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Shooting with the Sony PXW-FS7 – Jason Wingrove gives his first impressions

Guest post by Jason Wingrove:

Just this morning from Jason Wingrove on Vimeo.

What better way to assess a camera than the standard Wingrove ‘test chart ‘of a Sydney Ocean pool pre-dawn – with less than twenty minutes to get to know the new camera in your hand.  

In the scene you have artificial light that changes into low light, then a very contrasty sunrise. You’ve got humans in motion and lots of finely detailed water sand and waves (all good slow motion test fodder too) Completely unscientific I know – but a great quick test of how a camera is to use with minimal training, how it is in the hand, on the shoulder or on the deck. How it is using the EVF, or just the LCD and how the sensor handles blinding sun.

‘Just this morning’ is purely a string of shots I captured with Sony’s new PXW-FS7 camera.  As a Sony F5 owner I was a little worried this new camera might have just devalued my investment.  

What I’ve been looking for for some time is a great run-and-gun camera that I can use for some of my more narrative, documentary style work. I want a robust codec, great dynamic range, ergonomics, proper audio controls and XLR connections, slow motion with minimal compromise. On top of all that I want it to give me access to the full frame look – the one I fell in love with at the start of the DSLR revolution. The FS7 seems to provide all that and then some.  

Sony_PXW-FS7 x

First impressions: 
It is a solid, compact design – no creaky flimsy plastic here. It has weight but is not too heavy. I reckons its heavier than an FS700 and with its compact EVF and a battery fitted it probably weighs the same as the bare body of a F5. It doesn’t matter what its made of, Sony have done a great job of making this camera feel up to the job.  

The rear of the camera showing the BP-U type battery slot
The rear of the camera showing the BP-U type battery slot

The EVF, its mounting system, optics and flexibility are all great. Battery life seemed typical of cameras like this – after keeping the camera on and shooting solidly for a couple of hours the BP-U60 battery (same as Sony’s EX1 and PMW200) showed 75% still remaining.

The FS7 control grip can be rotated to your desired position
The FS7 control grip can be rotated to your desired position

The grip remote control will suit most people, I never quite got comfortable with it but ergonomics is a very personal thing.  I’m sure once you get used to the grip the convenience of being able to access menus, start/stop and servo zoom (with the coming 28-135mm zoom or older 18-105 and 18-200 PZ lenses) will outweigh any comfort niggles.  The in built ND filter is something as an F5 owner I’ve come to rely on, the FS7’s system perhaps is even better.  A very solid control with three stages of ND rather than the F5’s two. 

During the test I largely used the camera in waist height mode, just using the LCD rather than with the VF loupe. Simply hanging the camera from the very comfy top handle and using the very convenient handle mounted run/stop button. 

Of course there is the usual overcomplicated Sony menu system, especially tricky to navigate when it comes to slow motion, ISO and white balance. That said anyone coming from the video world will be very much at home. Shooters with more of a film / DSLR / Alexa background.. well you have some reading up to do. Like most cams though I think that once you’ve had some time with the camera you can set it up just how you like – the menu can largely stay out of your way and you can concentrate on shooting.  

The FS7 with Sony's own 70-200mm lens
The FS7 fitted with Sony’s own 70-200mm lens

The FS7 is a camera to suit doco / run-and-gun or wedding work. It is built to be easy to travel with and you can pull it out of the box and be ready to shoot in minutes without any extra accessories. It’s a lot of camera for the money and will kick quite a few cameras to the kerb and steal their lunch money. That said this is one camera that I think you need to spend some time with before ordering, especially if your currently an F5/F55 owner. Beg, borrow or steal one and go spend some time with it before you sell what you currently have. Not because it might replace it but because it may compliment it – I’m looking at you F5/55 owners.

Lenses I used for the shoot are my personal ones – Dog Schidt Optics 2X Oval iris modded Contax 35mm, 50mm, 85mm. Canon tilt-shift 45mm and the always impressive Rokinon cine 14mm.  All mounted on a Metabones EF to E-mount Speedbooster for the full-frame field of view look. I shot mainly in 4K UHD at 50fps and 1080 HD at 150fps. S-Log3 was the only picture profile used.

Jason Wingrove is a Sydney based freelance Director & Cinematographer specialising in long form narrative TVC’s & high end corporate films. You can see more of his work on his website

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