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    Some thoughts on the FS7 (from an Fs5 owner)
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    I realize I’m about 5 years late to this party—given that the Sony FS7 was released in 2014 and the Fs5 in 2015—but I’ve just recently spent a few weeks with the FS7. Magnanimous Media in Chicago was running a special offering any rental for the long period from before Christmas to after New Year’s for the price of just three days. As an Fs5 shooter for the past three years I’ve long been keen to learn the FS7 and see how it compared; this was the perfect opportunity.

    This was also a chance to see if I should cancel my FX6 order (which still hasn’t shipped) and go with a used FS7, which at this point can be had for considerably less money (especially the Mark 1). Was I swayed enough by the FS7 to do so? I’ll get to that…

    First, the size: when the FS7 arrived I couldn’t decide whether I was more surprised by how small it was or how big it was. On a tripod or on my shoulder the FS7 seemed like a great size—and not overly large at all. When shooting from a low angle—e.g., handheld, via the top handle—or when carrying it for extended periods between setups, it felt huge and heavy. While I never quite settled on how I felt about the camera’s size, it did make me appreciate just how Lilliputian the Fs5 is, by comparison.

    Handling: I know the FS7 isn’t a proper ENG camera with ideal shoulder-mounted ergonomics, but if you set it up right it is surprisingly comfortable. I have a real appreciation for why it’s so favored by doc shooters (and I imagine the balance is only improved by the extension back). The Fs5 feels great for handheld shooting but getting it rigged out for shoulder work has been a hassle. I’ve tried a few different options with varying degrees of success (and I’m sure others have had better success than I have). But all this required a lot of trial and error and constant fiddling. The FS7 needed just a few adjustments to the VF and it felt great. I don’t know how comfortable it would be for an 8-10 hour day, but it very quickly felt better than any shoulder-rig I’d used with the Fs5.

    Menus, buttons, etc.: Here was one of the biggest surprises, and one that underscores what others have said about the FS7 and the Fs5: despite their shared sensor their underlying DNA is quite different. The menus in the FS7 are a very different beast from those in the Fs5, even if they have some family resemblance. This works for and against the Fs5 shooter: the FS7 menus are just familiar enough to allow you to be up and running very quickly, but they’re different enough to totally screw you once you’ve been lulled in by this false sense of security. Luckily, I had Doug Jenson’s FS7 tutorial as a guide. I did his Fs5 series way back when I bought my Fs5 and it was well worth it; I can say the same for the FS7 series. While neither camera has the most intuitive menus, those on the FS7 are vastly superior in one (important) aspect: they allow you to go back to a previous or higher level menu, something that is not always the case on the Fs5.

    The image: I’m going to focus only on the image produced by the cameras when shooting in slog2 or 3 (Cine EI mode on the FS7), as I didn’t bother comparing the various cine- and hypergammas. I also want to include the caveat that I was shooting some pretty uncomplicated stuff: some tests indoors (interview style), footage of my dogs, some outdoor footage (birds, nature). I also wasn’t pushing the grade: at most I was doing a white balance, a correcting LUT (mostly the Venice LUTs from Alister Chapman), and some exposure correction.

    Generally, I was surprised at just how similar both cameras looked—both in HD and UHD—provided you are exposing correctly. Both cameras very clearly benefit from being rated at about 1200 or even 800 ISO (i.e., overexposing a stop or two), despite the claimed base ISO of 2000 in slog2. And both cameras can produce really beautiful, clean images at +2 or even +3 stops over. At +4 stops over they both fall apart, nearly identically so. In this regard I was really surprised at how well the Fs5 held up compared to its bigger sibling (again, within these limited parameters).

    fs5 fs7 compares_1.2.1.jpgfs5 fs7 compares_1.10.1.jpg

    And at least for my eyes they matched *so well*. I literally just did a WB in one node and added a LUT in another and had shots that would be totally workable as matched A and B cameras. As someone who has spent countless hours matching cameras—with varying degrees of success—this factor alone makes owning these two cameras appealing. I simply can’t overstate how nice it is to get matching images with a few mouse clicks (and if you’ve been there, you understand).

    Where the cameras really differ is when you’re at base exposure or underexposed. The Fs5 absolutely falls apart in underexposure—especially shooting in HD (again, talking about slog2). When you get to -2 or -3 stops under you’re in trouble. In UHD it’s a little better, at least when working in an HD timeline (which is what I’m doing 99% of the time). But it’s never pretty. The FS7, by comparison, holds up much, much better. Yes, it gets noisy, but it doesn’t fall apart the way the Fs5 footage does (in slog2).

    fs5 fs7 compares_1.7.1.jpgfs5 fs7 compares_1.15.1.jpg

    I also looked at how the Fs5’s raw output (to ProRes) fared in comparison to the FS7, and it didn’t change much. With good exposure they’re well matched. With underexposure the externally recorded Fs5 footage holds up better than the internal footage but, to my eyes, still suffers compared to the FS7.

    Having said all this, I will just reiterate that—in most of my typical shooting situations—the Fs5 holds up remarkably well against the FS7. I know that the FS7 has a much better codec and that you end up with a much more flexible file. But on screen, and in a video, my guess is most people would be hard pressed to see a difference in well-exposed and lightly graded footage, whether in HD, UHD, or DCI 4K (external on the Fs5).

    EXCEPT when it comes to super slow motion. The FS7’s 180fps slow motion, while not perfect, just destroys the 120 or 240fps footage from the Fs5. I find the Fs5 super slow motion perfectly usable in most settings, but the FS7 slow motion is far superior. I didn’t compare the super slow motion on an external recorder with the Fs5, but—having used it—my guess is it’s closer to the FS7 in quality (as it’s much better than the internal super slow mo).

    Gripes, complaints: there are a few things I found a touch annoying on the FS7, although I imagine in time you get used to them. The biggest issue for me was the lack of simultaneous recording when shooting in UHD/4K (unless this has been changed in a firmware update). I almost *always* shoot simultaneous record for peace of mind. I know XQD cards are pretty reliable, and the fact that the FS7 is so trusted out in the field is a vote of confidence, but not having two copies of footage while shooting makes me nervous.

    I also miss having face tracking auto focus. It’s not *great* on the Fs5 but it does work, and in good lighting I’ll happily trust it (with oversight). The Fs7 AF, which I didn’t use all that much, is passable but nothing more. If you just want it to lock focus on something static and set it and forget it then you’re fine; but for situations involving movement or a talking head it’s not really usable, at least from what I found.

    BUT, when it comes to hitting focus manually I found it *much* easier on the FS7. Are these screens the same? The peaking on the FS7 worked great for me; on the Fs5 it’s pretty dodgy, and I never trust the LCD for focus if I can avoid it. If anyone has insights into why my experience with these screens was so different I’d love to hear them.

    The other quirk that took some getting used to were those 8 (!) tracks of audio in the footage. I already hate having to deal with 4 tracks in the Fs5 (two of which are always empty). In FCPX this is easily solved by having empty tracks ignored on import, but in Resolve I tend to just end up with these unwieldy 8-track clips in my timeline.

    So, final thoughts: I’m a big fan of the FS7, although as someone who’s been very happy with the Fs5 I’m already a bit biased toward Sony. The FS7 is great out of the box: good ergonomics for shoulder shooting, comfortable on a medium-sized tripod, and acceptable for a bit of handheld shooting. I can see why it’s proven so popular in the documentary and corporate world (and why it’s such a good choice for almost any project).

    That said, it’s hard to pass up what the FX6 is promising: the smaller form factor that I’ve come to appreciate with the Fs5, the better low light, the better autofocus, the better LCD, and a range of other improvements (big and small). For the moment, I’m sticking with my order. But I am somewhat tempted to swap out my Fs5/Shogun combo for an FS7, especially a Mark 2 with the variable ND and locking e mount (I had a Mark 1 rental). But is it worth it? Probably not—the image quality is so close in my uses, especially for a camera that would be serving as a B to the FX6.

    Anyways: those are some long, rambling thoughts on my experience with the FS7. If other owners—of the Fs5, FS7, or both—have had similar experiences comparing the cameras I’d love to know your take on things. Thanks!


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    As far as AF, there was no reliable, working AF for Sony until 2016 (which is now considered questionable). Being that the FS5 is from 2015 and you think it's okay, you're probably going to be blown away by the FX6.

    As far as slow-motion, the FS5 has 4K HFR external bursts which are much higher quality than any FS7 slow-motion (besides 4K/60p if you consider that slow), but obviously need an external recorder for that.

    As far as peaking, peaking is notoriously known to work/look differently on many cameras. Can't say if that's the case here (I do believe the screens are the same on both first models), but if you use more cameras in your life you'll quickly learn how it can differ across various models (as well as particular peaking settings and how different strengths respond to objects in the frame).


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    I've owned the FS5 and currently have an FS7. IMO the greatest difference is the 10 bit vs 8 bit codecs when doing extensive CC. On the FS5 you will see some nasty color issues (especially in skin tones) in UHD. The FS7 holds up well to extreme grades.. No, the dual recording was not enabled in a FW update... I've shot all day with the FS7 on my shoulder, especially if you you get a longer 15mm EVF rod, which puts the COG further back...


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    Quote Originally Posted by NorBro View Post

    As far as slow-motion, the FS5 has 4K HFR external bursts which are much higher quality than any FS7 slow-motion (besides 4K/60p if you consider that slow), but obviously need an external recorder for that.
    Yeah, although—as you note—you're limited to bursts. I think it's 4 seconds in 4K120, which is way too short for my needs. In the past I've found the 2K120 (externally recorded) to be pretty good, and it allows for continuous recording. There's also a workaround to get audio this way, which is ideal for my work.


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    The 4-second burst is about 20 seconds of 120p slow-motion in real-time...that's a lot of slow-motion for pretty much everything.

    But I suppose if you just want to roll so you don't miss anything it's not going to work.


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    I just did some 400fps on my FS5 and treat it right and you can get some really nice slow shots from a tiny camera. I've even done some 800fps special effects shots with lots of light and it also turned out looking nice.


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    Quote Originally Posted by NorBro View Post
    The 4-second burst is about 20 seconds of 120p slow-motion in real-time...that's a lot of slow-motion for pretty much everything.

    But I suppose if you just want to roll so you don't miss anything it's not going to work.
    Most of my work is a very specific sport (weightlifting) where I need to roll for anywhere from 10-30 seconds, so those 4-second bursts don't work. The internal 120 goes for 16 seconds and as long as I get the timing right that can work in most situations.


    Quote Originally Posted by J.Brown View Post
    I just did some 400fps on my FS5 and treat it right and you can get some really nice slow shots from a tiny camera. I've even done some 800fps special effects shots with lots of light and it also turned out looking nice.
    I've gone as high as 480fps for an Instagram post and it was definitely acceptable—not great though. I tried 960fps and it was a bit of a mess, unfortunately. But I imagine it could work in certain situations (and it's nice to have).


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    Senior Member ahalpert's Avatar
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    Well, the lowly A7SIII does great 4k120 and ok HD240. And the AF is very good

    I just bought the sony 12-24...kind of a crazy focal length range...could be cool for sports applications


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    Quote Originally Posted by ahalpert View Post
    Well, the lowly A7SIII does great 4k120 and ok HD240. And the AF is very good

    I just bought the sony 12-24...kind of a crazy focal length range...could be cool for sports applications
    Once competitions start happening again (maybe later in 2021?) it will probably make sense to pick up an a7s3. It looks like an amazing camera, by all accounts. I just hate shooting video with DSLR/mirrorless-style cameras for the most part.


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    Then maybe the FX6 is the way to go. But if you dont need to shoulder mount or accessorize or do a lot of audio and monitoring from camera, it can work well. My A7S3 is basically my gimbal camera and has several advantages as such. It's lighter, it has IBIS, it has autofocus touch tracking that you can control with a wifi smartphone interface. And then I have an FS7 for shoulder/tripod.


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