Closing in on Perfection with the Sony PMW-F55
“The F55 images were amazing. I would definitely use the Sony again.” Said Richard Stoddard, DOP on a new S4C feature film.
The film follows the story of a couple struggling to come to terms with cancer and a terminal diagnosis. It is a touching, poignant and intense piece that called for a camera that would enable the director to establish the mood of each scene.
“This was my first time with the F55 and indeed my first experience with Sony in many years. I had read positive things about the camera, the price from VMI was good and initial impression was promising.” However, Richard continues. “We did have a number of niggles in terms of operating the system - it wasn’t quite as intuitive or slick an experience as with some of its competitors. Still, the bottom line is the F55 enabled us to shoot fantastic pictures and now I’m familiar with some of its quirks, next time round I’ll be ready to adapt to the way it works.”
The filming took place in a number of locations, including an architect designed house with unusual ceiling spaces and large windows, a bright, naturally lit office space, a hospital ward and the beach. In each setting the DOP reports that the camera performed extremely well. In scenes set against sunlit windows, he was able to reduce the contrast ratio in camera to pull out good levels of detail from both the foreground and background. The crew found the F55 good to handle, relatively light weight, balanced, fast to boot-up and able to shoot for extended periods on a single battery charge.
“Some scenes in particular stood out for us: shooting directly into the sunlight or a 2.5K lamp achieved a stunning effect; changing from 25 FPS to 33 FPS and adding a Promist filter delivered a wonderful look for flashback sequences. And recording S-log and using the SR Lite codec produced high-quality 2K files for post-production.” Notes the DOP.
Used to cameras with a film pedigree, the crew had to adjust to the Sony approach. Re remarks:
“Things like having settings accessible to a focus puller, menus being available in the viewfinder, an audio monitoring output, aspect ratio marks visible on playback and being able to adjust ISO and colour temperatures on the run would make life a lot easier. I’ve no doubt that some of these aspects will be changed in due course by new firmware to make the camera more intuitive.”
For Richard, the fundamental issue is the results. In this respect, he is delighted. “F55 is right up there, performing on the same level as the most prestigious models. When Sony updates the system to make the user experience a little slicker, I’ll be thrilled.”
NOTE: Since the end of June 2013, there have been three major firmware releases from Sony in quick succession, each delivering powerful new functionality and further enhancing usability of the system.
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