I’m only going to look at these 3 cameras in this article. Of course there are also many others to choose from these days, so do remember to look at other options from other manufacturers too.
I like Sony cameras and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But I have to say that I really think Sony are on a roll right now. The PMW-F55, F5, FS7 and the FS5 are all great cameras. Sure there are cameras with more pixels and maybe more resolution that may or may not need full frame lenses. There are cheaper cameras and all kinds of other options, but these cameras are all good workhorse cameras that should prove reliable in the field and give years of good service (although with technology moving so fast you might not keep it for that many years).
So which to choose?
First of all YOU need to decided exactly what you need or want from your camera. It’s also good to separate out “What You Need” from “What You Would Like”. For example if you are on an extrmely tight budget you will need affordable media while you might also like the idea of being able to shoot continuously at 180fps. Sometimes the two are not compatible with each other, so you should go with the need rather than the like.
If you’re running a business then you should also ask yourself that all important question: Will the more expensive camera make me more money?
Yeah, yeah, I know…. for some of us they are our babies, our toys and it is nice to have the best toys. But don’t bankrupt yourself buying something you can’t afford or don’t really need.
I’ve included a table of differences between these cameras below which I suggest you take a look at.
The FS5 is clearly exceptional value for the money. It does 80-90% of what the other cameras can do. If you’re only ever going to shoot in HD and don’t want to use Cine EI or LUT’s then really the FS5 is probably all you’ll ever need. It’s small, compact, lightweight and has some great features for shooting on the move like the variable ND filter and face tracking autofocus (with a Sony lens). What it lacks however is 10 bit 422 recording in UHD (even the output is only 8 bit in 4K). So if you want to shoot in UHD (3840 x 2160 TV type 4K) then the amount of grading you can do will be a little restricted. It’s also unlikely to meet broadcast standards as a main camera for UHD production. Further more it also lacks a proper CineEI mode for S-log2/S-Log3 with LUT’s on the outputs. This isn’t the end of the world for occasional log shoots but if you plan on shooting a lot of log then all of the other cameras will be easier to use and it will be easier to get the best results without having to mess about with external monitors with LUT’s, grey cards or light meters. It’s not so much the lack of LUT’s (there are viewfinder only gamma LUT’s) but the inability to monitor at anything other than the native ISO which makes it tougher to offset your exposure in the way you can with CineEI. One final and very important note about the PXW-FS5 is that the XAVC-L codec is very processor intensive. You will need a really good computer to do anything more than cuts only editing. The XAVC-I codec in the FS7, F5 and F55 is much easier to work with, but the files are bigger. SO while the FS5 may save you a lot in terms of media costs, you will need to spend money on a high spec, up to date PC or Mac if you don’t already have one.
The FS5 can be upgraded with a raw option that outputs 12 bit linear raw. This raw output can be recorded on an external recorder and in doing so bypasses many of the FS5’s internal limitations such as only being able to have a single video out OR monitoring signal when recording internally. The raw files are very, very big but you can convert the raw to 10 bit ProRes before recording on the external recorder and this does provide image quality close to the 10 bit internal recordings of the other cameras. But, by the time you add on the cost of the raw option, a raw recorder plus mounting, batteries and media, the price difference between the FS5 and FS7 is very small.
The FS7 really does sit in the middle of this bunch, both in terms of cost and features. It’s a bigger camera that’s tough to hand hold for long, really it’s a shoulder camera. It can do 95% of what the F5 and F55 can do and some things the F5 and F55 can’t. The use of the Sony E-Mount means you can add low cost Sony power zoom lenses or control Canon lens apertures via low cost and compact adapters, this is much harder (and more expensive) on the F5 and F55. Adapters for Canon lenses for the FS5 and FS7 start at $50 while for an F5/F55 adapter prices start at $800. In addition on the E-Mount cameras you can add speedbooster adapters for use with full frame lenses giving a wider field of view and 1 stop faster aperture.
The FS7 has a true CineEI mode for log shooting and can take custom LUT’s. It’s even possible to add the XDCA-FS7 adapter to get internal ProRes recording and a 12 bit raw output, but it is only 12 bit raw which although very nice, is a lot different to the far superior 16 bit raw from the F5 and F55. When using the XDCA-FS7 extension unit it’s also worth remembering that you need to use bulkier and generally more expensive V-Mount batteries.
The FS7 II adds an improved locking E-Mount for greater lens security and stability. The locking mount is also stronger than the standard mount so it will cope better with heavier lenses. In addition the FS7 II also has a variable ND filter. The variable ND allows you to do your fine exposure adjustments with the ND filter allowing the aperture to be used as a depth of field control.
The FS7 is great for short film production, it offers image quality that is good enough for a feature film (I don’t think a movie viewer would detect any deficiency in the pictures from a well setup and well used FS7, even on a big screen). The XQD media while not as cheap as the SDXC cards used by the FS5 is reasonably affordable. There are a few things that might frustrate some users, in particular it is a very sophisticated camera with lots of options and there is no easy way to see exactly how the camera is configured without interrupting the live image in the viewfinder either by going into the menus or using the status pages. If you do use a lot of the cameras features and modes, you will spend a lot of time in the menu system.
One of the great things about the F5 or the more expensive PMW-F55 is the side display panel as this allows you to see how the camera is setup, which LUT you’re using, frame rates, audio levels and so much more without having to resort to the menus. You can also control most of the day to day functions that you will use from this side panel using the option menu and that makes the camera far easier and faster to use than the FS7. The F5/F55 lens mount is much stronger than the E-mount on the other cameras, so it’s better suited to heavy cinema lenses and large super 35mm zoom lenses. You can also adjust the back focus so that it works well with large cinema zooms. For exceptionally good HD images you have the extremely high quality SStP (HDCAM SR) codec. On top of that there is also a higher quality version of XAVC called XAVC Class 480. This brings some respectable improvements in image quality with only a small increase in file size, whether shooting in HD, UHD or 4K. For the very best 4K you have a full 16 bit linear raw option when you dock the R5 raw recorder or with the R7 raw recorder you can choose between raw or 16 bit linear X-OCN. The R7 can shoot record in 4K at upto 120fps with the F55 for amazing slow motion. X-OCN offers images with quality comparable to 16 bit raw but with file sizes smaller than ProRes and not much bigger than XAVC.
Because the recorder docks directly to the camera it is much easier to use than the external cabled option for the FS7 or FS5. In addition the R5 and R7 recorders use special visually loss less processes to considerably reduce the file sizes and make the files very easy to handle. So if you want to shoot a lot of raw for the ultimate in post production flexibility the the F5/F55 are the obvious choice, although this comes at a price.
So, in summary I would suggest:
Buy the PXW-FS5, unless:
You need to shoot 4K DCI (4096×2160). You are going to shoot primarily using S-Log2/3 or do a lot of grading to your UHD footage or are planning to make broadcast ready UHD programs. Unless you need to shoot continuously in UHD faster than 30fps or faster than 60fps in HD. Need timecode in/out or genlock (needs XDCA-FS7 adapter on FS7). In this case I suggest you buy the FS7 unless:
You are going to shoot primarily in raw or need the convenience of the side status display (don’t underestimate how useful this can be). Unless you need to shoot anamorphic, with SStP (HDCAM SR) or need a 4K HDSDI output. Want integrated Genlock and Timecode In/Out. In this case buy the PMW-F5 (with 4K option?) unless:
You need an extra wide colour gamut and a global shutter, in which case the PMW-F55 is king of the hill.
|Size||Small handycam||Medium Semi Shoulder Cam||Medium Shoulder Cam||Medium Shoulder Cam|
|Weight||830g Body only|
2.2kg ready to shoot*
|2kg Body only|
4kg Ready to shoot*
|2.2kg Body only|
4.8kg Ready to shoot*
|2.2kg Body only
4.8kg Ready to shoot*
|Power||BP-U type battery, 12 Watts||BP-U battery, 20 Watts.||V-mount battery, 25 watts.||V-mount battery, 25 watts.|
|Codec||XAVC-L 10 bit 422 HD, 8 bit 420 UHD|
XAVC-I Class 480
XAVC-L (30fps only)
SStP (HDCAM SR)
XAVC-I Class 480
XAVC-L (30fps HD only)
SStP (HDCAM SR
|Recording Media||SDXC||XQD||SxS or XQD via adapter||SxS or XQD via adapter|
|Frame Rate/Size||HD up to 60fps|
UHD up to 30fps.
|HD up to 60fps|
4K DCI and UHD to 60fps
|HD up to 60fps.|
4K DCI and UHD to 60fps (optional)
|HD up to 60fps
4K DCI and UHD to 60fps
|Slow Motion||Memory Buffer system up to 240fps HD, 960 fps at reduced resolution.||Continuous 180fps|
(240fps with ext raw)
(2K 240fps with R5 raw recorder)
(2K 240fps with R5 raw recorder, 4K 120fps with R7 recorder)
|S-Log2/3 and wide gamut recording.||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ultra Wide color gamut sensor.||No||No||No||Yes (global shutter)|
|LUT's||Viewfinder gamma assist only.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Auto Focus||Yes plus face tracking||Yes||No||No|
|Variable ND filter||Yes||FS7 Mk1 - No|
FS7 MkII - Yes
|Multiple SDI outputs||No||Yes||Yes (inc 4K HDSDI option)||Yes (inc 4K HDSDI)|
|Advanced gamma curves||Cinegamma x 4||Hypergamma x 6||Hypergamma x 6||Hypergamma x 6|
|Native lens mount||E-mount||E-mount||FZ Mount with PL adapter||FZ mount with PL adapter|
|Side Panel Status Display||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Quick access to menu functions||Direct Menu||No||Quick Access Menu and Project Option Menu||Quick Access Menu and Project Option Menu|
|Rec BT2020 support||No||No||No||Yes|
|LANC remote control||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|RMB remote control||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Viewfinder/LCD||3.5" LCD + OLED EVF||3.5" LCD with viewfinder loupe.||3.5" LCD viewfinder or OLED viewfinder.||3.5" LCD viewfinder or OLED viewfinder.|
|Built in Streaming/Ftp||Yes||No||No||No|
38 thoughts on “Which to buy F5, FS7 or FS5?”
Thanks good run down…
Do you ever see the combining of the f5/55 models..? now that the F5 and Fs7 are so close.. presuming now a lot of, what would have been F5 buyers, will go with the Fs7..as before the F5 was the budget F55..and the Fs7 being 4K internal out of the box
Haven’t used the Fs7.. but totally agree re the side LCD panel.. I couldn’t go back after having that now.. esp with V7 quick menu on the way.. wonder how I ever got by without it before ..like a mobile phone !
Well you can upgrade an F5 to a full blow F55 already. The F5 is a bit of an odd ball now. No image quality difference between the F5 and FS7 unless you go down the raw route. But, I wouldn’t swap my F5 for an FS7 the F5 is still in a different league to the FS7 thanks to the 16 bit raw and side panel display.
I had the 4K internal up grade done.. that was really an unexpected gift.. as the full up grade I really didnt need.. the different CFA and global shutter don’t figure big for my work.. but the internal 4K became something that I needed much quicker than I had bargained on.. when first buying the F5.. as a non internal 4K camera..the up grade really saved my bacon..
Yes I would buy another F5 /with 4K internal above an Fs7.. I hope it doesnt get axed ..
Thanks for the great review of the FS5. I’m very excited about this camera. I would use it mainly for HD shooting at the highest recording quality. You mention a couple of times about XAVC-L being processor-intensive for editing. I edit on a Macbook / FCPX and had assumed that it would routinely convert XAVC-L to a less compressed editing codec on import, e.g., Pro Res, so alleviating any processing issues. Am I wrong in thinking this?
You can tell FCPX to “optimise media” on import which will generate ProRes 422 copies of your files at whatever frame size you shot, you can also tell it to generate proxies which is another flavour of ProRes codec and has a very low demand on processors, it also looks pretty crap and not great for inexperienced clients to view.
Sony is offering the F5 with OLED viewfinder,4k upgrade installed and an A7SII for 16,995. I was ready to buy the FS7 but this promotion is quite tempting. Specially now that Metabones seems to have come with a nice solution for EF glass use.
Yes, it’s an amazing deal. I think the F5 is the better digital cinema camera. I’m not a huge fan of the OLED finder,but it’s OK. The Metabones EF adapter is now shipping. Just remember it will be a heavier package and need larger batteries.
Alister just a quick question please ? Have you any experience using the Sony 28-135mm Cine Zoom with a wide angle adaptor like the 16×9 EXII 0.8x or the Schneider 0.8x zoom through. I am considering using a 16×9 with the FS5 for run and gun work.
I understand the thread is 82mm and would require a step down adaptor to fit the 92mm thread of the the 28-135mm.
I was just wondering how practical it would be in getting additional wide shots rather than switching out lenses. I have never used an adaptor like this so I’m not sure how it works and how it might vignette because it is 82mm rather than 92mm.
Also how do you operate the zoom with an adaptor like this attached. Like I said I have never used one before so I’d appreciate any feedback. Regards. Thomas
Hi Alister, can you provide any guidance on Sony E mount APS C lens compatibility with Super 35mm? I know that APS C frame is smaller than Supper (oops, wishful thinking! ‘Super’) 35mm, so can that cause vinegetting? To what extent can the FS5 and 7 recognise Sony lenses and correct any inherent lens abberations? Did the SELP28135 need to be full frame to cover the 4k cine 17:9 frame on the FS7 as well as the Super 35mm UHD 16:9? Phew! Think that’s the lot. Bob.
APS-C is only a little smaller than S35, so the vast majority of lenses APS-C are OK to use. There may be a little vignetting with some of the cheaper lenses. The FS7’s lens correction only works in custom mode and doesn’t work with all lenses, it quite limited. On the FS5 the lens correction works all the time and recognizes the majority of E-Mount lenses. It is supposed to be very good (but that’s according to Sony, I have not really tried it that much yet). The SELP28135 was designed for the A7s which is full frame (that’s why 28mm was chosen for the wide end), but also happens t work rather well on the FS7.
Thanks for the comparison!
Since Sony FS5 can output UHD 4:2:2 10 bit, with external recorder there will be no problem getting good image for color grading and broadcasting. Am I right? Or are there some pitfalls?
I’m planning to buy this camera, it seems like a perfect camera for my work (commercials, documentaries, short narrative films.) Only thing that I worry about is how to put this camera on shoulder without creating some crazy rigs as I did for my a7s.
No it cannot output 10 bit in 4K, it’s only an 8 bit output so not really going to be acceptable as a mainstream 4K broadcast camera. For HD it’s fine as it’s 10 bit. It will take a good rig to put it on your shoulder and it will be very front heavy if you do.
It’s such a pity! I read on couple websites that camera will output 10bit in UHD
Do you know something about RAW feature? If it would be possible to output RAW to external recorder and convert it to prores 422 10 bit, I would be happy!
But as far as I know RAW will be though SDI only, and this 3G-SDI can only support HD resolution. And probably there will be no UHD RAW in future.
I’m not shooting UHD right now, but I think clients will soon ask for 4K, and having camera that can do it would be great. Maybe I should buy used FS7 instead or wait for next camera from Sony.
I think recoil option from zacuto to put FS5 on shoulder is great. Actually you’re in the video too.
The raw output will be implemented in exactly the same way as it is on the FS700 and FS7 which uses a single HDSDI to output a special 12 bit linear raw signal. If you have an Odyssey you can either record the raw or convert it to ProRes.
So will the coming raw output option for FS5, fix the ‘bad’ color information in UHD? Something that can compete with 422 10 bit UHD?
Would that work the same on a Shogun as with an Odyssey?
What do you think now of the FS5 after the announcement of 4k raw upgraid coming soon
FS5 is a great camera and raw will make it more versatile. The raw is only 12 bit so not in the same league as the F5/F55, but still a nice upgrade. But the camera will be bulky with an external recorder attached and it still doesn’t have LUT’s. I love shooting with my FS5, it’s fun to work with and produces a great result, but it’s a very different camera to the FS7/F5/F55.
Thanks for your usefull post. I’m asking something about the format of all this sony cameras but don’t find response.
I have the fs700 and when use it with 7q(i don’t have it, just try), i really like the increase quality of the hd image.
Is it due to due it comes from 4kraw or due to the 10 bits 4:2:2 signals ?
In reality, i’m asking if the fs5 or fs7 hd 10 bits is as good as the 7q 4ktohd signal or do we have to shoot 4k to achieve a similar detailled image ?
Does the fs5 and fs7 hd mode take the 4k signal and make it to hd (something similar to the 7q) or not ?
I only need hd, but want the best hd possible.
Thanks for help
The big improvement with the FS700 + 7Q comes from recording with a much lower compression ratio. 10 bit and 422 helps a bit too. The FS5 and XAVC will result in a better picture than the FS700 but not quite as good as the FS700 + 7Q. In HD the FS5 and FS7 derive the HD signal form a 4K signal internally. The FS5 XAVC HD will be 95% of the quality of the FS700/7Q and in UHD it will be approx 90% (it’s lower because its only 8 bit).
Thanks for this helpfull infos. Have you an idea how it compare to red raeven which offers both prores 4:2:2 and raw ?
Thank you, Allister. This is a great comparison and just what I was looking for. I’ve been leaning toward the FS7 since I have filmed with the FS700 quite a bit. Of course I have been drooling over the F5 & F55 since they came out, but felt they were out of my budget. But with the new Sony bundle like another post mention, I think I’ll upgrade to the F5 over the FS7. Especially with the continuous high speed slow motion since I do lots of action work.
Is there any way to get the FS5 camera to jamb timecode for multi camera shooting?
Yes, but you need the XDCA-FS7 adapter.
I heard an interesting idea recently – the 2.0 firmware for the FS5 will enable GPS functionality, and the GPS time stamp can apparently be used as a poor man’s timecode. YMMV.
What extrnal monitor is good for fs7 ?
Plz any ideas ? I got the camera but need bigger monitor! Can we use computer monitor for indoor shooting as checking v f?
I always recommend the convergent design odyssey 7Q+ but there are many, many choices. Visit a video dealer and try a few.
I rented the fs 5 used high speed 200fps and didn’t liked the noise and sharpness.
didn’t use a external recorder.
Friend told me fs7 image is better 10 bit and bigger file size.
Would a fs7 give a better image without an external recorder in same settings?
Probably. The FS7 is a very different camera. But high speed will still be noisy compared to normal speed and you need a LOT of light.
The FS5 is 10 bit in HD and the slowmo is HD only so will be 10bit. I don’t think you will see much picture quality difference between an FS7 in slowmo and the FS5.
I will buy a small light screen for gimbal work and it also help me when shooting slog/focus, i’m wondering if you advice/use one between the smallhd501 or video assist (black magic). I know the video assist have not a lot of function but it’s cheaper and maybe it can also record 10bits 4:2:2 directly in prores, which is better for editing…
Thanks for help
thanks for help
So many choices there. You could also consider the Atomos Ninja. Go to a video dealer and try them out for yourself.
Great article, thanks Alistair..
I know they’re different cameras and have different settings etc, but hypothetically;
Let’s say I want to try to match an F5 and an FS7 (in custom mode, not being able to shoot S-log due to a tight turnaround).. As they have the same sensor, could I just use the same hypergamma, match all the matrix settings etc, and end up with two similar or identical looking shots?
Pretty much yes, just use the same settings on both for a very close match.
So FS5 + Odyssey q7 will record prores 10bit ?
In HD yes but Not via the normal SDI or HDMI in UHD as the camera output in UHD is 8 bit. The raw option would allow you to output 12 bit raw to the 7Q which could then be encoded and recorded as 10 bit ProRes.
I want to shoot wedding videos and short movies. I need 4k resolution too. I am confused which one suits my requirement. Please suggest.
Unless you’re shooting drama, broadcast 4K or features, or need 4K at 50 or 60fps, the FS5 is probably all you need.