The Sony PXW-FX9, more commonly known as the Sony FX9, is a full-frame video camera that provides exceptional value to serious but budget-conscious videographers. Despite being priced at around SGD 14,800 (body only), this is the cheapest full-frame cinema camera you can buy that provides everything you need to create extraordinary films worthy of being exhibited on the big screen.
Before Getting Into Detail, Let’s Talk About FS7 for a Moment
Sony is an enormous technology brand that understands what filmmakers need, and the success of its FS7 camera is proof of that. But as time and technology continue to progress — so will the demands.
Today, if you want to become a successful cinematographer, you will need a full-frame sensor with high ISO performance and shallow depth of field. You also need a highly customizable AF (autofocus) system that uses phase detection and a camera that can live-stream without the need for several third-party applications to work.
With these demands, Sony has come up with something innovative: the FX9!
Sony FX9 Overview
What Is the Sony FX9 (Sony PXW-FX9)?
With an ergonomic chassis, step-less built-in ND filters, reliable battery life, and professional connections (SDI and XLR audio inputs), the Sony FX9 is a super-advanced version of the FS7. It also uses the backside-illuminated full-frame sensor and the Alpha mirrorless cameras’ innovating hybrid autofocus system.
Expensive features from the upmarket Venice cinema camera, Sony also added Dual Base ISO 800/4000 and S-Cinetone color science for incredible noise control. In essence, the Sony FX9 is a fusion of all the best things in photography and videography.
Sony FX9 Highlights
The Sony FX9 is a cinema camera (full-size) that records in 4K rather than 6K or even 8K like its mirrorless competitors. However, Sony claims that using a 6K sensor and downsampling the signal gives the best sensitivity, noise, and dynamic range of over 15 stops. You can also use those pixels for advanced on-sensor phase detection autofocus.
For mainstream 4K cameras available in the market, their typical 4K sensor produces a resolution of around 3K. The FX9 creates video files that are true 4K in resolution and detail, making it an officially approved Netflix camera for indie film creators.
How Does the Sony FX9 Shoot?
To shoot in C4K, 4:2:2 10-bit XAVC-I at 600Mbps, the Sony FX9 uses a new 24.5-megapixel 6006×4949 sensor. There’s also Long GOP XAVC-L in 8-bit 4:2:0 at 150Mbps and MPEG 8-bit 4:2:2. With this camera, you can choose from so many codec options.
With a small crop, you can quickly record up to DCI 4K internally at 30p. 120fps or 180fps in 2K full-frame or 120fps with a Super35 crop. Moreover, the XDCA-FX9 can record up to 180fps in 4K full-frame or 120fps in 4K.
There is one caveat, however. Using the camera’s S&Q mode for slow or fast motion capture disables autofocus. To get the most out of this challenge, you have to change the base set to 50p or 60p and then slow it down in post-production to get half-speed slow motion. Any faster than that, and you’re out of luck with the AF.
Sony FX9 Dual Base ISO System
This new system changes how the sensor gathers light and the dynamic range spread. The ISO 800 has the same number of stops above and below mid-grey for capturing highlights and shadows.
Its base ISO 4000 is five stops above mid-gray. It is also ten stops below mid-gray, perfect for retaining more shadow detail in low light. So even if the ISO is the same, the sensor responds differently.
The noise in the shadows is worse with base ISO 800 and actual-ISO 1600 than with base ISO 4000 and actual-ISO 2500. In bright light, use low base ISO 800, and if you need to go over 1600, use high base ISO 4000. However, the base ISO varies with gamma. To avoid confusion, change the ISO mode to Gain. So 0dB is running at base ISO in all color settings.
The FX9 can shoot XAVC-I files at up to 60p while recording a proxy in Mpeg 422 HD. To record 10-bit ProRes externally, you can bake in a LUT and output it over 12G-SDI in 4K/60p 4:2:2 10-bit. With this setup, your camera now has an intervalometer.
There’s also a picture cache recording function that records before pressing the Rec button. It’s ideal for wildlife, where you can’t predict animal movements. There is up to 28 seconds of pre-recorded time in HD and 4 seconds in 4K. Without anamorphic de-squeeze, you can use anamorphic lenses and see the results on the correct external monitor.
Sony FX9 Performance
The FX9 shines at high ISO performance, thanks to its full-frame sensor that produces detailed, low-noise images. It also works without any issue when you underexpose and then adjust exposure in post-production.
Sony FX9 Color Options:
Custom Color Setting
With Custom, you have a regular video camera with standard colors and Venice’s S-Cinetone color technology. This option strikes a good balance between traditional colors and cinematic effects. Plus, it has more highlight detail and better skin tones, and it’s a ready-to-use feature out of the box.
CineEI Color Setting
With CineEI, you get the most detail out of the file for post-production color correction and grading. Instead of using ISO or Gain, you use EI ratings. EI allows you to change the effective ISO without changing the dynamic range. Here, you can also change the white balance and tint of the image.
Custom mode produces cleaner high-ISO files than Cine EI and also benefits from noise reduction. However, in both CineEI and Custom modes, the FX9 supports HG for HDR workflow and S-Log3.
S-Log3 offers the most dynamic range. If you have a lot of free time and the skills to color grade, this feature provides slightly more realistic skin tones and vivid colors. It’s the best setting for the highest level of control and quality.
Sony FX9 Handling Experience
Sony has improved the FX9 based on the flaws of the FS7. The FX9 has a solid all-metal body, making it more durable compared to other cinema cameras on the market. It has a locking E-mount system for a quicker lens-fitting process too.
The FX9 has a memory card compartment with two XQD card slots and an extra compartment for an SD card for proxies or loading settings. There are ten user-programmable buttons. All auto mode buttons now have LED lights to indicate they are active, perfect for shooting in the dark.
For the main menu scroll wheel, Sony has replaced it with a touchpad system on the camera’s left side. The FX9 camera has a large multi-function knob, allowing for faster navigation. And it has a new 720p viewfinder, offering better contrast and color.
This camera also comes with a MI shoe that connects to Sony accessories, including the latest digital audio system. It is a new attractive inclusion as the shoe allows you to connect Sony’s wireless audio systems to the camera. You don’t need any cables to make this setup work, and the camera’s battery is powerful enough to power the wireless audio system.
Other than the ones mentioned above, the FX9 is the first full-frame camera that utilizes Sony’s Electronic Variable ND filter. The auto ND is also readily available, which allows you to adjust the ND while keeping the shutter speed and aperture constant.
Sony’s New Advanced AF System
Sony’s advanced autofocus system employs 561 points across 94% of the imaging area’s width and 96% of its height in the FX9. As with Sony’s A7-series mirrorless cameras, you can customize the AF transition speed and sensitivity of AF subject shots with this system. You can focus in a variety of ways depending on your preference and needs.
There are toggle switches for repositioning these areas, but there is no touchscreen with a touch-to-focus feature. Face and Eye Detection, as well as Face Priority, are available as well. The FX9, when it comes to manual focus, offers new tools like a 3x and 6x punch-in focus magnifier and fully customizable focus peaking.
The FX9 uses an in-camera gyroscope for image stabilization, which records metadata for each shot and removes any wobbles in post-production. Sony’s Catalyst Browse/Prepare software lets you control how much image stabilization the camera uses. Lenses from Sony that have image stabilization are an option as well.
Sony’s Content Browser Mobile lets you operate the FX9 from your smartphone via WiFi. Uploading files to FTP or low-resolution proxy footage for use in news broadcasts can both be done over WiFi if desired. An ethernet port is available for wired streaming and FTP file transfers.
Upgrading From the A7S III or FS7: Is It Worth It?
In any case, SGD 14,800 is a significant investment if you’re considering an upgrade to increase your chances of landing new paid projects. You should stick with the A7 III if it’s working for you and your company.
If you want to work in broadcast or narrative film, a camera will not get you there by itself. You should schedule work, locate clients, and position yourself as a valuable asset that will only take time. You should do this before you start spending money on new equipment to attract new customers.
Establish contacts with other camera owners and rental companies. Speak with your clients and find out what kind of equipment they’re using to film with, then invest in those cameras. Finally, consider purchasing a used FS7 – it is still one of the most popular cameras today.
But if you’re looking for the best one today for its incredible value, the Sony FX9 won’t let you down, and it’ll likely be just as good an investment as the FS7 was in 2014.
The FX9 is the camera that most independent filmmakers like yourself will be looking at, thanks to its huge new sensor, unbelievable autofocus, and stunning image quality. The FX9 is a natural upgrade to the FS7 Mark II despite Sony’s claim that it does not replace it.
The image quality, color, HDR spec, and high ISO performance from the back-illuminated Exmor R sensor are but a few of what the FX9 brings to the table.
The Sony FX9 is a perfect live streaming camera, as well as a documentary or cinema camera. And it’s easier to work with thanks to the new autofocus system’s superior options and performance.
It’s less expensive than the Canon C500, but it doesn’t have internal Raw recording. Only the most discerning pixel-peepers would demand Raw with the superbly sharp C4K footage in high bit rates and color depth.
Sony FX9 Specs
|Imaging Device (Type)||35 mm full-frame, single-chip CMOS image sensor|
|Imaging Device (Pixel Count)||20.5 M pixels (Total)|
|Built-in Optical Filters||Clear, linear variable ND (1/4ND to 1/128ND)|
|ISO Sensitivity||ISO 800/4000 (Cine EI mode, D55 Light source)|
|S/N Ratio||57 dB (Y) (typical)|
|Shutter Speed||64F to 1/8000 sec|
|Slow and Quick Motion Function||FF 6K mode:
3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080
1 to 30 frames (29.97/25/23.98)
S35 4K mode:
3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080
1 to 60 frames (59.94p, 50p, 29.97/25/23.98)
FF 2K, S35 2K mode:
1920 x 1080
1 to 60, 100, 120 frames (59.94p, 50p, 29.97/25/23.98)
|White Balance||Preset, Memory A, Memory B (2000K-15000K)/ATW|
|Gain||-3 to 18dB (every 1dB), AGC|
|Gamma Curve||S-Cinetone, STD1, STD2, STD3, STD4, STD5, STD6, HG1, HG2, HG3, HG4, HG7, HG8, S-Log3|
|Audio Input||XLR-type 3-pin (female) (x2), line/mic/mic +48 V selectable
Mic Reference: -30 to -80 dBu”
|SDI Output||SDI OUT1: BNC, 12G-SDI, 3G-SDI (Level A/B), HD-SDI
SDI OUT2: BNC, 3G-SDI (Level A/B), HD-SDI
|USB||USB, micro-B (x1)|
|Headphone Output||Stereo mini jack (x1) -16 dBu 16|
|DC Input||DC jack|
|Remote||Stereo mini-minijack (2.5 mm)|
|HDMI Output||Type A (x1)|
|LCD||8.8 cm (3.5 type) Approx. 2.76 M dots|
|Built-in Microphone||Omni-directional monoral electret condenser microphone|
|Type||XQD Card slot (x2)
SD/MS Card slot (x1) for saving configuration data
SD card slot also can be used for proxy video recording
|Supported Format||IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Frequency Band||2.4 GHz bandwidth 5.2/5.3/5.6/5.8 GHz bandwidth*
* Depending on country/regional regulation
|NFC||NFC Forum Type 3 Tag compliant|
|Mass||Approx 2.0 kg (body only)
Approx. 4.8 kg (with Viewfinder, Eyepiece, Grip Remote Control, BP-U35 battery, SELP28135G LENS, an XQD memory card, Handle, MIC holder)
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||146 x 142.5 x 229 mm (body without protrusions)|
|Power Requirements||DC 19.5V|
|Power Consumption||Approx. 35.2 W (while recording XAVC-I QFHD 59.94p, SELP28135G Lens, Viewfinder ON, not using external device)|
|Battery Operating Time||Approx. 54min. with BP-U35 battery
(while recording XAVC-I QFHD 59.94p, SELP28135G Lens, Viewfinder ON, not using external device)
Approx. 108min. with BP-U70 battery
(while recording XAVC-I QFHD 59.94p, SELP28135G Lens, Viewfinder ON, not using external device)