Sony threw a curveball at IBC by announcing the PXW-FS7 - a Super 35mm 4K handheld that took everything we liked about the FS700 and stepped it up a notch, challenging even AJA's none-more-anticipated CION. Obviously, the first thing we did once we were back in the UK was lure Sony to our office, pump them full of coffee and run off with their prototype. Here's how it fared...
Ergonomics and build
Not to get everyone over-excited, but a straw poll of the M&E team saw the FS7 labelled as having "the best ergonomics of anything Sony have ever built." The design is extremely well thought out: the viewfinder is easily repositioned and fits nicely against your eye; the I/O and XLR ports neatly hidden in the body; the whole thing is very modular - it feels very much like a traditional camera out of the box, but can be stripped back if you prefer the 'boxy' feel of something like the FS700.
But the real game changer is that hand grip, which we bloody love. It makes balancing the camera (and holding it through long shoots) much easier, allows you to maintain a more natural shooting position, and means you don't have to rig the camera to the extent that you would expect in order to get the shots you want. And because it's included with the camera, you can basically take the FS7 out of the box and start shooting.
It would be irresponsible of us to make sweeping statements like "this handgrip will change the world" out here on the internet, but who's to say what we may have shouted in the privacy of our office kitchen? As our test shooter (and most hirsute consultant) Anthony Corcoran said: "The hand grip balances the whole camera so well, it feels almost weightless. And it puts all the important controls literally at you finger tips. I want one." See below for an image of the FS7 and its grip reducing Anthony to a gleeful child.
That grip arm is easy to position and has a great range of movement, as demonstrated by this da Vinci-esque publicity shot:
Controls, codecs and cards
Most importantly for anyone who has invested in the FS700 and all its attendant gubbins, the FS7 shoots 2K and 4K RAW in exactly the same way, so you can just whack your IFR5 or Odyssey on the back of this and use exactly the same workflow as you always have.
Anthony would also like to give a special mention to the FS7's log gamma curves, which include support for S-Log3. This has 18% grey set at a bright level, and so delivers a wider dynamic range than the 1300% achieved by the FS700's S-log2, effectively giving you 1.5 extra stops. And because the log gamma is close to Cineon log, it's easier to grade and you've got more chance of achieving a classic 'filmic' look.
While Sony were distracted by the espresso machine, we did manage to sneak off and shoot some test footage, but we've been asked not to share it as the footage from the final model is going to be up to five times the quality of the footage produced by the prototype. However, the actual shooting experience was fairly effortless, and having record and zoom controls on the handgrip is great.
Would we recommend it?
Yes. If you're looking to step up from the FS700, this is the simplest way to do it, and if you're after a B camera for more high end shoots, the FS7 will slot into your setup quite happily. If you weren't a fan of the FS700, don't be put off - the FS7 is seated firmly at the grown-ups table, using pro codecs and generally feeling far more like a traditional camera than its predecessor.