Sony announced Cinema Line on September 2, 2020:
“The Cinema Line is a series of camera products for a wide range of content creators that will bring together Sony’s expertise in image quality, attention to detail, technology and passion in digital cinema.
“Cinema Line will deliver not only the coveted cinematographic look cultivated through extensive experience in digital cinema production, but also the enhanced operability and reliability that meet discerning creators’ various needs. The new series will extend beyond traditional cinema camera and professional camcorder form factors.”
That hints at more Sony Cinema Line cameras to come.
The announcement continues:
“Existing cameras that will form part of the Sony Cinema Line include VENICE and FX9. The next camera will appeal to a wider spectrum of visual creators. Sony will be releasing and shipping this next addition to the Cinema Line, FX6, by the end of 2020.”
Previous Cinema Line cameras were introduced, before they were actually inducted into the “Cinema Line,” in the month of Septembe.: VENICE, the flagship Full Frame camera with a very usable E-mount lurking beneath its removable PL mount, was launched in September 2017. FX9, the affordable E-mount Full Frame camera was released a year ago at IBC: September 2019. Had there been an IBC this year, FX6 most likely would have been there in September 2020.
And so, the Sony ILME-FX6 launches officially on November 17 at 10 am EST.
Like Fellini’s mantra in 81/2, “Asa, Nisi, Masa,” the camera beat thrums: “Lighter, smaller, faster, cheaper.” The word “cheaper” is not the right one, but it thrums more melodically than “more affordable,” which is what the FX6 is.
The FX6 body weighs a mere 1 lb 15 oz.
FX6 is the smallest member of the Cinema Line, at 6 1/8″ long x 4 5/8″ high x 41/4″wide. In fact, the new FX6 is smaller and lighter than the Super35 FS7 II. FX6 is also smaller than the small S35 FS5.
FX6 records up to 120 fps in QFHD (4K UHD) and 240 fps in FHD.
FX6 will be US $5,999.99 when it ships in December.
Like VENICE and FX9, the new Sony FX6 is a Full Frame, 4K, E-mount camera. (As already mentioned, VENICE has an E-mount underneath its PL mount.)
It is interesting that Sony does not appear to be pursuing cine cameras that only shoot Super35. Instead, it seems that Sony is building cameras that shoot Full Frame AND also Super 35 AND can be very small. One reason may be that Sony controls the design, development, supply chain and manufacturing of the entire process in-house, as their slogan says, from lens to living room. Another reason may be its strategic planning based on extensive market research.
To remember which model does what, think of FX as Format eXtremely large and so Full Frame. Think FS as in Format Super35.
Significant Sony synergy is at work in the FX6. The FX6 Full Frame 10.2 MP reverse structure (back-illuminated) sensor’s size and photosites are similar to the a7S III. In 16:9 aspect ratio, both cameras record 4.2K — 10.2 Megapixels actual image area.
Both cameras accept CFexpress Type A or SD cards. Both cameras have rapid face detection phase detect real-time Eye AF.
The FX6 has a base ISO sensitivity of 800 and a high sensitivity of 12,800. Like the a7S III, it can achieve an astonishing 409,600 ISO. With S-Log3 at ISO 640, the FX6 was tested to more than 15 stops of dynamic range.
FX6 footage will match its siblings in the Cinema Line. S-Log3, S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.Cine provide post-production flexibility. FX6 also has S-Cinetone, introduced with the FX9, which is a look profile for productions who prefer an elegant, finished look to a “camera negative” paradigm of grading in post.
S-Cinetone is covered in a Sony Whitepaper (tiny.cc/S-Cinetone). It can be summarized as follows. Cosnider S-Cinetone as an alternative to grading in post. It is intended for productions with limited time and budget who want beautiful images “right out of the can” as they would have said in the film days.
Sony developed S-Cinetone to build on VENICE’s cinematic look and to provide pleasing, natural skin tones. The base curve of S-Cinetone is BT.709, but it has higher contrast in the low luminance levels and lower contrast in the high luminance levels. Highlight areas look smooth and details are retained. Low-light areas of the gamma curve have enhanced contrast and retain shadow detail. Objects look clear and rich. Black levels are lower than traditional video, but not clipped.
Mark Weir on FX6
Mark Weir, Sony Senior Manager, Technology was kind enough to once again endure a torrent of questions. Two days before a pre-production FX6 landed here at FDTimes, he explained, “The Cinema Line represents a new opportunity for Sony—to integrate our experience in professional digital motion picture cameras and our digital interchangeable lens mirrorless camera system. It’s part of our ‘One Mount’ strategy with the large selection of E-mount cameras and lenses. We now have 58 lenses in our E-mount lineup for both stills and movies.”
I should add that ZEISS, SIGMA, Tokina and many other companies also make E-mount lenses. And, because the E-mount has an 18mm flange focal depth, adapters let you shoot with PL, LPL, PV, SP70, EF, F, M, R, S, H, BNCR and many other lenses.
All three Sony Cinema Line cameras come with E-mounts. VENICE and FS7 II have a Lever Lock E-mount. FX6 has a standard alpha series style E-mount.
Mark continued, “VENICE has been very successful for feature productions worldwide. FX9 has established an outstanding track record in documentary production. So, FX6 is the next step for our Cinema Line in the area of lightweight mobility and high performance.”
Of course, few DPs have ever been satisfied to use cameras as their creators intended. As surely as sunsets are called magic hour, the FX6 will be called upon to shoot features, documentaries, spots, TV, series and corporate videos. It will be equally at home on tripods as on gimbals, drones and remote heads. It will be mounted to helmets, helicopters, planes, trains and automobiles. It will work inside underwater housings and on top of cranes.
I asked how this was all possible. Mark said, “We’ve packaged the FX6 in a chassis that’s reminiscent of the FS5 to realize outstanding mobility. But while it may be reminiscent of FS5, which is Super 35, the FX6 is a Full Frame camera.
“The magic of FX6 is that we’ve been able to incorporate a Full Frame sensor in a professional camera with high performance, operability and expandability into a package that is even smaller than the FS5.
“The FX6 uses the Bionz XR processing engine that we introduced in a7S III. Other similarities include very high sensitivity with very large pixels, delivering images with low noise and high dynamic range. FX6 has a very fast scan speed for minimized rolling shutter. And we’re very excited by the autofocus capability. We’ve been pursuing it now for a couple of years and we think we’re approaching acceptance of it in a motion picture camera—it’s that good.”
- Full-Frame 10.2 MP CMOS 4K Reverse Structure Sensor.
- E-mount (18mm FFD and 46.1 mm Inside Diameter).
- XAVC-I 422 10-bit 4K DCI 4096×2160 at 600 Mbps up to 60 fps (with approximately a 10% crop of Full Frame.
- QFHD (4K UHD) 3840×2160 to 120 fps (with a 5% Full Frame crop).
- Full Frame FHD 1920×1080 up to 240 fps.
- Super 35 FHD 1920×1080 sensor window mode up to 120 fps
- Dual CFexpress Type A and/or SD card slots.
- Fast, hybrid Autofocus: Focal plane phase detect Autofocus with face detection and eye AF compatible with more than 50 E-mount lenses.
- Dual base ISO: 800 and 12800. Maximum sensitivity to ISO 409,600.
- S-Log3 gamma and S-Gamut3, S-Gamut3.Cine color space.
- S-Cinetone look profile, also used in FX9.
- 15+ stops of dynamic range with S-Log3 at ISO 640.
- Minimized rolling shutter because of fast imager scan rate.
- 1x HD, 3G, 6G, 12G SDI output.
- Filmic look, VENICE-like color science.
- Up to 4K 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording
- 16-bit RAW output in DCI 4K and QFHD via SDI connector.
- Electronic Variable ND filter Clear and ND.6 to ND2.1 (7 stops)
- Aperture-Variable ND ramps are possible.
- Detachable Smart Handle with lens and camera controls
- ILME-FX6V Body only: $5,999.99
ILME-FX9VK Kit with 24-105 (SEL24105G) zoom: $7,199.99.
Available Dec 2020.