Sony Venice continues to thunder and roar

Sony Venice Thunder Roar

I haven’t written about the Sony Venice since my last article on it nearly six months ago. For a quick rundown of features and specs on the Venice full frame cinema digital camera complete with native PL and e-mount lens mount check out my previous article Sony unveils Venice full frame 36x24mm digital cinema camera.

As of February 2018 the Venice has started shipping. Sony has also managed to make the full frame mode available upon its release rather than waiting for summer as they had originally announced last fall. Clever move. I’ll be taking the Venice for a spin once my local Sony dealer lets me. :)

What else is new or has changed since the announcement?

Sony has announced that it will feature dual-ISO mode on its camera. I originally confused this with dual-gain architecture similar to what we would find on ARRI Digital cinema cameras and was prematurely excited. ARRI’s dual-gain architecture allows for simultaneous reads off the sensor at different gain amplification which is how low light performance is enhanced on ARRI cameras yet prevents the highlights from being clipped – therefore significantly extending the dynamic range of the sensor. It’s this design alone that allows ARRI to achieve such graceful and well wrangled highlights, but this is not what Sony is doing. By having two different sets of gain amplifiers on the sensor in Venice and reading them independently rather than simultaneously it means they can effectively produce the same quality image (signal-to-noise ratio) at two completely different native ISOs. Hence Venice will be able to offer 500 and 2500 ISO while maintaining the full dynamic range of the sensor said to be 15 stops.

Many people have asked me if I have plans to switch from my F55 to the Venice and if I think the Venice is a move up from the F55 or F65. From the onset and since the Venice was first announced I had a always viewed and expressed that I feel the Venice is more a “rental house” camera and that it did not seem like the “Swiss army knife” independent owner operators would lust after. Perhaps that will change once the camera matures more and we can get high frame rate capability from Venice. I view Venice as a true “cinema” camera meant for higher end Hollywood studio, network, and Netflix – I doubt you’d use a Venice for a corporate interview nor will you be likely to find a “custom” mode on it. But who’s to say. I would definitely not put the Venice above or below the F55 or even the F65. I feel Venice sits in a parallel market, somewhat niche, and that’s a good thing for current F5 and F55 owners still in a fantastic position to maximize their original investment for many now heading into their 5th year of ownership.

But let’s wait and see what’s in store with Venice because given it’s modularity it is not exactly a camera that can be pegged down in specification or features and said to be limited. I think that is what makes Venice exciting!

What should we look for from the Venice now and in the future?
  • Sony has gone on record to claim a “new colour science for appealing skin tones and graceful highlights”. I really hope this is a reality and that mangling footage from the F55 in DI to achieve “good images” or pleasing skin tones are no longer required. slog3/sgamut3.cine was a good step forward but not enough in my opinion and still has nothing to do with highlights. I’m very interested to see what Sony has planned in this specific area.
  • Since currently there is no global shutter or mechanical shutter on the Venice we should look at how the rolling shutter on the camera will perform, but Sony has indicated that their new sensor has a very fast read rate and that it would look “global”. It’s worth noting that none of ARRI’s cameras have global shutter either. Of course with Venice’s modular and swappable sensor block who knows what will be released down the road. Maybe we’ll see an electronic global shutter version sensor block similar to what we have on the F55.
  • Overscan window. Many cameras use the entire sensor top to bottom to produce its image but when set to specific modes or shooting aspect ratios it would be possible to allow monitoring past the actual frame line which for camera operators can be very important for seeing what’s about to come in frame or is just staying out of frame ie. boom position, etc..  This may not be possible in full frame 3:2 mode on Venice but in 4k 16:9 super 35mm mode it should be possible providing Sony decides to do so.
  • I had hoped Venice would sport a slightly higher sensor resolution than 6k in order to deliver better resolution in full frame mode as well as super 35mm crop. I was a bit disappointed to learn that in super 35mm sensor crop this was yet another 4k native pixel camera but I soon got over it realizing that Sony went after performance in a different way rather than the “resolution race” and that makes me happy.

What do you guys think? Is Venice the new holy grail of digital cinema cameras? Will it be enough to pry ARRI out of the hands of so many or do many simply feel it’s not ready for prime time? Comment below – it’s free.

 

 

Dennis Hingsberg is an award winning cinematographer and award winning producer based out of Toronto Canada, and founder of StarCentral Inc. – a video and film production company specializing in 35mm film production and film related post production services. Dennis also works as a paid consultant and resource on managing post production workflows for TV and film related projects.

 

 

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