Six months with the Sony FS5... Why we love this camera.
At the beginning of 2016 Rick and I both purchased the new Sony FS5 super-35mm cinema camera. It boasted a range of features we were excited about, and having two of the same camera in our arsenal means we can provide 2 camera setups with consistent matching footage. A busy six months of filmmaking later, these are the reasons why this is our go-to weapon of choice for many productions.
1. It’s versatile and light.
The small form-factor and ergonomics make it ideal for moving quickly from one shot to the next, changing from tripod and slider to handheld without the need for a shoulder rig to get stable footage. This low profile is ideal for shooting in crowds and getting candid shots without drawing attention to you. The camera can even be stripped down, removing the top handle and handgrip to make it small enough to use with gimbals like our Ronin M.
2. Image Quality
The Sony FS5 uses the same 35mm Exmor CMOS sensor found in its big brothers the FS7 and F5, but due to its XAVCL codec it can write all that stunning 4K imagery onto cheap and readily available SDXC cards (rather than XQD cards which are very expensive). The customisable picture profiles offer a versatile range of gamma curves, including Slog for capturing a wide 14-stop dynamic range. That means we have the flexibility when colour grading to really enhance our images and make the most of all the data the sensor has captured.
There is also a RAW upgrade available with firmware version 2.0 when combined with a RAW recorder, which makes this an even more powerful tool (although we’ve not upgraded just yet!)
3. Auto Electronic Neutral-Density (ND) Filter.
This new feature from Sony is a revelation in technology. A Neutral Density filter is used to control the amount of light that hits the sensor. Instead of having stepped ND filters that flick down over the sensor, once the ND filter is engaged it can be smoothly changed whilst recording to keep a controlled exposure when there is an increase/decrease in light. This ensures you keep the same depth of field, which if you adjusted the iris, would change. In the latest firmware upgrade Sony have automated this feature, so lets say you’re filming an interview outside and the light changes, the camera automatically adjusts the ND filter to keep your exposure consistent. Amazing.
It’s a scientific fact that everything looks better in slow-mo and the FS5 shoots up to 200fps (PAL) of stunning 10bit HD footage in bursts of 8 seconds. That might not seem like a lot but play it back at 25fps and you have over a minute per clip. It records this to a memory buffer and then writes to the SD card. It also has an ‘End Trigger’ function that allows you to hit record after the event has happened, meaning you won’t miss the action. We need very little excuse to bring out this tool!
5. Professional Input/Output Ports
Unlike many DSLR cameras that are popular with filmmakers, the Sony FS5 features a selection of professional input and output ports for connecting various attachments. It has 2 XLR inputs for microphones, SDI and HDMI for connecting onboard or client monitors like our 7” Small HD 702 or even a RAW recorder. Sony have even released a wireless mic receiver that can be powered by the hotshoe mount, it’s so versatile.
We have a selection of Canon lenses that we love and have used with previous cameras; we even have a set of Samyang prime cine lenses. Sony’s flexible mount system means we can use an adapter (the Metabones Speedbooster) to not just make these lenses work, but they’re now faster (allow more light) and wider (reduced sensor crop) than previously! So that makes my workhorse Canon L 24-105mm f4 an f2.8, incredible!
7. Clear Image Zoom
This magic trick allows you to digitally zoom with no noticeable loss in image quality, effectively making our fast cine prime lenses into super fast zoom lenses, and making our telephoto lenses reach even further!
These features are just some of the reason we love shooting on the Sony FS5; it’s fun to use, intuitive, quick to master, it’s super flexible, well priced and most importantly the image quality is incredible! Like all cameras, it’s a tool and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, we still love shooting on bigger cameras (FS7, F5, C300, Amira) and sometimes we’ll use smaller cameras too (A7S, C100, 5D). As quickly as technology moves forward there’ll be something that comes along to trump it, but for the moment the Sony FS5 is our go-to camera for the majority of our productions and we love it!
Want to see it in action? Take a look at our projects page to see what it can do.