Sony have released a firmware update for the PXW-FS7 that includes a fix for a problem that can in very rare situations cause the footage to be over exposed. There have been very few reported cases of the problem and it only occurs in the CineEI mode after a camera re-start. The new firmware update has been released to prevent it happening. It’s recommended that you update you camera to this new version, version 4.1.
By the time you get to read this you may already know almost everything there is to know about the PXW-FS7 II as it has been leaked and rumoured all over the internet. But I’m under a Sony NDA, so have had to keep quiet until now.
And I’ve been told off for calling it a MKII, the correct name is PXW-FS7 II. Sorry Mr Sony, but if you call it FS7 II, most people will think the “II” means MKII.
The FS7 camera is a mature product. By that I mean that the early bugs have been resolved. The camera has proven itself to by reliable, cost effective (amazing bang for the buck really). To produce great images and 4K files that are not too big. It can do slow-mo, 4K, 2K, HD and raw via an adapter and external recorder. As a result the FS7 is now one of the top choices for many broadcasters and production companies. It has become an industry standard.
The first and most important thing to understand about the FS7 II is that it does not replace the existing FS7. I would have preferred it if Sony had called this new camera the “FS7 Plus”. The “II” designation (which I take to mean MKII) implies a replacement model, replacing the MKI. This is not the case. The FS7 II is in fact a slightly upgraded version of the standard FS7 with a few hardware improvements. The upgrades make the MKII quite a lot more expensive (approx 10K Euros), but don’t worry. If you don’t need them, you can stick with the cheaper FS7 MK1 which remains a current model. In terms of image quality there is no real difference, the sensor and image processing in the cameras is the same.
So what are the changes?
The most obvious perhaps is the use of a square rod to support the viewfinder. This eliminates the all too common FS7 problem of sagging viewfinders. As well as switching to a square rod each of the adjustments for the viewfinder mounting system now has a dedicated clamp. Before if you wanted to slide the viewfinder forwards or backwards you undid a clamp that not only freed off the sliding motion but also controlled the tilt of the screen. So it was impossible to have the fore-aft adjustment slack for quick adjustments without the viewfinder sagging and drooping.
With the MkII you can have a slack fore-aft adjuster without the VF drooping. Overall the changes to the VF mounting system are extremely welcome. The VF mount on the Mk1 is a bit of a disaster, but there are plenty of 3rd party solutions to this. So you can fix the problems on a MKI without having to replace the camera. In addition, if you really wanted you could buy the FS7 II parts as spare parts and fit them to a MKI.
The Lens Mount.
The next obvious change is to the lens mount. The FS7 MK1 has a normal Sony E-Mount where you insert the lens and then twist it to lock it in to place. The FS7 II mount is still an E-Mount but now it has a locking collar like a PL or B4 mount. This means that you have to insert the lens at the correct angle and then you turn a locking ring to secure the lens. The lens does not rotate and once locked in place cannot twist or turn and has no play or wobble. This is great for those that use a follow focus or heavier lenses. BUT the new locking system is fiddly and really needs 2 hands to operate. In practice you have to be really careful when you mount the lens. It’s vital that you align the white dot on the lens with the white dot on the mount before you twist the locking ring.
As you rotate the locking ring a small release catch drops into place to prevent the ring from coming undone. But if the lens isn’t correctly aligned when you insert it, the lens can rotate with the locking ring, the catch clicks into place, but the lens will just drop out of the mount. When inserted correctly this mount is great, but if you are not careful it is quite easy to think the lens is correctly attached when in fact it is not.
Variable ND Filter.
Behind the lens mount is perhaps the most significant upgrade. The FS7 II does away with the rotating filter wheel and replaces it with the variable ND filter system from the FS5. I have to say I absolutely love the variable ND on the FS5. It is so flexible and versatile. You still have a 4 position filter wheel knob. At the clear position the ND filter system is removed from the optical path. Select the 1, 2 or 3 positions and the electronically controlled ND filter is moved into position in front of the sensor. You then have 3 preset levels of ND (the level of which can be set in the camera menu) or the ability to smoothly control the level of ND from a dial on the side of the camera. Furthermore you can let the camera take care of the ND filter level automatically. The real beauty of the variable ND s that it allows you to adjust your exposure without having to alter the aperture (which changes the depth of field) or shutter (which alters the flicker/cadence). It’s also a great way to control exposure when using Canon lenses as the large aperture steps on the Canon lenses can be seen in the shot.
Another physical change to the camera is the use of a new arm for the handgrip. The new arm has a simple wing-nut for length adjustment, much better than the two screws in the original arm. In addition you can now use the adjuster wing-nut to attach the arm to the camera body and this brings the hand grip very close to the body for hand held use. This is a simple but effective improvement, but again 3rd party handgrip arms are available for the base model FS7.
The viewfinder loupe has seen some attention too. The standard FS7 loupe has two fiddly wire clips that have to be done up to secure the loupe to the viewfinder. The MK2 loupe has a fixed hook that slips over the top lug on the viewfinder so that you now only need to do up a single catch on the bottom of the loupe. It is easier and much less fiddly to fit the new loupe, but the optics and overall form and function of the loupe remain unchanged.
As well as the loupe the FS7 II will be supplied with a clip on collapsable sunshade for the viewfinder. This is a welcome addition and hand held shooters will no doubt find it useful. When not in use the sunshade folds down flat and covers the LCD screen to protect it from damage.
The number of assignable buttons on the FS7 II is increased to 10. There are 4 new assignable button on the camera body where the iris controls are on the original FS7. The Iris controls are now on the side of the camera just below the ND filter wheel along with the other ND filter controls. These buttons are textured to make them easier to find by touch and are a very welcome addition, provided you can remember which functions you have allocated to them. It’s still a long way from the wonderful side panel LCD of the PMW-F5/PMW-F55 with it’s 6 hotkeys and informative display of how the camera is configured.
Tucked under the side of the camera and just above the power switch there is now a small green power LED. The original FS7 has no power light so it can be hard to tell if it’s turned on or not. This little green light will let you know.
The last hardware change is to the card slots. The XQD card slots have been modified to make it easier to get hold of the cards when removing them. It’s a small change, but again most welcome as it can be quite fiddly to get the cards of an FS7.
A further change with the FS7 II is the addition of Rec-2020 colorspace in custom mode. So now with the FS7 II as well as Rec-709 colorspace you can also shoot in Rec-2020. I’m really not sure how important this really is. If Sony were to also add Hybrid Log Gamma or PQ gamma for HDR then this would be quite useful. But standard gammas + Rec2020 color doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense. If you really want to capture a big range you will probably shoot S-Log2/3 and S-Gamut/S-Gamut3.
So – the big question – is it worth the extra?
Frankly, I don’t think so. Yes, the upgrades are nice, especially the variable ND filter and for some people it might be worth it just for that. But most of the other hardware changes can be achieved via 3rd party accessories for less than the price difference between the cameras.
With all the financial turmoil going on in many countries right now I think we can expect to see the cost of most cameras start to rise, including the original (but still current) FS7. This may narrow the price gap between the FS7 MKI and FS7 MK2 a little. But an extra 3000 Euros seems a high price to pay for a variable ND filter.
In some respects this is good news as it does mean that those that have already invested in an FS7 MKI won’t see that investment diminished, the MK1 is to remain a current model alongside the souped up MK2 version. Now you have a choice, the lower cost workhorse FS7 MK1 or the MK2 with it’s variable ND filter and revised lens mount.
Last week Sony released firmware version 8 for the PMW-F5 and F55 cameras. The main purpose of this update is to add support for the new AXS-R7 raw recorder as well as a number of bug fixes. A further addition is the inclusion of the XAVC Class 480 codec, a higher quality version of XAVC-I for more demanding applications.
An important bug fix is the ability to use the latest versions of XQD-G and M series cards.
HOWEVER IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT ATTEMPT TO INSTALL THIS FIRMWARE IF YOUR CAMERA’S SERIAL NUMBER IS IN THE FOLLOWING RANGE:
100001 – 100723
500001 – 500036
100001 – 100781
500001 – 500020
Attempting to install version 8 on cameras in the above serial number ranges may lead to the camera becoming completely unusable unless a very expensive circuit board is replaced.
If your camera’s serial number is in the ranges indicated you should contact a local service center to arrange to have the firmware installed for you (my understanding is this is a one-time requirement, you will be able to do future updates yourself).
FOR EUROPE CUSTOMERS WITH CAMERAS IN ABOVE SERIAL NUMBER RANGE:
Please supply the following information to the following email address PrimeSupport@eu.sony.com and Sony will advise next steps.
Company name if applicable
Which product do you own?
Serial Number (6 digit number)
Which firmware version is currently installed?
And confirm if the CBK-55PD option installed?*
United States service centers:
Eastern Service Facility
Sony Service Center
Sony Electronics Inc.
123 W. Tryon Avenue
Teaneck, New Jersey 07666
Western Service Facility
Sony Service Center
Sony Electronics Inc.
2706 Media Center Drive; Suite 130
Los Angeles, California 90065
For those located in Canada please contact
Sony of Canada (Customer Service Solutions Group)
211 Placer Court
Toronto, Ontario , M2H 3H9
Sony Montreal Service Center
Sony du Canada Ltée
2886 Boulevard Daniel?Johnson
Laval, QC H7P 5Z7
1469 Venables Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 2G1
Professional Technical Support (Vancouver)
In other countries please contact your Sony dealer who should be able to assist.
If, and only if your camera does not fall in the range above then you can perform the update in the usual manner by placing the firmware on an SD card.
DO NOTdownload and install version 8 firmware if your serial number falls within serial number range detailed above
This firmware can be updated from V7.02, V7.01, V6.02, V6.01 and V6.00. When you want to update F55 and F5 from V5.11 and earlier, you must update to V6.00 first. Please also ensure that your AXS-R5 firmware (if you have one) is also up to date.
Sony have released firmware update version 4.0 for the PXW-FS7. This new firmware brings some welcome updates to the FS7 including the ability to move the focus magnification area away from the center of the screen. Other new features include true 24p (as well as 23.98fps).
1. Support for Flexible Spot in Focus setting.
2. Support for XAVC-I 4K 24.00P.
3. Display for Video Signal Monitor is improved.
4. Operability of S&Q setting by assignable button is improved.
5. Remove Basic Authentication from items saved in all file.
6. Auto knee stability is improved.
7. Overall stability and operability of the camera is improved.
Firmware version 2.0 has just been released for the Sony PXW-FS5. This update adds the automatic ND filter option as well as zebras that go rom 0 to 109% so now you can use Zebras with grey cards for S-Log and raw exposure…… Oh yes, of course you need firmware version 2 if you want to get the raw option for your FS5.
The raw option allows you to record 12 bit linear DCI 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps to a compatible external recorder as well as 120fps 4K raw in a 4 second burst plus up to 240fps slow motion 2K.
Also the GPS will now work (provided you have the handle attached), so footage can be geotagged for future reference and the cameras internal clock can be synchronised to the GPS time signal. This may be useful for multi-camera shoots as at least the time on each camera will be exactly the same.
Sony’s little PXW-FS5 is slowly maturing. The next firmware version will add support for automatic operation of the cameras variable ND filter. The Auto ND function can be used in conjunction with Auto Iris to get an incredible automatic exposure compensation range. Great for day to night timelapse etc. The Auto ND function has to be assigned to one of the cameras assignable buttons before it can be used, but it’s a great feature to have.
In addition Zebras will go down all the way to zero. So you will be able to set zebras to 50-55% for log skin tones or 41% for S-log3 grey card exposure etc.
GPS will work too!
All of the above will be free. For an extra $600 you will be able to get the raw output option. This will allow the camera to record to an external raw recorder in full DCI 4K (4096×2160) at up to 60fps. Yes, that’s right 60fps! In addition there will be a 4 second HFR burst capability that will allow you to record 4 seconds of 120fps 4K raw. If all that isn’t enough then in 2K you will have high speed recording at up to 240fps. However there won’t be any non high speed 2K modes, so no regular 30fps 2K raw.
Just like the FS700 and FS7 the raw is 12 bit linear, so not as good as an F5 or F55, but still a very nice option to have. All of this should be coming some time in June. Don’t forget for raw you will need an external raw recorder such as the Convergent Design Odyssey or the Atomos Shogun.
Sony have released a firmware update for the 18-105mm lens that is available as a package with the FS5. The update addresses some of the focus tracking issues that some lenses appear to have. To update the lens firmware you need to go to the support page of Sony consumer: http://www.sony.co.uk/support/en/product/SELP18105G
and download the update package. You will need to have the lens mounted on a camera and the camera connected to a Mac or PC. Full install instructions are provided after you click on the Mac or PC download link buttons.
More good news for Sony PMW-F55 owners. A rather obscure announcement over on the official Sony user group states that the PMW-F55 will gain the ability to record 4K raw at up to 120fps via an optional future accessory.
This is great news for F55 owners. We can hope that perhaps this option will get extended to the F5 as well (after all the FS700 and can do it for short bursts and possibly the FS5 will be able to do it too using their internal memory caches to cache 4 seconds of the 4K HFR before copying it to the R5 or Odyssey). I do hope that the F55 4K raw isn’t limited to a 4 second burst and that it’s the full 16 bit raw that you get at up to 60fps.
Quite what the optional accessory will be I don’t know, but my guess would be a new raw recorder or new faster AXS media, but it could also be an internal upgrade allow the high speed raw to be passed to the existing R5 and AXS media.
Good news. Firmware version 3.0 has just been released for the PXW-FS7. This is a major update for the FS7 and adds some important new features such as a 2K center scan mode that can be used to allow you to use super16 lenses or more importantly eliminate aliasing and moire when shooting above 60fps.
For users of the Cine-EI mode there are major improvements to the usability of the waveform display as this now works with most LUT combinations (but not in S&Q or when outputting 4K). In addition you can now enable noise reduction in Cine EI, although be aware that this may introduce banding artefacts in some situations.
Zebras now go all the way down to 0% so if you want you can use zebras to measure white or grey cards when shooting log or to measure the recommended skin tone levels for S-log (40-55%) and hypergamma (55-60%) recordings.
Also there is a proper time-lapse mode and some improvements to the quality of the raw recordings when using an external recorder raw such as the 7Q.