Updated notes for FS100 – F3 Video Review.

To see the video scroll down to the next blog entry.

The main aim of the shoot was to see how the FS100 held up against the F3. We shot on a bright sunny day by the River Thames and again in the evening in a typically lit living room. There were no big surprises. The FS100 is remarkably close to the F3. You would have no problems cutting between the two of them in a project.
I did find that the FS100 LCD appeared less sharp and not quite as good as the F3’s even though they both use the same underlying panel. This is probably down to the additional layers required for touch screen operation on the FS100. I also did not like the 18-200mm f5.6 kit lens. There was too much lag in the focus and iris controls, but the beauty of this camera is that you can use a multitude of lenses. For the evening shoot I used a Nikon 50mm f1.8 which was so much nicer to use. On reviewing the footage I did find that we were tending to over expose the FS100 by half a stop to a stop, this does make making accurate comparisons difficult and I apologise for this. I believe this was down to the slightly different images we were seeing on the LCD’s. I did use the histograms on both cameras to try to ensure even exposure, but even so there is a difference. A small part of this is also likely down to the very slightly different contrast ranges of the two cameras.
Oe thing we discovered, not mentioned in the video is that when you use a full frame lens, like the Nikon 50mm. You must ensure that the E-Mount adapter you use has an internal baffle or choke. If it doesn’t you will suffer from excessive flare. The adapter I had did not have a baffle and some shots (not used) were spoilt by flare. The adapter I have from MTF for the F3 has a baffle as do MTF’s E-Mount adapters, so these should not suffer from this issue.
The FS100 performance is so very close to that of the F3’s (at 8 bit 4:2:0, 35Mb/s) that it is hard to tell the two apart. I believe the F3’s images are just a tiny bit richer, with about half a stop more dynamic range, in most cases it takes a direct side by side comparison to show up the differences.
The range of camera settings and adjustments on the FS100 is not quite as extensive as on the F3, nor do the adjustments have such a broad range. However there is plenty of flexibility for most productions.
If you don’t need 10 bit 4:2:2 then it is hard to justify the additional cost of the F3, both cameras really are very good. Despite some other reports else where I felt the build quality to be very good and the buttons, while small, are big enough and well placed. If you do want autofocus then you will be pleased to know that it actually works pretty well on the FS100 with only minimal hunting (of course you must use an AF compatible lens).
I did also record the HDMI output to one of my NanoFlashes at 100Mb/s. Comparing these side by side it is extremely hard to see any difference. It is only when you start to heavily grade the material that the advantage of the higher bit rate Nanoflash material becomes apparent. There is less mosquito noise in the NanoFlash material. I was really impressed by the AVCHD material. The lack of noise in the images really helps.
The FS100 really is the F3’s little brother. The pictures are remarkably close, which they should be as they share the same sensor. The FS100 packs down into a remarkably small size for transport. The loan camera from Sony was actually packed in a case designed for the MC1P mini-cam, about 15″x10″x5″ so very compact indeed. The F3 is considerably larger and bulkier, in part due to the extra space taken up by the built in ND filters.
The lack of ND filters does need to be considered. There are some clever solutions in the pipelines from various manufacturers as well as existing solutions such as vari ND’s, screw on ND’s and a Matte Box with ND’s, so it’s not a deal breaker
I think there is every chance that the FS100 will be the first NXCAM camera that I will purchase. It will be a good companion to my F3. It’s modular design will allow me to get shots that are not possible with the F3. I felt that the FS100 (with the 18-200mm lens that I don’t like) was better suited to “run and gun” than my F3 with either manual DSLR lenses or PL glass. You can, with the FS100 simply point the camera at your subject and hit the one push auto focus and auto iris and have an in-focus, correctly exposed shot. This is much more like a traditional small sensor camcorder in this respect. The long zoom range also makes this more like a conventional camcorder, although there is no servo for the zoom.

In conclusion, in my opinion, for “run and gun” or quick and dirty setups the FS100 with the 18-200mm lens has an edge over the F3 due to the fast auto focus and auto iris one-push controls. For more precise work and shallow DoF your going to want a different lens, something with manual control and calibrated focus and iris scales. For more demanding shoots then the F3 is probably the better choice with it’s slightly improved dynamic range and the ability to use S-Log and 4:4:4. In either case these cameras can produce highly cinematic pictures and I see no reason why you could not shoot a great looking feature with either.

18 thoughts on “Updated notes for FS100 – F3 Video Review.”

  1. Once again great information. Would you recommend the zeiss cp.2 lenses for the fs100? I was thinking 35,50,85 2.1 Or would it be smarter to dish out the extra cash for the F3?

  2. I too, am considering the fs100,to the F3,your imfo. was very helpful.
    But as William Graydon ask’s, i also have many Nikon lens,but wonder about using,
    either Cooke Panchro lens ( the new ones) or Zeiss CP 2 lens.
    I would really like an opinon on this. Thanks for the USA.

    1. Both the Cooke Panchro’s and CP2’s will give excellent results. The good thing about lenses as an investment is that they will outlive your camera by many, many years. I would recommend something wider than a 35mm lens. Perhaps a 24mm.

      On the other hand good quality DSLR glass can produce an image all but indistinguishable from PL glass. The Zeiss ZF2 DSLR lenses use the same optics as the CP2’s. The advantages that PL lenses normally bring is a greater spread between focus points making it easier to focus, the CP2’s focus rings rotate through about 270 degrees while most DSLR focus rings rotate through between 45 and 90 degrees. Other advantages are that if you buy a set of PL lenses they will all be the same or very similar sizes, so when you swap lenses you don’t need to reposition matte boxes or follow focuses.

      If I was in Williams shoes I would buy the F3 body and a Nikon adapter plus some good Nikon fit lenses. The F3 is a better camera than the FS100. The Nikon 50mm f1.8 AIS can be picked up for $100 used and is a great lens, when I compared it to a CP2 50mm it was impossible to see any obvious difference to the image quality. Another good lens is the Tokina f2.8 28mm which can be found for about $150 used. Then as your budget allows you can add to your lens collection with either DSLR lenses or PL glass.

      One of the great things with a PL mount is that there is no shortage of lenses for hire when you have a job that warrants it. That’s what I do. Last week I rented a set of Zeiss Ultra Primes (very nice), the week before I needed macro lenses so I rented a set of 3 Arri Macro primes. I certainly could not afford to own both of those sets!

      There is no right or wrong to choosing to spend your money on the camera or on the lenses. It’s a decision you’ll need to make for yourself as your requirements may be different to mine.

  3. I too, thank you for your reply and imformation, as you say,and i expected.
    There is not a big difference, between a good $2000 dlsr lens(nikon),or a $10,000 prime,
    except the housing , for cine work.

  4. Alister, Given the choice for a wider lens. I am fixated on these CP.2s. For my wide lens would you recommend 21mm T2.9, 25mm T2.9, or 28mm T2.1? The reason I ask is because you mentioned getting a 24mm and I wouldn’t mind the 25mm but Im afraid I do not know how significant the difference between T.29 and T2.1 is.

    Thanks again!

  5. Mr. Chapman,one more question,i forgot to ask before.
    It seems, that all DSLR lens,have a X factor, when used with an adapter.
    Is this true with CP.2 lens, the PL mount,seems to place the rear element inside the camera.
    Do PL lens, stay the mm they are,or also have an X factor.This is really important to me, i might have to switch over,if PL lens are closer to there mm. Thanks

  6. The x conversion factor is not well understood. It is important to understand that a 50mm lens will always be a 50mm lens. That is it’s focal length. It is determined by the shape of the glass elements and no matter what camera you put it on it will still be a 50mm lens. In addition the lens focuses a set distance behind the rear element, agin the distance between the rear element and where it focuses does not change when it’s put on different cameras.

    It is not the lens or it’s focal length that changes when you swap between different cameras. It is the size of the sensor that changes.

    Imagine a projector shining an image on a screen so that the picture fills the screen. The projector is our “lens”. Without changing anything on the projector what happens if you move the screen closer or further away from the projector? It will go in and out of focus, so that’s no good, we must keep the projector to screen distance constant, just like the lens to sensor distance for any given lens remains constant.

    What happens if we make the screen smaller? Well the image remains the same size but we see less of it as some of the image falls of the edge of the screen. If our projected picture was that of a wide landscape then what would now be seen on the smaller screen would not appear as wide as we are now only seeing the middle part of the picture. The width of the view would be decreased, in other words the FIELD OF VIEW HAS NARROWED. The focal length has not changed.

    This is what is happening inside cameras with different size sensors, the lens isn’t changing, just how much of the lenses projected image is falling on or off the sensor.

    So the multiplication factor should be considered more accurately as being applied to the camera, not the lens.

    So whether it is a PL mount lens, a Nikon or Canon DSLR lens or a Fujinon video lens, if it’s a 50mm lens then it’s a 50mm lens and the focal length is the same for all. However the field of view (width and height of the viewed image) will depend on the size of the sensor.

    The only other thing to consider is that lenses are designed to work with certain sizes of sensor. A lens designed for a full frame 35mm sensor will completely cover that size of sensor as well as any sensor smaller than that. On the other hand a 2/3″ broadcast lens will only cover a 2/3″ sensor, so if you try to use it on a larger sensor the image will not fill the frame.
    The sensors in the Sony F3 and FS100 are “Super 35mm”. That is about the same size as APS-C. So lenses designed for Full frame 35mm can be used as well as lenses designed for 35mm cine film (35mm PL) and lenses designed for APS-C DSLR’s such as the Nikon DX series and Canon EF-S.

    See also http://www.abelcine.com/fov/

  7. I thank you both, for your explanations. There is just a small misunderstanding.
    I know about the lens image circle of coverage,have been shooting film 35mm thur 8X10
    for 35+ years. I guess, a better question is, are there len’s made, that cover super 35 for digital cameras ie (the new sony F3), so that the mm on the lens, will give you that on the reader, so no x factor is involved.Hopefully this is a better question.Thanks to both of you for your help. I have done a lot of checking, and do not see, any specific lens for S35.

  8. Dear Mr Chapman,
    sorry for my english ’cause i am french (nobody’s perfect). I saw your impressive test on youtube about the 2 digital cameras side by side : SonyF3 and Sony FS 100.Indeed, about the quality of the pictures, they seem very close but frankly, i prefer the pictures coming from the sony F3 (they have a better “film look”). Do you think, if i buy the sony F100, that i could get the similar results about the film look than the sony F 3 (for example with the help of Sony proVegas or magic bullet or with special filters…) ? Thanks for your answer.

    1. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get the FS100 to look like an F3. They are extremely close, but the F3 just has a small, almost imperceptible edge that comes from the more sophisticated processing. Now, take two different shots in two different locations and I doubt you could tell which is which (unless the F3 has S-Log :-). But, side by side, there is a difference and it’s not something you can make up for in post production.

      Don’t get me wrong the FS100 is a very capable camera and in the right hands I see no reason why it can not be used for most productions, maybe even a feature film, but at the end of the day the F3 will always have a small edge.

  9. Alister, if I understand the above comments correctly, you would recommend the FS100 for a B camera working with the F3. Would that also mean that you would recommend the FS100 as a B camera over other EX stable mates such as the EX1r or EX3?

    And is there a preferred zoom that you’d want instead of the kit lens on the FS100?


  10. I also understand that the FS-100 HDMI out is 4:2:2 but only in 8 bit. The ex3 is 10 bit. I believe that broadcast standards may require 10-bit, so use as a B camera to the F3 for broadcast may be out. Does this sound correct to you?

  11. Thanks for the time and effort in showing us the Cameras and Windsor ( I used to Live in Maidenhead) the Vimeo didn’t open up fully so it was a bit hard to Judge.
    The cameras did look similar and one can colour correct and adjust the exposure.
    Personally I’m staying with my EX1r. Great look and function, plus a zoom that works.
    I’m using the Letus with Zacuto gear, a bit of bother to get those low depth shots. So I’m looking out for a better solution. And as Richard asks whats the best Zoom for these DSLR cameras? and how do they compare with the EX cameras
    Cheers Peter. Toronto

    1. The short answer would be that the best zoom is going to be a nice Optimo or something like that costing $50k or more, maybe the new Canon PL zoom. But practically your more likely to use a high end DSLR zoom, Nikon fit if you want manual iris, Canon fit with an electronic adapter otherwise. As to which is best, it depends on your needs, the beauty of these cameras is the incredible range of lenses available from fish eye zooms to ultra telephoto.

      They are very different cameras to an EX. Similar menu’s and picture profiles but very different to operate.

      1. Thanks Alister, wow the Canon PL zoom is almost $50,000
        Need to find a zoom thats more affordable. I think I’ll see what NAB brings with the 4k cameras and zoom lenses

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