Sony PMW-F55 10 Years On – Is It Still Worth It?

A Super 35 mm Global Shutter sensor and 16-bit RAW recording capabilities in DCI 4K up to 120fps. Although these might look like the specs of the latest camera released, they actually refer to the 10-year-old Sony PMW-F55. But is this camera model still relevant in 2022? Let’s take a closer look.

First announced in October 2012, along with its PMW-F5 sibling, the legendary Sony PMW-F55 officially retired in favor of the company’s new flagship models, the original VENICE CineAlta 6K and, now, the VENICE 2. However, a few used PMW-F55 units are still out in the wild and, given the price drop over the years, can still be an appealing option for some users.

Recently, our friends at CVP posted an in-depth video examining the capabilities of this old-timer. They even put it side by side with one of the most popular cameras in Sony’s modern Cinema Line, the FX6. Before going on reading, I highly recommend taking a look at it.

Sony PMW-F55: superb features for an old-timer

On paper, the Sony PMW-F55 still features impressive specs for a tool of its age. The camera boasts a native 4K S35 Global Shutter sensor (24×12.7mm) – which got Netflix’s blessing – as well as a long list of supported formats.

While it can record XAVC DCI 4K video up to 60fps internally, the real magic happens when pairing the body with the optional Sony AXS-R5 or AXS-R7 units. Indeed, these allow to externally record 16-bit RAW in DCI 4K up to 60 and 120fps respectively, and the R7 even adds support for Sony’s X-OCN Compressed RAW format.

Sony PMW-F55 with AXS-R7 recorder. Source: Sony

By the way, the camera is part of our recently-launched Camera Database. You can play around with this tool to browse through all the camera’s technicalities. Also, you can rely on our Lens Coverage Tool to double-check compatibility with the extensive list of glass contained in our database.

Talking about lenses, the F55 body has a native FZ mount but comes with an interchangeable PL mount adapter. Hence, considering the abundance of S35 PL mount glass out there, you are spoiled with the number of choices. Also, this aged body packs an internal ND filter system – something that only recently reached high-end RED cameras.

Sony PMW-F55 body. Source: Sony

Other noteworthy features that make the PMW-F55 still capable of seamlessly integrating with today’s Sony Cinema Line cameras and workflows are supported for the SLog3/S.Gamut3.Cine color space, the robust I/O interface (two full-sized XLR inputs, HDMI, four SDI ports, TC in and out, genlock, and more) as well as a familiar menu structure.

But how does it keep up with today’s camera technology?

Although the image quality of the PMW-F55 certainly stands the test of time, there are a few things that are worth careful consideration when purchasing this camera in 2022, in my opinion.

Sony AXS-R7 recorder. Source: Sony

The first one is definitely its form factor. The PMW-F55 body is pretty bulky on its own, let alone when fully rigged out and paired with the AXS-R5/R7 recorder. Over the last decade, technological advancements have naturally produced cameras with a similar (if not superior) image quality, but a much more modest footprint. Despite a few limitations, Sony’s own FX3 and FX6 – which both fit in the palm of a hand – are good examples.

Sony FX3. Source: Sony

Also, while the camera body is now pretty affordable, some of the accessories required to unlock its full potential – such as the AXS-R7 unit – still retail for a considerable amount. Same thing applies to the AXSM media cards that go with this recorder.

Used kit available at CVP

At the moment of writing, a used Sony PMW-F55 kit is currently up for sale on CVP for about €4.150. The package includes the camera body, DVF-L350 EVF, V-Lock battery plate, two SXS cards with reader, FZ to EF mount adapter, two rods, and ARRI Top Handle Plate and Shoulder Pad. CVP is a Sony Approved Service Center and oftentimes they offer a 90-days warranty on second-hand purchases.

Featured image credit: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Would you pick up a Sony PMW-F55 in 2022? What are the major limitations of such a choice in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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