Sony FS5 Review – First Impressions & Footage

Just two months ago the Sony FS5 was introduced, a promising little camera and little brother to the highly successful, large sensor Sony FS7.
Now the Sony FS5 is almost ready for its official launch. I’m currently in Japan and one of my tasks was to test this new camera which was kindly supplied by Sony’s HQ for a very short time.

Please note that the tested camera is a prototype and as such, some tweaks to the final image quality and camera features might happen before its release. This is certainly not the last time we will look at this camera so please consider this short Sony FS5 Review as “first impressions content”.

Johnnie Behiri reviewing the Sony FS5

Johnnie Behiri shooting a Sony FS5 Review

My Findings in Summary

Who is the camera for?
Mainly documentary shooters and documentary style filmmakers.

Its strongest selling points for me: (in no particular order)

  • Size and balance.
  • 2 x SD Card Slots for reliable and continuous shooting.
  • Proxy recording for easier editing on older, less powerful computers.
  • Affordable for the professional who is looking for a large sensor interchangeable lens camera.
  • 2 cleverly located XLR audio inputs.
  • Built-in ND filter with an ingenious Vari-ND option. In other words, you are now able to keep your desired F-stop and ISO speed, yet add nuances of ND filtration to change your exposure.
    An additional benefit when using an electronic lens, is the possibility to shoot under different lighting conditions (indoors to outdoors for example) and change the intensity of your ND filter smoothly, “as if” you would change aperture with a proper video/film lens that has a step-less aperture ring.
  • Clear image zoom: This is Sony’s name for what was previously known as “digital zoom”. While any professional wouldn’t use this feature on any other camera, I like the implementation on the FS5, because it gives you the ability to create results that are really hard to distinguish from optical zooms. (more information about the new technology behind it can be found here).
  • Excellent battery life when using BP U60 batteries.
  • A modular LCD attachment for versatile placements.
  • Up to 240 frames per second in HD mode (Quality was not tested in this review).
  • Together with the supplied kit lens, the steady-shot function of this camera preformed extremely well.

Its weakest points for me: (in no particular order)

  • The XAVC-L codec. Because of its Long GOP nature, this codec will make your computer work hard while editing.
  • For me personally, the supplied camera grip is not easy and comfortable to work with. In my opinion, the REC button is located wrongly.
  • The camera will record 10 bit color internally in HD mode only. In 4K it will record 8 bit color. We advise to avoid shooting in S-Log 3 in 4K as it is problematic in most shooting situations. We saw that on the a7S II already.
  • EVF is just OK. The a7S II and a7R II EVFs are better!
  • The supplied kit lens has a good Run&Gun focal length range for an APS-C sensor (18-105), BUT, it has an extremely thin focus throw. Every little adjustment and you are out of focus. Autofocus is fine in most cases but not on long focal lengths.
  • The menu structure is irritating. After accessing some functions, there is no RETURN button. You simply have to press MENU and start all over again if you need further camera adjustment. A known weak point on Sony cameras, but I hope it will be improved for the final release FS5.

Things you might want to consider before purchasing the camera:

  • At times the camera would stop recording and report: “rebuilding the video file”. It can be because I was using SDXC U1 cards in 100 Mbit mode. Please be aware that Sony is recommending U3 type cards.
  • The use of S&Q (slow-motion) is confusing. You need to set the camera to HD recording mode in order to access the higher frame rates. It is not possible to stay on QFHD normal recording format and set the slow-motion to HD. I believe the Sony FS7 has a similar system.
  • The histogram looked incomplete. It was hard to know where I was exposure-wise.
  • White balance could not be changed with the WB button when shooting in S-log mode. (You can do that only with-in the PP7/8 menu. Sony is trying to unify its cinematic workflow across the line and implementing that type of WB choice on  lower end cameras.
  • Face detection is not available when shooting in 4K mode. It is available in HD mode (without proxy recording) only.
  • FOCUS MAG(nification): When pressing REC, the image would not return to normal mode but would stay in MAG mode.

Conclusion

The Sony FS5 is a well balanced package for the documentary/wedding/indie/news shooter cameraman. For those who are looking for an easy to use large sensor solution, be it “full auto mode” or “full auto focus” this is a very good alternative.

On the other hand, the advanced shooter will not feel neglected and be able to take control on most if not all camera functions in a manual way. As with most of Sony’s latest products, this one will receive a firmware update soon after its release to answer some of the shortcomings already found since the time it was announced. Sony also promised to introduce a future RAW recording capability for this camera at a later stage. Exciting.

All in all, those 2 days with the camera were simply too short to come to an ultimate conclusion. It’s definitely a fine working tool and without a doubt it will serve a large group of professionals in their daily work.

Last but not least, I urge you to see this video presentation made by our friend and colleague Alister Chapman at Vocas.

Also see our: Sony FS5 Hands-On Article

Technical information regarding the video:
Shot in 2160/24p, PP7 (S-Log 2). Edited in Adobe Premiere CC 2015 and colour corrected with the aid of FilmConvert. Sound recorded directly to the camera with a Sennheiser AVX in conjunction with a Sanken COS-11D Mini Lav Mic.

Music by Musicbed
Cedric Conti – Alone in Tokyo

A special thanks to Masataka san for contributing for this video and to Tim Dillon who helped translate from Japanese.  

 

Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also co-owner of cinema5d.com

 
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