Film & Video

Sony NEX FS700 REVIEW

FOR THOSE WHO ALREADY KNOW... BUT DON'T

The New Sony NEX-FS700

The New Sony NEX-FS700

We just received the Sony NEX FS700 and the infamous Metabones adapter. I’ve spent a good portion of the last couple of days playing around with it and I have to say, I’m very impressed. Unfortunately, the L-Series Canon glass we ordered will arrive later this week, so I postponed the video review till then. For now though, a written review will have to do.

I assume that anyone who is seriously looking into this camera already knows what it can do, so I wont bother with too many technicalities.

Introduction
The FS700 is 4K ready and is capable of producing 240fps in bursts at Full HD. With a modest *$8000 price tag, the filmmaking community is out to know “whats the catch?”

Well... regarding the frame rate, it is remarkable, even at 480fps, footage is still very much usable. However, the 900fps isn't, but if you’re just out experimenting, its great fun.

The promised 4K upgrade should bump up the Full HD resolution capability to the 480fps mark (hopefully).

This brings us to the center of the controversy. Rumors have been going around its future 4K capabilities... mostly about its intended price tag, and whether or not it would require an investment that leaves buyers wondering if it was even worth it! Some say that the final price for the FS700 would only be $2500 shy of a brand new Epic!

But considering factors that were absent from such rumors, a Red Epic investment only starts with a camera body. If you want EPIC results, you’ll need a lot more than that. In addition to the fact that super slow motion alone is almost reason enough to spend $8000, and the rest are a big bonus.

First Impressions
If you’re upgrading from a DSLR, the first thing you’ll notice when you assemble the FS700, is that its considerably heavier than what you’re used to, even with no lens or accessories attached. But the assumption is, if you are looking to invest in this camera, chances are you’ve already ruled out the F3 and the RED Scarlet, and in that arena, the FS700 is a featherweight!

Another thing that’s immediately noticeable is its average-build quality. The body is made out of a type of plastic which assures you that a one foot drop will probably set you back $8000... However, after spending a few more hours mounting heavy gear onto the body, I was surprised at how rigid the inner frame is. The camera has many mounting options all around it, the top handle is great, it has two cold shoe adapters for you to mount extra gear, and the bottom plate is equipped with endless tripod and rig mounting points. In addition to a very solid ARRI Rosette fixture, very useful. We’re already seeing some FS700 specific gear in the market.

Next week, we will post an article that lists many of the gear options available for the Sony NEX FS700.

Image Quality
From a cinematic approach, I have to admit I was slightly worried that the output from the FS700 would be too “video-like”... But after spending a couple of days with it I can comfortably deny that. Most people went straight to the super slow motion and somewhat neglected the rest of the camera’s capabilities. Sony made sure that it was possible to attain a great cinematic feel when they supplied it with the same CineGamma settings you’d find on the Sony F3, very nice touch! The results are very pleasing. Our test footage will go online with the video review.

Sony no longer frowns upon the production of third party gadgets, and that’s good news for everyone! This means if you’re upgrading from a Canon or Nikon DSLR, you’d only have to invest in the FS700 body and a suitable adapter (mostly). So having good Nikkor or Canon-L glass is a huge plus. I’ve been using the Metabones adaptor, and so far it’s been great (separate review on that soon).

Controversy time! I’m not a fan of auto-focus, but the developers of the FS700 put in a new auto-focus feature that works surprisingly well with video (only with Sony lenses though). A consistent focusing mechanism that smoothly follows your moving subject, particularly useful for those high frame rate shots when you’re out filming without any help.

Sony didn’t advertise or emphasize on this feature, they just passively asked buyers to give it a try and see what they thought. We ordered ours without the kit lens, so I wasn’t able to test this feature, but it seems interesting.

Popular opinion states that investing in E-mount lenses is useless, the argument is that they’re just not as good or “future proof” as the Canon/Nikkor alternatives.

Perhaps the best setup for the FS700 would be a PL mount and a collection of Zeiss CP.2 lenses.. Saw a few of those online, Brilliant footage!

Audio
We handed the FS700 over to Nicolas Saadé, Audio Specialist at Al Rayyan TV and co-founder of Pandora Films, Beirut. He came back with this:

“Brilliant! The audio controls and inputs are more than what we could ask for in a camera at this price range. Sony clearly made use of their technology in a way that promotes our creativity... It will handle some pretty advanced audio, a real must for shooters who are serious about their sound.”

Things to look out for when using the FS700
When filming at higher frame rates, you’ll need Tungsten lighting! High Quality LED lights are good too, but florescent lights will flicker. Cinematographer, Alister Chapman posted:

“You can get fluorescent lamps with high frequency ballasts operating at 30Khz or more that will give flicker free images at the frame rates the FS700 is capable of.”

When using the ‘end trigger’ option in Super Slow mode, use a timer. Otherwise, practice your second durations well to avoid over shooting that 8 second mark, It’ll pay off.

I had some issues importing the AVCHD footage into Premiere at first... But a few Emails to cinematography giant Philip Bloom and I was ready to go. Big thank you there!

Final Thoughts
All in all, the FS700 is a very capable camera. I’m very pleased with the image quality it produces. Super slow motion is fantastic, picture profiles are spot on and the button placement all over the body make operating this camera a pleasure, Sony really raised the bar for the competition.

I’m a huge Canon fan, and I can’t wait to see what kind of effect the FS700 will have on their future lineup.

Pros:

  • Great Value for money
  • Light-weight (relatively)
  • 240fps in FULL HD
  • Built in ND filters
  • Loads of grip options
  • 4K ready
  • Third party lens support
  • Ergonomics are surprisingly good
  • Minimal or no aliasing

Cons:

  • Plastic feel
  • No autofocus workaround for third party lenses
  • 4K rumors are worrying, and Sony isn’t talking

*SONY NEX FS700 (body only)