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Oliver Daniel

2nd shoot with Sony FS7 - thoughts

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On my first shoot with the Sony FS7 - I was very impressed with the image out the camera and the ergonomics, but I was very disappointed with the performance of the firmware. It was slow, glitchy and hard to use. (The video is out Jan 29th - edit this week). 

I chose the FS7 again for another shoot as the client was adamant on 4k and slow motion. I agreed and received a brand new unit from my rental provider. Things were a bit different this time, as the body had the extension unit and battery bolted onto the back, plus a Vocas railing system underneath. I chose ProMist filters to diffuse the skin of our lady pop star with a matte box, locked off on a Satchler tripod. 

I shot the video in XAVC-I 4k 25fps and slow motion in 1080 150fps, SLog3. I had plenty of lighting such as Kino Flo, Arri and Dedolights so I could light the vast location which was a decadent seaside theatre room. 

I have to say, the dynamic range wowed me even more. Lighting the large interior was a smooth process. Detail is very impressive. The zebras and peaking are very good. Noise looks minimal. Motion cadence however does look a little 'video', although I can't judge this fully until the grade. 

Handling the camera was fine on the tripod, as expected. An annoying issue with the extension unit is that it gets in the way of the HDMI port. You have to really force it. We didn't get it to work in the end. May have been an issue elsewhere, so we used the very good LCD throughout. 

Firmware wise - the camera performed better than before. I'm not sure if the unit before was a bit faulty, as it was slow and crashed a lot. Still - it wasn't as responsive as I'd expect. The menus are dreadful and over complicated, it takes so much time just to change the most simple settings. As a user experience - the firmware performance and user experience is very poor. I've got used to it, but it really does need a complete overhaul. 

The button layout on the side of the camera is also slow and fiddly. They really need to come up with a modernised way of button layouts on these types of cameras. Finding where to play a clip was a nightmare, until I found a little button called 'Thumbnail.' Not the best name! 

Another issue was the Speedbooster. Changing aperture on an EF lens was terrible, as the aperture setting would go crazy and go from f2 to f16 with a slight dial. Metabones and Sony need to chat. 

With these issues aside, the camera is great to shoot with and delivers a lovely image. It makes the FS700 look like a toy. For the money, it is fantastic. I much prefer using this camera compared to a RED Epic and Blackmagic CC. I do miss the quicker setup times with a DSLR/DSLM camera, but you gain quality features for a better picture. 

I will definitely use it again and can't wait to edit the 2 music videos I've shot. When they are released, I will share! 

Here is me and the camera: 

 

image.jpg

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

The FS700 buttons+UI are also over complicated and inefficient to use. However, the UI itself is not slow. While I'm sure the FS7 is improved over the FS700 (IMO the A7S looks better than the FS700 in some ways), it would be helpful to see the FS7 compared to the FS700 shooting the same scene to understand exactly what has improved. I haven't used my FS700 in a while- have been waiting to see how the FS7 looks and if it's worth $4+k to sell the FS700 and upgrade. In one test comparing skintones, the FS7 did really well against the C300 and A7S (though IMO in a few shots the A7S had the nicest looking skintones).

 

 

Here's a humorous test I found which also shows decent skintones with the FS7. Regarding your motion cadence comment: guessing you are referring to timing regularity between frames? For example, always 1/23.976 seconds between frames, with no variance or appearance of dropped frames / stutter? Toward the and of this test video (1:17), there's significant stutter, guessing they did this in post (24fps played back at around 12fps). Could you explain more by what you mean by 'video cadence'?

 

 

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Hi JCS, video cadence or motion cadence is something I "feel" when watching the footage, the way motion moves frame by frame. I don't know the technicalities of this, it is a characteristic I see as an artistic attribute. From your explanation, that seems on the right path. 

Motion cadence is one of the most important features (for me) in camera choice for cinematic work. The timing of the frames seem "slower" (with no artefacts) for cinematic "film" motion, whereas other cameras feel "faster" which feels more "video". This is based on 24/25p at 1/48, 1/50 shutter. Not 48fps. Not interlaced. 

5D Mk 3 ML Raw is a superb example of "film" motion cadence, the Digital Bolex, Alexa, BMCC, Kine Mini 4k, RED, 1DC....... "Video" motion cadence is seen on most DSLRs, FS700, GoPro.... 

The FS7 sits in the middle, but I can't judge that until I've graded it. 

Maybe some other techies on here can elaborate, people don't talk about it much. 

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Motion cadence is one of the most important features (for me) in camera choice for cinematic work. The timing of the frames seem "slower" (with no artefacts) for cinematic "film" motion, whereas other cameras feel "faster" which feels more "video". This is based on 24/25p at 1/48, 1/50 shutter. Not 48fps. Not interlaced. 

5D Mk 3 ML Raw is a superb example of "film" motion cadence, the Digital Bolex, Alexa, BMCC, Kine Mini 4k, RED, 1DC....... "Video" motion cadence is seen on most DSLRs, FS700, GoPro.... 

​I've heard that from some experienced DoP's but I don't think it makes sense and I've never actually seen it. For example, the 5d h264 and RAW have the exact same motion characteristics. Mostly it boils down to different looks and grades seemingly moving differently. It's because our eyes sees contrast differently. A more contrasty image = more stutter, even though the motion would be exactly the same. The only exception being the Red Motion Mount that has a trailing motion blur edge.

Have you ever heard of CGI guys doing different motion blurs for different cameras? They don't because cameras inherently work the same way motion blur wise. 

 

 

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Thanks for the review Oliver!

Any original files to peek at?

Motion cadence is a funny thing... I think IPB codecs (long-GOP) have a tendency to look more videoy. ALL-I codecs store every frame so you get a more 'true 24p' look. Examples of ALL-I codecs...

Raw (5D 3 Magic Lantern, BMCC, etc.)

MJPEG (1D C)

GH4 ALL-I modes (but not 4K, which is IPB only)

On the FS7, the 4K XAVC codec is H.264 IPB long-GOP, so for every 6th real frame there's likely 5 in-between that are synthesised by the codec, reconstructed. The codec gets a raw stream so the sensor reads every frame off, but then it throws them away after compressing.

Usability it seems like a mix bag. How much do you have to dive into the menus, or can they be ignored most of the time? How long is the boot time?

Getting a KineMINI 4K camera to play with tomorrow, just a demo unit, not keeping it but will put a review online.

I think Sony have issued a firmware update for the Metabones adapter / aperture bug, you may want to check it out. I think News Shooter reported on it last week?

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That RED article went straight over my head, interesting though! 

I don't know what it is, the way the camera captures motion looks much different on various cameras, there is something about how the frames move. The Digital Bolex has my favourite motion characteristic on the market, the science behind that motion is beautiful. 

Poor grading and lighting blocks the characteristic - our eye needs to see the contrast, detail, exposure etc to connect with us artistically and emotionally. 

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A way to test motion cadence would be to shoot locked down cameras pointed at something with periodic motion which could then be measured in post and compared. The RED article above makes sense re-temporal aliasing. Perhaps different cameras integrate sensor light differently enough to have a visibly different temporal effect on motion blur.

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Andrew- you could test the IPB vs ALL-I hypothesis with an A/B test of the same scene (perhaps shot with two cameras would be the easiest).

Intuitively I don't think this would be the case since even ALL-I/RAW frames we view on the internet are now 100% IPB.

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Thanks Andrew -  I can't release any originals due to Model Release and strict confidentiality. The artists are signed to record labels. When the edits are done I could fire out some cutaway shots, atmospherics etc. 

The menu thing depends on what you are shooting. If you are sticking to one frame rate, it's ok. I change them frequently for different shots, and doing this takes a lot of time. They really need this as a custom option, so switching from 4k to 150fps is swift. 

Actually navigating the menu is ridiculous. It's very slow and unresponsive, and it's arranged in a very complicated way. For example, to change codec settings is under System (eh?) and it's buried at the bottom of a long list of confusing menu headings. When you want to change the high frame rate option, first you have to turn on high frame rates into "Full Scan", then you can change the HFR option. Pain in the ass. 

Boot time is 5-10 secs. If you boot in 4k 50/60fps, the image crashes. You have to change it to something else and back again to fix it. Also when re-booting (such as changing battery), most of the settings reset (beside codec and pic profile). 

JCS - I think you are again on the right track. Don't know the science here, just the "emotion".

GREAT news on the Kine Mini 4k - those camera are capable of spellbinding cinematic quality. I think the image is unique. They deserve more coverage! 

 

 

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GoPro.... 

The FS7 sits in the middle, but I can't judge that until I've graded it. 

 

​I do agree with you about the cadence of the Digital Bolex (at least on my computer monitor).  Since you mentioned that you won't be able to tell until you grade it, I am wondering if its down to the refresh rate (Hertz), (or how many times the monitor flashes a single frame out of the 24p per second (say for instance each of the 24 frames flashes 3 times very briefly) of the monitor and hardware output you use?   Or is the cadence seen on multiple displays with various outputs (unconverted 24; or 60, 240, 800 etc..),  and technologies (Plasma, LCD, OLED)

The one thing the cameras you mention as having a filmic cadence (with the exception of the 1dc) have in common is a possible bit depth higher than 8, which would help with aliasing,    Just some Ideas.  I agree some cameras seem to have a different cadence or judder to their motion (seemingly unrelated to the motion blur of 24p with a 180 degree shutter) and can't identify what it is myself.  I do appreciate that article from araucaria.

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I have been editing the first project this week and had a few more thoughts on the FS7. 

The SLog3 is very powerful, however, I think I've slightly underexposed the image (having retained the highlights very well) as I have some ugly bits of noise in the shadows. It's not a big deal, this is a very very loud and gritty rock music video. Done a few quick grades, seems to be coming out quite nicely! I can't push the shadows that much, but there is loads of room in the highlights. 

Also it seems the SLog3 profile has "fell off" a couple of shots. This must of reset when the camera was playing cheeky buggers and crashing, but you can't tell from the image due to the Monitor LUT being Rec. 709. 

Colour is ok, but I can't judge that until I've graded it properly - like A7S footage it takes a lot of time to get right but it's easier due to the more robust codec. 

Also, the colour science definitely prefers green and blue. Lucky for me, that's the colour I want! ;) 

Resolution isn't overly sharp, it's spot on really. Doesn't look brittle like some of the cheaper 4k cameras. 

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Thanks for the update Oliver. Can you turn digital sharpening off completely in-camera. Same picture profile settings like the FS700 but with S-LOG 3 or did they update them?

How's rolling shutter and the 1080p slow-mo?

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Yes you can turn sharpening down, there are loads of options. I'm delivering for 1080p - so only actually been able to see the 4k res briefly. Might go back to the originals and have a play if I have time. 

The rolling shutter is decent, not noticed an issue really. I've yet to swing it side to side like a lunatic. 

The 1080p slo-mo is great, but you have to be careful of.... wait for it... noise! (shock, horror!) Also the 4k 50p/60p is very good, incredibly useful when I need some subtle slow motion in the 25p timeline. 

I''m pleased so far... the creative choices have pulled off due to the helpful tools in this camera, just need more practice exposing Slog3. 

 

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Oliver, did you ever use the FS700 + OQ7 combo?

If so, how do you think they compare to the FS7 in terms of DR, low light etc? I love the combo but would quite like to have a smaller rig, FS7 could be the one, if I don't have to lose any/much DR

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Hi Jimmy, I've only ever used the FS700 with the internal codec. I've used it countless times, but haven't experienced the full potential with the Odyssey. 

The dynamic range is superb though on the FS7, you can pull it around quite a lot in post, if exposed correctly. I didn't maximise the dynamic range as I slightly underexposed the image to retain the highlights in a location with bright light and dark shadows. It isn't raw though. 

It's much better than the FS700, however, don't think that this camera is a quick setup, small kind of thing. A lot of work needs to be done on set with profiles such as Slog3 and it also gets a bit heavy on the right arm after a while. My back & arm was destroyed after the shoot, had to get the girlfriend to rub it better! The FS700 is a lot lighter although a pain in the ass ergonomically.

Also, if using the Extension Module - you really need another person to help out. Once you add that thing on, this ain't no one man band! ;)

 

 

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On the FS7, the 4K XAVC codec is H.264 IPB long-GOP, so for every 6th real frame there's likely 5 in-between that are synthesised by the codec, reconstructed. The codec gets a raw stream so the sensor reads every frame off, but then it throws them away after compressing.

 

The FS7 supports 4K ALL-I at 240Mbps and 4K IPB at 100Mbps. Looks like Oliver was shooting ALL-I (XAVC-I).

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Cheers Oliver, gonna have to rent one out and see how it compares to a kitted out FS700/OQ7 ... The idea of being able to shoot without always having an external monitor is appealing, but if the trade off is a lot more weight, then it becomes problematic.

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