Notes on the Production versions of the PXW-FS7

XDCAM-sliding-system-v2 Notes on the Production versions of the PXW-FS7

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a production model (one with a real serial number, not a pre-production sample) of the new Sony PXW-FS7 last week.

One of the things that a lot of people that have played with the pre-production models noticed was that the hand grip was somewhat loose and flexible. Even when “locked” in position the hand grip could be moved from side to side or twisted slightly. This excess play was not apparent on the production camera giving the unit a much more solid feel.

The viewfinder bracket design does not appear to have changed from the pre-production cameras. I had expected there to be a ridge in the bracket on the camera to prevent the viewfinder arm (which has a detent groove in it) from twisting and thus the viewfinder sagging. There didn’t appear to be any mechanism in the production camera to stop viewfinder sag other than simply tightening the locking screw very tight. I think this will be a small area of annoyance with the camera. Having said that the design makes it very easy for 3rd parties to produce alternate mounting arms and brackets for the camera. One area that is greatly improved over the pre-production cameras is the arm that the microphone bracket and viewfinder bracket attach too is now solidly mounted so this will not rotate.

An often asked question is does the FS7 have cache record, well the good news is yes, it does have cache record. It also has simultaneous record where the same footage is recorded on both cards at the same time.

When you buy the camera in the box you will get the hand-grip, a single BP-U30 battery, a BC-U1 charger, MPA-AC1 mains power supply, a small wifi dongle and a wireless remote control. So not a bad package all in all.

37 thoughts on “Notes on the Production versions of the PXW-FS7”

  1. Alister, Currently Im a Pmw-300 and panasonic gh4 owner operator, I was thinking and wanted your opinion , IF the FS7 would work as a replacement for my pmw-300 and would there be any drawbacks ?

    Thanks
    I enjoy the BLOG

    Brent

  2. Thanks for your words Alister.
    Please, forgive my English !!!!
    We will buy the PXW-FS7 + 28-135mm f / 4 PZ.

    Q:
    Can we use the lens 28-135mm f / 4 PZ for fictions movies ?
    [ All reviews referred as cam ONLY for documentaries and news].
    ¿Only this lens is enough?

    Francisco

    1. You can use the lens for anything you want. But normally for drama fast prime lenses are used as these give the best film style look. The 28-135 will not give the pictures the same film style look.

  3. Brent

    In case Alister does not come back to you…

    If I were you I would keep the PMW 300 and replace the GH4 with the FS7 – or keep all three!

    The PMW 300 with three half inch sensors is much more suited to non-narrative style work than the GH4 or FS7 and will keeping it will extend the range of jobs you can tackle. I know that the FS7 is being touted as a run-and gun-camera and I’m sure you could use it like that with the right lens, but anything ‘procedural’ or reality style (that doesn’t need a filmic shallow DoF look) will be much easier to shoot with the 300 given the ease of keeping focus and the 16x lens.

    With both these cameras you could shoot pretty much anything. Obviously the 300 is only HD and not 4K but the kind of productions that would call for it will be HD for years to come.

  4. You may want to test that theory first, since you could just stop down to f8 to get about the same DOF as the PMX300 has at f2… and the FS7’s signuficant edge in sensitivity and DR is likely enough to make up for the loss of light. Just run with higher gain and crush out the shadows to get a similar look to the small sensor camera and make up for having closed down the lens aperture.

  5. Hello, I just got myself FS7 but for some reason the Catalyst Browse can’t open any clips QHD nor HD I’ve shot with it. Premiere opens fine, so does FCPX with the sony plug-in. Catalyst browse is the newest version. It can get the metadata of camera model, serial and clip creation times but clips themselves just have icon and text saying the item is unsupported or contains missing files.

    Also I noticed that my ZEBRA acts weirdly at least when in SLOG mode. like when I set it to 93, then over expose, it shows the ZEBRA but only on the outer edge of the frame (of a frame that is suppose to have ZEBRA all over). It is like someone draw a circle over the centre of the image and within that circle zebra isn’t shown (the circle always remain in the middle even when I pan/tilt). When I lower it to 92, then ZEBRA shows all over. When go up to 94 ZEBRA disappears totally, it doesn’t come back even if i increase the exposure. Anyways in this mode once something is white, there’s no extra detail available that I could pull down in post. If it is white on the screen, it is gone for sure.

    My first impressions is that the camera feels quite plastic as expected. I have two dead pixels on the display which will result me taking it back to store to switch to another unit tomorrow. I can see lots of noise in the shots both QHD and HD. By the way Alister, do you think I should use in camera noise reduction or would it be better to do that in post? Adjusting the arm length requires coin or screwdriver. Would be cool if it also had some fast adjusting mechanism. It sits on shoulder OK, not spectacular solution but much better than handholding something like C300. But for long shoulder sessions I think you still need a rig to be able to better adjust where everything rests. Works with Metabones IV. Will get speed booster ULTRA later today, but I expect it will work too since it was released after IV.

    1. Zebra’s will not work as normal in SLog-3 as the recording range and levels used by S-log are totally different to conventional video. S-log3 only records up to 93IRE it does not go higher than this. I would suggest you take a look to my guide to Cine-EI for the F5 and F55 as this explains Slog and how you should use it. You will also see noise in the native S-log3, this is normal, but once you use the correct look up table to convert from log to 709 the noise will reduce considerably.

  6. I won’t shoot in the Cine EI mode.. I guess that is requirement for RAW but since I can’t do RAW yet it is out. I don’t understand why I would use Cine EI mode with RAW. Changing the ISO doesn’t make any difference to the image on camera and it’s not like I could change it in post without RAW. Or is there any advantage? I’ve set the camera to custom there and then selected S-log3 and Cine (which seemed to give more saturation). There’s no S-gamut to choose. To be honest i’m quite lost on which settings I should go with to get wide DR but still get the pleasant looking end result so that when the footage goes to editors, they will be able to correct it easily. In this project the editors will do colour correction, they’ll be very limited in time. I don’t think they will understand LUTs.

    Anyways I read your guides, all of them. But I’m still bit confused where should I put my properly exposed skin tones? I was thinking of putting Zebra1 to that window as a quick reference method. I couldn’t find histogram nor scopes on this camera which was kind of unpleasant surprise. Well i’m not big fan of histogram but even simplest cameras usually have that although many lack scopes.

  7. Mixing S-log3 with the wrong colorspace is a recipe for disaster. You really should use Cine-EI with Slog or at the very least lock down the ISO at 2000 ISO. Using any other ISO will reduce the dynamic range and negate the benefits of S-log.

    If your shooting log but the editor/colorists don’t under stand LUT’s then I wish you luck. LUTS are VERY easy to use and a super fast way to grade footage.

    People need to understand that the behaviour of log gamma in post is very different to conventional gamma. There is no point in just using S-Log because it’s “cool” or “it’s what the film guys do” unless you really understand the full workflow.

    Skin tones with S-log3 should be around 50%.

    Waveform etc can be found under the display ON/OFF settings.

    Please learn how to use Cine-EI as then you will have the benefit of a very easy LUT based workflow. You will find exposure assessment a breeze if you use the 709(800) LUT.

  8. Hi Alister,

    Greetings from LA.

    Do you know how long the VF cable is on the FS7? I’m looking to fly the FS7 on a Ronin and if I could move the VF off of the FS7 to the handle of the Ronin, that would solve a lot of issues with power, VF, etc….

    Thanks,
    Brian

  9. Thanks for your words Alister.

    Documentaries > f4 vs film style look- < depth of field …..right ?

    …and the "body" of this camera you recommend it to drama or recommend another??

  10. I made some quite heavy typos above. Must have been hard to get my meaning. But thank you very much for answering nevertheless.

    I was testing the catalyst browser again. I can open all the clips you shared here. Also can open MPEG422 clips I shoot myself and also Long Gop 50i and 25p. It looks like all the clips shot with Intra codecs don’t open.

    I was playing with LUT and while had it on I changed the recording format. In the end the screen froze. Menus and icons were working but nothing camera saw updated on the screen, it was stuck. I restart camera and it freezes again immediately after the boot. I managed to unfreeze it by changing recording format again. But after that it greyed out the LUT selection and it was left on, so I couldn’t turn it off anymore. Camera was in Cine EI mode all the time. I tried changing the recording formats again QHD/HD different codecs but nothing seemed to work, Viewfinder LUT was greyed out although others were still ok choose. I think it only started working after restarting and i’m not sure if I had disabled the Cine EI mode somewhere between for a second, cause I remember after the reboot it was without a LUT.

    I’ve been struggling with the waveform as I had it working (unfortunately it only works when LUT not applied and looks like I can’t quick map LUT on/off to any key) but after this whole crash episode nothing happens from the quick mapped waveform button. Sometimes it gives me warning that it is unable proceed with that action. I’ve tried changing the video ins and outs on and off.. both.. but at the moment can’t get the scopes back.

    Maybe this all is such a stupid user syndrome… but I can’t remember I ever had such confusing first days with any camera from PD170 to Alexa and everything between.

  11. After trying different video output options and having no luck getting the waveform to show, I just did reset and now it works. However, I’m still unable to figure out a way to have the waveform on when LUT is on. Only way this happens is if I turn on the SDI and Internal Recording LUT too. Of course then I loose the ability to record Slog. So it feels kinda crippled. I guess I will just shoot in Cine EI mode without LUT and expose with the waveform. No more playing with ISO/Gain.. if it is too dark to shoot in native mode.. which it gives me 800 in Cine EI… then I guess it is same as if I just add exposure in post than switch to custom mode and pump up the gain there?

  12. On the F5/F55 the waveform will only show when BOTH the VF LUT and HDSDI/HDMI LUT is set the same, so LUT must be on for both or LUT’s must be off for both. Perhaps it is the same with the FS7.

  13. Problem is that in the menu these items are bundled together with the “Internal Recording” so when turning these on, the Slog recording is gone. For the four LUT on/off options it says “SDI1 & Internal Recording”, then is “SDI2”, then “HDMI” and finally “viewfinder”. HDMI also can’t be accessed alone but the selection tool jumps over it from SDI2 to viewfinder. HDMI LUT turns on automatically when “SDI1 & Internal Recording” LUT is turned on. Now it is possible that else where in the video output menu choosing certain options could change how these LUT options work and how these outputs are routed and linked together, but I was unable to find a working combination. Most of the video outputs turned on or off don’t matter at all, but if SDI1 video output is disabled, then the waveform will not show even when the LUT is off.

    I also lost the waveform again after camera had been turned off for a while and battery had been changed. I couldn’t get it back, no matter how I set the video output options or LUT options and I’m almost certain that waveform was still working when I had turned the camera off. This time I was wiser to save the setup to SD card when everything was working and I was able to restore from that.

  14. There are definitely some FW bugs with this camera. I could not get waveform to show at all until I went into a 1080P record mode, turned it on (it had to be mapped to an assignable key), then switched back to 4K. It survived a few reboots.

    I am having the same problem with LUTs. With the FS7 it seems you cannot turn on the VF LUT without burning it into the internally recorded image, which is kind of silly and against the whole reason for the LUT in the first place. (Otherwise, just shoot custom!). The VF LUT will not become selectable for me unless the SD1/Internal one is also turned on.

    I think this is likely a bug that needs to be resolved by Sony. I just don’t know how to tell them.

    I had the same experience with Catalyst Browser by the way, on the Mac… the 4K clips from the card won’t display, though are fine in FCPX and Premiere. Weird.

    1. To get VF LUT’s you must set the output to HD. You cannot output UHD on the HDMI and then get LUT’s on the VF only. The F5/F55 actually have this same limitation in that when outputting 4K/UHD you cannot isolate the different LUT outputs. This is because to generate the 4K output the camera uses both the SDI busses together (even when outputting via HDMI). It’s not a bug, it’s a hardware limitation.

      The waveform limitation is similar. Waveform only displays when the outputs are all set to the same settings. So if LUT’s are off on every output the waveform will display. Similarly if LUT’s are on for all outputs then it will display. On the FS7 as you cannot have HD HDMI and HDSDI 2 on together, this limits the waveform operation. This might get fixed in a firmware update.

      Set the output to HD on SDI2 and then you can turn LUT’s on for SDI2 and VF while leaving LUT’s off on SD1/Internal.

  15. I also received my FS7 in Germany.

    Yes , FW seems to be a bit buggy at the moment, things like WFM disapearing, Peaking off while Cache Rec on…

    Alister, there IS a small improvement on the VF bracket: The 90° piece incorporates to small balls with a spring that try to hold the 15mm rod with the milled lines in it.
    It does help a bit as long as you dont loosen the screw to much, but it cant hold the whole LCDs weight…

    The Zoom Grip is definetely better, looks and feels very trusty.

    Unfortunately the XDCA ships later, so look for some BPU Batteries around – I just ordered some of the quite rare BPU90s to be safe from changing bats onlocation. Expensive game… At the moment only original BPUs work. For me getting obsolete as soon as the XDCA ships…

    ULi

    1. The balls on my VF bracket do not hold the VF arm level. They have no effect, which is why I didn’t notice them. All the cameras I have used have been the same. I am able to use my old swit batteries with the fly lead.

  16. Alistair,
    I’m awaiting my FS7 and am very excited about it, but find Sony’s breaking up the CUSTOM and CINE EI modes for Slog3 both confusing and limiting and I’m wondering if there is a necessary technical reason for their approach.
    As I understand it, in Custom mode I have access to white balance functions including adjustable Kelvin and green magenta shifts but no access to VF LUTs or to baking in LUTS like 709 800% or 709Type A (also noise reduction).
    In Cine EI mode I have the LUTS and baking in abilities, but am locked out of white balance , Kelvin etc and instead only have 3 presets 3200, 4800 and 5600. I like to be able to fine tune my color – for clients on set , especially for a baked-in 709 look and even when going to POST as a starting point.
    The competition – RED and ALEXA offer VF LUTs with white balance options and Alexa offers the baked-in 709 with those options also. Their process seems simpler.
    Is there a good technical reason for why Sony has locked white balance and LUTS apart . It seems like a hassle both for me and my clients. Not a great selling point for them.

    BTW – Thanks for all the great information you’ve posted for years now. Very much appreciated.
    Lenny Levy

  17. Alister, I think there is a quality control issue at Sony with the FS7 EVF 90-degree rod block. I’ve had hands-on with three production units (including my own personal FS7) and my FS7 is the only one that actually has properly functioning spring-loaded pegs inside the rod block.

    So in short, my EVF rod functions exactly as you had hoped. The grooves in the rod gently “click” into place and help hold it at 90-degree increments.

    The other two rod blocks had all the proper parts, but it seemed like the hole for the spring-loaded pegs wasn’t milled deep enough or something… they were in there, but wouldn’t protrude from the surface of the hole (if that makes sense…)

    1. Yes, I have now found the small balls, but every camera I have tried, including my own plus 5 other cameras I’ve used at workshops, the balls do not have enough force to hold the VF level. I’m currently finishing off the design for a new VF arm that can replace the Sony one and fixes this issue.

  18. Thanks alister. That’s what I found when I talked to Sony, exactly what you describe so well. I was not aware however that you lose Waveform if you have independent LUTS turned on and off in some combo (e.g., off on SDI1/internal, on on VF.. you’re saying you will lose waveform). I need to test that.

    For now I am shooting custom, Slog3 gamma, NR at Medium, Matrix off. It looks and grades as well it seems as CineEi but with the obvious limitation that I can’t use a mLUT. I just use the waveform and/or an external monitor with a LUT applied.

  19. Alister,
    Just double checking that if I use Slog3 in Custom mode should I turn the matrix off as Paul says above?
    I also seem to lose the waveform if I have the LUT on for SDI2 and VF but off for SDI1 and internal recording. That’s seems like a mistake I hope they fix. Actually i miss the old IRE center readout on the F3. That was nice for setting levels in Slog.

    I just got the camera yesterday and aside from a few issues – like the waveform issue above, losing LUT’s in custom and losing white balance in CINE EI, and the slow iris wheel – I’m pretty damn impressed. On first look the hypergammas seem nicer than cinegammas on the F3 and the arm controls are really a treat.

    I addition to Slog3, I was hoping this camera would give me more flexibility for run and gun doc and industrial work. So far I have been playing with the Sony SELP 18-105 and the older 18-200 and it seems like they will work quite well. Way better than handholding an F3. The 18-105 even seems capable of giving me useable slow zooms with the rocker arm. I may order the SELP 18-200 to see if that will also work.

    Lenny Levy

    1. If you try to use S-log3 in custom mode you will experience problems with the LUT’s in post as the colorspace and white balance will be miss-matched. Loosing variable white balance in CineEI is normal and expected as the LUT’s are white balance dependant, you would need a different LUT for every possible white balance combination and this is impractical. White balance fine tuning should be done in post.

  20. Alister ,
    Thanks for that information. That’s too bad about Custom mode (actually suggests that Sony shouldn’t have even offered Slog3 as an option.)

    However – here’s what I still don’t understand (sorry if I sound like a broken record, and promise not too post again about this.)

    Assuming what you say is correct, how can Sony offer 3 different white balances in Cine EI ? Are they actually using 3 different LUT’s for each setting?

    Also the inevitable question is – what is Alexa doing differently?
    Likewise RED – here it seems like they did exactly what you are suggesting is impractical – an adjustable LUT for every possible white balance combination.

    I’m just trying to figure out how to be able to light in Slog3 in a way that doesn’t make it more difficult for me and my clients to see color. Sure its more film like, but I’m old enough to have shot film under fluorescents, and it was always a crapshoot – and that’s before LED and FLO lights with their own problems.

    So far I see 4 solutions when in mixed light or non standard Kelvin.
    1- Light in custom mode then switch to Slog for shooting.
    2- Carry a bunch of color correction filters and shoot through them.
    3- Get a monitor like the Small HD DP7 which can add LUT’s and secondary corrections as well.
    4 – Just tell my client – “don’t worry it will look great.”

    I plan to test #2 & 3 this month.
    What I want to avoid is #4 with my best client leaning over my shoulder saying – “Lets just shoot with the RED – its easier.”

    Lenny

    1. All LUT’s in every camera are built around a specific white balance and R, G, B gain and level settings. For example if you create a LUT in resolve that LUT will be based on the white balance of the shot that you graded. Apply the LUT to a clip with a different white balance and the end result will be who knows what!
      When shooting Log the FS7 (like the F5, F55, F65) will apply fixed changes to the white balance of the recording. These fixed changes retain the correct R, G and B ranges that will then give predictable corresponding changes to the final output so that the Sony supplied LUT’s will work predictably at any of the white balance presets.
      A fully variable white balance system would result in unexpected clipping or low levels in the R,G & B channels as a variable white balance works by altering the gain of the R, G and B channels. With log you must be very careful with the gain levels if you want to retain the cameras full dynamic range, too much or too little gain in a single channel can give nasty color artifacts. You likely won’t see this on a monitor or in the VF as the LUT rarely has the full dynamic range of the log recording so may not show these artifacts (clipped colors in highlights, excess noise in one color channel etc).
      Another issue is with raw. As the CineEI mode is also the camera’s raw mode, then the LUT’s and De-bayer must work according to the preset white balance. There are 3 different raw debayer algorithms built into the raw decoder software, one for each white balance setting. Infinitely variable white balance would require an infinite number of debayer algorithms.
      For log Arri have a variable gain white balance system, but it is known that outside of the 4 presets that it is possible to get clipped colors or excessive noise in the R or B channels that may not show up on set. In raw arri uses the 4 presets and then include any further offsets as metadata within the raw, but the actual recordings are done at a preset white balance and the color adjusted in post via metadata and grading.
      Red is raw only and have a fixed recording color temperature. Everything else is done via metadata. They vary the LUT RGB gain to create a sudo in camera white balance, but this again means that what you see on set is not what is being recorded, so can leave room for nasty surprises in post when the footage doesn’t behave as expected, in particular clipped colors or noisy colors.

      Sony’s system isn’t perfect, but it is very safe and unlikely to throw up any anomalies in post where something just won’t grade well as you will see any color issues while shooting. If you’re having issues with mixed lighting on set then a variable white balance won’t fix this, merely mask the issue at the time of shooting. Baking in some strange white balance offset, maybe with a big hole in the green channel to make up for sub standard LED of Florrie lights may make it very hard for the guys in post to make further corrections.

  21. Thanks Alister,

    That is a very clear explanation of the issues and I do see your logic.

    What do you think then of my strategy #2 – carry around a few color correction filters and thus bring the image I want around to look closer on the presets. Then I will be able to happily light in mixed situation and show the client something roughly accurate. Of course the downsides are adding extra glass and reducing exposure, but there I could pick my poison. Its not something I would use all the time but could be useful in some circumstances. (BTW – I work a great deal in Silcone Valley and spend lots of time in fluorescent rooms.)
    ( I also intend to try the Small HD monitor)

    Lenny

  22. Hi Alister,
    When using my FS7 in Cine EI and adjusting the ISO, with MLUTs off, the image on the viewfinder and the waveform monitor doesn’t chage (except for the ISO readout). Of course, with MLUTs on, I can see changes, but I can’t see the waveform. Ideally, of course, I’d like the waveform to stay the same while the display changes. Is this possible?

    1. EI is NOT ISO. EI is the gain of the LUT, not the gain of the camera, so if the LUT’s are off and you change the EI nothing will happen. The inability to see the waveform in the VF when using LUT’s is a known issue and we are told this will be resolved in a later firmware update.

  23. Hi, did you ever resolve the waveform issue? I am completely stumped and cant even get it to show up. Ive disabled hmdi out with DSI on set to 1080pfs. Its driving me insane, I can use Slog because I cant expose without them!
    Cheers
    Matty

    1. It’s a known bug/limitation. Hopefully it will be resolved in a firmware update.

      Just turn on the 709(800) LUT and expose as you would with any conventional video camera. If the 709(800) looks right then the S-Log will also be right.

  24. On your suggestion I just got a Tamron 16-300 lens to try vs the Sony SELP 18-200 for an all purpose exterior run around lens. I like it pretty well but there are a few odd things on the F7 using a metabones Mark IV that make me wonder if I might have a lemon or there is an issue with the Mark IV
    1 – The zoom oddly seems to me be having some interaction with the iris and I can hear it clicking when I move the zoom . If I move it quickly in a large movement I can see the iris open up a bit during the zoom then find its correct spot as the zoom ends.

    2- There seems to be something I can’t quite get my head around yet with the manual focus ring .Sometimes it seems to function perfectly , while at others especially when in wide angle it just seems to get hung up somewhere as I’m changing focus , and it doesn’t move until I actually feel some lens element engaging , then it seems to catch and work fine.

    Does this sound like something is wrong, or just more compromises to live with?

  25. I also noticed the center circle in the zebra pattern where zebras are not showing. I thought that this circle is likely there because of a lens fall off hence the center of the created image naturally brighter. Since the 93 IRE zebra setting is at or near S-Log 3 max white point, just that little difference in lens light transmission (brighter center) would just tip it over the range where zebras work. However, then stopping down the lens should make zebra pattern start appearing in that center circle area, unfortunately this is not the case. I find that Zebras, WFM and other monitoring functions to be very poorly implemented in FS7.

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