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Sony's PXW-FS7 - The IBC Showstopper?

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For a cameraman like me, trade shows like IBC are all about finding that show-stopping new camera – and Sony's new 4K Super 35mm PXW-FS7 certainly proved to be a star attraction, writes WTS Production Specialist Patrick van Weeren.

When we saw the FS7 in Amsterdam in September, my WTS colleagues and I couldn't wait to get our hands on it. And we did – in preparation for the WTS FS7 workshop at Pinewood Studios last month, we took a really good look at the camcorder so we could get to grips with its capabilities and predict its future place in the market. So what did we think?

The FS7 takes continuous high-speed recording up a notch compared to the FS700. It doesn't need to rely on a cache memory but can actually record in 180fps continuously in NTSC (and at 150fps in PAL and 60fps in UHD/4K). This is a great added bonus, and one that would normally only be possible in a higher-priced camera.

Another great feature is the on-board 4K option. Even though it will be only UHD until the end of the year, the FS7 makes 4K acquisition more accessible than ever before.

The camera can be kitted out in three different set-ups.

Starter kit – Straight out of the box, this kit will deliver plenty of options to go ahead and shoot. BP30 and BP60 batteries can be used directly on the camera. Internal recording on the XQD cards gives the user several options of XAVC-Intra Frame and XAVC-Long GOP codecs. You have the option to shoot in HD and UHD in different frame rates (up to 150 fps in PAL HD and 60 fps in UHD).

Advanced kit – Due to its HDSDI and HDMI outputs, the FS7 can be upgraded with an external recorder, adding several extra recording options. A BP60T battery will provide you with an external power-tap for additional kit such as a recorder.

High-end kit – This would be the upgraded FS7 with the XDCA-FS7 – an add-on unit with V-lock battery adaptor, external power outlet, 12bit RAW, Genlock and Timecode connection for use in multi-camera situations. Twinned with an external recorder from either Sony or third party manufacturer, you'd have an amazing 4K camera in your hands. You will also be able to record internally in ProRes 422 to the XQD cards when the XDCA-FS7 is connected.

Sony XDCA-FS7 adaptor
Looking at the specs and the modularity, this camera can be hired out from rental houses in the three different set-ups. For a freelance cameraman, the advantages lie in the ability to let your camera 'grow' with the demand of the client from HD to 4K, without the need to buy a complete new camera when the 4K jobs show up.

Features – Cameras have been kitted out with third party accessories for a while now and Sony has helped their FS7 customers with a versatile handgrip and shoulder pad. The camera fits on the shoulder straight out of the box, with a handle and handgrip that balances the 2.9kg lightweight camera. The only accessories that you might need are lens adaptors if you choose not to use the Sony E-mount-style lenses – for example the popular EF lenses or a bars adaptor in case you want to use a matte box or follow focus unit.

Sony have also introduced a new zoom lens for the E-mount series, the 28-135mm F4, which will be available in early 2015 and will be sold as a kit with the FS7.

Aimed at purveyors of the so-called cinema vérité documentary shooting style, the size and weight of the camera – probably the first thing that you'll notice – make it extremely versatile.

Sony PXW-FS7 4K camera handgrip controls – The camera also has an F5-style menu, with several user-assignable buttons – three on the handgrip and three on the left hand side of the body. The menu has a lot of options and to speed up your day-to-day workflow, you can configure your user menu to make the most important menu items directly accessible under a button – a great time-saver when you need quick and direct access during filming, rather than having search through all the pages.

The camera records internally on XQD cards, which are more reliable than the SD cards used in the FS700 and cheaper than the SxS cards found in the F5. They offer a data transfer speed of 180 MB/s and have an expected price of between £120 and £190 for 32GB and 64GB cards.

Sony PXW-FS7 4K camera side and rear views – On the audio side, Sony have come up with a multi-interface hot-shoe that can power and connect a Sony UWPD wireless receiver directly without the need for cables. The regular XLR connectors are line, mic and phantom-powered inputs.

S-Log 3 and LUT tables are available and with a base ISO of 2000 the ND filter wheel is a necessary bonus. It's the same filter wheel as you see on the F5, in clear, 2, 4 and 6 stops, and a lot sturdier than the FS700 filter set-up. S-Log 2 will be available after a firmware update.

Read the article in BFV online.

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