The Sony FX6 is an incredible new large sensor camera from Sony that sits alongside the FX9 and Venice in their Cinema Line-up.
The Camera in a nutshell…….for producers
- 4k full-frame sensor for cinematic looking images with shallow focus
- UHD/4k Slow motion up to 120frames per second in full frame. And it can record up to 240 frames per second in HD
- When used with modern E mount lenses this camera also has incredibly good, fast and accurate autofocus, face detection and even eye recognition. It won’t ever completely replace manual focus but it makes shots possible that could never be considered before without a focus puller
- The FX6 has 2 native isos (an alternative way to display the sensitivity settings of the camera, rather than gain) that means it can pretty much see in the dark when you switch to high iso mode. A real help when combined with high frame rates. This camera has so much going for it
- The camera has a built-in variable ND filter. This seamlessly adjusts the amount of light that it gets in continuously changing environments. This lets you keep the same f-stop on your lens when the sun goes in or out, maintaining the look you wanted. It’s a real game changer for us cameramen
- Raw output – you can now record 12 bit Raw to the Atomos Shogun
- S-Cinetone colour science – basically a really beautiful looking picture that captures great flesh tones and has lots of range to preserve more highlights and see more graduation and texture in the shadows.
- The FX6 is so small that it can be mounted on to a gimbal with ease – our favourite is the Zhiyun Crane 3 LAB
- Despite its very small size it still works really well as a shoulder mounted camera, so it’s very versatile
Sometimes it will be the perfect main camera on a shoot. Sometimes it will be the perfect gimbal camera. And because it shoots S-Cinetone, it will often be the best B camera to match with the FX9
The technical stuff……
S-Cinetone captures 10.5 stops of dynamic range (as opposed to standard rec709 which records about 6.5 stops). It’s designed as a great option for faster turnaround shoots that you want to look stunning. But it’s so good that it’s being used extensively where Log might have been used before. SLog3Cine is still a great option if you want to capture the full 14 stops dynamic range that this camera can deliver. Of course if you want even more freedom in post you can shoot Raw to the Atomos Shogun or Ninja (recently activated to work with Raw through HDSDI)
This is a very low noise camera and you don’t need to over expose in log to get clean pictures. However it’s worth knowing that the isos do change depending on the gamma curve chosen, but in Log3 they are 800 and 12800, and the higher rating is still an incredibly clean picture. In S-Cinetone they are 320 and 5000. One way to avoid confusion is to revert the camera to old school db rather than iso, then the camera always adjusts to the Gamma curve you’re using, and 0db will always be the base ‘iso’ setting.
Exposing on the FX6
This is quite a complex subject because the S-Cinetone adjusts its range based on where you sit the exposure. You can expose by look and zebras in a very similar way to Rec709, although set your zebras at around 60-65 for skin tone highlights.Skin tones a bit above this range don’t seem to blow out in the same way they would on previous Sony cameras using standard gammas, you can expose more by feel and for the look you prefer. A bit more like exposing for film.
When shooting Log in CineEi mode then there are several options to help exposure such as zebras, wave forms and false colour on an external monitor. If you use a 18% grey card then you should expose the log image (no LUT) to 45% on a waveform, and white to 61%. I expose skin highlight between 50 and 54% depending on the skin and the mood of the scene.
The FX6 viewfinder
This the only let down on the camera. It comes with a touch screen that works really well but it has no loupe to exclude light on a sunny day. Although the FX9 loupe will fit, it is unworkable as it causes the screen to continually flop down. Several 3rd party solutions are on their way so watch this space. Top teks have a solution already here that upgrades the strength of the swivel connectors. Alternatively it’s good to know that you can replace the whole vf with the FX9 version you’ll just need to buy a connector to securely attach a 15mm bar to the camera (cheese plate and adaptor from Smallrig is a simple option). The other option is to buy a 3rd party viewfinder such as the Zacuto Gratical Eye or the GraticalHD. If you use one of them, you can mount the screen on top of the camera and still access the touch screen features when you need them, and someone else can see what you’re doing too, without a larger external monitor.
Power options for the FX6
The FX6 can take power from a 19.5 volt dc jack input, the same as the FX9. Hawk Woods make my favourite for this ( VLM-FX9-15 that mounts to 15mm bars) This, when coupled with a shoulder rig also puts extra weight at the back so the camera sits a bit more forward on the shoulder. This puts all the controls nearer to where you want them when working on the shoulder. And at only 18w power draw it will last all day on a vlock battery, but you can happily rely on a couple BPU 35 or 60 batteries for most jobs if you want to keep it compact.
Hawk Woods also make a dedicated unit for the FX6 ( VLM-FX6) that connects directly in place of a BPU battery. This is reported to work very well and be solid but I like the fact that with the bar mount option, if the vlock battery does run out (you don’t get a battery warning when externally powered!) it seamlessly moves on to the internal battery. Great for peace of mind. And of course you can hot swap vlock batteries in this way.
Shoulder rig and hand grip extension for the FX6
If you want to use the FX6 on the shoulder then you are probably going to want an extension for the hand grip. Shape now do a version here that comes with the dedicated curly Lanc extension and I love the Shape quick release swivel joint for when you want to pop the camera on the floor without it tipping over.
Lenses on the FX6
Because the FX6 is a full frame camera then you’ll obviously get a wider field of view for any given lens than you may be used to if coming from the F5, FS7 or C300 etc. If you are already familiar with other full frame cameras, in particular the A7 series then this will be less of a leap for you. But it’s nice to have the slightly shallower depth of field available for any given shot, or to stop down a bit and have your very fast lens working less at it its extremes. The autofocus available with native mount lenses is very good but does need some acclimatisation and testing of what speeds suit your subject and way of shooting. And of course there are many situations where the autofocus can be too clinical. In many situations you can’t beat the cameraman’s feel for how long to allow a shot lose focus before finding it manually in a natural and organic way. For me, the manual focus on the Sony lenses needs a lot of practice and is always limited. Sigma Art lenses have a better feel to their manual focus. I would also have a final shout out for the Sony servo zoom lens, the 28-135. It’s frustrating at times but is a great range in full frame and its pros outweigh the cons if you need to be reactive. And it’s not a bad look for an F4 lens in full frame.
Top Tips for the FX6
- Press and hold the assignable buttons, (and some of the others) and get more extended options. For example a short press of the S&Q button will put it into high frame rate mode but a longer press will let you immediately change the frame rate to what you want to record. This works on quite a few options so worth experimenting.
- If using a 3rd party viewfinder, putting the display output on the SDI OR HDMI you’re using, still lets you navigate the quick access ‘direct menu’ with the multi function dial
- You can use V90 SD cards to record anything in HD and all but the highest frame rates in UHD/4k. Some have reported that they have got away with recording UHD at 120fps on to V90 cards but it’s not up to specifications and not worth the risk for anything you can’t afford to lose. For high frame rates in 4k you must use type A CF Express cards
Learn More About The Sony ILME-FX6 And Order Yours Today.