Thanks to Fat Head Media, I got a chance to shoot my most recent project with the Sony FS700. At first I was hesitant to use the camera since I had no experience with it, and Sony is known to be less than user friendly when it comes to camera operation. To say the least, we kept things minimal on the shoot. Of course we used its over cranking abilities as well as shooting at normal speeds. We also used the trusty Canon 7D for some over cranked crane shots as well. The two cameras cut together, but there is noticeable aliasing with the 7D footage.
I’m not a great technician so for this review I’ll just speak to my limited experience with the FS700.
The things I liked:
Super Slow Motion – Over cranking is what this camera has to offer over anything else in its price range. I loved 60p with the Canon DSLR’s, but 240p? It’s amazing! The only adjustment one has to make is the need for more light. Because the Sony shoots at a higher frame rate (250th) while in super slo-mo it needs more light to make the proper exposure. I learned this on a previous night shoot I produced prior to this project. You just have to plan for this in advance while lighting. There’s also a noticeable flicker when using artificial light. The flicker can be removed with a filter in post, but isn’t perfect. More on that later.
In camera audio recording – I used the camera’s built in audio while shooting an interview for a documentary. I do like the fact that proper audio recording can be done within the camera. This saves time in post and lessens the amount of equipment needed on set. It’s far better quality than using the Zoom H4N I normally use. Occasionally I forget to hit record on a separate audio devices so having video and audio recording simultaneously is a huge help when you’re operating as a one man/woman band.
Continuous shooting – The FS700 is a true video camera. So those of us limited to shooting with DSLR’s are freed up to shoot over the limits of 12 minutes at a time. This helps tremendously when shooting interviews and on documentary projects.
S35 sensor – It’s nice to have a large sensor in a true video camera. That’s what many of us want. A full size sensor without the limitations of a DSLR. Sony has delivered and the image quality is nice. It’s a bit sharper than what you get out of Canon’s cameras and less “sexy”. The thing I love about Canon is the ease of making great looking images. It seems Canon has figured out how to get great skin tones, among other things, with their sensors. Sony’s image needs a bit of work in post some time. It all depends on what you are going for. But the footage in this review has not been graded, and looks pretty darn good.
Things to adjust to:
Image – I’m use to what I get out of the Canon 7D. It makes getting a film look so easy. The biggest draw back to Sony’s image is the way the camera handles highlights. It tends to lose detail easily in the highlight areas, and there this lack of blending from highlight to mid tone weirdness that’s going on. It’s hard to explain, but it seems Canon’s image smooths this transition out in a nice aesthetic way while the Sony’s image does not. Now, I haven’t spent tons of time adjusting custom picture profiles in the FS700 so there may be a work around, but so far I haven’t found one. Here’s a great post from AbelCine on some custom profiles they’ve come up with.
Size and weight – This camera is considerably larger than a DSLR, but what would you expect from a true video camera. I won’t complain about this because it’s to be expected. However, hand holding the FS700 is not for the weary. Because of it’s weight it requires a support system. I tried just holding the camera at waist height on a few shots and could pull off a thing or two, but I couldn’t do anything extended without getting too shaky.
LCD Screen – The LCD screen placement is very limiting. Plus it doesn’t tilt in all directions. I’m surprised Sony didn’t catch this in the initial design of the camera. Not to mention the size of this screen. I added a 7″ Marshall when shooting so I could see what I was doing. I will say it’s nice to have a histogram and peaking built into the Sony monitor, but the size is very limiting. I didn’t even use the Sony view finder. I’m a bit of a view finder snob due to my experience with the Zacuto EVF. I would definitely use an EVF over the Sony any day.
Ergonomics – I think most of us have accepted that camera companies are less concerned with ergonomics and focused more on specs. I’m okay with this for the most part, but it does create more costs when configuring the camera for handheld shooting. If you want to shoot the FS700 on the shoulder you need a proper rig. Fortunately the handle on the Sony FS700 is removable so the good folks at Zacuto are configuring a handle relocator much like they’ve done with the Canon C300. This makes camera operation so much easier with a double grip system, which is needed with the FS700 in my opinion.
Is the FS700 worth the cost? To be honest I haven’t bought this camera yet. With all the new cameras coming out it’s difficult to make a decision. However, it seems for the price bracket the Sony is the clear winner over what Canon is trying to develop. The C100 is the FS700′s closest competitor. Canon seems to have given up on offering over cranked as an option. So if you need super slow-motion and a good image quality the Sony is the way to go. If you don’t need the super slow-motion then check out the FS100.
Sony FS700 Skating in slo-mo
I shot this short to test the 240fps slo-mo of the FS700. Due to the flicker you get when shooting high frame rates under artificial light I took the camera outside to get some nice shots of Thomas skating. Not only was he the on camera talent, but he also cut this footage together.
Kevin Higgins was gracious to share some footage he shot under some wicked artificial lighting in a gym with the Sony FS700 at high frame rates. The example of flicker in my review wasn’t very obvious, but this a better example. Thanks Kevin!
Below is a video I found on Vimeo showing flicker tests using the Sony camera under different types of artificial light at different frame rates.
FS700 Flicker Test