For my new short film ‘Beehive‘ I am working as cinematographer. Being both the cine and executive producer I have a fair bit of flexibility to pick what ever camera I want (and can afford). So over the next few days I plan on researching the Sony FS700, Sony PMW F3 and Canon C300 to learn more about these cameras and see which might fit my needs the best.
I haven’t used any of these cameras before (apart from a short test of the Sony PMW F3) so I will endeavour to give you as much useful information about these cameras as I can.
The NEX-FS700 is a mid range, 4K ready digital cinematography camcorder, designed to be an affordable professional large sensor option for filmmakers who need high quality slow motion without paying big bucks for it.
The NEX FS700 sits comfortable between the PMW F3 and the NEX FS100 (see review here)
“Like many filmmakers I often find myself shooting action sports or documentary footage single-handedly. This is where the compact size, quick set up and convenient ergonomics of the Sony NEX-FS700 give me confidence in the audio and video configuration, leaving me free to concentrate on what is happening in front of the camera. The price point of this camera has given me the opportunity to create images that I otherwise would not have been able to even contemplate.”
– Tim Pierce. Australian Cinematographer, Sony Press release.
The strongest drawcard for this camera is it’s ability to shoot up to 960fps. Now you might think this is nothing special, that there are a whole range of professional standard cameras that can do this, but a 4k-ready camcorder for less than $10k was unheard of.
The FS700 offers a wide range of frame rates for super slow motion; (100/200/400/800 fps in 50i mode, 120/240/480/960 fps in 60i mode).
When shooting slow motion the camera can record up to 240fps at full 1920x1080HD. Any faster than this the image quality is reduced. (see Philip Blooms’ 240fps and 480fps test below)
The closest camera to currently offer similar flexibility is the Red Epic (which crops it’s sensor once the slow motion mode is enabled and is also vastly more expensive).
There are two ways to trigger the recording burst to suit your style of shooting. You can trigger recording immediately AFTER pressing record or you can set the camera to record the burst period prior to pressing the record button (a handy tool for doco filmmakers). Once recorded, the camera writes to the SD card while showing a slightly slowed preview. This takes about 3x the record time and during this period you cannot shoot anything else. Pressing the record button stops it, retaining what has already been copied and returns you to recording mode.
Another fantastic feature to keep an eye out for is the FS700s future 4KRAW option. Currently ‘4K ready’, this camera is currently waiting on a future firmware update from Sony to enable the camera to output 4K RAW bit-stream data over the cameras 3G HDSDi when used with an optional external 4K recorder (The release date and price for the update is currently unknown. Rumours are it may be sooner than we think.)
The FS700 features the newly designed 4K Exmor ‘Super 35′ CMOS sensor (Total 11.6 million pixels) which is ideal for motion picture shooting, producing exceptional image quality with high sensitivity, low noise and minimal aliasing – Yay.
The E-mount interchangeable lens system is designed to accept virtually all 35mm SLR, DSLR and cinematography lenses. With the use of simple, inexpensive third-party adapters sold separately, it gives you almost unlimited creative options without optical degradation.
Unlike the FS100, the FS700 features 3 inbuilt ultra-thin ND filters (Clear, 1/4, 1/16, 1/64, ) which work with the short flange back (distance from lens mount to sensor) of the E-mount. This allows you to use exercise an exceptional shallow depth-of-field.
The card slot accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC cards or Memory Sticks. In addition to the HDMI output, the FS700 got a HD-SDI/3G output which enables easy integration with highest quality recording formats. The 3G-SDI is limited to 8 bit output, even in 3G mode. Not that there is anything wrong with 8-bit. Just keep it in mind if you plan on doing a lot of grading in post.
The camera has a refined ergonomic design with a detachable handle and grip attached by an Arri rosette. This means that it not only enables you to mount the hand grip at almost any angle, but if you are using a 3rd party shoulder rig that also uses Arri rosettes you can also mount the Sony hand grip to the rig so that you can start and stop the camera directly with the grip. The grip also features a dedicated button that magnifies the image in the viewfinder for easier focussing as well as a zoom rocker.
The body itself (weighing Approx. 1.68kg body only) appears to be almost exactly the same as the FS100 though more solid and weighty because of all the extra metal. It’s also covered in buttons! Which upon first glance is quite intimidating and will be a huge turn off to some users however, once you get use to them it can seem quite straight forward to have dedicated buttons for each function.
The FS700 has a touch focus monitor LCD, similar to the Epic that allows you to change units such as ISO/DB, Distance etc. It also gives you up to 8x magnifying. Here it showcases sonys famous menu system which, once you get your head around it, is very simple to navigate through.
The camera offers a very similar dynamic range to the FS100 but with the addition of new picture profiles, including Cinegammas, it can now handle detail in highlights more effectively. The FS700′s Cinegammas 1 and 2 it comes closer to the capabilities of the PMW-F3.
For more about the cameras specifications please see the Abel cine video below for a closer look.
Sony NEX-FS700 ships (body only) for approx $7999 (au) – B and H
Philip Bloom tests the FS700s super slow motion capabilities at 240fps and 480fps. Watch his review of the FS700 here.
Dennis Lennie from F-stop academy looks at the Sony NEX FS700
When dealing with slow motion, all cameras can suffer the same problem when it comes to lighting. Flicker. Check out this blog post by nofilmschool “What You Need to Know Before Shooting FS700” for more great videos about using the slow motion feature.
A great hands on review “First Hands on review of the FS700” by Frank Glencairn
With the new CineGamma options the cameras dynamic range is improved. Check out Abel Cines post which showcases various picture profile settings.
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