2020 is a huge year for cameras. The new Canon and Sony A7S III are super impressive, and if you’ve been considering getting a Sony FS7, you might now have doubts. Which one is better? It depends on your specific needs, and with these 7 examples of things to know before buying the Sony FS7, we will go over some things that matter and the benefits and negatives of either options depending on your needs.
Great Shooting Options, But…
When the Sony FS7 originally launched, like with many Sony cameras, Sony was ahead of the curve, at an incredible price.
4K at 60 frames per second is something that almost no mirrorless camera delivered on for years, even as recent as 2019, but the FS7 had it, allowing for crispy slow-mo at 4K.
180/150 frames per second depending on your region, at full-HD, was another thing that mirrorless cameras didn’t have as recent as 2019.
That made the FS7 a natural next step for many filmmakers and creators that wanted to make the next move after having their mirrorless camera like the A7 III.
But that was as recent as 2019, and 2020, well, 2020 it brought huge changes.
240 slow-mo at full-HD is now a thing, and 120 FPS 4K is now also a thing, on cameras like the new Canon EOS R5 and Sony A7S III.
And those, maybe apart from the 240 option, unlike on the DJI Mavic Air 2, are actually crispy and usable, rather than being a marketing stunt.
A used FS7? You can buy one for around €3,400 ex VAT.
The new Sony A7S III? Around €3,500 ex VAT and it will for sure get more affordable if you wait a few more months.
60 frames per second? For most people that will be enough. However, when it comes to shooting sports, 120 would be much more impressive.
FS7 unlike the two others is not a full-frame camera, and well, on one side, it makes lenses more affordable, but on the other, full-frame would have been nice.
All can do 10-bit 4:2:2 recoding though.
FS7 Offers a Lot of Control
The smaller the body, the less you can attach. That’s one of the limits of mirrorless cameras.
With the FS7, you get vast options that make shooting much easier.
For instance, you get 3 record buttons, a white balancer setter button, an option to move your screen in almost any way you like or to replace your screen with a different screen from a 3rd party.
Perhaps, more importantly, you get an easy way to load a LUT into your viewfinder, making it easier to record in the likes of S-log 2, removing possibility of mistakes.
…But at same time, the FS7 is on the older side and doesn’t offer control of everything.
For instance, while the A7 III offers a wide range of color profiles like our favorite Cine 4 which just worked so well, delivering cinematic footage with minimal work, that is just not the case on the FS7. You are very limited.
The camera itself, just like many other cameras of this type takes much longer to start than your typical Sony A7 III which allows you to record within 2 seconds.
The FS7 needs some time to turn on fully, and that means that unless you always have it on, you can, easily miss shots.
The confusing Sony menus can also slow you down, but that isn’t only exclusive to the FS7.
Our biggest issue with mirrorless cameras for a long time was audio.
Shooting with just one audio source is very limiting.
FS7 comes with 2 XLR slots for recording, but also enables 2 extra ones via the shoe mount, or otherwise allows you to use the likes the built-in one (not recommended, but does work better than expected.) giving you rich audio options.
Whether you are interviewing, or need to record several types of audio in one go, with the FS7 just like many other cameras like this, you have the options.
And not just that. You also have actual controls for those options, making it super easy to adjust audio as you are recording, or to set it as auto.
Traditionally on the likes of A7 III, you would have to go into the audio settings before recording and adjust that way, and in outdoor situations, that often resulted in average sounding audio depending on the situation. With the likes of the FS7, you have control over that as you are recording.
Here’s an example of a clip with the built-in microphone, with the audio levels adjusted automatically.
Not bad, right?
We do wish the FS7 also came with a standard 3.5mm port for microphones, but you can always get an XLR adapter to connect the likes of the Sennheiser MKE 440.
Variable ND Built-In
The sony FS7 comes with a built-in ND filter with 1/4, 1/16, and 1/65 filters, and that’s an incredible feature especially if you switch between lenses a lot.
…But, on the first FS7, the system isn’t ideal.
With a Ken & Feith ND variable ND filter, you can go from 4 to 400 with superb smoothness by simply twisting the filter. If you twist a little bit too much, it will result in vintaging, but overall, the system works very well because of how smooth it is.
That is not the case with the FS7.
The FS7 has hard filter switches meaning every time you switch an ND, that is captured by the camera, and that can destroy the footage.
A bigger issue? That sometimes the filter doesn’t switch the full way. If you shoot in true 4K in 17:9 format, put export in a standard TV format of 16:9 there’s plenty of space to remove that issue, but it is something to be aware of.
The built-in ND is, by all means, great, and the fact you don’t need to switch ND between your lenses, nor deal with different sizes, is great, but you probably should invest in the likes of Ken & Feith instead as it will make your shooting experience much better.
Battery Life is Amazing
In the box, this camera comes with a BP-U30 battery, with options for the likes of BP-60 and BP-90, hence the big hole at the back. That battery, it can last for around an hour and a half of constant recording.
And that’s the smallest option. You can get the BP-60 that will deliver double that, and the best thing? The BP-60 comes at around €100 which is the price of the much smaller and less superior A7 III battery.
So not only are the batteries cheaper, but they last longer, and you have a ton of options as far as what to get.
And that’s great. Sometimes we need a battery for 4 hours of shooting, but sometimes we don’t, and have options is key.
…Even better than that, when inside, you don’t need to have any batteries inside the camera. You can power the camera directly from a cable.
That’s not an option on the likes of the A7 III or A7S III making the workflow much harder, especially when shooting documentaries.
With the FS7, you can first shoot outdoors, followed by going inside for indoor shooting where you connect your FS7 to a plug, meanwhile, you let your battery recharge from the outdoor trip.
And all of that, without overheating.
We haven’t yet tested the A7S III to tell if it overheats a lot, but we know that the Canon EOS R5 overheats, and that is destined to happen. There is only so much you can do with a certain amount of space.
And that’s where cameras like FS7 just make much more sense. Especially when shooting long interviews inside.
It’s Not a Camera for Autofocus
The sad thing about buying an FS7 is that you are essentially stepping back when it comes to some technology if you currently for instance rock a Sony A7 III.
That’s because the FS7 came out in 2014, and Sony just like many other cameras, has improved drastically in certain aspects since then, on all their cameras, including autofocus.
Ultimately, the FS7 is a camera that most people will use with manual control, and that’s perfectly fine especially if you have someone else to take care of the focus aspect, but if you are shooting alone, there are situations were great AF would come in very useful, and you can’t count on the FS7 for that.
…And that’s especially an issue when it comes to shooting sports.
The Camera by Itself Isn’t Complete
A7s III? It’s a video first, photo second camera. Canon EOS R5? It’s a photo first, video second camera. FS7? It’s a video-only camera.
And…that’s fine because it’s a video camera intended for videos, but at the same time, the reason mirrorless cameras are so great is that they do also allow you to take pictures, and while Hollywood shooting doesn’t need both, your average filmmaker looking to currently buy an FS7 probably also wants to take pictures, and while there are advantages to having a video-only camera when it comes to videos, a lot of people would benefit from having both in one.
There are a few features that aren’t there until you get the extension unit, and the extension unit is more than half the price of a used FS7.
It unlocks things like:
- I / O connections such as Timecode and Genlock
- 12 BIT 4K/2K RAW shooting to an external recorder.
- V Batteries support.
With That in Mind, is the FS7 Worth it?
It depends on your needs.
Do you shoot commercials? By having an FS7, you will look more pro, without necessarily being more pro. (It sucks but that’s how it is)
If you are looking for a more discrete camera, especially when shooting documentaries and want to get a high-bitrate, you might benefit from Canon’s or Sony’s new options especially since those are full-frame. The card options for those are also better.
If you want to shoot sports and need a better slow-mo, once again, that’s where the likes of Sony A7S III comes in.
Do you need RAW? Do you need 12 bit? If so, the Canon is a cheaper option than the FS7.
But the best option if you want to shoot documentaries? To have both the A7S III and the FS7 for the ultimate balance.