flange depth is 18mm and the PL is 52mm.
The PL mount comes with industry-standard lens metadata contacts for Cooke/i at 12 o’clock.