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Apologies for the lateness of this post and the relative briefness of it. Finding time to do anything has been a struggle recently. I wanted to get this up, but I wanted to do a more in-depth comparison. This was proving to be impossible to squeeze in, so I made the choice of just going with this. My thoughts and experiences with this system and whether it is worth it or not.

The FS700 is a camera that despite its very awkward ergonomics / impractical design and underpowered codec, is a pretty unique, incredibly powerful camera. It has a superb image, fantastic low light sensitivity, SDI output, amazing super slow motion features PLUS of course that mysterious feature of being announced as “4K ready”.

I have been curious about how good the 4K will be from the FS700 ever since it was announced that it would be a future feature. Well, that firmware has finally come along.

V3 of the firmware beings not just the ability to record 4K raw but also a 4-second 120FPS burst also in 4k. Much more useful, though, is the continuous recording in 2K HFR up to 240 FPS. Unfortunately all these features are only available via an external recorder, more on that later.

Another key feature is the addition of the rather lovely S-Log 2 gamma curve. Something that would be possible to use internally with the AVCHD, although it’s perhaps not the best codec to work with when using a profile that needs a lot of colour work to come alive. When shooting in this mode, the camera effectively became a 2000 ISO native sensitivity beast, but it also means you cannot set the camera to a lower ISO, so you will use the ND filters a lot! With this increased sensitivity, the camera’s maximum ISO is now a ludicrous 64,000. Although this 2000 ISO base is only for the Slog2. The minimum ISO varies depending on which gamma cure you try. You are able to drop it much lower and if recording just internally it does make sense.

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I reviewed the camera over year ago (you can watch the review near the bottom of this post) and bought it not long after that. For me it really was the super slow motion that sold me on it. As an owner of a Canon C300, I wouldn’t use it for normal speed recording, as it doesn’t come close image-wise for me and, especially in usability, it really is a bit of a pig to use! Very unintuitive operationally, and a design that frustrates when operating. So, other than for slow motion, I rarely used the camera. My C300 is a dream to use, doesn’t need a rig, has a good EVF, great screen and great efficient codec. The slow motion is its biggest negative. It also, despite having the same sensor as the C500, cannot and will not ever shoot 4K (as far as I know). Whereas the FS700 will now let you shoot 4K.

It’s taken longer than I had expected to be made available and has taken a form that isn’t exactly helping this camera in its ergonomic credentials! It’s now a bazooka with the Sony raw 4K solution with the R5 recorder (currently the only way to get 4K raw with this camera).

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I took the camera to Tuscany last month to try it out. Initially I had wanted to take my F55, but the 240FPS hadn’t been released at that point so it was the FS700 for sure.

So let’s start at what you need to make this work. Clearly an FS700. The new version is ready to rock and roll. The old one needs to go into Sony for a paid update of around $400 or so. This gives you the new firmware. I believe there is a hardware fix too, which is why it has to go in.

Next up is a recorder. If you want 4K raw, there is only one choice: the Sony R5 which costs a whopping £4k not including VAT, something I have with my R5. You will then need the interface: the HXR-IRF5, which roughly costs another 2K. Then you need batteries to go on the back. I use V-Locks. You cannot use the Sony FS700 batts, I am afraid.

IRF5 interface, R5 raw recorder and a V-Lock battery

IRF5 interface, R5 raw recorder and a V-Lock battery

Of course you then need cards for the R5. The AXS cards cost around £1200 plus VAT which gives you a 512GB card but just 1 hour of recording in Sony 4K raw. In 2K raw that is 4 hours. 4K will add up. You also need a USB 3 reader on top of that.

Now as I said, we have a bazooka at this point. When put on rails it truly is quite ridiculous. It also adds up A LOT. The camera, recorder, interface, cards, batteries and charger will cost you around £20K. That’s a lot of dose.

When I was in Tuscany, I found the Bazooka to be too much. I ended up wearing it like a U-Matic recorder of old or clamping it onto my Think Tank Roller bag.

BIT OF PHOTO GALLERY COMING UP NEXT….CONTINUED AFTER THAT! 

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Thankfully, this is not the only option. Convergent Design have brought out the Odyssey Q7. A high quality monitor that takes their proprietary SSDs and can record the continuous high frame rate 2K raw, normal 2K raw, 4K (but not raw) as well as normal HD stuff. It costs around $2.5k of less, you need to add the FS700 option which is around $800, plus enough of their cards.

The good thing about this system is it means no bazooka, and the the FS700 needs a good monitor anyway. This system isn’t cheap again, but at least it works across multiple cameras, although for raw you need to buy the add-on for each one. This also makes more sense for S-Log 2. As does any external recorder.

S-Log 2 and AVCHD is not good. It may have a great dynamic range, but it can barely hold up to the grading needed. Record in something like ProRes HQ and it’s great.

Now I haven’t used the Q7, so this is all speculation. I would love to test it out, and there was talk of a review unit some time back, but as of yet I haven’t received one, so all I can do is say that it looks great on paper, and from reports of people I know using it, they love it. Maybe I well get to try it soon.
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So now onto what is it actually like? Ignoring the ergonomic hell and cost?

Well the 2K raw continuous HFR is a joy and so freeing from the 8 second buffer. The quality is great. About the same really as the internal, but obviously more robust and now raw. It does still alias though, so be careful.

The 4K raw is lovely but OH so inefficient like my F5. This is a massive problem, as it becomes a big cost. The image is good. Although I do find it rather noisy. The S-LOG 2 setting does make things  look noisy. Of course being raw that’s not so important, more so when recording in a non-raw codec which the Sony system does not have. The Odyssey Q7 does.

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I haven’t really shot enough on this system really, but the experience of working with such a cumbersome set up was not pleasant. I have my F55 which is modular and the R5 sits beautifully between the battery and the camera, but this is not a cheap system either.

In fact, the whole idea of a lowish budget camera like the FS700 becoming very pricey to get 4K is such a shame…but this does feel like a stop gap. I am sure something more sensible and cheaper will come along soon…I hope so.

The whole R5 set up for the FS700 feels like a dangerous investment, unless you are committed to Sony and looking at maybe an F5/ F55. The only reason I have it is because I have the F55. If you are starting from scratch it’s hard to recommend, given the extreme cost and size, even though the results are excellent. I can see it working just fine in a studio type environment, but this camera is too big for most purposes.

I really need to see the Q7. It seems potentially the best solution, open to all cameras, not tying you down to one. When you invest this sort of money, it needs to be well thought through and not something you may regret.

This may all sound harsh, and I am sorry Sony, I love my F55 but the 4K solution for the FS700 is not something I can recommend. The FS700 on its own is great, but if you need 4K, look at the alternatives. There are not many for high speed of course. Again I need to see the Q7. Mmmmm. I hope I can get to try one soon. I certainly cannot afford to buy one.

I did make a short film which I really love.  Shot with the FS700 continuous 2K raw and the 1DC. The idea behind this was seeing the old men in the Tuscany town of San Gimignano sitting and watching the world go by, as so many old men in Italy do. Their world slows down when they do this. We could all do with having our world slow down. So I filmed all the shots of the men in normal speed on the 1DC in 4K and the what they were watching in 200FPS on the FS700. Why not on the FS700 for all of it? I was tired of lugging the beast around and took the 1DC out instead. I shot these guys and the idea hit me, so I went back the next day to shoot all the slow motion.

The music was an accidental delight. I love Rossini’s “Thieving Magpie”, ever since I heard it in “A Clockwork Orange”. I didn’t know what music I was going to use in this until I heard these two fabulous accordion players whilst I myself was people watching in San Gimignano. They were playing Vivaldi which was lovely but when I heard Rossini I knew this was what I needed. Gentle but with pace to drive the shot that builds to a crescendo. Also the slow motion imagery with this music resonated with me because of my love for “A Clockwork Orange”. There is a shot halfway through this which was actually shot by Anna, not me, but when I saw it I shouted the name of that film! You can see the scene I am talking about here…be warned it features some ultraviolence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v90KPJ6n4Ew  :)

I did record the accordion players playing this piece after I gave them 20 Euros. Unfortunately after filming them they said “No Internet! No youtube!” Oh well…you can hear a little bit of their version over the end credits.

Before you ask, the slow motion shot with the fast pan? That was done by a really fast whip pan with friction off at 200fps. Works well!

Thanks to Anna and Kayla for your help. Truly appreciated.

I will upload a native 2K and 4K shot for you to download shortly.

This was of course graded with the fabulous plugin FilmConvert which you can get for 10% off by going here: gopb.co/filmconvert

There is also a small tutorial to help show you how to get out of a whole when you get that nasty high frame rate flicker below. Doesn’t always work but give it a try.

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Die flicker! Die! How to remove that nasty high shutter speed/ high frame rate artefact in your NLE. from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

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The Man, the chair & the square from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Sony FS700 Review Part 1 from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

Sony FS700 Review Part 2 from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

 

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Comments

  1. Mark says:

    I think you would be better off with just the 1DC !

  2. Samuel Burton says:

    Lovely work as always Philip.

    Appreciate your thoughts on the 4K for the FS700. It does seem like a terribly cumbersome setup. I am curious as to wether we will see other 4K recorders like the AJA unit become compatible with Sony’s spec. It seems that we are back into proprietary land again – which given Sony’s great desire to see the whole world go 4K doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    To have a small rant: why don’t they learn? Back in 1984, the major music gear manufacturers agreed on a common standard [MIDI] and we are still using that standard nearly 30 years later! Admittedly we are talking about data rates and complexity that are several orders of magnitude greater – but the principle is still valid. Make a standard – and the watch the industry grow as buyers will not be afraid that their expensive device is going to be useless next month…

    …sorry about the rant…

    Cheers,
    Sam

  3. The Odyssey does look like a far more elegant solution than having all the R5 clobber slung around your neck / poking off the back of the rig. I wonder how the camera + Odyssey would balance in documentary filming (rig/handheld) situations.

    Despite all this – since I’m still on the 5Dm2, and on the brink of upgrading – the FS 700 is still very tempting. I just love the slow motion and for some subjects e.g. wildlife, I think the clean crisp Sony look is pretty good. Then again, my heart sinks when I look at well graded BMCC or C300 footage.

  4. Max Moraga says:

    With that soundtrack and slomotion I keep expecting to see a little of the Ultra Violence! Beautiful images, too bad the rig is so cumbersome, hope your right about there being a more affordable solution! How does the quality/sharpness of the High frame rates compare to your F55? Thanks-Max

    1. Philip Bloom says:

      cheers Max. That was always the intention and in particular with one shot in there!

  5. pfisher101 says:

    Well, I don’t think I’ll be buying this poorly conceived camera. Honestly, it seems like a joke and the Bazooka picture is priceless. Your U-matic reference made up for the overpriced poorly designed camera you’re reviewing. I bet half the guys I shoot with wouldn’t even know what an old U-matic deck is (I barely used one in college).

    Oh, and the guy flipping you the bird in your “Chair Square” film…..hilarious!!!

  6. I thought of buying a FS 700 because it is nearly cheap when it comes to body only. But the standard high ISO and all the needed extra stuff makes me not so happy. I wait until spring 2014 because I think there will be a load of new products from all major companies. Maybe the ALEXA AMIRA gets interesting, if the price is similar to a F5, You can even use LUTs in camera! But I guess it will be over € 30.000 body only – too much.

    Let’s see what CANON offers. Maybe they speed up with their framerates in C300 and finally offer Wifi included.
    Thanks for your nice workshop in Vienna (Nov).

  7. How much does the full rig weigh once you mount the additional recorder to the rails? I don’t think it’s a very viable option for the camera operators’ spine.

  8. Stanley Word says:

    Thank you for the very valuable to me indeed, some critical review! For some time, popping around this camera, saves money, but now it’s probably really give up and wait for something smaller, cheaper (rumours say perhaps panasonic GH4 with 4K, or finally 4K Blackmagic ), just because I’m sorry, but Sony is still something like Sony , their product MUST still have some negative and unfortunately it’s usually not only a high price, for example, now very promising FF machine sony A7R BUT without touchscreens with avchd just a big moire etc is not very ideal for video, wasted chance again, I can not help myself …The best from sony these days are for me nex -5(N,R,T…), lenses as sony 35 1.8 OSS- nice , very nice and first excellent price versus performance ratio, (the better codec and less moire and it could be perfect tools:-)) Sony should employ people like you and would certainly earn more! :-) It is sad to read from the new owner nex-vg900 or NEX-VG30E, he made a mistake that bought the camera! :-( good light Mr Bloom, I look forward to new reviews!

  9. FunkKnight says:

    For me, this cam is PIMP, and you HAVE to PIMP it for it to be PIMP. The ergonomics may not be as smooth as a C300, but the recent RH version makes this a good purchase IMHO. I’ve shot a comedy web series pilot with the C300 and it’s excellent, no complaints whatsoever. However, I like the modular nature of the FS700. I’m not interested in the Sony R5 – only the Odyssey 7Q! The Odyssey 7Q with 2x 256gig drives is £2706. The FS700 ‘option’ to shoot RAW is $795 on the Convergent Design website. So with the FS700 RH (that comes with the new zoom lens) the whole thing costs £9386.66, + FS700 option $795. My point is for around £10,150 you can have a super slow-mo, S-log 2, 4k 35mm sensor camcorder with a big motor zoom lens shooting AVCHD 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 8 bit, 2K raw 12 Bit, 4K compressed 10bit 4:2:2 and HD 10bit 4:2:2 and 10 bit 4:4:4 RGB. The C300 starts at £10,794 at CVE for the EF version- there’s nearly nothing different in price and though the C300 is enough for any low/mid level narrative filmmaker, the FS700 and CD combo gives you so much more capability for the same price. I agree Sony may bring out a better 4K 8bit 4:2:0 on-board camera next year (I think they confirmed that in an interview unofficially), but If I was buying a camera today, I think I could live with the few issues the FS700 has, to gain all those shooting possibilities for the same price as the C300. I’m not saying its better – you definitely loose time and have more demands in post!!! It’s simply the type of shooter I am. I have seen some great projects (including my own) executed with the C300. Sorry yes – some people will point out the cost of a rig (I already have one). Check out the capabilities of the Odyssey 7Q as a monitor! That alone would seem to justify this as a package! However, if you don’t like add on’s and prefer to shoot out of the box etc… this won’t turn you on much (as it obviously does me…(?))! My two cents.

  10. Vidrios says:

    Hey Phil I’ll ask the same question I attempted to ask last night during your live chat. Which by the way thanks for taking the time to do that. That really means a lot. I slipped out of Thanksgiving dinner for a few to listen in and post my question. . Anyway
    1. The F55 – As a Former RED owner yourself and we know why you decided to get out of it back then etc., How does the F55 stack up against the RED Epic? It seems that a lot of you guys with the big cam blogs (including Matt Allard, Den Lennie, etc) are going in the Sony F55 direction, but I’m really curious to know how the two stack up and why go the route you did vs say, the Dragon or even Mysterium X? I don’t own either but for an upcoming production I may use one over the other for the first time, and would love your input.

    AND…only if you have time to answer this question..
    2. You mentioned “The 4k so inefficient like my F5″ I’ve had my eye on the F5 for awhile for potential purchase. But want to know your thoughts on it. I’m a guy that buys glass, tripods, mics, lights, and avoids buying camera bodies because the tech changes so rapidly I rent for the right job the camera that is needed.

    My work – mostly commercials docs and some weddings. Basically Real life situations.

    1. Philip Bloom says:

      yeah it misses certain things the red has but i love it’s a do it all camera. shoots HD etc…

      not used the f5. the fact it doesnt shoot 4k internally was the deal breaker.

  11. galleryfilms says:

    This is a novice question… but is this project’s aspect ratio native to the 2k? Are there “letter box” bars in the 700′s VF or is it 16×9? Can you explain (or send a link) as to the aspect ratio you have in this film from camera to editor to YouTube? Thanks!

  12. thomasrshannon says:

    Excellent post as always, Philip! And the tutorial about slo mo flicker was most helpful.
    Quick question, I’ve been using Glencairn’s “G-Log” and was wondering if S-Log 2 was dramatically different. Are they pretty much the same, or is there a huge difference?