Why I Sold My F55 and Bought A...
No, I did not buy a Komodo.
Late last year, I wrote up a post about why the Sony PMW-F55 was a challenging camera to use. Parts are either scarce or, if still relevant for the Venice, overpriced. Documentation about it is harder to come by than info on current cameras. Menus are sluggish and have a learning curve. But, if you found everything and took the time to learn its quirks, you would have an amazing camera to use for years to come.
In that post, I wrote about a few of the benefits of the camera — global shutter, a robust codec, inputs and outputs galore, built in V-mount, and internal ND filters. If you get yourself a few XQD adapters that slot into the SXS slots, you are set with that camera and will get an amazing image out of it. Buy two of them, take care of them, and you would not be missing much.
I shot with it for a few months. Then, at the beginning of this year, I sold it. I discovered that I had different priorities than when I purchased it.
I was in the process of moving from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. This move, while only a four-hour drive, meant I would have to establish a new network of clients and contractors in the city. For the first three months of 2023, I had next to no work. The majority of that time was designing my company’s website and building workflows with contractors. Work did not pick up until the second half of this year.
To enter the industry in Seattle, I wanted a camera body that was appealing and familiar to people I might have worked with, not “some old Sony camera from yesteryear” (though it is still used in many places) that is not exactly a hot rental. I also wanted a lighter weight body with similar base features but also one that was more energy efficient and had internal raw capabilities. The F55 has those AXS-R5 and AXS-R7 recorders that enable 16-bit linear raw recording to AXS cards, but then you’d be looking at about $13k to get up and running.
The camera that hit all of that criteria ended up being the Canon C70.
Hold on! Before you scroll away, look, I get it. This camera has a bad rep. The body is terrible ergonomically and infamous with its poor monitor hinge. Every rental I have had of this camera was awful not because of the image but because of the rigging.
If you take the time to rig out this camera properly, the body is no longer an issue. I keep the monitor closed all the time, instead running a right angle HDMI up into a SmallHD monitor mounted on a hinge at the front of a top handle. This monitor then outputs via SDI to a wireless transmitter mounted to a V-mount adapter on rails.
The Leftfield 3 baseplate from Bright Tangerine serves as the core piece from which everything is mounted. Rails out the back carry the V-mount adapter, transmitter, and batteries. Rails out the front carry the matte box. The top handle has a top rail mount that I can use with FIZ systems. Altogether, the rigging is lightweight and balanced. Did I mention that the top handle can be slid back and forth and left and right for adjusting balance?
The point I am making is if you invest in rigging out your camera, you can make up for many of its downsides.
What is not true about that above statement is inputs and outputs. I miss the SDI outputs on the F55; the SDI loop out on the SmallHD monitor is not an equal substitute. I also weirdly miss the way ND filters worked on that camera. There was just something more tactile about it compared to the buttons on the C70.
But back to the message here, the Canon met all of the following:
Modern camera body
Internal ND filters
EF mount (via at-the-time included 0.71x adapter)
Common recording media
XLR ports (mini-XLRs have been fine)
And lost out on these, compared to the F55:
More than one video output
Any kind of power output (fixed with adapter)
Built-in V-mount battery adapter (fixed with adapter)
A robust recording codec
This year, I produced about 48 videos. Most of these videos were shot on the C70 that I purchased after selling the F55. I do not think that I will review the camera, since it has already been covered in so much detail by… everybody, but I will leave a note here about compression.
I primarily shoot on the raw light codec. It is nearly the same bitrate as XAVC, around 400 Mbps, but retains 12-bit color detail so that I can change exposure, white balance, and sharpness in post. This bitrate is close to the 480 Mbps on the XOCN recording format of the F55. Both barely dent the space on my Network Attached Storage (NAS). I just wrote a post about why I got a NAS and data rates from various cameras, showing just how lightweight the C70 gets the image.
Compression is not perfect, though. If you were to zoom in all the way, you would see more artifacts on the C70. It is disappointing that I cannot increase the bitrate beyond the 400Mbps for internal raw light despite being able to shoot at 600+Mbps at 60fps.
I think the increased presence of compression artifacts is because more of that data is going to the 12-bit color retention than the retention of detail in a 10-bit image. I do not know if this is true. Please comment if you have an answer to this. All I know is that I see more compression “squiggles” when putting my nose to the screen. These squiggles are not visible when at 100%, but I see them because, like probably every other person in this industry, I cannot stop pixel peeping.
I have only had a problem with the compression once when I had to crop in 200% on an image to hide something in frame. When I did this, I noticed a reduction in detail that I have not seen on other cameras, including the F55. It was barely suitable for the job, but it worked. I would have liked a higher bitrate as that may have retained more detail.
So I got a Canon C70 after selling the Sony PMW-F55. I do not regret it. The color out of this camera is fantastic. Dynamic range gets two thumbs up. Once rigged out properly, it is a joy to use. In a short while, I will be purchasing a Canon C300 III for use as the A cam. This bigger camera will get me those inputs and outputs and higher bitrates and will work ergonomically out of the box. I do not plan on selling my soon-to-be B cam C70.
If you have any questions about my experience with the F55 or C70, leave a comment here. I plan on making some raw footage available for download once I figure out how to do that on Substack.
With that, thanks for reading!
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