Sony FS7 RAW Issues Found – Less DR & Color Depth than Internal

sony-fs7-xdca-raw

Here is a surprising fact about the Sony FS7 RAW capabilities. We found several issues affecting the output of the camera’s RAW signal.
We wanted to demonstrate the strength of the Sony FS7 RAW capabilities, but we found some weaknesses that make the camera’s internal quality better in some regards!

The Sony FS7 has been a hugely successful camera and it still is. For many users the optional RAW output that can be achieved using Sony’s XDCA extension unit is a selling argument. The device outputs a claimed 12-bit RAW signal that can be activated in the camera menu after the device has been installed and promises better quality.

This RAW output, enabled by the extension unit, can be recorded with a device like the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+. While conducting a review about this recorder I found some issues and inconsistencies that I couldn’t explain. In our test lab at cinema5D I compared the internal figures against the ones that came up when using the RAW output and found that there is a degrade in quality in terms of both color depth and dynamic range, which are in fact the main advantages of RAW in the first place.

Three weeks ago we contacted Sony Japan about these issues. The Sony FS7 product managers and technicians were very attentive to the concerns we raised and immediately responded by starting tests of their own. Eventually in a collaboration with cinema5D they were able to reproduce and confirm the issues we found and last week they came back to us with this statement:

“Cinema5D has feedback these issues to Sony. Sony has confirmed the issues and is currently studying how to fix.”

While the matter about the flaws in the RAW stream is pretty severe, the way Sony treated the problem is a positive signal towards the customers and our readers. Following the fix Sony released last week for the a7S II sunspot problem, this is the second time Sony reacts very quickly to an issue found.

How is the Sony FS7 RAW output affected?

During the making of the video above the first thing I noticed was that I had to expose with more light than using the internal codec. For me the shiny surfaces of the watch were a perfect test case for 4K RAW recording, but to my surprise I couldn’t find the extended dynamic range I was expecting. Instead, I went back and forth between my editing suite and the “studio”, just to realize there was something wrong.

Additionally I made a lot of highspeed recordings, but eventually I had to throw most of them to the trash. The Sony FS7 outputs up to 240fps in 10-bit RAW 2K (in theory). During editing I noticed that my 200fps recordings (PAL) were all dropping frames. I left two of those shots in the video. You will notice the jittery motion during the “camera motion” and “slow motion climax” part (00:57). The source video can be downloaded at Vimeo for inspection. But notice that it was downscaled and recompressed for web and does not represent the original quality.

In all RAW modes, but especially in slow motion I sometimes also noticed a reduced color bit depth in the shadow areas, that highly degrades any shots in 200fps and 240fps.

Nevertheless, when I overexposed and used 4K normal speed, I found that in my clip I could still achieve the typical “RAW look”, a clean and organic feel in the footage that I could easily manipulate color-wise. So at least there is a certain benefit to the RAW mode, when you don’t need slow motion and you don’t need a lot of dynamic range and when you have sufficient light available.

Here are the full details of what I found:

Problems with 4K RAW

The equipment used was the Sony FS7 with the XDCA-FS7 RAW extension unit that is supposed to output a 12-bit RAW stream. I recorded that feed with the Odyssey 7Q+ recorder. In our test lab it turned out that there’s actually about 1/2 a stop of dynamic range missing in the RAW footage.

raw-vs-xavc

We use a a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive chart and IMATEST evaluation software with a crisp Zeiss 50mm CP2 T/2.1 makro lens.

This seems to be mainly due to the lower color bit depth (possibly only in the shadow areas) that makes the last dynamic range steps appear as single and dual colors. In the image below you can see that the steps to the right have very low color information. One step is magenta, the other is green.

The other problem we noticed was reduced color bit depth. The overall color information seems to be much lower than 12 bit.

Problems with Slow Motion

Having used the Sony FS700 with an Odyssey 7Q recorder before, I had high expectations for the FS7 RAW slow motion. FS700 RAW footage always looked stunning. But the 2K 10-bit RAW file from the Sony FS7 was only acceptable in terms of color information at 120fps. Furthermore, when I tested 240fps the bit depth decreased further, looking more like 8 bit or even 6 bit in the shadow areas.

I already mentioned earlier that at this time 200fps is not usable because frames are dropped.

Conclusion

Sony engineers have confirmed these two issues:

  • Frame duplication happens when shooting at 200fps (PAL). This happens only at 200fps, it does not happen at 240fps.
  • Bit depth is narrower than expected, as a result the dynamic range of external recording become smaller than that of internal XAVC recording.

We double checked our findings and additionally to testing the Odyssey 7Q+, we can confirm we had the same results using the AXS-R5 RAW recorder by Sony.

Sony AXS-R5 Recorder with Sony HXR-IFR5 Interfacte

Sony AXS-R5 Recorder with Sony HXR-IFR5 Interfacte

We will update you at cinema5D with any new developments or fixes regarding the Sony FS7 RAW issues.

 

 

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 Tuomo Jalkanen Reply
Tuomo Jalkanen November 23, 2015

The frame duplication also happens when shooting at 100fps.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 23, 2015

Hi Tuomo,
Thanks for that info, I did not notice it at 100fps. Will have to re-test.

 Tuomo Jalkanen Reply
Tuomo Jalkanen November 23, 2015

I have a file that’s shot in 100fps. Let me know if you want to take a look.

James Oldham Reply
James Oldham November 23, 2015

Uh oh

Bgd Videography Reply
Bgd Videography November 23, 2015

Unbelievable. Their charging you extra for the raw feature and you’re getting less. Sony are knocking this junk out and not even testing it.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman November 28, 2015

Nobody should be voting with their dollars for this retrograde junk anyway. Sony has been undermining industry standards and selling overpriced, outdated crap for decades. It’s time to call them out and stop rewarding this behavior.

An external recorder to capture raw? And crappy raw at that?

Give us a break, Sony. What year is this, where you have to get an external unit and hook it up to a camera to record? Hello VHS docking unit.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 28, 2015

Oscar I think you’re overreacting. The FS7 is still a great camera for the money and I’d chose it any day for an adequate production.
Also, maybe you haven’t realized that most companies behave like that and we’re not living in paradise. There are people behind each product with flaws like you and me and complicated development processes involved that will lead to imperfections. If you want a camera that is perfect you’ll have to spend a lot more cash, but since you’re writing in this thread I assume you’re also benefitting from the very good prices Sony comes up with.
I’m not trying to protect Sony, but just want to point out that I think you’re a bit out of line with your comments here.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman November 30, 2015

No, I’m not shooting with Sony, because their “very good prices” are not good at all. Nor is their quality.

Imperfections are forgivable, but these are design decisions made by Sony. They’re not bugs. Therefore, they are open to criticism for the mindset that led to them. Especially when they indicate that Sony refuses to learn. Year after year, Sony undermines standards and attempts to keep the industry in the past. That’s a choice they should be called out on.

Canon isn’t much better (sadly), but they don’t have a history of bastardizing industry standards and hobbling professionals’ and consumers’ work.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 30, 2015

Maybe you should first shoot Sony and then criticise the cameras. They produce the best affordable filmmaking tools available today. I cannot comprehend your arguments and they sound more like allegations to me.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman December 1, 2015

I have. Even extracting the footage was a pain in the ass, because of course instead of using a standard wrapper like MPEG-4 or QuickTime, Sony crammed all the clips into one giant file that only some software (NOT including Sony’s) could extract. This goes all the way down to their consumer cameras. The RX100 IV, for example, requires SPECIAL SD CARDS to record in an MPEG-4 file… even at HD (not 4K) resolution. There’s no excuse for it; the data rate can be exactly the same, regardless of file wrapper.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber December 1, 2015

Sorry, I have never had troubles “extracting” such footage, maybe you worked with outdated software.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman December 2, 2015

Nope. And the point is that you shouldn’t have to “extract” it.

Reply
Nurman Vistosky December 10, 2015

Your venom makes me think you’re a Red lover.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman December 10, 2015

Have nothing to say and no facts? Throw labels around. That’s what passes for “political discussion” these days, so why not bring all discourse down to that level?

Marcelo Pereira Reply
Marcelo Pereira December 8, 2015

I think you are under reacting, what type of world do you want to live in?
Do you think is acceptable this kind of companys behaviour?
So in no time they will ask your house for the camera, and you will say but all the other ones do the same, and they let me stay with my tv at least…

Josh Becker Reply
Josh Becker November 23, 2015

I couldn’t quite put my finger on the issues I was having when I first tested my XDCA unit… then I got busy with shooting and stuck to internal XAVC for projects because I didn’t have the confidence to use the RAW mode. Once Convergent Design released the 2K HFR to ProRes mode, I gave that a try and found the shadows to have a ton of banding and noise. I basically stopped using RAW-out altogether and the XDCA became a very expensive V-mount plate.

Sony either needs to fix this or we need to get our money back for the XDCA units because this is not the RAW quality I was paying for.

There have also been numerous complaints about the terrible quality of the internal ProRes when using the XDCA unit.

Josh Becker Reply
Josh Becker November 23, 2015

Also, the distribution of data on the RAW out is explained pretty well in this topic on DVXuser from Dennis Hingsberg:
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?341950-FS7-RAW-woes-amp-data-distribution-between-12-bit-RAW-16-bit-RAW-amp-10-bit-S-Log

Lukas Schuler Reply
Lukas Schuler November 23, 2015

Tank you! This is very helpful! Can you make some tests with fs5 and 4K 10bit 422 hdmi out? Or external raw in future?

Reply
sanveer mehlwal November 23, 2015

Sebastian you’very opened up a Pandora’s Box. All the oldies who were complaining about the FS7’s poor dynamic range will rise from their graves and come back to haunt you. It’s gonna be the night of the living for dead.

Javier Lopez Reply
Javier Lopez November 24, 2015

Sony is starting to behave a little bit on the BlackMagic side…first the blackspot on the A7s and now this. Trying to be competitive is ok but if that means unreliability is not ok

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman November 28, 2015

BlackMagic? Red cameras had the black hole years before BM.

And BlackMagic delivers cameras that shoot raw and good-quality ProRes internally, at half this price. And they effectively addressed the fixed-pattern noise problem they had.

So no… Sony unfortunately isn’t behaving like BlackMagic. They’re behaving like Sony: peddling outdated, overpriced junk with crap codecs, junky external recorders, and junky quality.

Josh Becker Reply
Josh Becker November 28, 2015

BlackMagic isn’t much better. Cameras aren’t very reliable, stupid issues that shouldn’t be issues (being unable to format card in-camera for a long time?!) and I just flat-out can’t buy a camera from a company that so blatantly starts designing new cameras for NAB before actually finishing and shipping last year’s NAB announcement! The cameras have some professional specs on paper but they aren’t professional cameras.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman November 28, 2015

Their schedule adherence leaves plenty to be desired. But what reliability issues are you talking about? I’ve never had a problem with my BMPC, and I’ve run it all day in the hot sun on occasion.

Yes, I could just be lucky. But I hear people talk about “reliability” issues without ever giving specifics.

The BMPC certainly delivers “professional” results when operated properly (and that doesn’t mean pandering to it in any ridiculous way with lame workarounds; I’m not an apologist).

Josh Becker Reply
Josh Becker November 28, 2015

Things like their “approved” cards still not working in the devices, dropping frames or being unable to record clips. You criticized Sony for their need of external recorders for RAW (and their internal codec, which honestly XAVC is pretty damn good for a codec) but what about the crappy DSLR ergonomics of the BMCC and BMPC? And locked internal batteries, which require you to externally power the camera?

I think it’s perfectly accepted (hell, even professional) to have dedicated high-performance media that the camera company warranties and guarantees will work to spec. Not this “uh, well we gave it an SSD slot because we know you guys are so cheap you wouldn’t buy hard drives from us, just know you can’t complain to us if your drive doesn’t work”. They’ve gotten a bit better with the URSAs and vmount+cfast, though. Now if only these would start shipping (i generally try not to say one camera is better than another when one of them is basically still just specs on a website)

And I’m sure you can get professional results “when operated properly” (who determines this, by the way? I hear this phrase a lot when a shitty camera does something shitty). The fact of the matter is that good equipment is generally good across the board and “good enough” equipment is good under certain conditions.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman November 28, 2015

The ergonomics suck ass, and the battery decision did… but in the end I got small brick batteries for $150 each; one of them can power the camera for hours and clip to your belt (although I made a battery tray). The screen on the back is absolutely useless in daylight; the camera is essentially unusable if you don’t add a viewfinder.

When I had corrupt frames, it turned out I was using an SSD not on the list. I haven’t had a problem with the ones that are, and I always shoot 4K. I rarely shoot raw though, so I haven’t taxed them to the max very often I fully support the SSD decision. CFast is grossly overpriced and destined to stay expensive and die, since it’ll never see the mass consumer adoption that drove the price of CF and SD down in the past.

““when operated properly” (who determines this, by the way? I hear this phrase a lot when a shitty camera does something shitty)”

Actually, that kind of crap is what you typically see from Adobe apologists, which we should all reject. Your retort is exactly what I was heading off by saying I don’t pander to crap in this way. What is the proper phrasing that would have deflected this? How about “according to sound photographic principles?” Proper use of ND filters and lighting, for example.

The camera acquires a smooth but detailed high-resolution image in a high-quality intrraframe-compressed codec or raw. If you outfit it with an EVF, right, and proper media as you would any other camera, it (in my experience) reliably produces professional results that blow away those from “prosumer” cameras or SLRs.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman November 28, 2015

Where the hell is the Edit button? “right” should be “rig.” No idea.

 Joe Giambrone Reply
Joe Giambrone November 24, 2015

The Raw looks considerably less noisy in that DR test image.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 24, 2015

Indeed it does. Couldn’t tell you why though or if it has to do with the limited color depth also.

Reply
Conny Fridh November 24, 2015

So The FS7 holds only 12 f-stops in normal rec mode 25p? Not 14?

If so this you need to publish with an other test JUST as big headlines as you did with the C300 II DR test.

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 24, 2015

Not sure I understand what you’re saying, but generally please understand that i don’t “need to” anything. Besides, the dynamic range has been discussed in that same C300 II article you’re referring to.

 Sam Moore Reply
Sam Moore November 24, 2015

Seb any chance of posting some DNGs

Gerbert Floor Reply
Gerbert Floor November 25, 2015

ouch, that hurts. I didn’t read any of your article before watching the spot, and it was immediately clear that there were dropped frames. The colors looked great to me, but this might not be the best case to test that.

But the spot itself, brilliant, beautiful and funny! My compliments!

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 26, 2015

Thanks Gerbert

 Orhan Chakarov Reply
Orhan Chakarov November 26, 2015

I don’t care about the camera :)
Just wanted to say that your Fake Watch Ad is very good!

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber November 26, 2015

Hey thanks Orhan, much appreciated.

Reply
Ben Scott November 27, 2015

My thread on the problem with Sony’s FS7 raw issues from March this year on the official Sony forums. The idea that they just discovered these problems and are investigating is laughable.

http://community.sony.com/t5/FS7/Raw-output-The-problem-with-12-bit-linear/td-p/494586

 Eric Zee Reply
Eric Zee January 18, 2016

@Sebastian Wöber

i have to shoot a slomo foodshot at 240 fps. reserved the FS7 with a Odyssey 7Q for the job.
i do not want to shoot raw just proress. will the fs7 give better quality than de fs700?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber January 19, 2016

No! The quality will be worse. You could shoot with the FS700 or FS7 intenal 180fps might also be an option.
On both cameras you will notice a reduced bitrate at those framerates in “RAW”.

 Eric Zee Reply
Eric Zee January 19, 2016

Thank for your reply. does de fs5 have the same problem?

Sebastian Wöber Reply
Sebastian Wöber January 19, 2016

As far as I know the FS5 has no RAW option.

Reply
Einar Davíðsson September 1, 2016

Was there ever a fix for this? Or is raw on the FS7 still a total waste of time?