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Dave’s Blog 25 (130503)

Gates F55 Prototype Housing

Hello Scubacammers (or prospectus Scubacammers). Its has been a few weeks since ADEX 2013. How time flies in this industry. One or two housing I was supposed to try out took longer than expected because of difficulty in getting the cameras. These are really expensive Digital Cinema Cameras and there aren’t that many around. Luck would have it one of my friends has a few hours time slot before a shoot and he kindly sneaked one into my shop to do a dry fit …..

and viola  the Sony PMW F55 CineAlta 4K Digital Cinema Camera

Fully kitted out F55 with OLED EVF

Fully kitted out F55 with OLED EVF

Before I go on I must note that this is a “preview” of the Gates F55 Prototype Housing not a full review.  Gates will have a full working unit very soon even though this prototype is very nicely finished.

The Sony PMW F55.

This is a long anticipated 4K cinema camera offering from Sony that rivals RED and ARRI.  Sony seems to have packed in all the recording options into one envelop. From 4K Raw, compressed raw, XAVC, 2K and Mpeg that records internally or external with optional modules. It is also first cinema camera of it type to feature a global shutter. This means zero motion skew and “rolling” shutter effect that blighted many cameras that records HD with CMOS sensors.

 

EVF removed. Camera is fitted with Element Tecnica Top Plate and Handle

EVF removed. Camera is fitted with Element Tecnica Top Plate and Handle

The camera and its modular system is extensively reviewed and debated in many web forums and cinema equipment blogs. I will leave it to you to Google for more info. The following is just a highlight of the specifications which I think is very relevant for factual documentary & underwater type work:

  •  Modularity of the design – means the camera could be striped down for lightweight run and gun shoots or perch on   a gimbal of a RC helicopter or UW housing.
  • Electronic Global Shutter – No more “Jello-cam”
  • 8.9mp Super 35mm CMOS. 4K, 2K or somewhere in between. Cinematic look and no crop even for compressed video.
  • DR at 14 stops and wide colour Gamut.
  • Internal 4k/ 2k/HD recording.
  • High frame rate using optional AXS-R5 unit for 240 fps.
  • Optional 2k/4K RAW recorder – allows both compressed and uncompressed RAW recording. Allows fast workflow from Mpeg 2 Proxies.
  • Records in SXS Pro + Media cards.
  • Sony FZ mount – via the right adapter most lens could be slapped on it. Also PL mount of course.
  • Built-in ND filters

I am probably over simplifying the specs but I am sure there are more goodies in this camera than my limited experience of it which is roughly just over two hours.

For topside shoots one expects that many of the existing accessories such as bottom rail brackets or top plates and top handles are available for this camera. Anyway here are some more pictures.

With Raw module and battery fitted it is one long camera

With Raw module and battery fitted it is one long camera

Removing the front Arri lower matt box rails

Removing the front Arri lower matt box rails

 

Sony F series 35mm PL mount lens. Massive!

Sony F series 35mm PL mount lens. Massive!

 

How does it fit into the Gates F55 housing?

Top plate from Gates- raw milled  not yet anodized

Top plate from Gates- raw milled not yet anodized

Gates Dovetail plate

Gates Dovetail plate

 

The housing dovetail bracket is top hung

The housing dovetail bracket is top hung

This feature is probably the newest design change from Gates’s bottom saddle. Perhaps it allows for quick detachment of the camera or a safety feature. It was quite tricky to hold a fully kitted F55 and try to slide the dovetail to the bracket.   I found it that it is easier to install this with the camera and the housing up side down. The weight of the camera helps to keep the dovetail firmly on housing bracket also less problem with the camera weight.

Oops its too short!

Oops its too short!

As I mentioned earlier the back end of the housing is intended for non-raw recorder module. Longer version in the full working housing unless there is a really thin battery around.

Front end

Front end

Even the big Sony F series 35mm PL lens fits

Even the big Sony F series 35mm PL lens fits

The Gates F55 is considerably smaller than the Red Epic/Scarlet housing. The camera seems to be quieter and less hot so volume of circulation air could be reduced. With smaller housing the port collar is a little snug for all the lens gear mechanism. My guess would be that Gates will provide some sawn down allen keys with the tool kit.

Normal allen key will not reach

Normal allen key will not reach

Same Gates Epic/Scarlet housing 8 inch SP80 dome  and SP80 flat port could be used

SP 80 port will have compatible extenders

SP 80 port will have compatible extenders

 

Alexa style arranged buttons and LCD screen

Alexa style arranged buttons and LCD screen

 

The record switch

The record switch

Assign button. These must be pull out for the installation

Assign button. These must be pull out for the installation

 

Video connector bulkhead for the EM 50 Monitor

Video connector bulkhead for the EM 50 Monitor

In conclusion the Gates F55 housing is a very compact professional housing for the modular Sony Digital Cinema Camera. The follow focus, aperture and zoom gearing are the same high standard metal gears that just works and one come to expect from Gates. The level of refinement to the housing is very high. The ribbing internally of the housing is one example as this reduces the total weight but remains just as strong. Components are all mechanical and made of the highest standard. Easily fixable in the field. I would say even with just a prototype housing for a dry test I could see the finish version is going to be awesome piece of kit. I can’t wait.

 

Ciao and happy diving

David

 

 

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