Ethics statement: I was hired by ProAv and Sony to test out the firmware on their camera and shoot some footage. This is not a full review as I only had a few hours with it, but I do give many of my initial thoughts in the ProAV video.
I have owned the Sony FS5 for getting onto 2 years. It has been my main B camera to my FS7, but at times it has been my A Camera, like on the Fujinon Shoots. It’s a pretty powerful little camera. My FS7 is better, but this is cheaper and smaller. The firmware upgrades it gets are making it more powerful.
The raw upgrade firmware that came out for it last year is superb, giving it raw output of up 4K 60p and 2k up to 240fps. Combined with an Atomos or Convergent Design recorder, the camera is transformed completely but at the cost of the ergonomics, as you need a hefty monitor/ recorder for it…but I love it! You can see the Fujinon MK videos I shot with it at the bottom of the post.
Sony have just released their latest paid firmware upgrade, not to be confused with the free V4 firmware, which lets you change the minimum ISO sensitivity number from 3200 down to 2000 when shooting in S-log2 or S-log3 and adds support for HDR by shooting in Hybrid Log Gamma. The paid part of the V4 upgrade gives the camera continuous HD recording of 100fps in PAL and 120fps in NTSC. This is up from the max continuous of 50p and 60p for HD. There is of course the buffered high frame rate of various much-higher figures, but that is for a max of 8 seconds only, not continuous. 4K remains unchanged at 30p max.
Sony through ProAV wanted to see what I thought of it, so I went along on a rainy day to Watford to test it out! The original plan was to go to Bournemouth, but the weather was forecast to be awful so we didn’t bother trekking down there. Carl Yates, the face of ProAV TV found a cool farm/ zoo type place that would let us film, so Sarah Seal and I went up there.
Yes, the rain was awful, and when it wasn’t raining it was cloudy, not ideal for most filming let alone one that requires a shutter speed of 1/200th second for 100fps! We did what we could in between the showers, trying to coax the animals to come out and do something for us for the filming other than just stare at us!
Using my wonderful Fujinon MK lenses (the 18-55 and 50-135mm T2.9) cine lenses, I grabbed what I could. I did some shots of Sarah walking around taking photos with the Sony A9 (how original, I have never done that before!), shot some rain footage and as many animals/ birds as we could in the couple of hours that we had. In the edit, I created a simple narrative of a rubbish rainy day where the animals were hiding, but when Sarah came along the rain sort of cleared and they came out to greet her. Deep stuff I know!
My biggest gripes of shooting with this mode are two things. First, the lack of shutter angle for the camera, which means you have to be really careful with your shutter speed as it defaults to 1/100th of a second when you go into that mode. Which means a 360 degree shutter and lots of motion blur. The second is that every time you look back at a clip or go into the menu, it comes out of the HFR mode and into normal speed. I must have lost a dozen shots with this. You would think I would learn, especially as this camera is the same as the FS700 in the way it does this (The FS7 does not behave the same way) but clearly I am losing it, as it caught me out too many times!
I do think it is a great upgrade to have. I wish they had added 4K 50p/ 60p too. Maybe it’s a buffer/ SD card issue/ codec issue. It’s just a shame. Oh, one more thing: the normal HD is 10-bit 4:2:2, but this is not. It is 8-bit 4:2:0 and only 25mbps as opposed to the normal 50mbps for normal speed HD. Do remember, though, that this is proper over-crank so there is no audio and it is already slow motion when you bring it in. When you record 50p/ 60p with this camera, you have to conform it to slow motion in post, which effectively halves the bitrate of the 50mbps when you stretch it out so it kind of evens out…apart from not being 4:2:2 or 10-bit (which to be honest caused me no issues in the edit/ grade as I am so used to this type of recording).
My single biggest reservation is the price. It is not cheap at £473+Vat, which is actually more expensive than the raw firmware upgrade. I do wish camera manufacturers wouldn’t charge for firmware upgrades like this. I can sort of understand with the raw one, as it is so big an upgrade, but this only adds HD 100fps/ 120fps. Yes, I was hired by Sony to try it out, but as always my opinions are my own, and I have to be honest…it is a great feature to have, I just wish it was cheaper! I would like to have it on my camera still…
Check out my footage and the interview with Carl Yates in the BTS second video. My edit was, of course, graded with FimConvert (discount code in banner below)
Music is from the ever wonderful Music Be Dustin Lau “Learning how to be alive”
Main photo by Sarah Seal.