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Is Sony Finally Listening?

In the HD-DSLR era Sony has tended to frustrate me.  Along with Panasonic they have the biggest profile in camcorders so had more to lose than Canon or Nikon.  Often quite good products would get hamstrung with what looked like marketing decisions.  The FS100 was one such product.  It always has been good value for a baby F3, closely matching its big brothers excellent image quality.  It even had a the benefit of 1080p50.  But there were downsides too.  Firstly Sony claimed to be addressing the drawbacks of HDDSLRs but they failed to include NDs like the competitor AF100.  It also wasn’t a global camera - Sony has since promised firmware but it was recently delayed.  I know a few people who own them and most love the image quality but criticise the handling. 

So when the first news of the FS700 broke I was skeptical, in fact I thought it may be an April Fool’s wind-up.  Not all the details are in yet and there is still time for Sony to stick a spanner in the works but I must say it looks really promising in the blurb: 


The first 4K-ready Super35mm camcorder in its class – providing an assured upgrade path to 4K acquisition and delivery - with full HD 1080p for today.The camcorder will also have the capability to produce 4K RAW 3G-SDI output via a future upgrade.

Whether you need 4K or not, its nice to have the option.  That option is going to depend when a compatible recorder turns up.  This is unlikely to be inexpensive.  If the FS100 was the baby F3 could the FS700 be the baby F65?  Of more immediate benefit is the addition of the SDI port.  The FS100 had only the much maligned HDMI port.  Thats one AF100 advantage cancelled out.

Super slow motion at 10x at full HD or 40x at lower resolutions

Incredible super slow motion capability of up to 10x slow motion at full HD resolution or up to 40x slow motion at a reduced resolution, giving you creative options that were once only available with specialist high-end equipment.

1080p high frame rates has eluded the budget sector.  The FS100 was already one of the best options.  OK, there are restrictions on shot length and super high rates bring various levels of compression but this is new and cool.  Its the closest thing to a baby Phantom.

E-mount interchangeable lenses offer a wide choice of lenses

The E-mount interchangeable lens system utilises an extremely short flange back distance allowing you to use a huge array of lenses via a range of adaptors giving you almost unlimited creative options.

Additional A-mount lenses available

The Sony LA-EA2 A-mount lens adaptor allows you to use the wide range of high quality alpha lenses and take advantage of the auto focus function for quicker, more convenient operation.

The FS100 has always been flexible in its mount options, even a few 3rd party Canon options are starting to appear.  The new adapter is probably overkill unless you have a strong need for AF.

Built-in ND filters

The NEX-FS700E features built-in, ultra-thin ND filters, offering exceptional shallow depth-of-field on highlights. It also means less accessories to manage as no external ND filters are required.

3G-SDI interface and HDMI

A 3G-SDI output enables easy integration with highest quality recording formats.

There goes the other AF100 advantage and a opens a clear advantage over HD-DSLRs.  We are starting to see HDMI output on the Nikons but its still flawed and doesn’t seem to realise the gains the FS100 does.  Presuming both these output are live simultaneously that opens a lot of new configuration and recorder options.

Exceptional ergonomics

The NEX-FS700E has a refined ergonomic design with a robust detachable handle and grip.

The key is the word “refined”.  I don’t think the FS700 will suddenly be a lot less fiddly than the FS100 and the “toilet-roll” EVF is still there, but early users say the build quality has improved and the accessories work better.

Switchable 50 Hz and 60 Hz shooting

The NEX-FS700E is switchable between 50 Hz and 60Hz to allow 24p shooting in PAL areas and no PAL/NTSC limitations.

Sony has listened, no waiting for firmware or having to buy two if you travel.

Selectable magnification and positioning of expanded focus

Expanded focus improvement allowing 4x and 8x magnification and a moveable area of expansion for easy focusing with shallow depth of field.

This should be familiar to those with Canon DSLRs, I wonder if it will work while recording?

Camera profile settings storage on memory card

Up to 99 camera profile settings can be stored, allowing rapid adaptation to multiple shooting environments without time wasted adjusting parameters. Settings are also easily shared in multi-camera productions.

Sounds sensible and opens up the possibility of easily adding new profiles.  One open question is S-Log, are Sony brave enough to bring that down to the FS700 and risk F3 sales?

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the price.  At a time when Canon seems to be determined to bump its prices up the FS700 comes in at £7200 inc VAT pre-order.  That’s more than the FS100 (£4700 inc VAT) but not a massive amount given the increase in spec.  Its a lot less than the C300EF & Sony F3 which are £12,000.  Its not significantly more that the Nikon D4 or Canon 1Dx (both about £5200 inc VAT) whose only real video advantage is being full frame.  The 5D Mk3 and D800 have a significant price advantage (sub £3,000) and are true convergent devices but the FS700 is a significantly better specified video camera which is suited to a much wider role. 

In fact its only significant weakness is the inbuilt codec.  Sony has a good track record in making the best of AVCHD with really good encoders but it is still what holds it back from being in the C300/F3/Scarlet club.  Still you can buy an encoder and a heap of nice glass for the price difference. 

My mate Den Lennie has already been shooting with one so I am guessing we will get to see the results from Den and others when NAB opens.

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Reader Comments (1)

Andrew, this is a good anti-toxin to our dismissive take on the NEX-FS700 yesterday while recording the Digital Convergence podcast. We have been chastened :)

The slo-mo capability has me intrigued.

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

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