Thoughts on: FS7 v EVA1.

advertise-here-275 Thoughts on: FS7 v EVA1.
2_SideL-1024x754 Thoughts on: FS7 v EVA1.
The PXW-FS7, Sony best selling pro video camera.

I don’t like comparing two models directly and coming out with a one is better than the other conclusion. And I don’t want this to sound like a Sony fanboy put-down of the Panasonic EVA1. But I’ve had a lot of people ask me whether they should buy an FS7 or wait for the EVA1.

First of all: I have a good relationship with Sony. I like Sony cameras, I’ve been using them for all of my career and they have served me very well, so yes, I am probably biased.

Second: I haven’t shot with an EVA1, I have only seen highly compressed online clips and read the spec sheets, so I don’t really know how it performs. Very few people do.

Third: We are at the limits of what can be extracted from a silicon based sensor. The underlying technology is the same whether you are Arri, Panasonic or Sony and there is a limit to the efficiency of silicon at converting light into electrons, dynamic range, noise etc. So really we won’t see any one camera appear on the market that is massively different to any other with a similar sized sensor, especially at similar price points.

The FS7 is the most successful pro video camera Sony have ever produced by a big margin. There are thousands of FS7’s out in the field being used day-in, day-out to produce all kinds of TV and video productions. It is the industry standard camera for most large sensor TV and video productions. Most TV producers have heard of it, many specify it. I have even seen producers offered Red’s, F55’s or Alexa’s for the same rate as an FS7 but the producers insisted on the FS7 because it’s what they know, it’s what they are comfortable with. They know exactly what they are getting and how to handle the material.

The FS7 is an incredibly versatile camera. It can shoot HD, UHD and 4K. It can record using XAVC and the XDCAM HD codec which is ingrained in television broadcasting world wide due to its low computing power requirements.  At the same time it can (via an adapter) output raw for high end film style productions. It can shoot at up to 180fps in HD for slow motion as well as 4K 10bit 422 at 60fps for normal speed or off-speed applications. It’s approved by Netflix for 4K production. There isn’t much it can’t do. It isn’t perfect, no camera is, but it represents amazing bang for the bucks and it can make very pretty pictures.

It uses professional grade recording media for reliability and speed. You can off-load your footage from the XQD cards incredibly quickly. The cards themselves are robust and reliable, there is no need to resort to parallel recording for safety. It just works as it should.

THE LENS MOUNT

If you have an FS7-II then you also have the wonderful variable ND filter and a locking E-Mount. The E-Mount is one of the biggest benefits of the FS7 over it’s competitors. Thanks to E-Mount you can use just about any lens you want as well as adapters such as speedboosters. Even the new high end Venice camera features an E-Mount because producers and directors want flexibility. Need to use the camera to shoot news? Stick on a B4 ENG zoom via an adapter. Want to shoot a movie? Use a Fujinon MK or use a true Cine lens with a PL adapter. On a budget, throw on some old Canon FD lenses or Canon EF lenses just by swapping the adapter.

Whatever any other manufacturer (or even Sony themselves) produces, none of these things will change overnight. The camera will continue to perform just as well tomorrow, next week, next month, next year as it does today. Even if a substantially better camera comes out today it will take at least 6 months for that camera to become widely accepted and longer still for it to become an industry standard like the FS7. From an image quality point of view it’s unlikely that there will be a significantly better camera at this price point any time soon because of the limits of what can be done with current sensor technology. In terms of what the camera can do, what more would you like from the FS7? It’s already feature packed.

If we take a look at what Sony have done with the new high end Venice camera you will see that if the sensor is used as a super 35mm sensor (like the FS7) it has the same pixel count as the FS7. Both are 4K at super 35mm. To get a higher resolution with Venice you have to take advantage of the larger full frame capabilities of the Venice sensor, this then gives you 6K’s worth of pixels. Why did Sony do this? why not just cram more pixels onto a super 35mm sensor?

Pixel size is very important. It’s part of the reason why cameras with bigger sensors tend to produce better pictures. A bigger pixel can gather more photons of light, making it naturally more sensitive. A bigger pixel can also hold a larger electrical signal before it overflows, this allows for a bigger dynamic range. The color filters can also be bigger allowing for higher quality filters for better color accuracy and less pixel to pixel cross-talk. For Venice, Sony chose to keep the pixels as big as possible to get the best possible image quality with low noise and high dynamic range. 4K’s worth of pixels is plenty for most productions. It’s worth remembering that the Arri cameras are only 2.8K and most people seem happy with their image quality.

The Panasonic EVA1 has more pixels than the FS7. This gives Panasonic an easy sales pitch advantage. The easy sell is the “big is better” sell.  More pixels thus higher resolution is an easy sell, bigger numbers sound better. But cramming more pixels on to the same size of sensor means the pixels must be much smaller. How will the fact that the pixels are significantly smaller effect the image quality? Only time will tell. I’m sure the EVA1 will be a good camera but I suspect that Panasonic will be trading off a bit of sensitivity and dynamic range to gain a small resolution advantage, thank most people will really struggle to see. It’s a game of swings and roundabouts that every manufacturer plays.

The FS7 is a well respected, very capable camera. It’s tried and tested. It has an incredibly flexible lens mount. One of the Canon C300’s restrictions and perhaps part of the reason why it sin’t as popular as the FS7 is the lens mount and the EVA1 shares those same restrictions. With no variable ND filter, when using most Canon lenses the aperture will go in steps making smooth mid shot exposure changes impossible. What do you do if you want to shoot in extremely low light? there’s no speed booster option. What do you do if you want to use a PL Mount cinema lens? Rent an FS7 perhaps?

The EVA1’s planned recording rates max out at 400Mb/s (probably an SD card limitation, and I have big questions over the reliability of SD cards when pushed that hard). The FS7 reaches 600Mb/s when recording 4K 60p.

The FS7 can record 4 channels of audio and has the great MI-Shoe system that allows you to power your radio mic receiver from the camera batteries. I love this system. I have the dual channel reciever so I can use 2 radio mics at once with ease. Plus I can also record a stereo atmos track at the same time.

So, all in all, the FS7 still has a great feature set and it produces a great image. The FS7 viewfinder is great for those of us that can’t focus on an LCD screen just inches from our faces. The EVA1 is not suddenly going to oust the FS7 from it’s top spot. If I was looking for a new camera as a freelance operator right now the FS7 would still be my first choice. I want to be able to work today so I need a camera that will be asked for by producers today and for the foreseeable future. Panasonic are a bit late to this particular party. To make a big impact when you are late you need to have something very special (or very cheap) and while the EVA1 will probably be a perfectly good camera, I do’t think it is going to topple the FS7 from it’s current position as the go-to large sensor workhorse.

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23 thoughts on “Thoughts on: FS7 v EVA1.”

  1. Indeed, the FS7 has some very user friendly things going for it. It’s a shame that color science isn’t among its attributes. There’s a reason that Nat Geo purchased 100 Canon C300 Mk2 cameras a year ago.

    1. That surprises me as I didn’t think Nat Geo’s in-house production facilities were that big. They do a few key shows in house but most is sub contracted. I didn’t see any PR from Canon about this.

      1. Open gate is mainly used for for re-framing as you end up with an odd 1.55:1 aspect ratio, so for most productions you will crop off the sides loosing most of the resolution gain. The point still is that audiences don’t tend to notice resolution differences. It’s probably the least important aspect of IQ.

    1. Not at all. I just don’t spend all of my time waiting for comments. I moderate them in between my money making work, so it doesn’t happen immediately.

  2. Still Panasonic say they have 800 ISO and 2500 ISO as native with the much higher numbers of pixels and smaller pixel. The FS7 are 2000 ISO native. I’m still for FS7 by far, but how do they do this? It’s not new technology as the Varivam LT has 2500/5000 native ISO…

    1. There are several different ways to do it. The Varicam LT (which is 800/5000 ISO) I believe changes the operating range of the analog to digital convertors on the sensor. Many cameras do this but without making it switchable. The FS7 switches between 800 ISO and 1600 ISO when you change between the standard gammas and Hypergamma 7 or 8. This is achieved by using a different part of the sensors output range, it’s not a gain adjustment. Switching the sampling range of the A to D convertors is not the same as adding gain, but it does effect noise levels, however modern cameras also include a lot of noise reduction in the image processing so you can have 2 different A to D ranges, giving different ISO’s and then you add more NR to the high range to compensate for any extra noise. The NR can be applied at the sensor/pixel level or in the cameras signal processor, but either way it almost always introduces artefacts.

      Looking at the low light campfire scenes (from about 6 min) in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgfCNO9-PBk there are some very nasty artefacts in any motion in low light. This might be the youtube compression, but I suspect at least some of it is coming from heavy noise reduction. Similar artefacts can be seen in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=60&v=Hnqq9nAM-3E about 1 min in as the camera pans look at the background top right of the frame. Again this might be YouTube, but it could be something else.

      I haven’t seen anything yet to really show off the dynamic range. There are some scenes in the cowboy film that show average highlight handling, but nothing spectacular has come out yet. I think it was a very brave move to cram a lot more pixels onto the same size sensor. How it works in practice only time will tell.

  3. What about Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K? 🙂 You should also consider that camera in the comparison: you didn’t mention colors at all. It’s quite common to define Varicam/Panason/Blackmagic colors as better than Sony. What do you think?

    1. My personal experience of Blackmagic products has been very mixed. I have had a brief play with the URSA Mini Pro and it seemed to be a pretty decent camera, although not terribly sensitive and with a lot of fixed pattern noise, plus I don’t think they have resolved the rainbow flare problem yet. Like the EVA1 the lens mount options introduce limitations that I don’t want. But really it’s my previous experiences with their products that mean I just don’t trust them for anything “mission critical”. On my desk right now I have a brand new, never used BM mini recorder that arrived DOA. I’ve had so many of their products fail or break that for some of them I used to buy 2 so I had one as a spare. But for the less critical accessories they are so cheap that I can live with the odd failure as normally they will just replace the faulty unit with a new one. But I don’t want to have to have a spare camera on hand just in case. When your in remote areas like the arctic reliability is incredibly important. Sadly despite requests BM seem reluctant to provide me with samples of their products for review.

      As for color, well I don’t think there is anything wrong with Sony’s color science, but it is like so many Sony things engineered for accuracy rather than aesthetics. With a digital cinema camera post production grading is a normal part of the workflow and if you have accurate colors you can then grade them to be whatever you wish them to be.

      1. Thanks for your reply. Here my thoughts:

        – You are right about BM high failure rate.

        – Fixed noise pattern on Ursa Mini Pro is visible only at 1600 ISO and if you underexpose and the open the shadows in post.

        – Ursa mini pro has interchangeble lense mount (Canon, B4, PL and Nikon)

        – Yeah, color grading is a normal part of the workflow but some cinematic looks and feeling are camera unique. I just don’t like the sony’s F55/FS7 colors. Alexa colors, for example, are unmatched.

  4. No disrespect intended but I can’t take a blog post on camera comparisons seriously when one of the camera’s hasn’t even been released yet!
    Clickbait aside – there’s no meaningful discussion to be had until the camera is actually out in the real world.
    As you say:
    “I haven’t shot with an EVA1, I have only seen highly compressed online clips and read the spec sheets, so I don’t really know how it performs.”

    1. That’s why this isn’t a review. It’s discussion about where the FS7 currently sits in the market, what the FS7 can do and what we know the EVA1 can’t or won’t be able to do, things like interchangeable lens mounts etc. All perfectly reasonable areas for discussion based on known facts. The EVA1 might very well make nice pictures, but you’ll never be able to put E-Mount or PL lenses on it and we don’t need to wait for it’s release to know that.

  5. Many Fs 7 owner or intending to purchase the fs7 are desperate about not having the HDR the Fs5 provides. any thought Alister or do you think an FS7 mk3 is about to come or an FS8
    How to you plan the evolution of the FS7 based on competition like Eva1 etc..

    too when used in UHD record mode does the the FS7 use the entire sensor. better use 4 k dci for full resolution from the sensor??

    thks for all yr precious contributions

    1. The FS7 can produce much better HDR than the FS5. The FS5’s HLG option is there for very simple, quick fix, direct to the TV HDR with no editing or post HDR. This is not the best way to produce HDR. It is far, far better to shoot 10 bit 4K S-Log and then grade to the desired HDR standard. This gives far greater control, the ability to produce PQ/2020 and HLG/2020 HDR as well as 709/709 versions.

      What everyone seems to be forgetting is that with the direct HLG approach you are forced to chose between HLG/709 or HLG/2020. If you choose HLG/709 this gives you backwards compatibility with SDR TV’s but less than ideal HDR. If you choose HLG/2020 then you get good HDR but the colors are wrong in SDR. So either way it is a big compromise.

      If you really must have HLG direct from the FS7 then simply build an S-Log to HLG LUT and bake the LUT in or just add the HLG LUT to the output and then retain the S-Log recording. A much better way to do things than the FS5 approach. You don’t need an FS7 MK3 to do this.

      The difference between DCI 4K and UHD is the aspect ratio. You can’t read the sensor at a different aspect ratio without distorting the image, so the sensor is read at the correct aspect ratio thus 3840×2160.

      I have heard no rumours of a replacement for the FS7. What extra features do people want?

      1. Thks a lot alister..this a fantastic reply and that makes it clear

        May I ? according to yr reply how do you grade a Sony slog to make it HDR looking…? a bit in the model idea of Red HDRx where the camera takes 2 shots of the same thing at different exposure and you blend both to have an HDR look in red cineX or fcpx.

        So if we can achieve something in post production with HDR looking the main point the FS7 is missing is 100/120 slow mo in 4K considering the FS5 does it in 4 sec burst mode. the FS7 is limited to max 60fps 4K.. being a(proud) owner of the FS700 i have 120 fps burst in 4k via odyssey 7q
        That’s quite a deal breaker to upgrade from fs700 to Fs7. Many FS 7 owner seem to wait for this upgrade
        There are legitmate temptations to go to see the competition with RED camera as the Scarlet W, who sits at unsane budget to own and operate without knowing the real con’s… the negative i see in RED is the autofocus who is far to give accurate results in ENG style
        For the rest i don’t see anything around capable to beat the FS7

        thks for yr supports and contributions

        1. HDR isn’t a look. HDR is a set of delivery specifications for TV’s and Monitors that have the ability to display a range of colors significantly greater than the range a conventional TV can display. It has nothing to do with HDRx or any of the other photographic multiple exposure techniques, it is all about the display technology and meeting those new display standards.

          Sure the FS5 can shoot a brief 4 second burst of 4K raw if you have a suitable recorder. But then the FS7 can shoot 180fps in 2K without any time limits.

          The Red cameras are a very different proposition. You would need a lot more, a lot larger batteries, the fans are noisy and event the most basic package is going to cost around $20K. But to make it really useable you are probably going to need to spend closer to $25K and that still without any fancy stuff or a RedRocket card to bring the workflow up to speed.

          There’s a place for autofocus for news or fast moving docs, but really if your looking at cameras like the Red’s then really you shouldn’t be worried about autofocus.

          1. HDR HLG
            Hi Alister.
            I have followed all yr tutorial video with a lot of thrills.

            regarding sony FS7 MK2 and monitoring via an UHD TV capable of HDR what are the setting both in the camera FS7 and in FCPX to be able to view and deliver HDR or HLG content.
            Of course i ve donwoaded yr HLG lut and many thks for that

            I think many people will be delighted by your reply

  6. I’m sorry but no one in their right mind would chose an Fs7 over an Alexa.

    I’ve worked with both, and there is no comparison. Did they shoot Moonlight on the Fs7? Manchester-by-the-Sea? Arrival? Nope. All shot on an Alexa.

    1. If they have to shoot 4K, they might. If they need lightweight and portable they might. If they need low power consumption, non-PL lenses they might. Lots of reasons why an FS7 might be chosen over an Alexa, just as there are reasons for choosing any other camera. It all depends on what best suits the project.

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