Without intending to replace its predecessor fully, but offering a number of improvements that are well worth digging further into your pocket for, the new model arrives with better performance, promising to make our life easier at the same time.
Author: Luis Pavía
When Sony launched the very first PXW-FS7 a few years ago, it became a true benchmark for several reasons: its Super 35 mm sensor, its recording formats, its gamma curves, its extraordinary ergonomics, its expansion possibilities and its internal and external designs. And of course, its price! Such an affordable piece of equipment with an impressive collection of features and suitability for a multitude of situations, thanks to its enormous versatility, both in concept and performance.
Based on a model that was a true revolution in itself, time and experience put to good use have led to improving what was already an excellent device. Evidence of this is that this new model we have here is not a replacement of the previous model. Instead, both exist together so that each client may choose the one that suits them best according to their needs and budget.
The changes can be seen in multiple aspects: performance, functionality, usability and ergonomics. The new model includes functions and features specifically designed to further advance the concepts of use in documentary and cinematographic styles, without compromising others that also improve its usability in newsgathering or feature productions, increasing its already noteworthy versatility.
Considering the original FS7 model is already well known by our readers, we shall start off with the improvements and novelties of this new model. It still comes with the same Super 35 mm sensor with all the advantages we have already spoken about in other laboratories, and with a very similar physical aspect. From among all the new features, the ones we have liked most have been the variable neutral density filter -seen for the very first time in the FS5-, the E-mount without lens rotation -a first-ever in concept-, and the Rec2020 colour space -one of the propositions for a 4K with real HDR directly on camera.
The variable neutral density filter is operated from the classic mechanical four-position wheel. There is a “clear” one, where there is no filter whatsoever and three more, which are set to default values via the menu. If we activate the variable mode with the adjacent button, we can use the dial to adjust its value continuously between ¼ (1 f-stops) and 1/128 (7 f-stops).
This functionality captivated us ever since Sony first launched it with the FS-5. We thought that being able to toggle the exposure without touching the iris (or depth of field), shutter speed (or motion-blur or blur of movement) or sensitivity (or its corresponding associated noise) and do it while recording without having to cut the plane to change physical filters or menu settings, opened up narrative possibilities that did not exist until now -unless we had an expensive and sophisticated post-production- but even so, we wouldn’t achieve such a uniform depth of field. On top of that, it yields the best of each of our lenses keeping them always in their sweet spot. From our perspective, this feature alone is a differentiating factor that positions this camera at a completely different level to any other currently available -except for its little sister, of course, the FS5, which also has this highlighted functionality.
The E-mount without optical rotation is also a valuable feature, especially when working with heavy lenses, or with follow focus and mechanical or remote iris because they force us to release them to change lenses. This feature is a standard among lenses with PL mounts, commonplace in cinematographic environments, where only the locking ring turns.
Bearing in mind that, the new lens design has the good criteria of keeping the relative position of the focus and iris rings with respect to the mounting plan, it is a feature that brings even more comfort. It is simply a ring that turns around the camera body, like on the PL mounts, to lock and unlock the lenses with an E-mount -obviously, with its corresponding safety trigger-. This form of anchorage also improves the sturdiness, permitting the use of heavier and much more reliable lenses.
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