The Sony PXW-FX9, or the Sony FX9, for short, is a serious full-frame video camera that, despite its price, offers great value for serious videographers. Sony, of course, knows a lot about what serious filmmakers need – as proven by the popularity of its FS7 camera that has been a smash hit since its launch. It’s been the mainstay of many independent production companies all over the world, thanks to its Super35mm sensor, fast frame rates and great image quality. But time and technology have moved on, and the most discerning cinematographers now want a full-frame sensor ideal for high ISO performance and shallow depth of field, along with a useable AF system that uses phase-detection and is hugely customizable. Live streaming is also far more important than ever, and for those who want to grade the footage to within an inch of its life, internal Raw recording is the way to go.

Sony’s answer is to make a super-advanced version of the FS7 with its stepless built-in ND filters, long battery life, professional connections such as SDI and XLR audio inputs and great ergonomics. Then use a backside-illuminated, full-frame sensor and the super-advanced hybrid autofocus program from the Alpha mirrorless cameras.

Sony’s answer is to make a super-advanced version of the FS7 with its stepless built-in ND filters, long battery life, professional connections such as SDI and XLR audio inputs and great ergonomics. Then use a backside-illuminated, full-frame sensor and the super-advanced hybrid autofocus program from the Alpha mirrorless cameras.

For even better control of noise, Sony added Dual Base ISO 800/4000 and S-Cinetone colour science from the upmarket Venice cinema camera which costs around three times as much. For a body-only price of $10,998 body only, the FX9 is not on sale at bargain-basement prices but it is the cheapest full-frame cinema camera on the market.

Sony PXW-FX9: Price

Sony PXW-FX9 XDCAM Full-Frame Camera System,...
  • 4K capturing with oversampled 6K Full-frame Exmore R sensor
  • 15+ Stops dynamic Range

Specifications

  • ISO: Dual Base ISO 800/4000 
  • Dynamic Range: 15+ stops 
  • Autofocus: Hybrid AF; 561 phase-detection points covering 94% of the sensor. one-shot, continuous, face priority, eye tracking
  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Controls: Peaking, waveform, zebras, focus assist
  • Shutter speed: 1sec – 1/8000sec
  • Filters: Stepless variable ND 1.4 – 1/128
  • Memory card: 2 x XQD slots, 1x SD data slot
  • Size: 146×142.5x29mm
  • Weight: 2kg (body only)

Sony PXW-FX9: In-depth Specifications

  • Sensor: 20.5-megapixel full-frame Exmor R backside-illuminated CMOS 
  • Video formats: 4096×2160 C4K, 3840×2160 4K, 2048×1080 2K, 1920×1080 FHD, 1280×720 HD. Codecs: XAVC-I 10-bit 4:2:2 600Mbps, XAVC-L, 8-bit 4:2:0 150Mbps, MPEG 8-bit 4:2:2, 16-bit Raw via XDCA-FX9 and external recorder 
  • Frame Rates: 59.94/50/ 29/.97/ 25/ 23.98fps for C4K, 4K, HD. 120fps/180fps HD and 4K/ 120fps (external)
  • Gamma curves: S-Cinetone, Std, HLG, S-Log3
  • ISO: Dual Base ISO 800/4000 
  • Dynamic Range: 15+ stops 
  • Autofocus: Hybrid AF; 561 phase-detection points covering 94% of the sensor. one-shot, continuous, face priority, eye tracking
  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Controls: Peaking, waveform, zebras, focus assist
  • Shutter speed: 1sec – 1/8000sec
  • Filters: Stepless variable ND 1.4 – 1/128
  • Memory card: 2 x XQD slots, 1x SD data slot
  • LCD: Fully articulating 3.5in LCD, 2.76 million dots
    Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BNC 12G-SDI, BNC 3G-SDI, HDMI-A
  • Size: 146×142.5x29mm
  • Weight: 2kg (body only)

Sony PXW-FX9: Key Features

The Sony FX9 is a full-size cine camera that may seem lacking in resolution compared to even its mirrorless rivals as it only records in 4K rather than 5.9K or even 8K. But Sony claims the way to get the best 4K is to use a 6K sensor, then downsampling the signal which gives the best sensitivity, noise and dynamic range of more than 15 stops. And it also means some of the pixels can be used for the advanced on-sensor phase detection autofocus.

On a typical 4K sensor, when the signal is processed by the camera it actually gives resolution approximately equivalent to 3K – even though the file size is 4K. The FX9 quality and size is true 4K, and it produces far cleaner and more detailed files.

The FX9 uses a new, 6006×4949 24.5-megapixels 6K HDR sensor which records internally in up to C4K, 4:2:2 10-bit in XAVC-I at 600Mbps. There’s also the more compressed Long GOP XAVC-L in 8-bit 4:2:0 at 150Mbps for a smaller file size, and MPEG 8-bit 4:2:2. So you have a lot of choices of codecs to suit your project.

The camera can record around DCI 4K internally at up to 30p full frame or 60p with a small crop. And super slow motion of 120fps or 180fps is in 2K full-frame or 120fps with a Super35 crop. When recorded externally via Raw to the XDCA-FX9 unit, it can output around 180fps in 4K full-frame or 120fps in 4K or HD with a Super35 crop.

But if you use the camera’s S&Q mode for slow or fast motion capture, the camera loses all autofocus functions. One way around this is to change to 50p or 60p as your base setting, and slow it down in post to get half-speed slow movement. And any faster frame rates than that and you’re out of luck in terms of AF. This is a shame as the Sony A7S III offers 240fps in HD or 120fps in 4K with complete AF.
The new sensor uses the Dual Base ISO system which changes how the sensor gathers light and also the spread of dynamic range. If you use the low base ISO 800, there are the same number of stops of range above and below mid-grey to capture highlights and shadows. When you switch to the high foundation ISO of 4000 to use in low light, you can find five stops above mid grey and tens tops below to retain even more shadow detail. So the sensor responds differently in each of the bottom ISO settings, even if the ISO you have set is the same.

So in base ISO 800 after that actual shooting ISO 1600, the noise within the shadow areas is worse than if you set base ISO 4000 and actual ISO of 2500. So it’s best to set the reduced base ISO 800 for bright lighting, then if you need to go over 1600 then change to high base ISO 4000.

However, the base ISO changes at different gamma configurations. One way to avoid confusion is to switch the ISO setting to Gain instead. So in whichever colour settings you use, 0dB is running at foundation ISO.

The FX9 allows you to shoot XAVC-I files at up to 60p while making a proxy recording in Mpeg 422 HD, so you can edit the proxy then replace with the XAVC files at the end of the project. You can also bake in a LUT and output it over the 12G-SDI in 4K/60p 4:2:2 10-bit which allows you to record 10-bit ProRes externally to a suitable recorder. And the camera now has a built-in intervalometer.

And there’s a picture cache recording function, where the camera will report before the Rec button is hit. It’s ideal for wildlife when you can’t predict when an animal will move, for example. The amount of time pre-recorded varies due to the settings but is around 28 seconds for HD and 4 mere seconds in 4K. Unfortunately, there is no built-in anamorphic de-squeeze but you can use anamorphic lenses and see results with the right external monitor.

Sony PXW-FX9: Build and handling 

Sony has taken what is has learned from the FS7 and made key changes to the FX9. With a solid all-metal body and the locking E-mount system where you don’t have to twist the lens when you fit it, the FX9 is sturdy and reliable. Also improved is the weatherproofing and latch for the memory card compartment, which has two XQD card slots and an SD card for proxies or loading up settings.

There are ten user-settable buttons to program in you most-used settings. All the buttons with auto modes now have LED lights which let you know they’ve been activated.

The main menu scroll wheel has been replaced by a touchpad system on the left side of the camera which is simple but a bit too easy to click at the wrong time. There is a large multi-function knob at the front of the camera for scrolling through and setting menu items.

The viewfinder is all new, and has higher resolution of 720p, with improved contrast and colour. And the digital camera has the Sony MI shoe which communicates with Sony accessories, including the new digital audio system. This is a big selling point as the shoe allows you to match Sony’s whole range of wireless audio systems which communicate perfectly with the camera. You can find no external cables needed, and the cellular unit can be powered directly from the digital camera battery.

The FX9 may be the first full-frame camera to use Sony’s Electronic Variable ND filter which you can switch between stepped ND stops or variable ND. You can also use auto ND, which uses the camera’s car exposure to tweak the ND, while allowing you to keep your shutter speed and aperture constant.

The FX9 uses Sony’s advanced AF system that uses 561 points across 94% of the width and 96% height of the imaging area. This is a very advanced system that is similar to the A7-series Sony mirrorless cameras so you can set AF transition velocity and AF subject shot sensitivity. Then there’s the focus area, from a wide to tight, and flexible spot for the most precision. You move these areas around using a toggle switch but there is no touch-to-focus touchscreen.

There is also Face and Eye Detection, and Face Priority. For manual focus, where the FX9 has improved focus tools such as a 3x and 6x punch-in concentrate magnifier and focus peaking which is fully customizable.

The FX9 has in-camera image stabilization using a built-in gyroscope that records metadata for every shot, then post production takes out any wobbles. You can set how much image stabilization you want but you have to use Sony’s Catalyst Browse/Prepare software to do it. Or alternatively, stabilized Sony lenses are the way to go.

The FX9 has built-in WiFi and can be controlled with a smartphone using Sony’s Content Browser Mobile. The WiFi can also be used to upload files to FTP or low-res proxy footage for news broadcast make use of. There’s also an ethernet port for wired streaming or FTP transfer of files.

The FX9 allows you to change the shutter speed to shutter angle and leave it at 180 degrees, then the shutter velocity will always be double the frame rate. Anything to avoid digging into the Sony menus which have been simplified, with many of the commonly used settings grouped together. But they are still complicated compared to rivals or even the new Sony A7S III.

Sony PXW-FX9: Performance

Thanks to the full frame sensor producing incredibly detailed, low-noise images, the FX9 is astonishing in terms of high ISO performance. It’s even very good at when you underexpose then dial up exposure in post. It’s a great sensor.

In terms of color, when you start using the FX9 you are faced with two different modes – Custom or CineEI. In Custom made, it’s a regular video camera with standard colors and also S-Cinetone color technology borrowed from the Venice. This offers a good balance between standard colors and something more cinematic. This has better skin tones and retains more highlight detail. It’s useable right out of camera.

In CineEI, you get the maximum detail from the file for colour correction and grading in post. You use EI ratings rather than ISO or Gain, and it allows you to change the effective ISO without altering dynamic range. You can also set a specific white balance and tint. Overall, Custom mode gives cleaner high-ISO files than Cine EI which benefit from some noise reduction.

The FX9 also offers HG for HDR workflow and S-Log3, in both CineEI and Custom modes. If you have the time and skills to grade it, S-Log3 offers the most powerful range and slightly more realistic pores and skin tones, with beautiful colours. It’s the best setting for the ultimate in control and quality, but S-Cinetone is not far behind at all.

Sony PXW-FX9: Verdict

If you love the form factor and usability of a real cinema camera for shooting video but have stuck with mirrorless due to the full-frame sensors and advanced AF, then Sony now has the camera for you. The FX9 has all the professional controls of a genuine video camera such as XLR audio inputs and large battery life and adds in a full-frame sensor and hybrid AF from the Alpha mirrorless series. It also mixes in the glorious colour science of Sony’s high-end Venice motion picture digital camera and a dual native ISO sensor for amazing low light performance. Although it has a 6K sensor, the FX9 down-samples this signal to C4K and does not offer internal Raw recording, unlike its 5.9K rival, the full-framework Canon EOS C500 Mark II. But the FX9 is significantly cheaper, and unlike the Canon offers 180fps for super slow-motion, albeit in HD only. But if you are looking to move up to a full-frame cinema camera from a Super35mm camcorder, or want the user-friendly features that a mirrorless digital camera can never offer, the Sony FX9 is a stunning performer. It might be $10,998 body just, but is the cheapest full-body cinema camera you can buy.

Check Out Sony PXW-FX9 Price

Sony PXW-FX9 XDCAM Full-Frame Camera System,...
  • 4K capturing with oversampled 6K Full-frame Exmore R sensor
  • 15+ Stops dynamic Range

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