I recently got a sneak preview of Sony’s new PXW-FS5. The IBC noise sounded a bit like this was an FS100 replacement (it isn’t). It’s actually much closer to the FS7.
It doesn’t quite have the same 4K clout as the FS7, but it’s got a couple of really smart, discreet upgrades in tech and design, all in a much smaller form factor, allowing shooting from any angle. Sony have produced an amazing small form factor, large sensor 4K camera. Now you’re going to want one of each.
So the sexy specs – 14 stops, QFHD 4K, over-cranking, WiFi/near field communication, choice of two codecs (including XAVC).
As you can see from the pics, the FS7 closely resembles the FS7. From the tech specs, you can see this thing is half the size. Also, it’s designed to be modular, so you strip it down to just a functioning body (weighing just 830g!) and a lens. What Sony have done with the XLRs on the FS5 is my first favourite ‘smartness’ – they’ve put them in completely different places. One is in the handle where you’d always expect it, the other is in the body. This enables recording XLR audio without anything else attached.
The LCD will rotate into any position on its axis, then there are loads of mounting screws, so it can be mounted in almost any position.
Another smartness – the handgrip. I love the physics-defying design of the rotating arm on the FS7. On the 5, it looks like they’ve taken the handgrip from the 7 and attached it direct – it will rotate 180 degrees and also lock into nine specific places within that arc It’s so good in terms of weight, balance and ergonomics.
The FS5 ships with a BPU-30 battery, but the camera has a really deep battery-bay –its designed so a BPU-60 will fit flush with the body and a BPU-90 will extrude just a bit. Incidentally a BPU-60 will run it for approx. 4.5 hours, so a great choice on the FS5.
The best bit
Time for another smartness – and my favourite bit – the ND filter. I kid you not. Firstly, as you can see from my pics, the silver ND dial looks the same, and is in the same position as on the FS7. But it’s brand new technology. It’s not mechanical (or not entirely); it’s digitally controlled. So as you switch the ND filter on, a clear piece of glass is mechanically dropped over the sensor (see pic), but the amount that the glass is tinted (ND-ed) is done digitally. Anywhere from 1/4 ND through to 1/28. To make it simple, that silver dial (which is normally three positions of ND) is still that, but what you want each position to be is set in the Menus – so the silver dial is like three ‘assignable’ buttons for ND.
The controversial bit
The next bit you’re either going to love or hate.
For choice of media, Sony have gone for good ol’ non-proprietary SDXC cards. Awesome – you’ll save a fortune on media. And I’m still impressed at the engineering that makes 4K acquisition onto an SDXC card possible. However, there’s a trade-off – bottom line is you can only get 100MB/s as a consistent write speed from most fast SDXC cards, so the FS5 can only shoot UHD 4K up to 100MB/s.
The footage I saw looked stunning (funny, demo reels always do…), but the trade-off is it can only shoot 4K to SDXC as a Long GOP profile – no Intraframe, which is reserved for the FS7 with its fancy, faster (and much more expensive) XQD cards. If you’re a shooter who moans about the cost of the newer, faster media (whether XQD, C-Fast, AJA PAK…), be careful what you wish for.
Which brings me onto over-cranking. Yep, the FS5 can shoot up to 240fps at full HD. I know, I know, you’re doing the maths and shouting ‘but that’s impossible if the capture media can only do a reliable 100MB/s!’ Yep. Which is why it can only do it in eight second bursts (like the FS700).
The FS5 captures it to an internal buffer first, then adds it to media. Another trade-off for cheaper media. Furthermore, there’s no over-cranking at QFHD 4K (unhappy face). However, drop it to 120 fps at 1080, and this buffer becomes a sixteen second burst. And if you’re a real slo-mo freak, it will continue to shoot lower, for every drop in resolution you’re prepared to go –as far as up to 960fps at 260p (260 lines, or ¼ vertical HD resolution), or so I believe.
The boring bit
Resolution – the FS5 will shoot full HD at 4:2:2, 10-bit, at 50p at 50Mb/s or 10-bit 4:2:2 at 25p at 35Mb/s. And if you really want, you can even shoot AVCHD at 24Mb/s and lower. It will even shoot DCI 2K at this 10-bit 4:2:2 profile. Sony’s final trade-off with the SDXC choice – the FS5 will only shoot UHD 4K internally at 8-bit 4:2:0. It will do it in S-Log 2 and 3, but take into account the fact that it’s only 8-bit.
A good time to take a good look at yourself and ask – do you prefer affordable media with limitations on shooting, or insanely expensive media (XQD, C-FAST, AJA-PAKs etc) that allows you to do everything? Luckily for Sony, they now have two answers to cover themselves: FS5 or FS7.
Another cunning trick, this surprise announcement really lays down the gauntlet on the (announced a while back) eagerly awaited URSA Mini. Now, wouldn’t it be really cunning if they released a firmware update for RAW…