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Sony F5 hack unlocks 4K XAVC recording


Andrew Reid

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Imho there is quite a difference here. Your other examples are absolutely clear about this. You can not only decide before buying but - even better - one year later when needed to unlock a feature or two you didn't need before. You could even do this on a project base. .


You mean it's different because they are open about it?

I see it's actually quite an identical situation with what Arri is doing with the Amira and Convergent design with their Q7. They sell you the hardware, lock features, and charge for unlocking them.

(By the way, Sony offers a way to upgrade your F5 into an F55, .)
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It already does 4K internal, it comes off the sensor as 4K and is debayered, all the hard work done and sent to HDMI rather than compressed and sent to the card. 4K compression is trivial. Mobile phon

Just like the previous post from Ben said. Do you have any idea how much time was spent developing your product? If you feel it's unethical to differentiate products solely based on software, then

View the Sony F5 'out of the box' specs at B&H here (and add 4K for free) Paul Ream (Twitter) has spoken about his simple unlocking technique for the F5 to unlock 4K XAVC recording. &#1

I see it's actually quite an identical situation with what Arri is doing with the Amira and Convergent design with their Q7. They sell you the hardware, lock features, and charge for unlocking them.
 

 

Looks like Sony is also headed in that direction, at least if their new XDCAM camcorder is any indication. Here's a feature callout from the product page:

 

"The PXW-X70 is also 4K ready and can handle 4K recordings with a future upgrade."

 

Out-of-the box it's HD. A paid upgrade will unlock 4K recording (though the cost of that upgrade hasn't been released.)

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It takes balls to test a hack on a 16K$ camera too!!!

 

I wouldn't really call it a dangerous hack any more than I would call turning up the volume on my TV a dangerous hack.  The guy changed one setting in an unencrypted text file on removable media.  If that was enough to automatically brick your camera makes you wonder what would happen if that media would ever get corrupted and change more than one value!

 

 

Being a software engineer myself, I can without a doubt guarantee that the engineer that did this, his boss and the janitor that cleaned their cubicle ALL lost their job today. Period.

 

He would be lucky if his family, dog, and mailman weren't on the back of a milkbox as well.  Someone at corporate is going to be on the war path.

 

 

 

Well I'm pretty sure playback is only software disabled as well, as it can playback 4k from the external rec. If interested Sony could very well make the f5 a full 4k internal camera via firmware.
The comparison with GPU or CPU chips is a bit wrong at least in the beginning of the lifespan of the chips. Most of the time when producing a new chip on a new manufacturing process not every chip is 100% usable but before thrashing them they get sold as a cheaper version with for example 2 non working cores disabled. As manufacturing matures the yield gets better and then you get nearly 100% working chips. And then they keep selling the cheap version. Therefore the "hack" of re-enabling disabled cores via software, soldering or something else doesn't always work. But on the F5 its pure marketing decisions. I hope they just sell a 4k upgrade option, they are lucky at the moment that enabling of 4k playback of 4k isn't yet working so they have a chance of selling it. Otherwise v5 must be really good to convince people to forget about 4k recording and upgrade their firmware to v5.

 

 

I don't know about that.  Pretty much throughout a chip's manufacturing lifespan you are not going to get 100% perfect and uniform wafers.  I never heard about the cores being disabled thing.  That may be true.  I know for sure that they test chips coming off the wafer to see which ones can handle various clock speeds.  Then they market those chips accordingly.  They literally design one chip and pardon the pun let the chips fall where they may.  That is a lot different than intentionally limiting perfectly good chips.

 

 

 

In the case of the F55, Sony's failure does some serious financial damage to the people who trusted their business to them and opted for the bigger and better investment.

 

 

 

This is the real crime.  They just slashed the value of the camera a bunch of their premium customers purchased.  Unlike the bmpcc fire sale every single F5 in existence can take advantage of this settings change nondestructively.

 

I like this blog and Philip Bloom's blog but I simply can't afford to commit capital to cameras like these guys.  I can't afford to take multithousand dollar hits on my equipment.  I balked at getting the bmpcc when it was $1,000.  I balked at paying $850 for it used.  But I didn't hesitate when the price dropped to $500.  At $500 they can introduce a 4k model tomorrow and I guarantee I will still be able to sell my pocket for more than I paid for it.  Buying a $29,000 camera in these fast moving times is just asking to get whacked with $10,000 worth of depreciation in short order.  Think about it.  Magic lantern, Blackmagic, GH4, and now this.  If you invest $29,000 in a camera body you need to be working and making a lot of $$$ from it day in and day out, because three or four years out the depreciation is going to be fierce.  Think about where we were three years ago.  Magic Lantern only appeared about five years ago.  And continous raw only appeared on the 5D MK III, what, last year?  Resolve lite appeared when?  I was checking out field monitors and it appears the features have been increasing exponentially and the price coming down.  I really wonder what a field monitor with histogram cost 4 years ago.

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"Annoying" is the fact that the a5100 gets full pixel readout and XAVC-S and the higher a6000 released four months earlier is stuck with AVCHD, not to mention higher end cameras like the FS700. So essentially, the low end consumer a5100 probably has better video than pro cameras such as the FS100 or FS700 which are not that old.

 

Where do you get A5100 has full sensor readout? It has XAVC, yes, but it's newer model, but I haven't seen reference to full sensor readout without line skipping. 

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Where do you get A5100 has full sensor readout? It has XAVC, yes, but it's newer model, but I haven't seen reference to full sensor readout without line skipping. 

 

It was in one of their press statements and on Dpreview's preview of the camera. Still, I too doubt it has it, especially considering the a6000 is almost moire/aliasing free without full sensor readout. It would stress the processor unnecesarily and would cause a slower rolling shutter. Nevertheless, the RX10 had it out of the box, so it is possible Sony managed to make it work on the bigger sensor of the a5100 (it does on the A7S, though it is only 12MP).

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Buying a $29,000 camera in these fast moving times is just asking to get whacked with $10,000 worth of depreciation in short order.  Think about it.  Magic lantern, Blackmagic, GH4, and now this.  If you invest $29,000 in a camera body you need to be working and making a lot of $$$ from it day in and day out, because three or four years out the depreciation is going to be fierce.  Think about where we were three years ago.  Magic Lantern only appeared about five years ago.  And continous raw only appeared on the 5D MK III, what, last year?  Resolve lite appeared when?  I was checking out field monitors and it appears the features have been increasing exponentially and the price coming down.  I really wonder what a field monitor with histogram cost 4 years ago.

 

Not really. The consumer, prosumer and lower end professional markets are very different to the high-end line. As slower pace is forced so that a certain type of clients may take full advantage of the investment while the manufacturer squeezes the product cycle to the last dollar.

 

Those who early-adopted the Alexa in 2010 still have a camera widely considered to be the best available. It has been upgraded and looked after. Arri has released new models that complement it without making it obsolete.

Same with top of the line DSLRs: Canon has not yet updated the 1Dx nor the 7D (flagship of their respective lines). Sure they have released a ton of lower end FF and APS-C models based on the same technology, but their high-end line has a 4-5 year product cycle.

 

BMPC and GH4 are aimed at a different crowd. Buy it and you won't become a premium client. Buy an F55 and you will, more so because after that investment you will probably not risk installing any third party accesory or addon. If you drop $29K for a camera, you might as well drop another $1-2K in "official" recording media, battery packs, etc. 

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I'd look at this issue of the "morality" of disabling features from the viewpoint of economic fairness.

 

It costs a certain amount to develop the common core of features in a product family.  If sales of the high end products are contributing more to recovery of the development cost than are the "crippled" versions, then the buyers of the crippled product benefit.

 

If, however, the buyers of the crippled version are subsidizing the high end products by contributing more to recovery of development costs, they may feel they've been used to subsidize purchase by those who can afford to spend more money for the product. 

 

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Also, all these firmware differences are actually marketed as hardware differences, so it is a little bit misleading in my view. When you buy a piece of software you know you are buying software and you know that a lite version costs money to unlock the full potential of.

 

If the people who bought the 1D C and F55 knew that they were actually buying almost identical hardware that was for sale at $12k or $6k less, only differentiated by firmware, would they accept it quite so readily?

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

I know a few people who would have bought a F5 if it had 4K internal at $16k, so how many sales does the disabling of features in firmware LOSE the company?


and I know more people who wouldn't have bought an F55 for 12$ more if the f5 had 4K XAVC internal.

PS-It seems Paul Ream is looking into implementing more of the F55 features into the F5 by copying the F55 .ALL file codes. You can expect internal 4K playback, output, monitoring, and maybe all the f55 stuff.
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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Sony issued an official response:

All,
 
Sony is aware of the All File modification that was done by some F5 owners to enable 4K XAVC recording in the camera head. As a matter of policy Sony cannot approve any modifications that are not part of an official firmware release. All firmware updates from Sony come with quality assurances that guarantee high quality performance. Furthermore, unauthorized modifications to the product are not covered by, and may void, Sony 's product warranty. 
 
Regards
 
___________________________

-Basically:
We are aware of what happenned
We will not take legal or practical action against it, so do it if you want at the risk of losing your warranty.

Identical to Canon's response to Magiclantern: ignore it and state that it "might" void the warranty of they wanted to.

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Also, all these firmware differences are actually marketed as hardware differences, so it is a little bit misleading in my view. When you buy a piece of software you know you are buying software and you know that a lite version costs money to unlock the full potential of.


Very true. When you are paying over $15,000 more you want to know if it is hardware or just a handful of characters on an SD card.
 

Those who early-adopted the Alexa in 2010 still have a camera widely considered to be the best available. It has been upgraded and looked after. Arri has released new models that complement it without making it obsolete.
Same with top of the line DSLRs: Canon has not yet updated the 1Dx nor the 7D (flagship of their respective lines). Sure they have released a ton of lower end FF and APS-C models based on the same technology, but their high-end line has a 4-5 year product cycle.

BMPC and GH4 are aimed at a different crowd. Buy it and you won't become a premium client.


I have never heard anyone describe Canon's slothfulness as a virtue. Comparing Canon to Alexa is a joke. Alexa is already the pinnacle of image quality. Where as Canon is getting it's butt handed to it by companies that didn't even sell cameras a few years ago. Canon is clearly dragging it's feet and protecting it's higher models. I don't know of anyone that is filming seriously that uses the 7D over a bmpcc. I don't know of anyone who is going out and buying a new 7D body for video. And as far as stills you seem to forget mere months after Canon juiced a bunch of people for their cash they introduced a bargain basement Rebel with the exact same image quality.

The Alexa analogy is interesting but clearly it is not the only model being followed in this industry.
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In defence of Sony, they probably spend A LOT of money on R&D on every top end camera. One way to look at the f55/f5 situation is that the upper end model absorbed all the cost of the R&D, which is closer to the true cost of all the technology and development, while the f5 rode on it's coat tails. In other words, it could be argued that the f55 is the true value of the camera, and the f5 is a way to create a lower entry point into the model from already established parts and technology. The lower mode is probably scuppered because the f55 sales are important for Sony to recoup the development costs and a fully functioning F5 would effectively be selling the camera at a loss?

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Sony ALWAYS does bullshit like this. They are very anti customer. They always have to lure you in but them limit some key feature for no apparent reason besides greed.

you are confusing canon with sony, sony releases 500$ cameras with 60p30p24p, zebras and a ton of other video features while your cheap canon rebel and even the 70D are limited to 30p/24p and lacking in video features. 

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F5 owners will be upset that they had a camera all along that could shoot 4K and they have been shooting 1080p for budgetary reasons unnessessarily.


The F5 shoots 2k internally. I shot on it yesterday at 100fps @ 2k. I regularly shoot Alexa @ 2k.
I shoot 4k/5k on RED because I don't want to window my sensor.
The commercial yesterday was for cinema release. I have no issue not shooting 4k. There are times when it is helpful, but it is rare that it is necessary, and also rare that you would shoot <4k simply because you couldn't afford a 4k camera - there's the 4K Blackmagic camera ready for you at 1/3rd the price, if that's the only thing you need. If 4k was the only thing people were worried about, no-one would have bought the F5 in favour of the Blackmagic Production Cam.
 

Equally in the case of F55 owners, who paid an extra $12,000 mainly for 4K, only for it to appear for free due to a text file change on the $12k cheaper model - that's annoying. There's no other way to describe it.

The F55 contains other hardware improvements, which would be the main deciding factor for anyone deciding between the two - the global shutter, sensor circuitry, improved colour gamut etc.
There's no way that F55 owners bought that camera over the F5 purely for 4k. 4k may have been one of the deciding factors in some cases, but Scarlets shoot 4k for the same price as an F5. So there are few circumstances where the price of an F55 is justified over a Scarlet purely for 4k capture. I think you'd find most F55 owners bought the camera based on more than just the ability to shoot 4k internally (especially considering you can shoot 4k raw with the addition of the external recorder - which is <1/2 the price difference between F5 and F55; if you really wanted 4k, just grab the recorder).

 

Customers lose out from this kind of strategy. Canon could and should have put 4K on the 1D X but they disabled it in software, denying a whole host of talents access to it due to price reasons.

A good majority of feature films are still released in 2k. If the quality of your Cinematography is based purely on the resolution of the camera you're shooting on, I've got bad news for you.

 

Also, when we go right into it, how do we know for example that Scarlets aren't just "software disabled" Epics?

That's exactly what Scarlets are. The difference being the release cycle. Sony's potential failing was releasing both cameras at the same time. With RED, the Epic was out and everyone saw the kinds of things it could do. Then, the Scarlet was released - an 'affordable epic' if you may.
With Sony, releasing both at the same time meant that the F55 became an 'expensive F5' rather than the other way around (a la RED).
Realistically, at least the F55 has improved colour, global shutter etc. to somewhat warrant the price difference.
The difference between the Epic and Scarlet is 4k @ up to 48fps vs 5k @ up to 120fps, respectively. That's really it. We're not even talking 2k vs 4k - it's 4k vs 5k for the ~$15,000+ price difference.
 

i know if I owned one of these cameras I would not update the firmware after modding this. Watch rental houses buy up the rest of the stock with the current firmware.

If you're happy shooting XAVC vs shooting ProRes and DNxHD, then be my guest. Personally, I'd take ProRes 2k over XAVC 4k any day (the Alexa only shoots 2k ProRes internally, btw), and I'd be surprised if there were many rental houses that would forego the ability to shoot ProRes/DNxHD to keep the 4k internal option (that you can't even playback). Also, it's rare for any rental house to send out 'hacked' cameras - and regardless of what this actually is, the fact that it may void a warranty will be enough for the majority of the rental houses to stay right away from it.
 
 

Buying a $29,000 camera in these fast moving times is just asking to get whacked with $10,000 worth of depreciation in short order.  Think about it.  Magic lantern, Blackmagic, GH4, and now this.  If you invest $29,000 in a camera body you need to be working and making a lot of $$$ from it day in and day out, because three or four years out the depreciation is going to be fierce.  Think about where we were three years ago.  Magic Lantern only appeared about five years ago.  And continous raw only appeared on the 5D MK III, what, last year?  Resolve lite appeared when?  I was checking out field monitors and it appears the features have been increasing exponentially and the price coming down.  I really wonder what a field monitor with histogram cost 4 years ago.

 This is exactly right. The only time you should invest in a camera is if you have enough work lined up in the following 18 months to be able to pay it off (and that you know you're going to be able to book your camera on). After that, it's not worth it.
 

Not really. The consumer, prosumer and lower end professional markets are very different to the high-end line. As slower pace is forced so that a certain type of clients may take full advantage of the investment while the manufacturer squeezes the product cycle to the last dollar.
 
Those who early-adopted the Alexa in 2010 still have a camera widely considered to be the best available. It has been upgraded and looked after. Arri has released new models that complement it without making it obsolete.

This is a dangerous comment. It entirely depends on your market. In some markets, those who early-adopted the Alexa have a camera that will still rent strong. In other markets, those who early adopted the Alexa went from renting their cameras out at top-dollar, to marking them down 30-40% to compete with the Alexa XT, Alexa Studio, Alexa Plus etc. rentals.

 

Also, all these firmware differences are actually marketed as hardware differences, so it is a little bit misleading in my view. When you buy a piece of software you know you are buying software and you know that a lite version costs money to unlock the full potential of.
 
If the people who bought the 1D C and F55 knew that they were actually buying almost identical hardware that was for sale at $12k or $6k less, only differentiated by firmware, would they accept it quite so readily?

 Everyone did know that. That being said, the F5 and F55 do have minor hardware differences, but Sony never even pretended that the hardware was wildly different. Anyone who wasn't aware that the ability to shoot 4k internally on the F5 was simply a matter of software limitation hasn't hung around high-end cameras enough. The Alexa's high-speed license is a 37kb encrypted zip file that you pay ~$4,000 for and put on an SD card. It's purely software. But that's how these companies work. There's not one that doesn't work in a similar way. Really the only difference here is that Sony hasn't put as much effort into encrypting that part of the software. Arri's Amira pricing structure is practically identical as well, the only difference being that they're all called an Amira. Even Blackmagic pulled the same card with the Cinema Cam and Production Cam.
 

Canon is clearly dragging it's feet and protecting it's higher models. I don't know of anyone that is filming seriously that uses the 7D over a bmpcc. I don't know of anyone who is going out and buying a new 7D body for video. And as far as stills you seem to forget mere months after Canon juiced a bunch of people for their cash they introduced a bargain basement Rebel with the exact same image quality.


And yet, Canon has sold so many C300s. You forget that SLRs have always been primarily about photography. Canon has always had a pro video line. It makes absolutely zero sense to cannabalize their pro video line in order to sell cheap, feature-rich SLRs. People are still buying 7Ds, they're still buying Rebels, they're still buying 5Ds. And they're buying C300s.

Digital video cameras have had wild markups based on minor hardware and software difference for as long as I can remember.
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I have never heard anyone describe Canon's slothfulness as a virtue. Comparing Canon to Alexa is a joke. Alexa is already the pinnacle of image quality. Where as Canon is getting it's butt handed to it by companies that didn't even sell cameras a few years ago. Canon is clearly dragging it's feet and protecting it's higher models. I don't know of anyone that is filming seriously that uses the 7D over a bmpcc. I don't know of anyone who is going out and buying a new 7D body for video. And as far as stills you seem to forget mere months after Canon juiced a bunch of people for their cash they introduced a bargain basement Rebel with the exact same image quality.

The Alexa analogy is interesting but clearly it is not the only model being followed in this industry.

 

I never said anything about buying a 7D for video. I merely compared how top of the line product cycles are longer. A canon 1DX could be comparable in stills to an Alexa in digital movie cameras. True, the 6.000 $ investment is far from an Alexa or F55, but for a photographer it means buying top gear at top price (I know medium format cameras are way more expensive, but they are "niche" and not used by most photographers, just like there are specialised cameras more expensive than an Alexa).

 

This is a dangerous comment. It entirely depends on your market. In some markets, those who early-adopted the Alexa have a camera that will still rent strong. In other markets, those who early adopted the Alexa went from renting their cameras out at top-dollar, to marking them down 30-40% to compete with the Alexa XT, Alexa Studio, Alexa Plus etc. rentals.

 

Dangerous? Why? The Alexa is a 4 year old camera that still holds its place and is far from being obsolete... and the mark down in movie camera rentals did not come with the Alexa, but long before with the RED One. A 35mm Arri camera could cost up to 350.000 $ and was a standard rental for film and commercials until RED came along and released a digital movie camera for around 60.000 $, which was the price of a Betacam camera in the early 90's. 

Arri has a tendency/policy not to innovate, not to release a product to be the first of its kind. They wait until there are several digital film cameras and they become common use to release THE camera, the one that is not a breakthrough but does everything right and is guaranteed to work as expected. They've done the same with LED lights.

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I never said anything about buying a 7D for video. I merely compared how top of the line product cycles are longer.


I addressed BOTH the stills and video sides of the equation. And the point you made was Canon's slothfulness was to protect the value of the cameras for early pro adopters. I merely pointed out that's not true because a few months after the 7D hit at premium prices Canon was out peddling the same sensor to the masses in their bargain basement Rebel line. Go back and read the photography forums. I don't think you will find too many pro photographers that think Canon's moves were designed to protect their investment.

Canon is definitely protecting THEIR profits in the Cinema line of cameras, which is neither good or bad. It's just a straight forward business decision. But to say they are protecting YOUR investment in the 7D by taking forever to update it is demonstrably false as the press pointed out numerous times when the T2i hit the market...
 

For example, if you primarily shoot in the studio, there would be no benefit to spending the extra $900 on the 7D, especially for product photography. Since they use the same sensor, the image quality will be identical.

 
http://www.lightandmatter.org/2010/equipment-reviews/canon-7d-vs-canon-rebel-t2i-half-the-price-half-the-camera/
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Sony issued an official response:

All,
 
Sony is aware of the All File modification that was done by some F5 owners to enable 4K XAVC recording in the camera head. As a matter of policy Sony cannot approve any modifications that are not part of an official firmware release. All firmware updates from Sony come with quality assurances that guarantee high quality performance. Furthermore, unauthorized modifications to the product are not covered by, and may void, Sony 's product warranty. 
 
Regards
 
___________________________

-Basically:
We are aware of what happenned
We will not take legal or practical action against it, so do it if you want at the risk of losing your warranty.

Identical to Canon's response to Magiclantern: ignore it and state that it "might" void the warranty of they wanted to.

 

Another solution is coming: apertus° launch a crowdfunding campaign for an open source & free video camera

apertus° has launched a crowdfunding campaign today for the AXIOM Beta, the first free & open digital 4K cinema camera.

Link is here:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/axiom-beta-the-first-open-digital-cinema-camera/x/8611015

And you will find more informations on the web site: https://www.apertus.org/

 

No more problem then on upgrading or hacking himself the camera, as it is open definitively and all inside details are published and accessible for free!

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