Details on the Sony F5 Internal 4K “All Files” Mod

Earlier this week the we reported that UK cameraman & Sony F5 owner Paul Ream was able to somehow modify/hack his Sony PMW-F5 and enable internal 4K XAVC recording, a feature only available on the twice more expensive, global shutter Sony F55.

Following his initial tweet earlier this week, the filmmaking blogosphere exploded with speculations, excitement, and had some disgruntled F55 owners fuming over the fact that their $30,000+ investment lost half its value in a split second.

He stated earlier this week that he’d be revealing all details on how he was able to unlock the internal 4K XAVC recording on his Sony F5 on the next ExtraShot Podcast.

Yesterday the episode went live and we’ve got the scoop on how he was able to do just that – enable his Sony F5 to record 4K XAVC internally up to 60fps.

Note: Should you attempt to do this on your F5, you may void your warranty, proceed at your own risk. 

In short, the F5 saves its internal shooting preferences in a simple .txt file, which is unprotected. Armed with a hefty dose of patience, and some logic skills the 4K “mod” for the F5 can be one by just about anyone. No programming or engineering skills are required. Sounds almost too good to be true, but it actually is. Downside of the “mod” is no playback, and settings needs to be re-loaded if frame rates are changed.

In Summary, here’s the breakdown of the processes for enabling internal 4K on the F5 as laid out by Paul Ream:

  • Save a 2K XAVC ‘All Files’ setting to a blank SD card.
  • Insert the SD card into your computer.
  • Go to the Private/Sony/PRO/CAMERA/PMWF5 directory.
  • Open the 001.ALL file with a plain text editor.
  • Delete the whole of the first line (32 digit checksum)
  • Change line 150 to one of the settings listed below.
  • Save the file as 001.ALL  (Plain text)
  • Generate a new md5 checksum for the file.
  • Open the file in your text editor again and add the new checksum as a new first line.
  • Save and pop the SD card in your F5.
  • Enjoy your new settings which can then be copied in camera to taste.

Your choice of new line 150′s are:

  • 4K at 23.98 enter:  150=4096,2160,1001,24000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • 4K at 24 enter:  150=4096,2160,1,24,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • 4K at 25 enter:  150=4096,2160,1,25,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,5
  • 4K at 29.97 enter:  150=4096,2160,1001,30000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,4
  • 4K at 50 enter:  150=4096,2160,1,50,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
  • 4K at 59.94 enter:  150=4096,2160,1001,60000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
  • QFHD at 23.98 enter:  150=3840,2160,1001,24000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • QFHD at 24 enter:  150=3840,2160,1,24,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • QFHD at 25 enter:  150=3840,2160,1,25,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,5
  • QFHD at 29.97 enter:  150=3840,2160,1001,30000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,6
  • QFHD at 50 enter:  150=3840,2160,1,50,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3
  • QFHD at 59.94 enter:  150=3840,2160,1001,60000,1,1,0,8,0,0,0,1,1,1,3

To generate an md5 checksum on a mac you can simply use terminal. Just type “md5 001.ALL” when you’re  in the same directory as the file. Finally paste the 32digit code back into the first line in the file. Not sure how to do this on Windows but there are web sites that will generate an md5 file code just by dropping it on a page!

Alternatively, here’s all my ‘ALL file’ settings as an example.  They were generated on my camera with firmware 4.11.  These can be saved to an SD card and used directly in your camera. Once loaded you can change any other menu settings and save them to your own camera cards as normal.

Right-click or follow the link here to download his ALLFiles settings

While technically not a hack or a firmware manipulation, the internal 4K “mod” for the F5 is simply a brute force trial and error attempt to load the F55 settings on an F5. And miraculously it works. Paul did mention in the podcast his reasons were simply born out of curiosity. To his dismay, when he was actually able to do what seemed to be a rather far-fetched possibility, he wasn’t pleased with the fact that Sony had “failed to protect his investment” by basically having an “Eastear Egg” that anyone with enough patience and ability to dig in the right place could find.

His internal 4K mod for the F5 prompted a major debate amongst cameraman and video professionals, not just F5/F55 owners, who were amongst the most vocal. And rightfully so, if I was an F55 owner, and I spent $30,000+ on a camera, which game me features very few cameras in that price range give me, of which the most important is probably the internal 4K capabilities & high frame rates, I’d be really unhappy seeing an F5 do 4K internally.

Here’s what Alistair Champan, a long time Sony Independent Certified Expert, veteran cameraman and founder of the excellent forum had to say about the F5 4k mod on Sony’s official forum:

But it’s not really the F55 that’s being undermined or squeezed by other cameras. It’s the F5 that’s really feeling the pinch as more and more cameras that can record 4K come to the market, whether form Sony or others.

I think most of use will agree that in reality the F5 without 4K is perceived as a little “out of date” compared to what is in the market or coming to the market. Although adding an R5 does get around the problem.

Lets say Sony don’t do a 4K only upgrade to the F5 at IBC (or whenever). What might that be interpreted as or signal?

The F5 will be replaced by a new model with built in 4K, Maybe F7. Maybe the F7 will have features not on the current F55 such as playback LUT’s? Or both the F5/F55 are soon to be replaced with new models, where both do 4K, Maybe F7, F77?

Neither of these scenarios are good for F5/F55 owners, or the F5/F55 “brand”. It would mean starting all over again, building up the acceptance of the new range. I hope Sony do the right thing and add 4K to the F5 for a very minimal fee ($1K). This would IMHO strengthen the F5/F55 brand allowing us to continue to build on the good foundations we already have. Just as these cameras start to gain a good reputation and people start to understand and accept them it would be sad to go back to the beginning. One of the reason why the Alexa has been so successful is because of it’s time in the market allowing it to build a big familiarity base and becoming commonly accepted. This is what the f5 and F55 need to do, to mature. Not to be replaced with new models as one of the old model doesn’t have 4K.

So I hope Sony do the right thing and add 4K to the F5 and continue to develop both of these cameras as a coherent product range.

The potential devaluation of the F55 is a valid point, but more so the fact that the Sony F5 has been fully capably of doing 4K internally as proven by Paul Ream’s mod, but it was restricted via firmware on purpose by Sony. Is it okay in this day and age for manufacturers to sell hardware, with limited functionality, in addition to a higher-spec-ed model with similar if not identical internals? I am not saying the Sony F55 is the same camera – they bear certain major differences:

  • The F55 has a global shutter, the F5 does not
  • The F55 has an enhanced (F65 like) colour gammut
  • The F55 can output 4K via 3G SDI – the F5 can do 4K only via the Sony AXS-R5 4K recorder

But I don’t know if those differences are worth the $12,000+ premium that F55 owners have to pay when purchasing their camera. One more thing, people seem to be forgetting is that at NAB 2014, Sony announced a “Turn Your F5 onto a F55” upgrade for a staggering $16,000 (via Rule Boston Camera) which is more expensive than buying an F55 outright…

Turn your F5 into F55 4K Shooters

Not sure if anyone’s bought that upgrade yet, and now that the F5 can do internal 4K (via an unsupported mod that is) Sony won’t be selling much of these upgrades. I agree they are a business and they have to make money, but now Sony are faced with a dilemma.

Either give the 4K on F5 for free as an official update (or at least for $500 or a $1,000) as Alistair suggests above, or discount the F5 to F55 upgrade by 50% or more at IBC. This way F5 owners have more of an incentive to upgrade their equipment so they can shoot 4K on their F5 “legally” without fear of losing their warranty or bricking their camera by doing Paul’s mod. Not that there is a way for Sony to prove you’ve done the mod, but that’s not the point here.

I was very surprised to see Sony respond officially so quick just days after the initial tweet by Paul Ream. Here’s what Marketing boss Peter Crithary from Sony’s Digital Cinema Division had to say:

Sony is aware of the All File modification that was done by some F5 owners to enable 4K XAVC recording in the camera head. As a matter of policy Sony cannot approve any modifications that are not part of an official firmware release. All firmware updates from Sony come with quality assurances that guarantee high quality performance. Furthermore, unauthorized modifications to the product are not covered by, and may void, Sony’s product warranty.

Not surprisingly a rather standard corporate response. But the fact that they are aware and responding means that Paul’s mod has made an impact and rightfully so. Him and many other cameraman invest a lot of money on professional grade gear, which in today’s ridiculously priced at time market, can mean that your camera may be deemed obsolete by a client just a year from now. Our business is a client driven business, and combined with the low cost barriers to entry many veteran cameraman feel their investments are threatened not only by new entrant but more so by new cameras being released every year or a few months.

Clients nowadays are become more aware of what’s available as technology and they often want the latest and greatest (despite it often working to their detriment, but I digress), and they want to pay a little as possible for it. Great for those who are starting out with minimal kit, not so good for those who have invested 20-30K in gear and have taken out loans…

All I know is that modifications such as this, Magic Lantern for Canon DSLRs, and Driftwoods/Vitaly’s hacks for the GH2/3 have made a significant impact on the industry as a whole, and manufacturers are finally listening to what their customers are doing and demanding from their products.

Should be an interesting IBC… To listen to the full podcast episode head over to ExtraShot and have a listen at their other podcast episodes, which are just as excellent as this one.

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