Small disclaimer: I am coming right off of owning a Red Weapon so a lot of my review through the lens of a former red owner/ operator. I don’t want to spend a bunch of time bashing on Red but they need some time to get their house back in order so we decided to move on from them, for now. Also I tend to use the Arri 435 as the benchmark by which all other cameras are judged. It isn’t super realistic and isn’t totally applicable but that camera is without a doubt one of the most useable and well thought out pieces of equipment in existence.
We very seriously toyed with the idea of getting an Alexa Mini and it made a lot of sense but there were a few things that pushed us towards the Sony Venice:
- Skin tones
- High light roll off
- Build quality
- Built in ND’s
- XLRs with 48v phantom power
- Sliding top handle
- False color
- Magnification while rolling.
- Movi compatible
- S709 LUT
- 6k down to 4k XAVC
- 4k is super35
- Buttons (you don’t realize how much you need button until they are gone)
- Shoulder balance
- V-mounts (for some people)
- Offspeed (for now)
- SXS cards
- Hirose connectors
Full frame. I personally find the depth of field and noise pattern from a full frame sensor very pleasing. I’m not sure this is going to take over the industry or make a huge difference on set but it gave us a chance to do something new. I also think the implementation of full frame at 6K and still having 4K in Super35 is the best implementation of this feature. You get the resolution options you want and can still use all the Super35 lenses that you want.
Dual ISO. We do a lot of doc work and being able to shoot at 2500 with very little noise is a dream for us. Two exposure ratings; 500 ISO and 2500 open up a lot of possibilities in terms of shooting situations The noise difference between the two is minimal. I will also the even in the base 500 ISO mode shooting at 1250 is very clean.
8-Stops of internal ND in 1 stop increments. Really small feature on the surface. Really easy to overlook but this is going to be the thing every other camera manufacturer steals from the Venice. I never carry 8 NDs on set. I am sure real feature and episodic people do but I don’t have 3 ACs so how could I ever use them. The speed and availability of these NDs is a real game changer on set. The pacing and flexibility of an operator on set can determine a lot about how the crew and talent work together to capture the right/ desired image. Every DP I have ever known has compromised on set cause the time it takes to swap from 1.2 to 1.5 ND wasn’t worth slowing down the set at that crucial moment. Getting that flexibility back is such a relief. Also just being able to shed a ND every 10 minutes during magic hour.
I can clearly go on forever about the internal NDs but I’ll shut up and move on to some of my other thoughts about this camera.
XLRs with phantom power. Again this is something most cameras have but coming from the Red DSMC2 line getting phantom working on that camera and recording to reasonably clean pre-amps was a real nightmare.
A quick note on highlight roll off. This seems like a huge improvement over all the other sony cameras and feels very “alexa-like”. We are all still chasing film here but we are getting closer.
S709 LUT/ overall image and tone. Sony spent a lot of time on the LUT. It is lower contrast than most of the SLog LUTs I have seen and the skin tones have been very strong out of the box.
EVF. Crazy expensive but actually useable. I seriously considered not getting it but have been really happy operating with it. For most things I have been running with just the EVF and no monitor. Having false color in the EVF and being able to do 2x or 4x magnification while rolling is a real lifesaver.
A few things that bug me -
This camera was rushed to market to beat the Alexa LF and it shows. We happened to get ours at the same time as V2 firmware was released and that really changed everything. Full frame, dual iso, 60 fps, e-mount, and the 6K to 4K in XAVC all arrived in Version 2 firmware.
Sony’s reputation. This is honestly probably the biggest issue with this camera right now. They have a lot to make up for after the F5/55. The Crown looks amazing and shows what is possible with that camera but for most people the F55 left a bad taste in their mouths and most DP's are just gonna go Alexa Mini out of habit at this point. We'll see if that starts to change over the next few months.
Now down into the super small complaint department. You need to hold down the menu button for 3 seconds to access the grownup menus. 3 seconds doesn’t sound like a long time but on set waiting to roll it can feel like a lifetime.
Hirose connectors. We are a D-Tap family. Not the end of the world but definitely not as common as 2 pin lemo or d-tap cables. Wooden camera is helping us out with a custom 4pin hirose to 4 female p-tap cable so that should solve it.
The best thing you can do is get your hands on this camera and try it yourself. See what the images do for you. Testing everything I have said and see if you see the same things I do.