Sony announced several updates at this year’s NAB show, including the much-anticipated firmware update for the Sony FS5 camera. A month later, the company has quietly released their version 2.0 update as a free download. Among other things, this update unlocks a very promising feature: Auto ND.
The little Sony FS5 grows up
To get you up to speed, make sure to check out our previous coverage about the Sony PXW-FS5 camera. Johnnie did an excellent real life video review and way back in October 2015; Nino had the chance to do a nightly hands-on with a preproduction model of the camera.
The 2.0 firmware update is letting the camera push new boundaries by enabling a killer feature, unique to the Sony FS5 for now: Auto ND.
With this feature mapped to an assignable button and enabled, you will get a wide automatic exposure compensation range. Especially when the Auto ND feature is combined with Auto Iris (an appropriate lens is mandatory, of course). With this feature, the Sony FS5 becomes a tool for filmmakers which is capable of acquiring shots that would be impossible for other cameras.
For example, you could do a “depth-of-field rack” — remember the famous deep-focus shot from Citizen Kane? Well, if Orson Wells had an FS5 with Auto ND handy at that time, he could have done something like this:
A seamless transition from deep focus to a shallow depth of field within one take is something I haven’t seen before. There’s a lot of potential, for sure! With the combination of Auto ND and Auto Iris, you could achieve beautiful day to night transitions without getting into trouble because of fixed ND filters, too.
Another way of using the variable ND can be to work with a fixed aperture and fixed ISO to create a consistent look and feel to your footage. The variable ND can then be used to dial in the correct amount of ND to achieve the proper exposure — without affecting the optical characteristics of the image. Neat, especially if you are working with photo lenses lacking a de-clicked iris ring.
Other features of firmware 2.0
The Auto ND feature is not the only one, of course. Here is a complete list of new features:
- The ND filter density can now be adjusted automatically.
- Shooting and recording in RAW mode are now supported. (“CBKZ-FS5RIF”, sold separately, is required)
- The zebra function has been enhanced, allowing you to select two types of setting. Also, the level settings can now be adjusted in 1% increments.
- You can now select the audio that is output in the headphones.
- You can now acquire and record position information when shooting using the GPS function.
The ability to adjust the zebra levels in 1% increments is a very useful and much-needed update. It’s also nice being able to select the audio channel which you want to listen to through your headphones. Also, the previously announced GPS functionality is now being enabled.
If you want to get even better image quality from your Sony FS5, you’re in luck — the RAW mode is now supported, too. All you need is the paid upgrade which comes with a software key and will set you back $600. Remember, you will need a decent external raw recorder (the Atomos Shogun Inferno or the Convergent Design Odyssey7Q+ for example).
With the RAW module enabled, you can record 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps externally. If you need even more, however, there is 4 sec burst mode at 4K RAW 120 fps. And if 2K is fine for you, in this mode you can speed things up to 240fps. There are no regular framerates available for the 2k mode, though.