Give Me 4K or Give Me Death: why I disagree with Philip Bloom about the Sony F55

on August 27, 2014

I woke up this morning and checked my Facebook feed whilst I lazily lumbered about in bed, and then stumbled upon this gem:
Philip Bloom Sony f5

I have long been a fan of Philip Bloom. His work is phenomenal, and his contributions and reviews to the film and photo community are not to be ignored. However, the “comment war” that ensued bothered me quite a bit. Here’s the rundown:

Philip Bloom got a Sony f55.
He paid a lot for it.
The Sony f5 is a VERY similar camera (they have the same manual) except for a few key features: it CAN’T record 4K internally, no global shutter, and a narrower color gamut.

… and it costs almost half.

Now there is apparently a line of code that- if enabled- will give the cheaper camera 4K ability.
This is something recently made public via The Extra Shot podcast you can find here:

As Bloom states- 4K was the reason he bought the camera. He needed it for work, and the 4K was something he couldn’t live without for his production work. Now he feels cheated because people can buy a MUCH cheaper camera and get most of what his more expensive version can do- after he already paid for the premium features.
His proposed solution is to close the code and retain the perceived value for the customers who paid more.

As you can probably guess from the home of this blog- I wholeheartedly disagree.
He claims it’s just business, and that this is what “professionals” do.

Let me state very clearly for the record that I LOVE industrial grade products. I love gear that is made to stand the test of time and suffer the abuse that rigorous shooting delivers, and performance that exceeds what the hobbyist needs. I love professional grade and I am willing to pay more for it.

What I am NOT a fan of is crippling a product so that you can sell an un-crippled version to fill a niche in your marketing line-up.
I love Sony products. The A7s is amazing. The NEX series is wonderful. And I have personally shot with the f55 and it is one bad mo-fo.
I am not a fan of slapping a “Pro” designation on a product and charging more for essentially the same.

The problem is that this “Pro” strategy works. People WILL pay for it.

I am not one of them.

I am a believer is premium products by DESIGN. I believe that you should create the BEST product you can and price at it a fair value.
If you can create an f5 that will shoot 4K and price it at $16,000 and STILL make a healthy product, I am on board.
Now if you want to create a higher end version with global shutter and great color gamut and charge more- price it fairly and you will gain those customers.

But they probably won’t be paying $28,000 for those features, because that’s not what the market will bear.

I believe in rewarding innovation. Create a BETTER PRODUCT to charge more- don’t cripple the lower end models to make the more expensive one “seem better”.

Now, a lot of this is pointless argument. Very few people would consider $14,000 a “lower-end” camera by any means.

There’s an aviation expression that I am going to bastardize: “If it floats, flies or… FILMS- you rent it, you don’t buy it.”
Unless you are shooting paying work for clients frequently enough that owning is cheaper than buying- it doesn’t make sense.

Philip Bloom- as you well know- has no shortage of paying gigs. The Sony f55 is a business expense that has paid for itself many times over I am sure.

But it’s not about the camera. (This is a theme you’ll notice a lot on this blog.)

It’s about doing the most you can with the tools you’ve been given.
This is our job as filmmakers- solve problems. Do more. Push the limit.
Take advantage of every pixel.

Don’t shoot 4K just because you CAN. Shoot it because you can tell the story by showing the details in your subject’s eyes better.
Do it because you are shooting with a limited schedule with no time for different setups and you want to be able to recompose in camera for a close-up- or add in a slow zoom or tracking shoot that you never would have had time to set up for during production.

Don’t waste production money paying for camera features because some marketing literature told you you NEED to.

Philip Bloom- you were once a hero to the everyman shooter. Sure, we would all love the $28,000 to have a Sony f55.

But for the gritty, boot-strapping production team that can ONLY afford a $16,000 camera, let us have our 4K. Let us take that extra $12,000 to increase production value, pay our crew a decent wage, get better food on set, or even KEEP OUR BUSINESS ALIVE so we can win more clients by submitting lower bids.

You likened the hack to buying a house in an expensive development, only to find out weeks later that they lowered their prices and people are getting in having paid less.

If the price of entry is how much you paid for your camera- you got it all wrong.

The price of entry is TALENT, and what kind of images you can get out of that camera.

Anyone who tells you different is selling you something.