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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.