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Living with the Sony FS700 (… Now the FS7 has landed)

We love our Sony FS700, I had to get that out there from the start, it does get some negative feedback for its form factor, the LCD screen in the ‘wrong’ place but in all honesty when you get used to the quality that a professional video camera with a Super 35mm sensor provides, it is hard to go back to using DSLRs as an the ‘a’ cam of choice.

When we bought our FS700, it was an upgrade from our Panasonic GH2 that had done its duty, a lovely  camera that depending on your output is probably still just as relevant as it was when it was released, where the GH2 on the second hand market at the moment can be had for around 300 pounds and the GH4 body only coming in at around 1000 pounds (Check out ‘A Ripple In the Water’ in our portfolio to show what the GH2 can be used for). Does a new piece of equipment make the previous item redundant? Well that’s what I want to explore with this article comparing the FS700 and FS7.

Little did we know that the FS7 was just around the corner when we bought our beloved FS700, would we have waited if we knew of the impending upgrade? Short answer, yes its epic and I want one. We fell in love with it almost immediately in the showroom of ProAV and pretty much wanted to upgrade immediately. The long answer however is, I’m not too sure.

I guess 3 Core things in my opinion separate the FS700 and the brand new FS7.

  • Superior Form Factor with the FS7
  • Internal 4k and Superior Codec
  • Media (FS7 uses new XQD cards 64gb around the 200 pound mark…pricey)

Now 4k is here to stay, its uses in mastering higher quality 1080p, stabilisation in post production and cropping for interviews can be useful. For us the FS700 was already a major step up in terms of features, quality and ease of use with its built in ND filters, XLR inputs, super slow motion and future 4k expandability with the Odyssey 7Q. The Sony FS700 isn’t without its quirks but no camera is, but you get a lot of camera for the money.

So how relevant is the FS700 now the FS7 is here? The two main questions for us are “Do I need 4k now?” and “Do I need an internal broadcast approved codec.”

Lets look at some previous projects and see if we would have been better served by an FS7.

Music video for Renegade Twelve:

We used the FS700 on a music video for a band called Renegade Twelve. The location was at a barn in Stowmarket with the purpose of creating a rave party scene. So this would mean a slightly grungy/ under lit scene. While the FS700 is not a full frame camera, with its super 35mm sensor however it was far superior to the GH2 that we were coming from. However with its AVCHD you might say, surely it wasn’t up to scratch for low light and any form of grading? Well no, we didn’t really find that to be the case. Obviously an image can fall to pieces far quicker with limited colour space and I am not urging anyone to start shooting a feature film in a limited colour space where you may be matching shots from various shooting days. However as I stated earlier the FS700 is a scalable camera, should a project require 12bit raw, 4k pro res or continuous slow motion the Odyssey 7Q will have us covered.

Check out the finished video in our portfolio section to see whether you feel the image fell to pieces. Could the project be better?  We never look at work and feel settled, we are always looking to improve and develop our skills. The moment we lose that passion is probably the moment we stop making video content. Would the 4K and 10bit colour space have been a great addition? The answer is of course yes, however has that detracted from a solid final product by filming with the FS700? We don’t think so and neither did the client.

Another question you might ask is: with a limited crew,  did the terrible ergonomics hold up production on location and cause us set backs? Again the answer is not really. Now going handheld all day with the FS700 is not really recommended as terrible out of the box ergonomics have been well documented, but there is really a great cost effective solution, and no it isn’t one of those expensive shoulder rigs that require you to have your arms outstretched and pay an arm and a leg for the privilege.

Enter the Pag Orbitor:

pag-orbitor

The Pag Orbitor features a shoulder support system and waist belt. The support arm then provides extra support from the waist to the base of the camera, which we find far superior to a standard shoulder rig which most of the time requires outstretched arms.  To prove that it is very user-friendly check out the Javelin video that we were asked to film. We bought the Pag Orbitor in the morning then used it in the same afternoon. Not an ideal situation but we wanted to buy the rig and where better than to use it on a real job. The results we feel were very effective, and it allows the FS700 to be used in a completely different way. So truthfully ergonomics were of no real concern throughout the long day of shooting the music video.

Overall the main improvements could have been lighting and possibly lens choice.

Live @ the John Peel Center with Renegade Twelve

The next project I want to discuss is for the same client, the main reason being that obviously they were happy enough with the quality of the FS700 that they wanted us to produce a live music video for them. The project is still undergoing a few minor tweaks so the video is not yet released. This project involved a few different cameras to get the coverage we needed.

How did the FS700 perform? In short, it worked brilliantly.

Carl-Davis-copy-682x1024

It was paired up with a Metabones adapter and a Canon 70-200 NON IS and in my opinion had the brightest and cleanest image.  Would we have been better served by the 10bit 4k coming from the FS7? Well, sure you are always going to want the best possible image you can get but highly priced media, higher bit rates and larger files would have meant swapping out a 64gb xqd more frequently, instead of just putting in one 64gb and filming the entire gig as we did with FS700.

The FS700 has been cut with loads of cameras for the final edit and at this point overall it becomes less about the camera and the overall pace, quality of the coverage and movement for the music video.

It is very easy to get caught up with the latest hype and all the new toys, just like we did when we first saw the glorious, well-priced FS7. The most important thing is understanding that most of the time, it probably isn’t the camera that needs to be upgraded, but taking lessons learnt by real world experience and improving light, camera movement and lens selection.

If we were walking into ProAV now, with the same money would we buy the full price FS7 or the now reduced FS700? Honestly we would of preferred to buy the FS700 with the price drop and potentially buy two rather than the FS7. No doubt the FS7 is an amazing camera for the price and this choice will be down to your personal preference.  If you need that broadcast approved codec for the majority of your productions it makes sense to consider the FS7, but if your working on broadcast programmes you may prefer the F5/ F55.

I still enjoy using the FS700 and when its right to invest in more equipment, devices like the Odysey 7Q and Atomos Shogun (cinema dng and 4k pro res support pending)  will extend the life of the product and allow the camera to be used on a wide variety of productions. Where clients are after a quick turn around, (NLE software permitting) the AVCHD provides more than enough quality and where there is more time for Post Production, grading and the need for 4K/ raw recording the 7Q will come into play.

So after reflecting on these two particular projects, our needs are satisfied with the FS700, for others the FS7 is what they wanted in the first place from FS700 with the FS7 providing better ergonomics. It is all too easy to be caught in the trap of continuously feeling your gear is out of date and the quest for perfection is always just out of grasp. This in reality just isn’t the case and I am sure people are still making money from older cameras. Upgrade if its right for you and your business, try to avoid falling into this never ending quest for the latest technology.

If your using the FS700 and 7Q combination I’d like to hear your thoughts; will you be keeping the external recorder and swapping out for a new body, or is the trusty FS700 + 7Q still holding strong?