Friday 20 November 2015

Sony FS5 - Initial real world thoughts

If you want full specs of this camera etc please see here. This is just a few of my thoughts and findings after my first day playing with the new camera. Its also the first time I have shot using Slog and more experimenting is needed before I get it dialed in just right.  

Very rough and ready short video with some footage. Jamie got a flat tire before I could get started so its all hand held. Range of 4K, 1080, 25,50,200 and 800Fps footage. Everything shot at base ISO of 3200 in Slog3 and  S-Gamut3.Cine 5500K Colour. Full video shot with the new camera out next week.
The new Sony PXW-FS5. Its Small but perfectly formed and for the money and size is hard to beat in my opinion.

First thing taking it out the box was how small and light it is. Light but solid, feels like it could take a few knocks. Stripped down to just the body ( still perfectly usable ) its not too much bigger in size than a 5D3 body, fits on a Ronin M gimbal and with a pancake lens even most full size drones.

Even with a large capacity battery in, side handle, top handle, meta bones speed booster and Sigma 24-50 1.4 ( read on ) on its nice, compact and light. I could easily hand hold this for a full days shooting and I wouldn't feel ruined ( I have arms like twigs so that's saying something )

A little before and after grade. The 1080 image holds up great to heavy grades and Slog 3 looks pretty amazing.
LCD Screen

The screen can be mounted loads of places, all the places you would want to put it, the side handle can change positions again all the stop clicks seem to be just where you want them to be, the LCDVF on the back of the main body is good, similar to that on an A7 series or GH4, the main screen is better if you can use it mind, almost retina quality.

The main things that sold me on this camera where:
  • Small size
  • 10bit colour space
  • 200Fps in 10bit, 400Fps if you take a hit
  • Vari NDs
  • Clear Image Zoom
  • Long battery life
  • With a speed booster its full frame
  • Low light capability's
I never got this camera with 4K in mind, that will come later as and when clients start asking for it, and via an external recorder 7Q style.

The only things I heard coming in that might be an issue where the 8bit 4K which like I say isn't an issue in my mind and the fact the XAVC 10bit codec was very computer hungry, other than that it was all good!

10 Bit

This was in my book one of the big steps up this camera offers over say the FS700 or C100. Rather than only having 256 shades of grey you now have 1024. Much better for grading, less banding in skies etc

Slog on 8 bit cameras is in its very existence a bit tricky to work with. Super flat PP that need lots of grading, but 8 bit codecs that don't take grading very well...

See below to see the kind of issues you can have shooting and grade out and the pictures still look amazing, I can see this is going to very useful.

Over exposed below, that nice 10bit grading out smooth as you like with no banding or breaking up of the image.
Slow Motion

In short 200Fps looks amazing, but isn't very forgiving regards exposure, 400Fps is alright but looks worse, don't even bother with 800Fps.

With 200/25 FPS Super Slow motion I tested it a number of times and got real time recorded time of 8-9 seconds depending on what was in shot, and using GOBE 64GB SDXC Class 10 U3 104MB/S cards took anywhere from 38-40 seconds to buffer.

I did some tests you can see below to see the quality of both 400 and 800 FPS and the drop off is very noticeable.

This is a side by side of the same frame at different frame rates. 25 bottom left, bottom right 50, middle left 200, middle right 400 and 800 at the top. Notice 800 crops in, and looks super shit.

400 is very usable but unsurprisingly only in good light, and if you expose it just right, 800 is a bit of a gimmick and I cant see me ever using it, god awful in wide shots, maybe if its only ever going on phone screens and you shoot long and shallow DOF ?!? How ever 200 was a bit more noise prone than normal frame rates, but if you over exposed slightly looks stunning, 90% as good as full speed footage.

Some 200 Fps super slow mo shot in Slog 3 pre and post grade. Noisy to start with but looks a load better after a bit of work.

The Codec

Now the camera shoots AVCHD which is great, easy to work with, smaller file sizes and 8bit. If you aren't shooting Log, need a quick turn around or wont be grading much then it makes a lot of sense.

But if you want Log you really need 10Bit which means you need the XAVC Codec, which as you may have heard, yes does need a good computer.

I have an I74710HQ 2.5 GHz, 16 GB Ram, NVIDIA GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5, SSD and 7200 drives etc and with my old GH4 footage I could edit away 5+ layers of video at full quality no worries, with the 10bit XAVC from the FS5 though my PC can only manage 2 layers at full quality and if there's nesting, effects, grade etc involved its best to drop the quality to half or even quarter.

The camera does now shoot proxy recording though which could be a big help. 10bit XAVC to one card, 8bit AVCHD 720 to the other to edit with...? 

Not the end of the world by any means but something to bare in mind. If your editing station is less powerful than what I have listed above you may struggle a bit. The Codec in the FS7 is a lot easier on processor power so if you will need a new PC to edit FS5 footage, but wont for FS7 footage that could be a deciding factor...

Wetransfer link to a few raw native 1080 10bit files, both 25p and 200p

Clear Image Zoom

Now this is just digital zoom really, but with a posh new name. It only works in 1080 ( as in 4K its using the whole sensor and cant zoom in ) But this feature is pretty amazing, I can see me using it a load.

There was no obvious change in quality, focus plane, exposure, depth of field, F stop etc it just doubles your focal length with nice smooth servo zoom, even on a prime lens.

Now with the speed booster Ultra on, and the clear image zoom I get ( All approx ):

24mm F1.4 is now a 24-48mm F1.4 Constant. ( Meta bones quirk with fast primes not displaying correct Fstops )
70-200mm F2.8 is now a 70-400mm F2.
15mm 2.8 fisheye is now a 15mm F2 fisheye to 30mm Wide F2
24-105mm F4 is now a 24-210mm F2.8 Constant.

You get the idea but its pretty useful.

Using the new "clear image zoom" makes my 24-105 F4 ( with speed booster )  a 24-210mm constant F2.8 with IS! That Grey box in the middle of the bottom image is roughly what I can zoom in to with this set up.

Vari ND Filter

This is amazing, its like wizardry coming from the DSLR/Mirrorless camp. Built in, both hard stop NDs in 4 increments, and the new Vari ND that scrolls via a dial on the side smoothly. No bumps, no something swinging in front of the sensor, should make shots going from inside to outside or compensating for the sun coming in and out in interviews much much easier. From 1/4 right up to 1/128 ND
The new Vari ND showing its worth. Bottom of it backed all the way off and top is all the way on. Smooth, no stops etc and fully incremental.

Low light

Slog 2 and 3 are notoriously noisy, and not recommended when shooting in low light so its no real surprise that Slog is ( as far as I have got anyways ) pretty noisy.

The base on the FS5 is ISO 3200 which if you err on the side of over exposure looks great. If you under expose it though your fucked, it looks horrible. ISO wise you can push it up to ISO 25600 in Slog if you expose it well and its usable, Just. Looks like ISO 2000 on my old GH4.

The big shock was when I tried out high ISOs in normal Cine2 picture profile. CLEAN up to 12800 ISO! Honestly look at the photos below, still a really nice flat image that will cut together well with Slog with some grading but ISO performance is pretty amazing. A true low light contender, you just need to get out of Slog.

Cine 2, S Gammut3 colour space high ISO test. 2000 on the left, 3200 in the middle and 12800 on the right. If its dark get out of Log and this camera is pretty amazing.

High ISO test in Slog 3. On the left is base ISO of 3200, in the middle is 25600 and on the right 51200. All OK but Slog only really works at its base ISO. If you need to push that up switch out of LOG.

4K 8bit Vs 1080 10bit 

As you can see below, both look great, both have the same levels of noise, sharpness etc The 8 vs 10bit thing just means anything you shoot in 4K Slog you need to 100% Nail your exposure, or even not shoot Slog so you don't have to pull the weaker image around so much, either way I will no doubt use both frame sizes in this camera, but I got it with the intention of it being a 1080 camera for now, 4K with recorders etc in the future. 

1080 vs 4K, can you tell which is which ? 1080 10bit is the bottom, 4K 8bit the top... if you expose well and don't need to grade much there's not much in it.

Few photos:

Another really good thing about the camera is that with its small size and screen that can change its mounting points, you can get it to all tuck in really neatly allowing it to pack into bags really well.

Screen out in filming mode, and screen tucked away neat and flush with the body.

Screen tucked in from the side, nothing at all touching the business side of the screen, doesn't stick out any more in any direction than the main camera body itself.

My Lowepro Whistler 350 AW all packed up. To get a camera like this, in such a compact and comfortable back pack is great. In this photo is the FS5 ready to pull out and shoot with, all handles, screen and 24-105 lens attached, 24mm, 15mm, 50mm, 70-200mm, spare battery and pouch with radio mics in. As well as point and shoot camera, memory cards etc in the other pockets on the bag. Win Win.

So that's my initial thoughts. Battery life and Bokeh etc are pretty similar to FS700 and FS7 so that's nothing to write about, you all know it. Its small, light and fits neatly into my Lowepro Whistler ( killer bag ) with spare glass, battery's and mics in as well. If you want full specs, un boxing videos etc see youtube or the Sony site here.

We will be shooting some real projects on this in the next few weeks so will put up another blog post with that as soon as they are done.




  1. Thanks so much for sharing your evaluations it was very educational. I like the look of the footage coming out of this camera but now I'm worried about my computer struggling with the XAVC-L codec.This may be a deal breaker as we use Vegas Pro 13 and mostly AVCHD now.

    Sort of at a turning point here with our decision making, any further insights or words of advice??? Maybe it's time for a new PC = $3000.00 more in expenses hmmmnnnn

    1. My laptop cost me £1500 a year ago and copes fine, and the camera can shoot proxy's at the same time. XAVC 10bit to one card and 15Mbps 720 8bit proxy files to the other card, so that's another way of working it possibly, few options.

    2. I guess I don't really get the issue with XAVC-L. It's a recording codec, not an editing one. I routinely covert everything to ProRes in Final Cut on import while I do something else. It's worth the time to do it. Hard drives are cheap. Everything works pretty slickly from then on.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Very good review! Can you use the autofocus with the metabonne( or do you know if the metabonnes IV are accepted? ). Useful when you shoot in a gimbal... Thanks!

    1. asked metabones and there will be no autofocus with this camera !

  4. Great review, really enjoyed the video too of the mountain biker. Just curious, when you mention that the speedbooster makes it "full-frame" are you saying that it cuts out the crop factor of the e-mount super 35?

    I'm curious, because I have canon glass, but I was interested in the kit lens (sony 18-105 f4 as well as the sony 10-18mm)...wanted to know if those would be cropped as well. I know that the 28-135mm servo was cropped, but maybe the e-mounts would be different.

    Anyways, thanks again for the article, looking forward to re-purposing my Canon lenses.

    btw is this your speedbooster?


    1. Yes exactly that. The speed booster ( the same as the one you linked too ) just takes away the native crop factor making full frame glass the correct focal length, as well as giving you that FF DOF

  5. Great review, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this! Like you, I would be primarily shooting at 1080p, mainly for the 10-bit 4:2:2 files. Would it be possible to upload a couple of short clips shot in 10-bit 4:2:2 to Dropbox or something? I'd love to see how the footage grades.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi man, please see above in the post, under the codec section. Now a wetransfer link with a few native files you can look at.



    3. Can't watch in OSX.. how open MXF files?

  6. Maybe in a next update...They works fine with the A7S and A7SII

  7. Awesome review cheers dude!

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  9. Great review!

    What are your picture profile menu settings? Having a hard time navigating the menu for to find the right SLOG & gamma setting?

    We love the CineEI LC709a on the FS7 but is there something comparable?

  10. Curious how you liked the sigma / canon 24-105 with speedbooster vs the Sony kit lens. Which would you choose as your go to lens? I am buying the FS5 at Xmas and wonder whether to pick up kit lens or buy the speedbooster 0.7x and use with my canon 24-105 f4. Thanks

    1. I havnt used it with the kit lens only the speed booster and 24-105 but I am really happy with it.

  11. Big thanks for this review !

    Concerning slow motion, I was wondering how you trigger the recording burst. After the press or trigger at end ? Thanks

    1. I trigger at the end so you know you have the key moment recorded 100%

  12. The Wetransfer-Link is not working anymore, would you please upload the raw videos again?