Some weeks ago I got a surprising mail from SONY. They asked me if I want to play a few days, with one of their pre-production models of the new FS700.
Are you kidding me? Hell Yeah! So when the UPS guy finally knocked at my door, I got pretty excited, since the specs they gave me, where utterly impressive.
It looks like SONY has really listened to the users. We finally have that ND Filter wheel, a lot of guys where asking for. The top handle is super beefy now and feels like it is milled out of one massive block of aluminum. Also the front mount sits on a big black metal base, very solid and twice the size of the FS100 counterpart. Overall the whole body feels more rugged and solid, but gained some weight, because of all the extra metal.
The buttons on the body are all raised, for much easier access, you can even find them blind now.
There are also two new buttons. Face detection, which works surprisingly good, once it`s really locked in – something that can be handy in a complex steadycam shot or run&gun situations. Also there is a “HOLD” button, that can block some functions to prevent, changing them accidentally. You can choose the functions you want to block in the menu.
The new side grip has a big Arri style rosette and is much easier to mount/adjust. It features additional buttons for iris push auto, start/stop, photo, expanded focus and a zoom rocker. I guess that means, that we can expect to see some motorized zoom glass from SONY soon.
The FS700 also talks to the LAE-A1 and LAE-A2 adapters in native language.
LA-EA1: Autofocus (Available in photo mode with SAM/SSM lens only) AF system (Contrast AF) and AF/MF Select (switchable on the lens)
LA-EA2: Autofocus (Movie: Continuous, Photo: Single), AF system (Phase-detection AF),
AF/MF Select (SAM: switchable on the lens, SSM: switched on the lens and with the FOCUS switch of the camcorder)
With LA-EA1, autofocus speed with an A-mount lens attached, will be slower than with an E-mount lens.
The rest of the body is about the same as the FS100, besides the bigger snout that houses the ND filter wheel.
The card slot accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC cards or Memory Sticks.
In addition to the HDMI output, the FS700 got a HD-SDI/3G output – something I personally really appreciate.
Also there are a component, video and audio out jacks.
One of the XLR inputs got moved forward, closer to the camera microphone.
The monitor seems to be the same, but with touch focus and touch focus transition, like in the Epic.
Also you can change the displayed units like ISO/db, distance and the like.
It also gives you – up to 8x – magnifying.
The FS700 comes as a “World Camera”. So you can switch between 50Hz and 60Hz and the corresponding frame rates in the menu.
So that was that, regarding the outside – now here comes the most interesting stuff:
4k sensor! Yes Sir, nothing less.
And that is not only a 4096×2160 = 8.8MP chip, no it´s 11.6 MegaPixel. Thats almost three and a half times more than the FS100 (2464×1394).
What does that mean? Well it means we are grossly oversampling here, And when you do your math, you can see, that 11.6 MegaPixel are a – almost perfect – compensation for the Bayern pattern readout.
Because of the the massive over-sampling the sensor delivers a more rich image with finer details already. Also you can squeeze out more color information out of the AVCHD files it records. The internal recording is still 4:2:0 though.
4K raw out of the 3G/HD-SDI port will be enabled later via a firmware update and when a recorder is available.
What gets me most excited is the new range of cinegamma curves.
They seem to be the same Hypegamma curves, used in the F3 or F900.
They provide better performance in high contrast situations with Cine 1 clipping at 109% and Cine 2 clipping at 100%.
Cine curves 3 and 4 both provide improved shadow detail for lower contrast situations.
STANDARD is… well standard
STILL Gamma curve for still images
CINE1 Is decreasing dark area contrast and sharpening bright area tones
Its the equivalent of HG4609G33 with a dynamic range of 460%, withe limit of 109% and Video output with 18% gray card
(video input 20%) of 33%
CINE2 Almost the same effect as CINE1 but in a range within 100% of video signal.
Its the equivalent of HG4609G30 with a dynamic range of 460%, withe limit of 100% and Video output with 18% gray card
(video input 20%) of 30%
CINE3 Is more contrasty than CINE1 and CINE2, and crushes the blacks like the Cine1 on the FS100.
CINE4 Shadow contrast is a bit weaker than in CINE3 and the bright area contrast is stronger than STANDARD.
ITU709 Gamma curve that corresponds to ITU-709. with a raised gain of 4.5 in the shadows.
Super Slow Motion
This is an other exciting new feature, that nobody saw coming in a camera, in this class and price tag.
It´s a burst mode and works like this:
1. Set your frame rate
2. Hit the trigger (start, or end-trigger)
3. Watch your glorious Super Slow Motion clip on the monitor, while it is dumped to the card, or your external recorder in real time.
This are the speeds available:
When selecting 60Hz: 120fps, 240fps, 480fps, 960fps
When selecting 50Hz: 100fps, 200fps, 400fps, 800fps
When selecting 60Hz 1080/60p PS, 1080/30p FX, 1080/30p FH, 1080/24p FX, 1080/24p FH
When selecting 50Hz 1080/50p PS, 1080/25p FX, 1080/25p FH
Recording Burst Times:
When selecting 60Hz: 960/19sec, 480/10sec, 240/8sec, 120/16sec
When selecting 50Hz 800/23sec, 400/12sec, 200/9sec, 100/19sec
I found speeds up to 200/240 looking fantastic, 480/400 are still usable, but you can see the difference.
Everything faster, is for use at lower resolutions.
In a nutshell: After I shot a few days with the FS700, my FS100 is for sale.
The camera I had, worked great, without any hick-ups or any other problems.
Even from the bed of a truck at 80 MPH.
Noise is about the same as in the FS100, and it looks like we lost a bit of low light sensitivity (still impressive).
But the downsampled images from the new sensor are stunning and the option of future 4k raw output is amazing.
We get better highlight roll off, because of the new Hypergammas (maybe they also did something to the processing).
DR also seems a tad better, but hard to say, without proper testing.
I´m very pleased, that Sony not only listened to us, and made most of the wishes, FS100 owners had come true, but on top of that, they gave us a great new Exmor sensor with 4k Super Slo-Mo capabilities.
Please bear in mind, that all I found, relates to a pre production model and that Sony is still optimizing some functions.
We – the “Early Birds Team” – shot a little film, for the official launch of the FS700, so you get an idea of the look and feel, the quality (even after web compression) and the stunning Super-Slo-Mo capabilities of this camera.