Sony FS5 4K Raw & XDCAM Firmware Updates

Over the summer Sony has released a couple of optional (paid for) firmware updates for the PXW-FS5 which improve its potential flexibility. One allows 4K raw output and the other internal XDCAM encoding. I've thought about both of these but so far I don't see a business (or dramatic quality or workflow) need for either of them.

It was interesting that after a period of conflicting/confused press briefings from Sony, in September they finally released the 8-bit XDCAM HD 4.2.2 50Mbps broadcast codec key (it also enables the option to use the lesser 4.2.0 HD 35Mbps EX codec that my old EX3 used too). The option is called CBKZ-SLMP.

However, I think it's a bit rich to ask owners to pay for this unlocking key (currently 500 Euros) but I guess it'll be a relief to many using the FS5 in TV work - as many broadcasters use XDCAM 422 50Mbps in their workflow. However, in the few times I've supplied footage to BBC and ITV stations I've simply just used my PMW-300, since I have one, set to record XDCAM (not the XAVC codec it can also use).

Anyway, at least we now know why they put an XDCAM logo on the side of the FS5!

The 4K raw output firmware update (again currently around 500 Euros) was announced back in May but is something I would (obviously) only see value in if I ever bought an external 4K recorder from Atomos or Convergent Design. At the moment that's not in my plans…well not for the next 6-12 months anyway. I have a Atomos Samurai Blade that rarely gets used as it is (but which is invaluable when I need it).

The whole point of the FS5 for me is that it is a lightweight and compact camera with a great s35 sensor and interchangeable lens option enabling very good HD and 4K picture quality using a relatively fast workflow turnaround via it's efficient 10-bit 4.2.2 HD 50Mbps XAVC-L or 8-bit 4.2.0 QFHD 100Mbps XAVC-L internal codecs. However, with this update key one could record DCI 4K raw (4096x2160p) at up to 60 frames per second with a compatible 4K recorder - as well as short 4 second bursts in 4K raw up to 120 fps. Options are always good - but for now this is not the path I need to tread.

Talking of picture quality, I see Alister Chapman has been kind enough to recently post a number of new FS5 Picture Profile suggestions on his 'XDCAM User' blog. I've not had time to test any of them out yet - I'm currently using Doug Jensen's excellent FS5 Pro Picture Profile (that becomes available to those who buy his FS5 Masterclass on Vimeo). Alister's are free - so why not check them out if you have an FS5 - I certainly hope to when I get a quiet period!