NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.

workshops-275 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
DSC03765-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
The Sony NEX-FS700 with kit lens

I have just spend a couple of days with 3 of Sony’s latest offerings. The new compact XDCAM camcorder, the PMW100, the diminutive NXCAM HXR-NX30 and the NEX-FS700. If you’ve managed to miss all the noise, the FS700 is yet another camcorder with a Super 35mm sensor, this one recording to AVCHD and very,very similar to the Sony FS100. I have not been paid or commissioned to write this review. I requested the loan of the cameras from my contacts with Sony so that I could asses them for myself. Yes, I am a fan of Sony gear and I do run workshops for Sony in my capacity as a Sony ICE (Independent Certified Expert). But the views here are my own views and I try to be as objective as possible in my reviews.

Despite being similar to the FS100 and a higher model number, the FS700 is not a replacement for the FS100 nor an upgrade model. The FS700 is a separate model with it’s own feature set.

So what are those new features? Well out of the box the coolest feature is that the FS700 can shoot at up to 960 frames per second. Now there are already quite a few cameras out there that can do this, but most of them are considerably more expensive and specialised. Above 240 frames per second the resolution of the FS700’s video is reduced, but when you get down to 240 fps and below the FS700 shoots at full 1920×1080 resolution. The nearest competition that can do this is Red’s Epic which will set you back around 8 times the price of the FS700 for a fully usable shooting package and Epic crops into the sensor for it’s high speed modes making getting wide angle slow-mo tricky.

DSC03768-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
Front view of the FS700 showing the fatter lens body to accommodate the ND filter wheel.

The next feature won’t be available right away, but the FS700 has a 4K sensor (11.6 Mega Pixel) and in the future Sony will bring out an update that will allow the camera to output 4K RAW data from the sensor over the cameras 3G HDSDi. What is not known at the moment is when this option will become available, how much it will cost for the camera upgrade, it could be free or it could be a paid upgrade and what the recording options will be. Being completely realistic the 4K option is likely to end up costing a fair amount of money, possibly close to the cost of the camera body. You have to remember that any device capable of recording 4K RAW will need to have a very high data throughput, it will need to have a 3G Sdi connection and it will need to use some very fast recording media. SSD’s may be one option, another possibility might be Sony’s new SR Memory, but those are damn expensive. looking at what’s already available to record 4K RAW there is the soon to be released AJA KiPro Quad which has a target price of about $4k. Add in a couple of fast SSD’s some form of mounting system and your looking at $5k. That assumes that Sony go with a third party for the RAW support. If it’s an in house Sony product it could end up more expensive.
So, my advice right now, is not to buy the FS700 purely because of the future 4K RAW option. Wait until we hear more from Sony about how this will work before buying just for 4K. In the mean time, think of it as a bonus feature on this great camera.

DSC03771-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
The rear end of the FS700

As mentioned above the FS700 has 3G Sdi. As the FS700 shares the same video processing as the FS100 once again the output is limited to 8 bit even in 3G mode. With all the hype and talk of 10 bit recording, or more, how big a deal is this? Well it depends on what you want to do do with the camera. 8 bit recording has been used for decades to produce TV programmes, many excellent works have been produced using 8 bit. Canon’s C300 is 8 bit, there is nothing wrong with 8 bit for most normal TV production. However these days it is becoming normal to do more and more grading and colour correction in post production and this is where larger bit depths help. If your not doing aggressive grading or post work then 8 bit is just fine if handled carefully.

DSC03770-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
The 4 way ND selector with positions for clear, (1/4) 2 stop, (1/16) 4 stop and (1/64) 6 stop ND’s

Probably the biggest complaint about the FS100 was it’s lack of ND filters. Sony blamed this on the very short flange back (distance from lens mount to sensor) of the E Mount that the camera is fitted with. This short flange back is great as it makes it possible to adapt to just about every other lens mount on the market including PL, Nikon and even Canon. The new Metabones E to EF mount even provides electronic control of the Iris as well as image stabilisation on Canon lenses. For the FS700 Sony have found some new ultra thin ND filters that can be squeezed into this narrow space so the FS700 has one clear position and 3 stages of ND filtration. Apparently the filter design was “borrowed” from the flagship 8K Sony F65. The addition of the ND filter wheel inside the camera does mean that the area around the lens mount is longer and fatter on the FS700 than the FS100.

DSC03773-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
Arri Rosette on right side of FS700 for new hand grip.

Another change over the FS100 is that the removable hand grip is now attached to the camera body via an Arri rosette. This means that not only can you 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 mount the Sony hand grip on the rig so that you can start and stop the camera with the grip. The new hand grip has another couple of new features, one of which is a dedicated button that magnifies the image in the viewfinder for easier focussing as well as a zoom rocker.

DSC03774-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
New hand grip with zoom rocker and expanded focus button.

Currently there are no lenses that can take advantage of the zoom rocker, but I think we can probably expect to see a servo zoom for the FS700 some time in the future.
Just like the FS100 the FS700 has an abundance of 1/4″ mounting points for accessories, in addition to plenty of 1/4″ and 3/8″ tripod mounting points. There are now two mounting points for the removable handle adding increased stability and security. I have to say that I’m not a fan of the stock handle. It serves it’s purpose giving you a way to carry the camera but I think I’d like to have something a little bigger that extends further back, above the viewfinder. At least you can change the handle or remove it all together if you want. The rear part of the FS700 is almost exactly the same as the FS100, again it’s covered in buttons and control knobs. Some like this, others don’t. Personally I like it. I like having dedicated buttons and switches for all the commonly used camera functions. I had a camera recently that lacked switches for some key functions and as a result that camera had to go! I don’t like having to go into the menu’s to change stuff on a shoot. A lot of what I shoot (bad weather and natural extremes) happen suddenly and unpredictably so if I can just hit one button to change a setting rather than delving into the menu’s that makes me happy and allows me to work faster. Having said that some of the buttons are very small, so operating then with gloves on will be quite tricky,but that’s one of the prices you pay for having ever smaller camera bodies.

FS700-Std-gamma-300x168 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
Frame Grab from FS700. Standard Gamma
FS700-CG1-300x168 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
Frame Grab from FS700, CineGamma1

Picture Quality:

So that’s the outside of the camera, what about the pictures it produces. I was lucky enough to play with a FS700 at NAB back in April and it impressed me then. Now I have spent a bit more time with one I’m still very impressed. The pictures are very rich with very high contrast. Dynamic range is very good too and highlight performance is much improved over the original FS100 thanks to the addition of  new Cinegammas in the picture profiles. The FS700’s Cinegammas 1 and 2 are comparable to Cinegammas 1 & 2 in the PMW-F3. The cinegammas on the FS100 are unique and different to the cinegammas in the FS700 and F3.

You do need to remember however that the FS700 has more pixels than the FS100 on a similar sized sensor. Normally you would expect this to mean lower sensitivity and lower dynamic range, but in practice the difference is barely noticeable. There is a tiny bit more noise than the FS100 but it is of very fine grain, quite reminiscent of film grain and even at higher gain/ISO levels is not too objectionable. I’d be quite happy to use the FS700 at up to 1600 ISO for just about any production and maybe 3200 at a push and I am very fussy about noisy pictures. This is very good performance. The dynamic range is comparable to the FS100 and I suspect the sensor is actually capturing a far greater dynamic range than the standard or cinegammas can comfortably deliver which bodes well for the future RAW option.

FS700-std-dr-300x168 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
FS700 Standard Gamma
FS700-CG1-DR-300x168 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
FS700 CineGamma 1

The two frame grabs above show the difference in the way the FS700 handles highlights between the standard settings and CineGamma 1. The bright highlight on the top rear of the car is handled very well in both cases, but the CineGamma has a slightly more pleasing and more natural look. The light blue garage door on the far left is starting to wash out with the standard gamma but the CineGamma is showing slightly better highlight handling. In addition the raised shadow details in the CineGamma shot show increased dynamic range. I could have probably exposed slightly lower using the cinegamma which would have helped the highlights still further.  I estimate the dynamic range to be about 11.5 stops, about the same as the FS100 and very good for conventional gammas.

One point of note is that for the review I used the supplied Sony 18-200mm E mount lens for a lot of my testing. I’m not a fan of this lens. It’s not fast at f3.5 – f6.3 and the focus ring has no calibrated scale of any description as it’s one of those round and round servo focus systems with no end stops and no repeatability. The manual focus is sluggish and un-responsive which makes nailing focus tricky. The iris is controlled either automatically or via a small thumbwheel on the side of the camera. While I don’t really want to make a direct reference to the Canon C300 as it may sound like I’m somehow putting down the Canon, after all is a good a camera, when I had my Canon C300 the iris on that (with the Canon EF lenses) was also control by a wheel on the camera body. On both cameras the electronically controlled iris operates in steps. The steps on the Canon were in my opinion too coarse to allow you to make unnoticeable iris changes mid shot. The steps on the FS700 with the kit lens appear much smaller and are small enough to go unnoticed in many cases. In addition the autofocus on the FS700 was quite effective and the new face tracking firmware helps keep people and faces in focus rather than simply focusing on the background as many cameras do. If you do have Canon lenses, you can use them very easily on the FS700 by using the new Metabones adapter which allows any Sony E-Mount camera to control the Canon lenses electronic isis and additionally makes any optical stabilisation work. The other alternative is the MTF Canon adaptor for E Mount with it’s external iris control box. In either case when using a Canon lens the iris steps are still larger than with the Sony lenses, so I guess it is a lens limitation rather than a limitation of the camera body.

FS700-chart-std-300x168 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
FS700 DSC Chroma Du Monde Chart reproduction, standard settings.
FS700-chart-CG11-300x168 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
FS700 DSC Chroma Du Monde Chart reproduction, CineGamma1.

As you can see from the DSC Chroma Du Monde charts above. The FS700’s colourimetry is very good with no obvious rogue colours. As is typical of a Sony camera the colour reproduction is very true to life. Sometimes this is not always ideal, if you consider the way Canon’s very red colorimetry makes for pretty looking pictures, Sony’s can sometimes appear a little un-interesting. However Sony’s very accurate look gives you a fantastic neutral starting point that can be graded to give your desired finish. Of course you can always use the FS700’s picture profiles to modify the cameras colour matrix to create the look you want and I’ll be releasing some custom picture profiles once the camera is released.

High Contrast:

One thing that caught my eye was the way the camera reproduced very fine details. It has really nice contrast levels at high frequencies, something that is almost certainly down to the use of a 4K sensor and electronic sub sampling. In a traditional camera an optical filter is placed in front of the sensor to limit the amount of fine detail passed to the sensor to prevent aliasing and other artefacts. These optical filters don’t have particularly sharp cut-offs, so there is some reduction in fine detail contrast close to the resolution limits of the camera. If you use a 4K sensor and then down convert electronically the optical filter is operating well above HD frequencies and the electronic low pass filtering can be much sharper than an optical filter. The end result is better contrast in HD at high frequencies. The almost inevitable downside however is that it’s near impossible to eliminate all moire and aliasing in the down-converted signal. As a result the FS700 does exhibit a little more moire and aliasing than the FS100 on very fine repeating patterns and textures. This is still very well controlled and not something that I am particularly concerned about. The camera that I had for this most recent test appeared to have slightly improved aliasing performance than the camera I used at NAB.

Ultra Versatile:

DSC03763-300x199 NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.
Th Sony NEX-FS700

The FS700 really is an extremely versatile camera, ignoring the future 4K option for a moment, you still get a very capable camera that can switch between NTSC and PAL regions. It can use a massive range of lenses. It can shoot at not only 23.98p, 25p, 30p, 50i and 60i but also at 50p and 60p both internally and to and external recorder via HDMI or 3G HDSDi. Wan’t to go faster? Well you can, intact you can go all the way up to 940 fps. Using Sony’s new NEX-FS700 to shoot slow motion is simplicity itself. To enter the super slow mo mode, you simply press a switch marked S&Q on the left side of the camera. First press of the button puts the camera into S&Q motion where it will shoot full resolution HD at up to 60fps. In this mode you just shoot as you would normally, only now at a higher speed than normal. Press the S&Q button again and the camera enters super slow motion mode.

Super Slow-Mo:

In super slow mo the FS-700 will shoot at 120fps or 240fps at full 1920×1080 resolution. You can also shoot at 480fps and 960fps at reduced resolutions. When shooting at 100/120fps you are limited to a recording burst of 16 seconds and at 200/240fps the burst period is 8 seconds.
There are two ways to trigger the recording burst. You can trigger recording immediately after the press of the record button or you can set the camera to record the burst period prior to pressing the record button. If using the trigger at start mode, on pressing the record button a message saying “buffering” appears in the viewfinder. After 8 (or 16 secs) the camera starts to write the recording to the SD card (or FMU) and you see a slightly slowed preview of the recording of what you have just shot. So this takes about 3x the record time to write the file and during this period you cannot shoot anything else which. Pressing the record button during the write process, stops it at that point, keeping the written file to that point and the camera goes back to standby ready to record another shot.
In trigger at end mode, you point the camera at the scene you want to capture and shortly after the thing you want to record happens you press the record button and the camera then starts to write the previous 8(16) seconds to the SD card, again you see a roughly 1/3rd speed playback of the clip as it is written to the card.

During the buffering period, what actually appears to be happening is that the video stored in the cameras frame buffer is getting written to an AVCHD file at 50/60 fps. This 50/60 fps AVCHD clip is then flagged to play back at the base rate the camera was set to before you pressed the S&Q button resulting in super smooth, super slow motion. The fact that the buffering from the cameras frame buffer to AVCHD happens at 50/60P does open up the possibility of recording that stream via the HDMI or 3G HDSDi to an external recorder at higher quality than AVCHD. I didn’t have time to fully explore this, but will do so as soon as I can.

 

The fact that you can’t shoot anything else during the write process is a little frustrating, but it’s a small price to pay for the ability to shoot at 240fps, although it does mean you can’t really use the FS-700 to shoot long duration events without gaps in super slow mo. The great thing is that as all the processing is done in the camera. Playback of the clips is no different to playing any other AVCHD clip. 8 seconds at 240fps results in an 80 second clip at 24fps. I could have really done with the trigger at end mode on a recent shoot I was doing with Red Epics where we were shooting pyrotechnic and special effects events that often took some time to trigger, but only lasted fractions of a couple of seconds. With the Epic’s we often ended up with several minutes of footage prior to the action we wanted, wasting storage space and making more footage for the editor to go through.

The sample slow-mo clips below were shot over a single evening. The first clip was shot at 480fps. At 480 fps the resolution is 1920×540, half the vertical resolution of full HD. This results in a lot of extra aliasing. I think you would have to be very careful about how and when you use the rate or indeed the even higher 960 fps rate where the resolution is even lower. The rest of the shots were done at 240 fps at full HD resolution and these look simply fantastic.

But what about the 4K RAW. Well all the signs are that the sensor in the FS700 is a good one. Clearly purpose designed for video production. The low noise and high sensitivity that you can see in the HD footage hints that once the RAW option is enabled the FS700 will be able to compete head to head with cameras like Red’s Epic or Canon’s C500. The ability to fit such a massive range of lenses to the FS700 is a great selling point as are the built in ND filters, something that I’m sure many Red users wish they had. I don’t think the question is whether it will be any good, but rather just how good will it be, I’m sure it will be very good indeed, but until the option is unlocked we won’t know for sure. That’s why I say anyone buying one now should consider the 4K RAW as a bonus feature and not a primary reason for buying one right now. For me the FS700’s killer feature is the slow motion capabilities. Expect to see slow motion everywhere from June onwards, it’s going to be the new time-lapse.

As soon as I heard the specs of the FS700 I placed an order for one. I’ve been looking for a Slow-mo camera for some time now. Red’s Epic was beyond my reach and the Red workflow doesn’t suit the kinds of productions I’m normally involved in. I’m really looking forward to taking delivery of mine some time next month. These are exciting times, the average film maker now has access to some incredible tools that in the past were prohibitively expensive. Tornadoes, volcanoes and extreme storms in super slo-mo, rock on!

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82 thoughts on “NEX-FS700 In Depth Review.”

  1. Dear Alister,
    thanks for posting such an interesting review about the FS700. Im about to use it for a music video this Sunday. Cant wait to be honest.
    I wanted to ask you, I hear different schools of thought as to whether the cinegamma 1 or cinegamma 4 has more highlight latitude. What are your thoughts on this matter?
    thanks so much for your time
    all the best
    Rob

    1. Cinegamma 4 definitely has the greatest latitude, a good useable 12 stops, maybe a little more and is biased to maximising overexposure headroom. Cinegamma 3 has 11+ stops and is more biased towards shadows.

  2. Hello Alister,

    thank you for your helpful information about new Sony FS700 on blogs very much.

    Please, help me and other buyers with following “big” problem:
    I need tis camera for slow motion (200 fps) and real time shoots (50% to 50%).
    How to record full HD slow-motion externally and not to ruin my wallet?
    Based on your information that “To get the full benefit of external recording you need to set the FS700 to output 50/60p over 3G SDi and then you must use an external recorder that has 3G SDi and can record at 1080 50/60p which the SAMURAI CAN NOT DO!!!”.
    – What to do now and what to buy?
    – What is Samurai good for in this case (I have an external monitor)?
    – Combine ProRes Samurai´s real time external recording with internal AVCHD internal slow-motion? I would have to buy another recorder with this option later anyway.
    – Record everything internally in AVCHD and wait for a better recorder – for how long? Is it´s quality good enough for pfofessional needs?
    – To buy Gemini 4.4.4. (it is too expensive for me) – does it solve the problem?

    My conditions: I make only music videos (short shoots and a lot of cuts in final music videos), I have a new MAC + Finalcut and a new DaVinci Resolve software, a lot of colour changes and stylizations in postprocess.

    Thank you very much,

    Petr Volgemut

    1. I have to ask why do you feel that you need to record the Super Slow Mo externally? There is not going to be a significant image quality improvement with an external recorder and you still have all the same limitations of only being able to shoot in short bursts and you will still be 8 bit.

      Currently the cheapest option for 3G 50p/60p recording is the Ki-Pro Quad.The Gemini is probably a better and more versatile unit but until the DNxHD codec options for this are released it is only uncompressed so the size of the files it generates are massive. 50p/60p recorders will almost certainly become more common and get cheaper but the extra data through put and processing will mean that they will be more expensive. When they will come, I don’t know, maybe later next year.

      For real time recording the Samurai is very good value for the money. If you want something cheaper then there is always the Black Magic Hyperdeck 2 but this has some annoyances like no way of telling how much space is left on your recording media.

      You have to ask yourself: Do I NEED an external recorder or is it that you WANT an external recorder. If you NEED one then you should buy one now and my recommendation for conventional recording would be the Samurai. If you don’t need one, but simply want one, I would wait and see what develops between now and NAB next April.

      1. Thank you very much, Alister.
        Yes, that is the question. If external uncompressed or ProRes recording has better image quality than internal AVCHD (but also in slo-mo), I would buy an external recorder. Otherwise I do not need it. I expected a little better quality of ProRes external recording than internal AVCHD. Sorry, I am new in it

        1. I would suggest you just try the FS700 as it is and see how you get on. Adding an external recorder won’t magically make your images look significantly better. Yes, without doubt an external recorder will reduce the amount of compression artefacts and that might allow you to do more in post production. But the AVCHD from the FS700 is pretty good to start with and you can achieve great results without resorting to an external recorder. My “Grand Canyon” video was done without an external recorder.

  3. Hi I’m going to be buying the fs700 soon but I’ve heard the viewfinder is c**p, would you suggest any good evfs for this camera please. Also do you know of any rain covers it

    Cheers Ian

    1. The viewfinder is not poor. It’s one of the best fitted as standard to any camera currently on the market in my opinion. The placement is awkward in some situations, but the screen is very good.

      There are lots of external EVf’s to choose from. My favourite is the Alphatron.

      Camrade made a rain cover for the FS700.

  4. Hi Alister,

    First off, I very much enjoyed reading your review!

    Just a quick question, when dealing with the footage in post what were the file sizes like? I’m not overly familiar with the AVCHD format as I’m mostly dealing with Canon’s at the moment. I only ask because I was recently looking at the Black Magic Cinema Camera and nearly blew a blood vessel when I saw what the post workflow for RAW would be like.

    Cheers,
    Scott

    1. A 32gb SD card will hold over 2 hours of material at 24Mb/s AVCHD, so the file sizes from the camera are quite small.

  5. Alister,

    I’ve recently purchased the Fs700 and a Samurai. I’m confused about the resolution differences when recording to the internal SD card versus any of the three resolutions on the Samurai… ProRes HQ, ProRes422, ProRes LT.

    As you well know, the file sizes of the resulting sequences are significantly different. Does it follow that the higher the Mbits/s, the higher the resolution and therefore the better the image, or is there a point at which a larger file is simply larger without any significant improvement in image quality.

    For the most part, my films are viewed on nothing larger than 60″ screens. Is it beneficial for me to be filling up hard drives with content filmed in ProRes HQ on the Samurai, or do the sensors of the FS700 only give some maximum resolution in any case.

    Is the quality of the image recorded to the SD card limited in quality; does the Samurai record a better image?… Or is there a way to change the quality of the file recorded to the SD card to match the Mbits/s of ProRes HQ on the Samurai?

    Thanks!

    1. Resolution does not change whether you are recording internally or to the Samurai, it is always 1920×1080. Recording on the Samurai does several things. First it increases the bit depth to 10 bits (the camera is only 8 bit). Second, the recordings will have increased chroma fidelity as the recordings will be 4:2:2 compared to the internal 4:2:0. Third, the increases the bit rate, making the files bigger but with fewer compression artefacts and forth creates a file that most computers find easier to play and manipulate. There is no way to increase the internal recordings to the same quality as the Samurai.

      Overall the benefit of the above is that the pictures will contain fewer image artefacts, especially on smooth gradients like walls or the sky, be less prone to degrade during editing and tolerate grading and post production manipulation better.
      If you simply took the pictures recorded on the internal cards and compared them to the Samurai recordings you will be hard pushed, in most cases to see the difference. However if you do then start to do any multi-generation work or colour correction etc the ProRes files will hold up much better.

      So, it all depends on what you intend to do with the material and how fussy you or your audience is about image quality. If you want to do anything for broadcast you will almost certainly need to record on the Samurai.

      1. Thanks Alister,

        If I may dig a little deeper?

        My work remains essentially unedited. I do not use sound. Very little post production other than adding dissolves between very long segments. I shoot a non-moving image in the landscape (a tree, a river, a mountain) over long periods, usually an hour once a week for a year, ultimately creating a 52-hour long loop.

        Until this recent change in equipment, I have been using a Sony Z7, with it’s native HDV1080i codec, captured via firewire directly to my computer as a Quicktime movie.

        The FS-700/Samurai combo is an obvious big jump up in quality. However, I only need/want as good an image as possible without going ‘beyond’ the maximum resolution of the camera, which, as you say, is 1920 x 1080.

        Am I getting a better image if I capture in ProResHQ than if I only use ProRes422? Am I making a sacrifice in quality merely attempting to save hard drive space?

        My concern is the need to create the highest quality image possible that can in the end, be loaded onto a MacMini (for the moment, maximum 2 tb internal hard drive) for playback (via iTunes) on a dedicated screen or monitor, without going beyond the actual capacity of the camera’s sensor.

        Thanks,

        1. ProResHQ will deliver a higher quality image than ProRes.

          The FS700 sensor is very good, very low noise and with good resolution so it does benefit from better recording codecs. The best quality would be obtain by recording uncompressed, but the files would be huge.

          However there is a point where the improvement in image quality becomes so small that it’s no longer going to make any noticeable difference to your finished production. It’s difficult for me to give a definitive point at which this occurs as everyones views on what is acceptable varies. While the recordings do benefit from being recorded using ProResHQ, from what you have described to me, you will probably find that ProResLT would be sufficient for your particular application.

          1. Thanks again for taking the time to explain this.

            I think what remains for me to do is run a test of the three available Samurai resolutions, playing them on a MacMini connected to a 55″ screen, both at 100 and 200% to find the point where no difference is discerned… and go with that codec when recording.

            BTW, if you look at my website, you’ll see we’ve traveled to not dissimilar places. I’ve taken two trips to film both the Summer and Winter Solstices (the winter version, as you have also done, was illuminated by the full moon) above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, not far from Narvik.

            This new equipment, and my concerns about file size are the buildup to my upcoming voyage at the end of this month to Tierra del Fuego, the lowest accessible point in the Southern Hemisphere. We’ll be far from towns, living in tents, and running the computers and cameras off car batteries, and needing to back everything up as we go. My calculations were telling me I’d have to take 30 tb (!) of Sata disks to ensure enough space to back up everything twice if I filmed in ProRes HQ. I was getting nervous about the weight.

            Thanks again,

            Jeffrey

  6. Hello,
    what is the best way to transcode AVCHD files from Sony FS700 to ProRes for editing in FCP-X? Is FCP-X able to do it without conversion or any problem or some converter to reformat AVCHD to ProRes on Mac is necessary?
    Thanks a lot, Petr

  7. I appreciate someone trying to tackle complex issues, (at least for me anyway); including video encoding schemes and codecs. I’m trying to decide how much better the Sony FS700 will perform compared to my Canon 1D M4. The Canon does use more bandwidth to record the data (about 4 times as much), but I’m sure much or all of this is wasted. The Canon does almost nothing to optimize tones other than using contrast adjustment and ‘highlight tone priority’. Continous, automatic tonal adjustment is clearly the way to go. Sony somehow employs procedures to squeeze the heck out of those 8 bits. I believe the Canon uses a heavy low pass filtering algorithm which you see in all DSLRs. The internet clips I’ve seen all show images with better definition for the Sony compared to the DSLRs.
    My other concern is that I’ve not seen any comment anywhere on the internet regarding the problem of dust on 35mm sensors. Video with dust spots looks terrible. The Canon M4 has an ultrasonic cleaning mode. I assume that FS700 users MUST have a procedure for ensuring clean sensors. What do you do?

    1. DSLR’s use sensors optimised for high resolution stills. So they must use line skipping, pixel skipping or extensive image scaling to get down to video resolutions. This has a negative effect on the image quality and can create image artefacts that use a lot of encoder bandwidth. Also the encoders are not as well optimised as the dedicated video encoders found in most video cameras.

      Not sure I’d want any form of automatic tonal adjustment, that would take your control over the image and exposure away.

      The video camera sensors are normally protected behind an optical port, so dust on the sensor should not be an issue.

  8. Hi Alister,
    I was googling about info for the fs700 and it bought me to this review. Really appreciate you taking the time to write this up. I got a lot out of it.

    I am a dslr shooter and I am looking for the next camera and fs700 is one that I am really considering (like you, I really like the slow-mo feature). So it is always nice to ask find out more from the owner about the camera.

    What type of situation do you find yourself using this camera (compared to your other cameras)? What lens do you pair this camera with? How do you like the lens that came with the camera?

    If possible, can you share some of the footage that you shot with the fs700?

    Again, appreciate all the info on this site. Your site is now bookmarked! 🙂

  9. Dear Alister,

    as anybody else on this site I really have to thank you for all this helpful
    informations.
    I also think about purchasing a FS-700 soon.
    One thing I couldn’t find out yet is the compatility with FCP 7. Are there any plug-ins I have to use or do the files work fluently on FCP 7 like it does on X ?

    Thanks again for your work and sharing it !

    sincerly, Christian

    1. FCP7 is a bit of a relic when it comes to handling H264. You have to use log and transfer to transcode the H264 to ProRes.

  10. Thanks for a very interesting write-up. One question: like many others online you mention that the AVCHD codec will stand up to some grading but not TOO much. I’m always puzzled by this. Can you give an example (or even examples) of the sort of grading that would be excessive. I imagine changing a scene to b/w and tweaking contrast and brightness would be no problem, but what would be a problem?

    1. Contrast changes are the most gruelling, especially when you start trying to brighten the mid range while pulling down the shadows. You can comfortably do small tweaks to the colour and contrast of AVCHD, lets say within a 15 to 20% range, but any more and you need a more robust codec.

  11. Hi Alister
    Thanks for this review. Very informative
    I’m relatively new to the videography game as I’ve been a photographer for some time and was hoping you may be able to assist further in my decision to purchase an FS700. Most of the material I’m interested in shooting is based around action sports and music videos etc so its all reasonably fast paced etc.
    As you mentioned, the stock servo zoom lens that comes with the camera isn’t the most suitable. Would you be able to suggest a servo lens that would. Also, I’m wanting to purchase a couple of other lenses for this (prime/s, telephoto and widescreen). Could you suggest a number of brands that would be compatible with this camera or if there’s any additional mount that would also be required for this? With my photography, I currently use a Nikon D8000 for my photography so I was also hoping there’d be some way I could coincide the lenses between my DSLR as opposed to also not having to buy more lenses if they’re not needed
    Thank you kindly

    1. Large sensor cameras like the FS700 are very tricky to use for fast paced shooting due to the shallow DoF. For music videos in more controlled situations they are excellent. The only straight forward servo zoom option is the new 18-200mm from sony based on the kit lens. This is still going to be hard work for fast action. You can get an adapter from MTF to use your Nikon lenses on the FS700. https://www.lensadaptor.com

  12. Thanks for some good info – hoping to buy the FS700 soon…wondered what’s the best media memory cards out there (both 32 and 64GB) for very reliable use in this camera?

    Thanks
    K

    1. Almost any major brand of cards will give reliable results. Buy your media from a reputable seller to avoid the many fake cards out there. I use the SanDisk Extreme 45MB/s cards and have not had any issues. If you want a faster off load speeds then you could use the 95MB/s Extreme Pro cards.

  13. Hi Alister – I’m looking to buy the FS700 and use Avid – I’ve been reading unhappy stories about getting AVCHD into Avid – would you have a suggested work-flow? Would you use Flash cards or an external memory recorder, and if the latter, which one? Many, Many thanks! Peter

    1. I’m not so familiar with Avid, so I can’t really help with AVCHD in Avid. It should would via AMA though, but as with AVCHD on any edit platform it is very processor intensive so performance is not always great.

      If using an external recorder, on a budget then the Atomos Samurai is a good match. For something with a few more options there is the Sound Devices PIX-240. If your not in a rush the new Convergent Design Odyssey 7 is very interesting.

  14. Thanks for the feedback, Alister, that was very helpful. Just one other question: another vague criticism I’ve heard is that the ND filters are “fiddly”, “not so good” etc etc. What is your opinion, and do you have any idea what the complaints relate to? Thanks.

    1. The ND switch is a little prone to skipping past the filter you want. It’s stiff to activate and then only has short travel. I think it’s a very minor issue.

  15. I’m considering this camera for slow motion analysis of a high speed paper transport system. I’m particularly interested in the higher frame rates but cannot determine what resolution can be expected at 960 fps. Can you provide any further information on this?

    1. In all cases the recording frame size is 1920 x 1080.

      Within that frame the resolution is 1920 x 1080 unto 200/240fps. 1920 x 480 to 400/480fps and (I believe) 480 x 240 to 800/960fps. Certainly above 400/480fps there is a significant drop in resolution.

  16. Dear Alister,
    I own a SONY FS700, and recently I encountered an issue. I was shooting at 60fps, and had an on board Small HD monitor hooked up via hd-sdi out port, when I am recording the slow motion shot, the onboard monitor has no video signal, but the tiny view monitor on the FS700 did. the only way to get a video signal while recording at 1920×1080 at 60-fps and above is to change video out signal down to 480P. I wonder if this is a system bug or a system failure. I found it make no sense at all, and wonder have you had the same issue before? thanks very much for your time and help!!

  17. Very helpfull and insightfull article, was curious,
    if I am shooting sports, can one shoot only 8 seconds at a time of slow mo ? at say 240 fps ? thats kind of self defeating ain’t it to create a slo mo.

    1. It is correct that you can only shoot for 8 seconds to the internal cards, this is because the cards themselves cannot sustain high speed recording so a memory buffer inside the camera is used. Most high speed cameras can only shoot for short bursts. Remember an 8 second shot will last a minute and a half when played back. With the raw option you will be able to shoot continuously, but you’ll chew through some very expensive recording media very very quickly.

  18. Hi Alister, thanks for writing this great review, I found your Cinegamma comparisons very useful. Now that the 4K recording has finally been introduced I was wondering if you had the chance to test the Sony R5 or Convergent Design’s Odyssey recorders. If so, do you think there’s any drawbacks using the Odyssey recorder over Sony’s R5 if you don’t need high speed at 4K? How does the 4K compare to the Scarlet or Epic?

    1. I’m shooting the the FS700 and R5 this week. Picture quality is amazing, it really is a baby F5, baby in budget but not baby in size. Ergonomically the FS700 – IFR5 – R5 is a nightmare. It ends up very big and heavy. The 4K is comparable to a Scarlet or Epic MX plus you get high speed modes that are not windowed like the Red’s.

      The Odyssey is a much, much neater solution. If you don’t need 4K raw I would get the Odyssey over the R5. For 4K and FS700 users I think the 4K compressed log recordings of the Odyssey might work better for those on a budget.

  19. Alistair,
    I’m wondering about using the FS700 with a Samurai at 1920×1080. Although the camera only puts out an 8 bit signal is there still value in recording at 10 bit?
    I gather that at least gives you 4:2:2 which should be a big advantage for green screen right?
    What about using it with SLog2 ? Do you think that would be advisable on the Samurai. It sounds like a stretch to record it internally?
    Thanks for your advice.

    lenny levy

    1. 422 will always be better than 420, but the difference is not night and day. 8 bit with S-log 2 is not good. if your exposing correctly with middle grey at 32% the amount you have to pull up the mid tones will lead to a loss in subtle hues and skin tones will not look as good as if you use a Cinegamma.

  20. Hi Alister,
    I can only add myself to the thankful readers’ list of this article.

    I am about to buy the baby. My concern now is that I’ve seen the camera named with several different names: FS700E (is it for the lens mount?), FS700J (does it stand for Japan?) and FS700JK (no idea what does this one mean). Would you please clarify me this issue?

    Any news about the 4k firmware yet?

    A million thank you

    Francesco

    1. There are various packages, all of which have the same basic camera the FS700. There is also now a new model the FS700R. The “R” version has the 4K firmware installed as standard, but otherwise is the same camera. The FS700R does not include a lens, the RH has the 18-200mm power zoom. The K models come with the 18-200mm manual lens.

  21. Alister, have you tried the new 18-200 power zoom and what are your thoughts for those of us in the run n gun? I love my ex1r and am wondering how this lense would measure to the ex1r’s fujinon…

    Thanks in advance!
    Lonnie

    1. The 18-200 power zoom is a compromise lens. Optically it’s the same as the manual lens. The aperture ramps down as you zoom, so the pictures may slowly get darker. Focus tracks pretty well, but it’s not perfect. The zoom speed is very slow.

      But: It is a power zoom and has a good zoom range. It’s not really anything like the lens on an EX1, but then the camera itself is nothing like an EX1 either.

  22. Hi Alister,

    Your blog and postings on various sites have helped me an awful lot in starting to understand camerawork, Gammas, Waveforms and other things. I got my FS700R yesterday (next to my trusty EX1r) and considering that i bought it with a 4K future in mind I’m wondering what would be worth getting as a mediacard. Right now I can work on regular HD for some time to come so the 95mb/s SD cards i have will work just fine. Yet i’m hoping that in the future we will see way better cards for 4K recording and i’m especially keen on good external recorders (i dont think ill be using that ssd plug-on thing on the side of the FS700) what would your best guess be on what kind and of recorders and in how many years they’ll be quite affordable for little guys like me? the Q7 is cool but will there be a recorder with the full XAVC capabilities and such?

    Regards,

    Bram.

  23. Hmmm… I do a lot of corporate video and corporate commercials with my EX1R, and my thought is to replace the EX1R with the FS700 – but the lack of a true run n gun concerns me… Your thoughts please, Alister.

    Thanks,
    Lonnie

  24. Hi Alister,

    Thank you for the informative review. I’m in the process of examining the FS700 for (slow motion) use in budget sports broadcasts. Can you tell me what the camera is outputting over HD-SDI / HDMI while recording slow motion and while writing the slow motion to disk?

    Regards,
    Mark

    1. While shooting the output is normal speed 25p, 30p, 50p or 60p depending on what the camera is set to. During the buffering stage where the camera writes the clips to the SD card the slow motion is present as 50i/60i on the SDI in 1.5G mode or in 3G you get the slow motion within a 50p or 60p stream.

  25. Hi Alister, like everyone else says, thank you so much for taking the time to do this review and respond to all the questions you’ve received. May I pose one more:

    I am planning to pick up an FS700 this month, either the R or the RH. I am (and will remain) a Canon shooter and have a growing collection of good Canon glass, so in either case I shall pick up the Metabones speed booster – my question is – would you bother with the 18-200mm power zoom offering from Sony for the approx £800 price difference, or (bearing in mind I own a good 24-70 and 70-200mm) sink that money into a wide angle for the canon?

    1. I’d get the 18-200 if you can. It’s actually quite useful as the image stabiliser and super steadyshot function is good, also good autofocus means you can zoom during the shot.

  26. Alister,
    Do you know if there is a possibility to control the FS 700 with a laptop from a distance?

    Thanx for your support,

    Frank

  27. Dear Mr./Ms.
    I have some questions about NEXFS700UK:
    1. What is the difference between Hz and frame rate? For example, in 50 Hz mode, there are 100, 200, 400, and 800 states. I think maybe some images are real and others are interpolated images in higher frame rates such as 100 FPS. Is my idea correct or not?
    2. What is the resolution of camera in 100 and 200 FPS?
    3. How can we increase the recording time to 3 minuets in 100 and 200 FPS? Is FS700 camera capable for 3 minuets recording in 100 and 200 FPS by add a hard drive, memory, or something like this?
    Best regards

    1. Nothing is interpolated the camera really does shoot at up to 800 or 960fps. Up to 240fps it is full HD, up to 480fps it is 1920×480.

      You can’t increase the HFR recording time as the camera must use a special high speed memory buffer to temporarily store the video, unless you get an external raw recorder (odyssey 7Q or IFR5/R5) and take the raw stream in which case you can shoot 2K at up to 240fps.

  28. Its such a wonderful gesture from you. It was truley very helpful sir.
    I specialise in wedding & event coverages….. have some questions regarding the same FS700 which i bought 2 months back….

    1. Please do suggest me with a complete autofocus lens that can do everything give me a 28mm wide and a 450-500mm zoom approx ( price is not a constraint – want the best one for my FS 700 )…… any company is okay which could be of use in the future too…..
    2. I too have all the canon lens which i use it with the Metabone speed booster but – its totally manual & nothing can be changed from the camera !
    3. If i use an external recorder like cinealta AXS-R5 4K/2K RAW Recorder
    HXR-IFR5 Interface Unit…… why is the interface unit also required ??
    4. last but not the least – what would be the video quality difference when i see a HD recording & a 4K recording in weddings ? ( it a diff to judge but just give me an approx guess to the image quality as per your calculations ya observations !)

    I will highly appreciate your answer & thankyou for your precious time. Regards – Priyam.

    1. The lens you desire does not exist. The closest would be the Tamron 16-300mm, but it’s not a fast lens.
      Without the interface unit there is no way to connect the R5 (designed for the F5 camera) to the FS700.

  29. a last thing which i would like to share is the video link i captured with a FS700…… would share it as you see you will understand my needs (seeing the video)

  30. Hi, I was wondering if someone could help me. I bought the FS-700 a few months back. I had it in my hand for five minutes, before a camera man borrowed it for a job. Is there any way if I can find out how many times and how long the camera was recording and if it was used on other dates also, which I would not have known about. I would be really grateful if anyone could point me in the right direction. Thank you very much in advance. Yours sincerely, Declan

  31. Hey,
    Thank you so much for this article. But I have a problem with this gear. When I am shooting with my NEX-FS700 connected to the AC power and Battery fully charged in it and if accidentally I loose AC power, the gear goes down for like 2 sec before shifting to the DC power usage from the battery. Is it normal on this gear or just its a problem with my settings. Your help please!
    Thanks,
    Clement

  32. Hallo Alister!
    I appreciate very much your kindness! Your answers encourage us to pursue the best every day!
    I bough a used FS700 not 4k upgraded. I want to shoot a documentary about nature to release in digital cinemas. This is my first experience on a large screen and where I live there is no cinema to taste the shooting. What about the setting you suggest for large screen? No special effects, natural color, a good detail, a good compromise between ligh and shadows of mountain/wood landscapes….
    Thanks a lot.
    Franco

    1. I’d simply switch to one of the cinegammas and then tweak the colors in post. The cinegammas give much nicer highlight roll off.

  33. Question: can u shoot in 59.99 fps then use that footage and turn it into super slow motion without losing quality as if it were shot in super slow ? Basically imagine shooting a sports match but then use certain shots for replays in super slow motion in post. Thanks!

  34. HI alister, thanks for your words!
    Do you know if its possible to get 4 audio tracks in/out of the fs700? for example with an adaptor og through the hot shoe? best christian

  35. Hey Allister I have the odyssey 7q+ and the fs700, I was wondering what the best profile settings would be for increasing dynamic range? i know it’s probably RAW but other then that what settings should i have for the required slog2 there? anywhere you could direct me? THANKS !

    1. If outputting raw to the Odyssey then picture profiles make no difference to the image recorded on the 7Q. Just ensure you use preset WB and 0db gain, which you should also do when shooting with S-log. S-Log2 is already achieving the cameras maximum DR.

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Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.

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