It may have taken much longer than originally foreseen, but Sony finally announced the highly anticipated addition to its CineAlta series — The Venice.
First things first: what an interesting name “Venice” is. It’s pretty plain to me that this new name is in an effort to distance, or rather to differentiate, the Venice from other cameras in the Sony line. And why not? The Venice features a variety of options and design choices that place it in a different stratosphere than the other cameras in the Sony Cinema line.
The biggest deal — the thing that’s going to sell the Venice to eager Sony shooters — is the addition of an entirely new 36mm x 24mm full-frame sensor capable of shooting 6K (16-bit) raw or, if you’re feeling less crazy, 10-bit 4L via XAVC Class480. All of this data is processed and written through a pipeline designed by the same people that made the impeccable F65 and F55.
The sensor touts 15 stops of dynamic range, which is more latitude than you’ll probably ever need (no less important, though). What remains to be seen is how this sensor performs in the real world. But if Sony’s sensor contributions in the past are any indicator, the Venice should have a sensor that rivals any in its class.
But we all knew the Venice would look great, so here’s what has me excited.
In a major break from the cameras that fall below it in price point, the Venice has incredible, simple design in its menu system. Taking a number of queues from the Alexa and other Arri cameras, the Venice uses the Assistant/Operator display design, showing you exactly what you need to know and nothing more. Simple is good, and this design choice shows a real focus on giving customers what they want instead of arbitrarily innovating where there’s no need.
The Venice also has an internal eight-step mechanical ND filter. This is huge because it makes the Venice that much more usable and flexible on location. It may seem like an arbitrary, expected decision, but don’t take it for granted. This gives the operator an amazing amount of control and speed as opposed to swapping out individual filters on the fly or using an internal ND with less steps. The eight-step decision again puts the operator in a position to focus on the image.
If I'm totally honest, the Venice is definitely the cinema body that we all wanted from Sony. It has all of the updates that I actually desire, with an eye trained on design and function. But there’s one caveat. Most of the camera's exciting resolution-related functions are only available after additional licensing.
I’m not going to drone on about this because I understand that the price of this camera makes such licensing issues rather small and unimportant. But I think there’s an interesting question to be asked here: Why even include these licensing updates?
The Venice is marketed as a full-frame-sensor Sony cinema body because that’s what makes it so interesting and, indeed, powerful. Then why is that function — the function that is so integral to the success of the camera — not sold with those updates already included? If you’re buying a 6K, full-frame sensor camera, shouldn’t you be able to shoot 6K, full-frame right out of the box?
The Venice is bound to be a huge success because of Sony’s incredible pedigree in the cinema world, but I think that these questions should still be on our minds. Will this ethic migrate down to the FS7 Mk II? We’ll have to see. I personally hope not.
Also, I would have loved to see global shutter, but the older I get, the more I’m realizing how much of an ask this actually is. And I believe it’s for one huge reason: global shutter doesn’t sell cameras. Sony seems to have considered this with the Venice, though.
Jello effect is something that we don’t need when filming. VENICE has a high speed readout sensor which minimizes the jello effect that is typical in the CMOS sensors.
Obviously, we won’t know how this actually functions until the full release, but maybe we can take some heart in their recognition of this issue.
And finally, there are no anamorphic resolutions above 4K, and even that 4K anamorphic requires yet another license. These quibbles are fairly irrelevant, but I think they speak to a brand that’s more focused on design and delivering a beautiful, solid image than on all of the bells and whistles.
In the end, this is the version of Sony that we actually want to see — not trying to compete in the resolution wars and the race to 10K, giving us what truly matters in a cinema body and not just what looks good in a headline. The Venice is here and is poised to run the game for a while.