Sony FX9 Sensor Scan Modes Explained
Sony Fx9 Sensor Scan Modes.png

Compared to the Sony FS7, the FX9 not only has a new larger sensor, but can also record with different sensor scan modes. This gives a lot of flexibility when you know when and how to use them.

At the time of release (see our article, review and lab test), the FX9 was limited in resolutions and recording modes. Sony announced shortly after the release that there would be firmware updates that would bring missing features. With the introduction of firmware version 2.0, the FX9 has become even more versatile and offers you more options for using the camera in various production environments.

Overview of the sensor scan modes

The Sony FX9 has a 35mm full frame sensor measuring 35.7mm x 18.8mm. Although the camera has a 6K sensor, the maximum output and recording resolution is 4K DCI. This can be confusing when you see the sensor scan modes available:

  • FF 6K
  • FFcrop 5K
  • S35 4K
  • FF 2K
  • S35 2K

The resolution specified in the sensor scan modes always relates to the sensor resolution used, not to the recording resolution.

Scan modes for Sony FX9 sensors. Source: Sony

FF 6K

If the FF 6K scan mode is selected, the FX9 will capture the entire 6K image and reduce it to 4K. The maximum recording area is achieved by recording 4K DCI (4096 x 2160) as the FX9 sensor has a native aspect ratio of 17: 9. When recording 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) you simply get a lower horizontal resolution. Since this method requires processing power, the maximum frame rate you can record in FF 6K scan mode is 30p.

Sony FX9 full frame sensor dimensions Sony FX9 full frame sensor dimensions. Source: Sony

FFcrop 5K

If you want to record more than 30p in 4K, you can switch the sensor scan mode to FFcrop 5K, which was introduced in firmware 2.0. When using this sensor scan mode, you will lose some captured image areas, but you can capture up to 60 frames per second.

Sony FX9 FF 6K vs FF Crop 5K sensor scan modes Sony FX9 FF 6K vs FF Crop 5K sensor scan modes. Source: Sony

This smaller image area means a reduced field of view (about 1.25 times smaller) from your full screen lens, but it might be enough to crop you up to get full coverage from many (older) cinema lenses that only covered Super 35mm see had larger image circles than S35.

Angenieux has many lenses that show vignetting with full-frame sensors. However, if you lower the resolution (just like you do with RED cameras), you get impeccable coverage, just like the Fujinon MK zoom lenses. Although the sensor scan mode is called FFcrop 5K, the maximum resolution is 4K.

Image area comparison FF 6K and FFcrop 5K.Image area comparison FF 6K and FFcrop 5K. Source: Sony

S35 4K

Compared to the FF 6K sensor scan mode, the S35 4K mode offers a similar field of view as when using the FS7 in 4K mode (1.5 times cropping, if you will).

This is the desired recording mode when adapting FX9 recording to FS7 and other S35 cameras. As the name suggests, this sensor scan mode results in a 1: 1 sensor display for 4K recordings (4K DCI and UHD).

FF 2K & S35 2K

According to the naming scheme, FF 2K takes the entire sensor width and scans the image down to 2K (2K and HD). S35 2K does the same thing but with the S35mm Sensor Crop. Sony mentions that the picture quality will suffer compared to the 6K / 5K / 4K modes. If you want to record in S-Log 3, Sony recommends exposing the image in 2K scan mode between 1 and 2 f-stops brighter than the base.

Unfortunately, there was no mention of S16 shooting modes, so you can use broadcast zoom lenses that offer large zoom ratios in very compact form factors. This would be another welcome option, especially since the FS7 has this popular sensor scan mode.

Sony FX9 recording modes visualized Sony FX9 recording modes visualized. Source: Sony

In summary, here is a handy overview of the frame rate:

Sony FX9 frame rate options Sony FX9 frame rate options. Source: Sony

If you are interested in an even more detailed view of the possible recording modes, frame rates and available recording times, you can visit this knowledge base, which also provides information about the lens coverage of a wide variety of lenses: https://brains.florianmilz.com/ucdb / sony / fx9.

The latest firmware and manual for Sony FX9 can be downloaded from:
https://pro.sony/ue_US/support-resources/pxw-fx9/software

Link: sonycine.com

Have you used or even owned the FX9? What are your preferred scan modes? Do you have anymore questions? Ask us all of your questions about the FX9 in the comments section below.

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