What You Didn’t Know About the New Sony FS5 & the XAVC Codec Family

Confused about XAVC-S, XAVC-L, XAVC-I? We spoke to Claus Pfeifer from Sony Europe about the Sony FS5 and how it uses XAVC in a surprising way.

The latest addition to the sony digital cinema camera family, the Sony FS5 has caused quite a stir. We wanted to follow up on some open questions. Will the FS7 receive a 240fps firmware upgrade? What are the main differences between the FS7 and FS5? Which codec is used in which situation and what are the benefits? All questions answered in our exclusive interview.

Interestingly, we found out that the 240fps high speed shooting mode is “only” a burst mode similar to the FS700, not like in the FS7, where you can record 180fps continuously internally if you use the faster XQD memory cards.

A big junk of the interview was dedicated to learn about XAVC. Nino asked Claus about XAVC-L, which is an interframe codec (as opposed to XAVC-I, which is intraframe), with the FS5 being the first camera using XAVC-L as its exclusive codec. It’s 4:2:0 color space in UHD (the “broadcast 4K”) and 4:2:2 color space in 1080p resolutions.

sony-fs5-18

As a reminder here are the specs of the new camera. See the details in our Sony FS5 announcement article.

  • Sensor Size: 4352 x 2662, 11.6 Megapixels (8.4 Megapixels Effective)
  • Sensor type – EXMOR 4K Super35mm
  • E-Mount Lens type
  • S-Gamut3.Cine & S-Log3
  • Native 3,200 ISO with 14 Stops of Dynamic Range
  • Built in Electric Variable ND from 1/4 to 1/128
  • Codec: XAVC-L
  • 3840 x 2160 8-bit, 4:2:0, up to 30fps continuous.
  • 1080p 10-bit 4:2:2 up to 60fps continuous
  •  S&Q Mode: 120, 240, 480, 960 fps (buffered like FS700)
  • Less than 5 sec boot time, Direct Access Menu, No rebooting for Rec format changes, etc.,
  • 2K Center Crop
  • 4K RAW output via future firmware
  • Dual SD Card Slots
  • Built-in microphone
  • Dual XLR input (one on body, one on handle)
  • 3G-SDI, 4K HDMI, WiFi, Wired LAN,
  • Same batteries as FS7
  • Weighs: 0.8kg

List Price: $6,700 without lens, $7,300 with 18-105mm f/4 PRE-ORDER HERE

 

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Javier Morello Reply
Javier Morello September 16, 2015

Great information. it’s posible to record slow mo continuosly with an external device, like Odissey 7q?)

Reply
Joseph Castleberry February 22, 2016

No, the 120-240 fps mode is not the actual sensor readout rate, the FS5 maxes out at 60p. To get 120-240fps in 1080 you have to enter Slow/Quick mode on the camera which only switches to those frame rates after you hit the record button – once you hit record it only remains in that frame rate till the memory buffer fills ( between 8-16 seconds ). So an external recorder will only get access to 60 frames in 1080. Hope this makes sense, I tried to not make the answer to lengthy.

Cory Cross Reply
Cory Cross September 18, 2015

Need digital access menu for the FS7! W
hat about burst mode for the fs7?
Would it be possibly to have burst mode in full hd for the FS7? Is the FS7 able to buffer like the fs5?

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman September 19, 2015

What a crap codec. Meanwhile we’ve been shooting raw and ProRes in 4K for a year on a $3000 BlackMagic camera, with excellent results.

Remember Sony would still be selling interlaced cameras if they could get away with it.

Vendors peddling this outdated junk should be sent packing from the marketplace until they decide to deliver modern-day value and quality.

Reply
marx franzen September 19, 2015

I AM waiting for ursa mini 4.6k
But I believe I will go for fs5 and sacrifice some image quality that mini offers. Fs5 is a much more pratical câmera, lightweight ( gimbals, steadicam), higher frame rate, insane ISO base. This virtual problem of codecs I believe átomos will bring us better options as Sony in a late update.

Reply
Joseph Castleberry February 22, 2016

One more small thing to consider with the FS5 as far as using it on a gimbal etc., is the AF system – if you use AF that is. Between my FS5 and C100, I use my C100 on my gimbal because the AF is far superior, and much more reliable – the FS5 had me missing quite a few shots on my Ronin, and I even tried it with 6 different zoom/prime lenses. However, the FS5 does still give me great results on my Jibs, and sliders, tools that AF requires less effort.

Food for thought.

Oscar Goldman Reply
Oscar Goldman September 20, 2015

This leaves plenty unanswered. The guy says “XAVC-S” denotes the use of an MPEG-4 wrapper. But then:

What is it called when you put the interframe-compressed codec in an MPEG-4 file?
What is it called when you put the intraframe-compressed codec in an MPEG-4 file?

Which of the above are they calling “XAVC-S”?

And why don’t they just put the video in an MPEG-4 file ALL the time? What are they using now, their ridiculous proprietary bullshit that crams all of your clips into one giant file?

This is exactly why shooters should turn their backs on Sony: Sony continually works to undermine industry standards and peddle cumbersome garbage that doesn’t work with anything. This goes all the way back to S/PDIF digital audio (just different enough from already-existing AES/EBU to break connectivity). Then they bastardized Firewire with their dumb four-pin connector that lacked power, and required everyone to get a bunch of adapters. Then they continued to churn out equipment that would only write to Memory Sticks, when everyone else had switched to SD.

Then, one of my favorites: They finally put out a laptop with Thunderbolt, but what do they do? Put the Thunderbolt connectors in A USB PORT, not a Thunderbolt port.

There are so many better options out there than Sony, and yet Sony offends its customers by making their creative lives a pain in the ass. Why reward this?