First Hands-On Review of the SONY FS700

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.

Frank Glencairn, shooting a dokumentary

Shooting a dokumentary

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.

Size comparsion  FS100 vs FS700

Size comparsion FS100 vs FS700

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.

Gamma curves

Gamma curves

GAMMA CURVES
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

Recording formats:
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.

Verdict

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.

Enjoy, Frank

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63 thoughts on “First Hands-On Review of the SONY FS700

  1. Some interesting take-aways that hadn’t been confirmed so far: there’s no internal 4k recording planned; the higher-density sensor results in a downgrade in low-light sensitivity compared to the NEX-FS100; and slow-motion picture quality degrades at the higher frame rates (rather like S&Q mode on the NEX-FS100, though presumably much better).

    For NEX-FS700 specific discussion, news and video samples, you can join the feeds at:
    http://vimeo.com/groups/fs700
    http://facebook.com/fs700
    http://twitter.com/nexfs700

    • To be honest, I´m in the same boat – some say 8 some say 10.
      I personally lean towards 10 (but that may be wishful thinking).

      Frank

    • I got the answer directly from Sony on Tuesday. The output from the FS700 in video mode is 8bit.

      It will be 12bit in RAW mode but when shooting normal video it is 8bit only.

  2. Pingback: Sony NEX FS 700 Sample Video | Journey Through Nature | Shivakumar L Narayan

  3. Thanks a lot for this review, Frank!! I’m very happy to see that Sony realize most of my wishes about autofocusing emprovement for FS-100 frimaware update, I post in DVX User website… but, as far as I see some shoots of FS-700, seems like my wishes about THIN GUIDELINES is not taken into account… They make Aspect Ratio Guidelines ALWAYS ON, even you turn off “display” as I ask it, but on camera display only… NOT on the external monitor… it’s pity :( When I see on one picture of FS-700 with TAPE on external monitor, I wonder – why Sony do not pay attention of it?? Aspect Ratio Guidelines is very important for COMPOSITION of the frame… and we all will be happy to see it on External monitors when we need it.. Maybe my English is not perfect for explanation, so would you be so kind to talk to Sony and ask them to make it thin and available on external monitor ?? ..and.. I hope we can have all this and new new GAMMA CURVES from FS-700 in FS-100 firmware update on April 19… this will be usefull for keep me FS-100 as a backup for FS-700 this summer! :)

    • The FS700 has the following markers: 4:3, 13:9, 14:9, 15:9, 1.66:1, 1.85:1,
      2.35:1. I think the reason, why they don´t appear on the external display is, that would make the outputs useless for recording and most monitors have their own guidelines function anyway., But I agree, that also thinner lines would be nice – gonna put it on the wish list, maybe we are lucky.

      Frank

      • Why do you think it would be “useless useless for recording” ?? When my “DISPLAY” functon of FS-100 is “ON”mode, I see all INFO ( F number, shutter, battery info, soundbar, histogram, etc.. ) and gudelines on any of my external monitors the same way as I see it on camera display, but it’s not recorded in the footage…so. I don’t see the reason why Aspect Ratio Guidelines should be different…and I’m not sure that mamy monitors have all 4:3, 13:9, 14:9, 15:9, 1.66:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1. Aspect Ratios guidelines.. will be better to get them from the camera, don’t you think so? :)

  4. I just wish there was some way to access the high speed functions of this camera through the HD-SDI output.. It’s a pity only having high speed in AVCHD. So it looks like the max framerate coming out of the HD-SDI feed will be 30p?

    • No, it comes out of the output quite nicely at the frame rate you set on the camera.
      I recorded it on a Samurai without problems.

      • Well yeah, I realise you can record it out to a Samurai at a specified framerate. But obviously you’re not going to be able to record to the Samurai at 240fps or higher. So I’m asking about the maximum framerate that can be recorded, with an external recorder, I’d assume would be 30p. Or maybe 60p, if we’re lucky. Hence it’s a pity that the higher framerates are only available internally as AVCHD.

      • @Filmrage, you can record the high framerate video to an external recorder at the rate the camera has been set to conform the video to. As an example if you have the camera set to 24fps and your capture rate was 240fps the camera will output the video already slowed down to 24fps out the HDMI/SDI ports. Each second of captured video @ 240fps would take 10 seconds to send to the external recorder @ 24fps.

        The framerate you send to the external recorder is pretty much irrelevant as long as you get all the frames. Setting the output of the camera to the frame rate of your project obviously makes it simpler.

      • Chris,
        That’s pretty incredible if so, I did not expect that. But surely if you record the high speed footage internally, and then play it out to an external recorder afterwards, your external recorder would be receiving an AVCHD 4:2:0 interframe compressed signal. No? Otherwise the camera would need quite a large internal cache of memory in which to store uncompressed footage temporarily before playing back to the Samurai or similar recording device.

  5. Congratulations Frank!

    You deserve be one of the Sony´s advisers. Sometimes they are a bit lost.
    Your work with the FS100 and time invested in research (and generously shared) is very important to achieve the best of that camera.

    Cheers!

  6. Biggest question…..did they address the freaking useless, honky, toilet paper roll of a viewfinder that came on the FS-100???

  7. Great review but I have a question regarding the High Speed which seems artificially limited for quality in the high modes.

    All things being equal regarding frame rates:

    960/19sec, 480/10sec, 240/8sec, 120/16sec

    Wouldn’t it be possible to get 480frames but only for 4 seconds instead of 8 at full HD with pristine compression? Same goes for the 960 frames if you get only 2 seconds at full HD as an option.

    There should be no technical limitation for the buffer and camera to save the same data peaks but in smaller second intervals.

    If you can please let Sony know if it would be possible to ad this full HD 1080 Hi speed without compromising quality, just time.

    At 2 seconds 960fps it still jumps to 64seconds on playback at 30p.

    If we could get this simple fix we could probably get the coveted near 1000fps which makes everything look very very interesting.

    At 4 seconds 480fps you still get 64 seconds at 30p regular playback which would be astonishingly good.

    This could be a mode option to favor quality instead of record times. This would be the perfect camera. Hope Sony tweaks the camera to offer this option which is still on camera spec.

    • Actually you can do exactly that. There is a function – besides start trigger and end trigger – that is called half trigger. Haven´t had the time to properly test it thought.

  8. Hi Frank!!

    How substantial is the decrease in low-light sensitivity compared to the FS 100? And why is this the case? Is there any way around this? I love my FS 100 so much specifically because of its ability to get phenomenal images in almost no light…

    How much different is this on the FS 700…and is the downgrade in low light sensitivity only happen in 4K mode…or in regular HD as well?

    I am sold on the 700 except for this very important question…

    Finally I have heard the price will be $8,000 for camera and then $3,000-$4,000 for firmware update and about $3,000 for the recording device that will allow 4K recording…is this true? So really approx $16,000 to record in 4K…does this sound about right?

    Thanks for your review Frank…this camera looks amazing!!!

    • I haven’t head the time to actually measure the difference, but just eyeballed it – I would say, it´s less than a stop (depending on your picture profile). Since there is no 4k upgrade available, I just can speak for HD, but I guess there would be no difference between HD and 4k.

      Don´t know anything about Sony´s future price policy, but it sounds believable.
      The upgrade to S-LOG of the F3 was in that class and $3000 for a 4k raw recorder would be a bargain.

  9. I watched the 5m 35 film with great interest. However, the informed commentary was virtually inaudible due to the high level of musak. If Sony had a serious message to put across I can’t believe they would allow the audio to be dubbed in such a manner. So, James, Den, Frank, and Gavin you should be aware that your contributions were ‘smoothered’ by a tidal wave of musical noise.

  10. Complaints, complaints , complaints…Sony addressed 90pct of our complaints. I am salivating on the FS700. Great intro video! Congrats.

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  14. Just a damn shame some retailers in Australia can’t be bothered to find out a release date for it here…..Videoguys didnt seem to give a poop, and they wonder why we buy online overseas…terrible!

  15. Beware everyone…

    This FS-100 has an incredible image…but you cannot get good sound with this camera…it records barely audible beeps to your sound…they don’t follow a pattern…but it renders all recorded audio useless…Sony does not officially recognize this as a defect….though they are taking my FS 100 back…

    I really hope they fix this problem with the fs700…

    Love love love the image but not being able to record trustable sound is a deal breaker for me…

    Tried with 2 different fs100s and different mics but always get the beeps…

    And many people are having this problem…just google fs100 beep…

    This is heartbreaking…love the image but good sound is essential and don’t want to always have to record sound separately…

    Beware indie film makers…

    • @Jack, you’re making a broad conclusion based on your own experience (and maybe some support from a Google search), but I run the largest User Group for the NEX-FS100 in existence, and this has never once come up. Sometimes there are flukes and sometimes you are introducing problems with other gear you are using, so let’s take it easy and make sure there’s a design flaw before jumping to conclusions.

      Speaking for myself, I use the NEX-FS100 and there is zero beeping in the audio feed.

      • Hi Frank!!

        Sorry I did not mean to make broad generalizations…

        I just wanted to make people aware that this is an issue…and it is one that many people are having. It is just a little scary because you don’t realize you have the problem at first unless you are really monitoring your sound with good headphones that are turned up.

        My camera went to the Sony head tech and they could not solve the problem. They gave me a loaner while they were working on mine and the loaner camera did the same thing.

        I used no additional equipment.

        I think this is a problem with the electronics of many of these cameras.

        Just want to make them aware…that is why I am telling you…so perhaps you can communicate this info.

        In my case my problem was escalated all the way to one of Sony’s factory level “Sustaining Engineers”…and they could not solve the problem. So they are refunding my money.

        The 100 and 700 are amazing cameras…so I hope they can fix this issue because I want to buy a 700.

        For more info here is one link where many people talk about their various audio beeping problems with the 100. People attribute it to groudning issues, and electronic interference when the camera writes to SD cards or to the HXR-FMU128 Flash Memory Unit.

        http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?261361-Bizarre-audio-problem-with-my-FS100

        Thanks and again I meant no harm…your article here is awesome and extraordinarily informative…love these cameras…to me they are the very best for what I want to do…I just want to get to the bottom of this…

        I can email you an example of the beep if you want to hear it.

        Thanks again for all of this information!!!

        Jack

  16. Jack, you where answering to Paul, not me.
    And yeah, I´m aware of the beep problem – we where discussing that up and down on DVXUser. I can only provoke it, when I use a mic with a battery. Phantom powered mics don´t show that habit. At least not on my camera.
    cheers, Frank

    • Hi Frank and Paul!

      Haha…yes right when I clicked submit I realized that the other message came from Paul and not you Frank…

      Thanks for helping me get to the bottom of this….so frustrating…

      I have tried using the on board mic that comes with a camera and also the Rode NTG2. I get the beep in either case.

      Can you recommend a good phantom mic?

      People also say it goes away if you disconnect the hand grip.

      Really hope they take care of this on the 700…

      Do either of you have any contact with Sony letting them know about this?

      It is incredibly frustrating.

      The image is so great it is a real shame that they can’t get a simple thing like sound right…

      Thanks you guys!!!

      • I have a NTG1 (same as NTG2 but without battery) and that works just fine for me, same as the kit mic. I heard the beep only once when my sound guy connected a powered mic (can’t remember the brand, sorry) Have you tried to remove the battery (you probably have) – maybe ferrite beads would work, but I´m not an electronics guy.

      • As Frank explains, having a redundant battery in the attached microphone is the problem. Indeed, the manual clearly warns against plugging a powered microphone into either of the XLR ports on the NEX-FS100, holding true whether or not phantom power is switched on from the NEX-FS100. This probably explains why hardly anyone has reported a beeping problem, to the extent that users are following the manual’s instructions against battery-powered microphones. Incidentally, most battery-powered microphones do not even use an XLR interface (though some do).

      • Hey guys I get the beep just using the mic that comes with the camera…and that has no battery…

        Check out that link I sent you Paul…lots of people are having this issue…

  17. Frank,

    Where’s your FS100 review?

    A friend of mine warned me of a potential problem in all video/HDSLR cameras that interchange lenses: the risk of getting dust in the CMOS.

    Has that proved a real problem in everyday use? How do you solve it?

    • I don´t have a FS100 reiew. Dust is not an issue, there is a glass in front of the chip, no dust goes behind that.

  18. Thanks a lot for the review, Frank!
    I was wondering – will you look into the gamma profiles for this as you did with FS100?
    I’m quite in doubt regarding what profile to use.
    CS1 for daylight
    CS4 for lowlight
    - is that true?

  19. The beeping problem is present on my FS700, just as it was on my FS100. One of the reasons I upgraded to the FS700 was because I assumed that this would have been fixed. I have contacted Sony about it and they claimed to be investigating it but I have heard nothing back. It seems like it could be simply fixed with a firmware upgrade which adds the ability to turn off the the card writing indicator LED. We already have the option of turning off both record indicator LED’s in the menu so I don’t see why this wouldn’t be possible.

    • Derek!
      This is so sad…I am about to buy a FS 700 and was hoping that they took care of this horrible problem…
      I has an FS 100 that had this problem.
      I escalated it all the way to Sony’s “sustaining engineer” – their highest level person who deals with tech related issues.
      They could not solve the problem. After a big fight, they took the camera back.
      I used another FS 100 and it had the exact same problem.
      I am very technically savvy and tried it in every possible configuration, and the beep would not go away.
      Then I followed up with Sony and they said that they were not going to fix the problem at this time.
      It is heartbreaking since both of these cameras have such an amazing image.
      I am sure that all of these cameras create this beep…and people who don’t hear it are just not listening closely enough. It is very low and almost inaudible.
      The beep is there if you use an SD card or the media recorder that is built for these cameras…
      I wish Sony would fix this since it renders all audio that these cameras record – completely useless…

      • Derek,

        Have you checked what Frank suggested, if the beep problem was related to a battery powered mic and did not happen with phantom mics?

        What about if using a mixer and using line level signals?

      • Hi Carlos,
        The problem happens with phantom mics as well…
        It happens when you use the mic that comes with the camera…
        Jack

      • Never had that problem with my FS100 or the 700 – maybe there is a bad batch.
        Most folks who had that problem, got rid of it, by not using a powered mic though.
        When you have that beep, even with phantom mics, you should talk to Sony and get it fixed or a replacement device.

        Edit: Just saw Jacks first post. Man what a bummer – Sony should man up and make this right.
        They gonna loose a lot of their fan base with customer service like that.

      • The funny thing is, you can hear the beeping even when there is no mic attached to the camera at all. I’m guessing its some sort of grounding/interference issue on the board.

  20. I’ve been reading in DVXuser that the beep problem might be related to some new Scandisk memory cards:

    http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?261361-Bizarre-audio-problem-with-my-FS100&p=2428788&viewfull=1#post2428788

    But a more recent comment from another user linked the beep to wireless mics.

    http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?261361-Bizarre-audio-problem-with-my-FS100&p=1986209906&viewfull=1#post1986209906

    Those who had beep problems here, have you tried that?

    I also asked a friend of mine, who works at a local production company, and he never had any bee problems with those FS cameras.

    • Hi Carlos!!

      I just wanted to share some more thoughts on this…

      First of all I want to say I just love the image on both of these cameras (FS100 and FS700)…

      I have read lots of things on the internet concerning various people using these two cameras. I know in my case…I had the beep in the following situations…using non-San Disk memory cards…using the specific media recorder that is designed for the camera (the HXR-FMU128 Flash Memory Unit)…using the mic that comes with the camera…and using an external battery powered mic…the Rode NTG 2…

      My feeling is that all of the cameras both FS100 and FS700 make this beep. People who say that they don’t have a beep are just not hearing it…as it is very low and some people may not notice it. You need to have headphones on and listen for an incredibly low bassy pulse. If anyone who wants to send me an audio file that was recorded by this camera…I will be happy to point it out to you…

      As I said, after dealing with Samy’s Camera and my Sony regional service center in California for quite some time…I escalated my problem all the way to Sony’s Sustaining Engineer, their highest tech in the United States. He is the guy who talks directly to the techs who make the cameras in Japan. He was unable to fix the problem. If they did have a brand new FS100 that did not make the beep sound…I would have happily accepted that to solve my problem…but they did not give me one because they did not have one. In other words…they don’t know how to fix the problem.

      They said my case was the first on record…this was interesting news since you can find lots and lots of users online having similar issues. I pointed this out to them.

      I followed up with one of the heads at Sony customer service…and he said that they were not recognizing this issue as a defect at this time. I said not being able to record useable audio on a professional camera is unacceptable. He agreed, but still said that Sony does not recognize this as a defect at this time. In other words…they know that there is a problem, but they are not going to fix it…or perhaps don’t know how to…

      After having these issues with the 100…it saddens me to hear you say that the 700 is doing the same thing…when i talked with their customer service division, they said that though they did not recognize it as an official problem with the 100…they wanted to make sure it was not a problem with the 700…I guess that didn’t happen…

      I love both of these cameras so much…and really want to buy the 700…it is just mind boggling to me that a great company like Sony…who makes a beautiful camera like this…that has such an incredible image for the money…cannot get a simple thing like sound right.

  21. Pingback: Sony NEX-FS700 « Ehran Edwards

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