3 Things That Are Annoying About The Sony FS7

3 Things That Are Annoying About The Sony FS7

San Francisco-based freelance filmmaker and photographer Matt Maniego recently had the opportunity to see how the new Sony FS7 would stand up to the standard of his professional shooting needs. His films have been featured by the three major Bay Area professional sports teams and his requirements are high quality RAW recording and relatively lightweight rigs for his run-and-gun shooting style. Here he breaks down why the Sony FS7 may be the camera he’s been waiting for…but is perhaps not perfect yet! Read our review to see if the the Sony FS7 is the camera for you.

3 Things That Are Annoying About The Sony FS7

by Matt Maniego

I’ve shot on many cameras before, including the Canon 5D Mark III, Canon C300, Sony FS700, RED Scarlet/Dragon, Black Magic Cinema/4K Production. You name it, I’ve probably shot on it. But none of them had all of the features I wanted at an appealing price point…until now.

When I was hired to document the Golden State Warriors championship run I wanted a camera that was lightweight, easy to use, and shot 4K/SlowMo internally. Borrowlenses suggested I try the Sony FS7. I had read many great reviews about it and it did suit my needs well. The good outweigh the bad, so I’ll start with what I really liked about shooting with the Sony FS7.

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Benefit 1: SLog3

This alone is probably the best part about shooting on the Sony FS7. The ability to capture so much detail on a compressed codec is amazing! The camera captures plenty of detail in highlights and shadows that’s on par with much more expensive cameras. It’s definitely not RAW, but it’s also not a bajillion gigabytes per minute (if any of you have shot on RED, you’ll know that footage can eat up Terabytes upon Terabytes no matter the content). The latitude that the codec gives you is amazing given that the file size is relatively small. Footage is sharp, especially if you capture in 4K and master in 1080p. You’ll be able to get away with shooting on two 64GB cards, although I do recommend higher capacity cards if you plan on shooting slow-mo and, trust me, shooting in slow-mo can be VERY ADDICTING. Speaking of slow-mo, that brings me to my second point.

Benefit 2: Internal SlowMo at 4K and 1080p

The ability to shoot in 60p at 4K internally is really awesome! Sure it’s not 150 FPS at 4K like a RED Epic, but it’s a very good compromise. Although it is a compressed codec, it doesn’t look blocky like the old Sony FS700 slow-mo did. The sensor on this is from the Sony F5, so everything is sampled at 4K and looks much cleaner. You even have the ability to shoot at a max of 180 FPS; the caveat being that it’s only available in 1080p. This is fine for now because, at the moment, most clients master in 1080p or 720p. The footage captured at 180 FPS is downsampled from 4K and looks spectacular. Images are sharp and clean and, again, that SLog3 makes it easy to manipulate color in post. You can also shoot up to 240 FPS at 1080p if you record to an external recorder. I found this unnecessary because most of my shoots were “run-and-gun” style.

StephAirport

Benefit 3: Run-and-Gun Capable

Because this camera is so lightweight (even with the rear attachment and battery) it’s a great run-and-gun camera. The ability to transition from shoulder-mounted to ground level, to mounting on sticks, makes this an extremely versatile camera. It’s even light enough to raise above my head with one hand – just make sure you have a good grip on it! For those transitioning from a DSLR setup, you’ll find that this is not much heavier than a Canon 5D Mark III on a shoulder rig with EVF and other attachments. However, it’s cleaner and easier to use because everything is integrated in such a small package right down to the audio inputs.

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Benefit 4: Dual Audio XLR Inputs

Everyone who has shot on a DSLR knows how much of a struggle it is to sync audio in post. Even with software like Plural Eyes, it’s still not perfect. With the FS7’s dual XLR inputs, you’re able to record great sound from lavaliers and other external sources. Of course, if you want perfect sound you should probably have a sound pro there recording to a field recorder for you. But having the ability to sync up with that sound pro automatically saves so much time and headache! And that’s what good tools do – they help you save time and allow you to do your job more efficiently.

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Now, onto the 3 things that are annoying about the FS7…

Annoying Thing 1: The Menu System

With all the awesome features built into this camera, it seemed that the menu system was an afterthought. Why couldn’t Sony take a hint from Canon or RED and make the user interface more user friendly? This is also something the Sony Alpha DSLR cameras suffer from, but that’s another blog post.

Give yourself some time to learn the menus because it will most likely take at least a day to understand it all. From navigating to knowing how to press the joystick down correctly, frustrations can escalate quickly if you’re learning on set. DO NOT LEARN ON SET. I repeat, DO NOT LEARN ON SET. Learning on set will make your day stressful and it won’t look good to the client. You don’t want to look like an ameture to your client, especially if they are professional sports teams! BorrowLenses is cool in that they allow custom rental periods, so tack on some time to your rental to learn the menus. Go out and practice switching back and forth from real time to slow-mo and back again. Believe me, it’s not that quick. Here is a quick start guide that I found on YouTube that helped me out. I didn’t purchase the remainder of the course, but it gives you a good enough intro to the camera setup.

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Annoying Thing 2: Balance

Again, another feature Sony left off their priority list. This camera, out of the box, is unbalanced. The center of gravity for the camera is way too far in front for the built-in shoulder pad to even matter. In these images I am using it in its barebones setup during a Warrior’s game.

Because the camera is so front heavy it caused my shoulder and right arm to fatigue unusually fast. The BPU-60 batteries were not heavy enough to offset the weight of the heavy lenses I had up front.

To solve this I thought I should maybe add some weight. I opted for the Zacuto Shoulder Mounted System thinking it would help but it did not. It seemed cool to have two EVFs and I even set it up so that my producer could have a view of what I was looking at while I was recording. Everything looked great until I picked it up. This rig made the setup much heavier than I desired. The counterweight did offset the weight of the lens but it also made the whole rig heavier. Maybe I should have worked out more to use this setup? I typically shoot for 3-4 hours straight at gigs and lugging this thing around was a pain. Mid-shoot I took it off the shoulder mount and used it as I did before.

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I then looked for another option and the video staff at Borrowlenses recommended I get the FS7 extension unit. I tried it out and it worked like a charm. The built-in shoulder pad still wasn’t helpful, so my shoulder sat between the pad and the extension unit – not ideal. It’s a little heavier than the stock setup but it’s so much more balanced and lighter than using the Zacuto rig.

Annoying Thing 3: Bugs and the Metabones SpeedBooster Adapter

I own a lot of Canon glass and didn’t want to carry another set of lenses while using this camera. This is why I chose to shoot with the Metabones SpeedBooster. The SpeedBooster also allowed me to have a full frame look, gain a stop in light, and increase focal range on the Super 35 sensor. I no longer had to multiply by a crop factor when choosing lenses.

MetabonesSpeedBooster
The annoyance? It’s buggy to the point where setting the aperture is a gamble. Sometimes the camera would communicate with the lens and sometimes it didn’t. It does what it feels like at the moment. Metabones are the makers of the best adapters and speedboosters and it’s been nearly a year since the release of the Sony FS7. You’d think Sony would have addressed the issue by now. I know this isn’t entirely Sony’s fault but it’s still annoying. I could have solved this problem using cinema glass with manual aperture control, or even opting for manual Nikon lenses, but traveling as light as possible was a priority and that meant using the lenses I already owned.

Because I was not able to change apertures on the fly, I had to shoot wide open most of the time. That is why I am very thankful that this camera has built in ND filters. It also helped that I shot a lot of footage in slow-mo (shooting at faster shutter speeds helps your exposure a stop or two). I shot on zoom lenses that have a max aperture of f/2.8 but if I did need the extra light, I opted for an f/1.4 or f/1.2 prime. This was really for rare occasions when I was shooting in controlled environments, like for interviews. My go-to lenses were the 24-70 f/2.8 L II or the 70-300 f/4-5.6 L because they are both relatively fast for their focal lengths.

CONCLUSION

Why did I stick to this camera despite these annoyances? Because of the quality of the footage! The images are beautiful and there is plenty of latitude in the S.Log3 color space. It’s like (like, not exactly like) shooting on RED but without the “weight” of those RAW files. The turnaround for my client, the Golden State Warriors, is pretty fast so they needed footage that was ready to go in an instant. They typically don’t have time to ingest and convert RAW files and that is why I opted to use this tool for this job.

The pros definitely outweighed the cons with the Sony FS7. I’m pretty sure the annoyances will get fixed in firmware upgrades and that gives me hope that this will eventually be the perfect camera (until the Sony FS8 comes out). In the run-and-gun environment of shooting the Warriors championship run, I was able to work around the caveats and still produce content that was perfect for my client.

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Cortigiano is a food, lifestyle, and event photographer with a contemporary aesthetic. She received an undergraduate degree in photography at Drexel University and has gone on to work as a freelance photographer and teaching artist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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9 Comments

  1. Kymberly, thank you so much for this blog. Great Warriors footage! I am producing a video for the UC Davis football team and considering using the FS7 – so lots of important info to me here. I am a Nikon shooter (D4s) so was interested in your comment “. . . I could have solved this problem using cinema glass with manual aperture control, or even opting for manual Nikon lenses. . . “. Can you explain this a bit? Since I have a bunch of 2.8 Nikon glass, would be interested to understand how you might “solve” the metabones issue using “manual Nikon lenses” would this also work for my current Nikon zooms? Like the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens? Other than a few (Sony FE PZ 28-135 f/4) Sony lenses with E mount, does anyone else make them? In any case, do you know if the zoom function or autofocus works with non-Sony lenses, whichever mount? Did you finally find a better solution that allowed you to actually comfortably use the Sony (or another with an added mounting system) shoulder mount? Thanks very much for your help.

    Greg Rodgers

    Reply
    • Hey Greg,

      The Metabones speedbooster used to have an issue communicating aperture settings from lens to camera, but has since been solved with their latest firmware update. If you have manual Nikon lenses, they will work with either the adapter or speedbooster, but you’ll have to adjust the aperture and focus manually. Specifically for that 70-200 VR2, you can control the aperture from the camera, but zoom will be manual. When using non sony lenses, you will not have zoom or autofocus functions. If you’re shooting fast action football, you might want to go w/ a native sony lens to maintain autofocus. Alternatively, you can still achieve great results using manual Nikon lenses, just set “focus traps”, meaning set focus in a specific area, like the line of scrimmage, or near the first down marker, and wait for the players to cross that focal plane.

      As far a a shoulder mount option, at the time this article was written, there weren’t very many options. I ended up not using any shoulder mount and just had the battery extension with the Vmount batteries as the counterweight.

      -Matt

      Reply
      • Matt, I’ve figured out why the camera balance is so wrong – pushed forward too far – especially with the Sony zoom tele I like to use. It’s because of the short length of the cable that attaches the viewscreen to the camera. If it were longer the camera could be moved back further on the shoulder leaving the viewscreen an appropriate distance from the eye. Either that or get the Zacuto screen which can mount much closer to the eye, OR, mount a big video screen which plugs into one of the other outputs from the camera and you can use a longer cable. Amazing to me but Sony (nor anyone else) makes a longer cable for the Sony viewing screen for this camera. Hard to believe but true.

        Reply
  2. Are you still using your FS7? If so, can you post an update on what your shooting situation is now? Do you still shoot with the extension unit and your shoulder resting in the middle?

    Reply
  3. For me the most annoying thing was the subpar quality of the screen, it’s been a long time since I worked with a screen that’s so bad! Also cropping in for magnified focus is pretty much useless, cause all you get is a more pixellated image. The size of the monitor isn’t a problem, it’s the resolution. Then probably followed by the illogic menu layout as well as cumbersome controls for that menu..

    Reply
  4. How can I eliminate the “clicking noise” when I open or close the aperture from the wheel on the camera or the arm?
    Im using a Metabone SB Ultra with a Canon 24-105mm F4

    Reply
    • Does the sound seem to be coming from the lens or from the camera unit itself? Since most non-cine lenses and many adapters don’t have smooth iris settings, it’s possible to get unwanted sound from them. If the Metabones isn’t playing very nicely with the motors of the lens, that can also play a part.

      Reply

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