December 9, 2014

The Sony FS7 Goes Up Against the C-300 & A7s in This Camera Test

It wasn't long ago that Sony announced their new Super 35 E-mount FS7 camera at IBC, and with features like internal 4K recording and 14 stops of latitude, one must ask how it stacks up against similar cameras, like the C-300 and A7s.

The FS7 is impressive on many levels. It's a Super 35mm E-mount camera that shoots internal 4K for less than $10k. Plus, with 14 stops of latitude, it has a dynamic range similar to those of the ARRI ALEXA and the super sensitive Sony A7s.

Here's the test from Keyframe di Christian Balducci that compares footage from the FS7, A7s, and the C300 on various settings.

Here's the same test, only graded to find similarities and discrepancies, according to Keyframe.

And just for fun, here are a couple of videos to show you the kind of images you can expect from the FS7:

Test footage from Togethia from the Ferrari Finali Mondiali event.

A camera test film from Anticipate Media.

In case you missed them the first time around, here are the specs:

  • Super 35mm Sensor
  • UHD 3840 x 2160 at launch (DCI 4K is planned for early 2015)
  • Dynamic Range: 14 Stops
  • Base Sensitivity: ISO 2000
  • Internal 4K XAVC 10-bit 4:2:2 (Intra/Long GOP) up to 60fps
  • 1080p up to 180fps
  • MPEG HD, 4:2:2, 50 Mbps (HD only)
  • Apple ProRes (with future upgrade and XDCA-FS7 extension unit)
  • 12-bit 4K or 2K RAW recording (with XDCA-FS7 extension unit and external recorder)
  • Slow & Quick Motion for over-and under-cranking
  • Dual XQD card slots (with dual recording support)
  • Supports S-Gamut3Cine/S-Log 3 encoding
  • Environmentally sealed electronics
  • Wireless operation with CBK-WA100, sold separately
  • Built-In ND Filters
  • Sony BP-U Batteries

The FS7 (body only) is on sale for $8,000 at B&H, but you can also get it with a full frame FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS lens for $10,500    

Your Comment

50 Comments

Love the camera overall, I just can't get with sony's color science. :(

December 9, 2014 at 4:14PM, Edited December 9, 4:14PM

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Torrey Rogers
Filmmaker
171

Great camera - awful color. Just awful.

September 27, 2015 at 2:56PM

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Chris Santucci
Cinematographer
168

Love this camera but after looking at that video, it may be a bit over my head.

December 9, 2014 at 5:00PM

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Weird. I've been using mine for a month...

Patrick, It's actually incredibly easy to use. I far and away prefer to use it over my GH4, 5DMIII, etc. If you're filming run and gun it works a treat.

cheers

December 9, 2014 at 5:56PM, Edited December 9, 5:56PM

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The FS7 seems to be a great camera and I do love it does 4K. The Ferrari shots at the race track are great but after watching that demonstration video at the bottom between the FS7, a7s and C300- I have to say, I'm glad I've got my C300! Comparing these brand new cameras to Canon's 3 year old C300, I think I'll hold out and wait to see what Canon's gonna do next :)

December 9, 2014 at 6:31PM

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Breht
Filmmaker
98

Really?

In that girl skin test comparison, the FS7 completely dominates the C300. Far less noise when under-exposed (-3 exposure), holds highlights way better (+3 exposure) and to my big surprise, just better looking skin tones. The FS7 just has a subtle gradation on the skin and the color is just better as well. I've seen several C300 vs FS7 tests and they have been the same. Better highlights and skin tones on the FS7.

Maybe it's a 10-bit vs. 8-bit thing, but the C300 just looks thin while the FS7 just has an image with more information IMO.

December 9, 2014 at 7:26PM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
493

Check out the Graded part 2 of the test. This is what I was referring to as they do some good side by sides.

http://vimeo.com/112820371

December 9, 2014 at 9:15PM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
493

I think that our eyes have been slightly trained to prefer overall softer images. I find myself having that tendency at times.

Also, most people have affinity toward the cameras that they've spent 20 thousand dollars on.

-Those are the only reasons that I can imagine anyone prefers the Canon over this Sony Camera.

December 10, 2014 at 1:33PM, Edited December 10, 1:33PM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1157

Josh your comments make total sense. The FS7/F5 etc do look C300-like. I think they have slightly better highlights when graded properly than the C300 (which I owned for years), but it's close. I know Canon's next C300 will be amazing. But at what cost? That's where Sony is making inroads.

December 11, 2014 at 7:54AM

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Paul Antico
Producer
142

I started off stating that the FS7 seems to be a great camera, and I love the fact that it shoots 4K. I also mentioned that I thought the Ferrari footage on the race track was great so I'm in no way clowning or talking down about the FS7. I commend Sony and everyone else who helps push the forward progression of technology when it comes to this filmmaking world of ours. I also love it when these companies find a happy medium with that technology meeting a decent price point. So kudos to the FS7!

IMO this comparison was biased... Two 4K capable cameras (one of them 10-bit), shooting in Log and one 1080, 8-bit NOT shooting in Log. Based on what I saw with MY eyes, the 2011 (3 year old) C300 (not shooting in Log) held its weight against these two 2014 released cameras.

My point is, as of right now, I'd prefer to wait and see what Canon is going to do with their C300 MK II, because that thing could end up being a monster. But if it's not, the good thing is, in roughly 4 months time, all the bugs should be worked out of the FS7 via firmware updates from all the guinea pigs pressed to test them out.

Sometimes people forget that the C300 (as well as C100, C500 & 1DC) is Canon's first time stepping into the cinema world, so that's saying a lot. Sony has had F900's, F35's, F23's, F3's, F5's & F55's, FS100's, FS700's, a7s' and now an FS7! So to even contemplate comparing the FS7 to a dated C300 and not using its Log setting, puts a smile on my face! At this point, Sony should be dropping products that are comparable to the Red Dragon and Alexa in my book. I'm not sh#tting on the FS7, again it seems to be a great camera but I don't need anyone to agree with me that the C300 holds its weight like a champ. :)

December 10, 2014 at 8:30PM

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Breht
Filmmaker
98

If you want to compare to the Red maybe take the F55. 16bit raw. And WAY more flexible. The F65 could compare to the Alexa in certain ways, but the Alexa image is just too beautiful. I heard they use Sony sensors. C300 in the right hands is amazing, so is the FS7. We live in camera candy land.

December 11, 2014 at 1:01AM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
260

If you want to compare to the Red maybe take the F55. 16bit raw. And WAY more flexible. The F65 could compare to the Alexa in certain ways, but the Alexa image is just too beautiful. I heard they use Sony sensors. C300 in the right hands is amazing, so is the FS7. We live in camera candy land.

December 11, 2014 at 1:01AM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
260

Arri designs its own sensors and uses a third party semiconductor foundry to manufacture the sensor.

December 11, 2014 at 10:46PM

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Tenolian
249

I totally get that. I rent all the time so I really try to go with whoever has the best setup at the time.

It seems that something better is always on the radar. We will however likely purchase an FS7 because of how versatile it is. We can always use it for something.

December 11, 2014 at 7:54AM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1157

"Hold out and wait to see what Canon's gonna do next"? If Canon does anything, you can pretty much bet it will be last year's news. The FS7 far outclasses the C300 or anything else Canon has, for that matter.

December 10, 2014 at 1:48AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
918

I agree, the FS7 does far outclass the C300 but looking at that test footage, most wouldn't know. LOL

And yes, Canon is going to come hard with their next line-up of Cinema cameras. Let's not forget why we're all shooting on nice S35mm sized sensors to begin with. If it weren't for Canon we'd all still be in some 1/3" or 2/3" chip world.

December 10, 2014 at 8:42PM

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Breht
Filmmaker
98

Film cameras have lived in S35 for a long time. I give Canon props for reeling in full-frame to the video world but I think they actually followed the crowd by making the S35 Eos line.
If they did their own thing and had a camera like the C500 with uncompressed raw on a full-frame sensor, that would be very interesting.

December 11, 2014 at 11:40AM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1157

we have to be gratefull for the work that is done in a such comparision. what I do not understand is the use of log profile for the sonys and the absence of the canon c-log. in stead the ugly hdr profile is chosen for the C300.
this way a justified comparision is out of the question.

December 10, 2014 at 2:13AM

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Have you seen this other C300 vs. FS7 test? It shows C-Log side by side with S-Log3. C-Log can hardly be called Log. It's barely even a semi-flat profile so I really don't think it would have made much of a difference in C-Log. In this test, the highlight weakness of the C300 in the leaves in really apparent.

https://vimeo.com/113558024

December 10, 2014 at 10:43AM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
493

I appreciate your comment. It could be that one camera is better than an other. The subtleties you are addressing, depend very much on the settings of each camera, the operator of that camera and the choices that are made before exposure.

As a C100 owner myself, I know when the exposure is right in C-log, the image quality is pleasing. When using a recorder like the Ninja 2, the image quality is unbelievable @ 220 Mb/s Pro Res HQ. In post there is than more room to manoeuvre.

All modern cameras perform very well. Any preference is ok. I am still impressed with the achievements of Canon C Cameras and the way the material still holds up to the products of the latest technology.

December 11, 2014 at 3:49AM, Edited December 11, 3:49AM

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Breht, can't blame you based on that "test". I'm going to miss my Canon for its "out of the box" look, and lens communication. (Metabones Mk iv needs a firmware update). However, once you get to know the Sony it becomes evident that it's worth the effort.

December 13, 2014 at 2:16PM

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Paul Henschel
Director-DP
81

With this be able to capture REAL 4K (4096 x 2160, not UHD 3840 x 2160) with an external recorder?

December 9, 2014 at 8:24PM

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Kris Monroe
Director of Photography / Writer
98

Yes, it will.

December 9, 2014 at 10:38PM

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Ty
Cinematographer, Editor, Director
551

I believe everyone is already aware the FS7 is been available for preorder. We want to know when it ships.

It's a shame how terrible that comparison made the a7s look. You can really get much better color (right out of the camera) than what this video is showing.

December 9, 2014 at 10:59PM

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Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1157

I know this site plays to the prosumer crowd who may rarely to never actually shoot on a Red or Arri Alexa. The way this site uses specs nearly renders them useless.

Phrases like 14 stops of latitude like the Alexa looks true on a spec sheet, but is not at all true in real world practice.

This statement does not account for differences in sensor technology, codec processing, and color science. Those factors make a huge difference between the Alexa 14 stops and the FS7.

The fact that at 4k the FS7 produces data at 113 Mbps and at its highest codec setting the Alexa produces data at 754 Mbps gives clear example that their are little similarities between the two.

December 9, 2014 at 11:17PM, Edited December 9, 11:17PM

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Tenolian
249

No... Really? Alexa is better? I hope so since this is an $8K camera and the Alexa costs way, way more. The base version of the Amira (aka. The affordable Alexa) is $40k, while the Amira that everyone wants is $60k. I certainly hope it's better.

December 10, 2014 at 1:40AM, Edited December 10, 1:40AM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
493

My point isn't so much about the Alexa being better - better is very subjective to task at hand.

There are situations in which the FS7 is a better choice for that situation than the Alexa.

My point is more about comparisons on spec check lists that disregard many other important factors.

December 10, 2014 at 11:17AM

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Tenolian
249

Not sure where you get your numbers, but max internal bitrate on FS7 is 600Mbit/sec in 4k at 60p. ProRes 422 hq for HD on Alexa is 440 at 60p. There are some bitrate advantages to ProRes but it has a less advanced codec so they're all in the same ballpark.

As for DR the key is the over/under. Alexa has more over vs under in that 14 stoo range. But it's close.

The image between both caneras can get quite close when grading with the LC LUT on the FS7. I still think the Alexa image looks more natural but it's very close, and no audience would really notice at this point.

I own the FS7. It's a good camera. So is the Alexa. Their images, while not identical, can be close. One is much more attainable however for this audience.

December 10, 2014 at 6:44AM

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Paul Antico
Producer
142

I've looked around for specs on the FS7, I've seen UHD (3840 x 2160) recording 113 Mbps XAVC.

The media the camera uses goes up to 600 Mbps, but I see no where that the camera itself records at that data speed. I cannot find on Sony's website the size of those files.

113 Mbps makes more sense, once you get up into 500 Mbps data management and hard drive will start to pass the cost of the camera itself.

December 10, 2014 at 11:32AM

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Tenolian
249

Here are the recording rates Sony shows in it’s PXW-FS7 Official Promotion Movie which can be seen here at 28 secs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWAY9LJU2vc

4K XAVC Intra 4:2:2 10 bit
59.94P - 600 Mbps
29.97P - 300 Mbps
23.98P - 240 Mbps
50P - 500 Mbps
25P - 250 Mbps

4K XAVC Long 4:2:0 8 bit
59.94P - 150 Mbps
29.97P - 100 Mbps
23.98P - 100 Mbps
50P - 150 Mbps
25P - 100 Mbps

Also mentioned at Studio Daily here:

http://www.studiodaily.com/2014/09/sony-announces-documentary-style-pxw-...

December 10, 2014 at 3:07PM

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Ron Marvin
Director of Photography
217

Ah ok I see. Sony makes it very difficult to get information on their cameras.

At 60P the bit rate is spread across a larger number of frames. Realistically most people will be shooting 23.97 or 29.97 - which is still better at 240 and 300 Mbps.

Other factors to consider the FS7 subsampling the red and blue channels - Alexa records full color channels and a full alpha channel. Alexa's highest output bit rate is 12 not 10. The Alexa can record at 4:3 aspect ratio not only 16:9.

I cannot find any additional information about FS7 file sizes to help determine data management and post workflow. So I'd image the files still aren't nearly as large as what would be dealt with on a Red or Alexa.

The Alexa at its highest codec setting (meaning not RAW) is recording 4:3 ProRes 4444 XQ, 24 FPS, 12 bit - comes out to around 500Mbps producing files at around 241GB per hour.

Just for context shooting at maximum open gate ARRIRAW at 24 fps comes out to 2.17Gbps producing files at 976GB per hour.

I'm not criticizing the FS7 is a bad camera. I'm sure its more than enough for 90% of what most video professionals need to do.

Comparing it to the Alexa is like noting similarities between a Honda Accord and a Ferrari. Sure the Accord is a fine car and does what most people need a car for - but in capability its still not in the same class as a Ferrari.

December 11, 2014 at 6:27PM

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Tenolian
249

You're comparing 4K bitrate to the Alexa's HD bitrate. A 4K frame is 4x the size of a 1080p image, so your bitrate should quadruple to maintain similar compression quality across the two resolutions.

So HD 60p at 440mbps should be 1760mbps if you're using the same quality compression. Like you said, XAVC is technically maybe "more advanced" in that you get nice files at a much smaller size, but I can still see detail and sharpness differences between the FS700+7Q 4K ProRes and the slightly softer/more compressed UHD form the FS7.

Also, 60p is a bad framerate to look at bitrate, because you're cramming 2.5x the frames into a single second, so each of those "megabits per second" is spread across 60 images instead of 24 images. so when you watch a 60p video that was 600mbps, you're essentially seeing the same image quality (compression, etc) as a 24p 240mbps video.

December 10, 2014 at 4:17PM

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Many good points here. These are the HD specs taken right out of the FS7 owner's manual from pages 113-114:

Recording format (video)

XAVC Intra
AVC/H.264 High 4:2:2 Intra Profile
QFHD: CBG, 600 Mbps
HD: CBG, 222 Mbps

XAVC Long
AVC/H.264 High Profile
QFHD: VBR, 150 Mbps max., 4:2:0 Long
HD: VBR, 50 Mbps max., 4:2:2 Long

MPEG HD422
MPEG-2 Long GOP
HD422 mode: CBR, 50 Mbps, MPEG-2
422P@HL

December 10, 2014 at 5:01PM, Edited December 10, 5:01PM

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Ron Marvin
Director of Photography
217

I'm thinking about selling my FS700 and purchasing a FS7. Not sure if it is worth it though. Had the FS700 for about 2 years now. Any thoughts?

December 10, 2014 at 12:53AM

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Glen
81

Whats the big differenc between those two? No diss, just asking.

Fs700 can do slow motion better then this one and can also shot 4k.

FS7 has better dynamic range, but that is it?

Pure informational question. Dont know a lot about Sony cameras.

December 10, 2014 at 3:29AM

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I am looking forward to seeing more reviews of the FS7. I really want to love this camera and have been on the fence about selling my C300 to buy one. But I have a lot of questions that have gone unanswered by the limited reviews that are currently out there. I want to read more about users' experiences.

I've heard the camera is much heavier and bulkier than the C300 which prevents the use of small sliders and other DSLR rigs. I've also heard that SLog 3 is much, much more difficult to grade and I'm seeing evidence of that in the sample footage available online. I've seen some footage that has looked amazing but I've seen a lot of footage that has been poorly graded with too much contrast and strange colors. When people apply Film Convert filters to test footage it sure doesn't help in judging a camera's real world color science and dynamic range. I've also heard of adapter issues with the Metabones EF adapters and iris control. And although the E-mount can accept a ton of different lenses, I'm not keen on depending on adapters for every shoot.

I'd really like to see some more shots of people using the camera in the compact style with the arm folded up. How is the camera held when shooting in this manner? Where do you position your right hand with no grip to hold it? Does the arm get in the way?

It would be great if No Film School would cover more news on this camera as it unfolds. It seems to be a camera that may cause waves. Most people are expecting the C300 MK II to be a major disappointment and if that is indeed the case, I believe the FS7 will establish a firm position as the documentary camera of choice. I'll certainly be buying one if Canon fails. They are really going to have to deliver this spring and secretly, I hope that they do. As much as they aggravate me to no end, my C300 has been the best camera I've ever owned. I'd love to see the C300 MK II answer the FS7 with a 5k or 6k sensor delivering a 4k image (similar to the current C300 setup with the 4k sensor delivering a 1080p image). I'd love to see higher bit rates and higher frame rates in 1080p and 4k. I'd love to see a waveform/histogram inside the viewfinder and not just on the LCD. This year should be another exciting year for cameras. Then again, it seems like every year is now an exciting year for cameras.

December 10, 2014 at 2:27PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
328

Derek, I probably have written too much about the FS7 after having it over a month on our blog. There are two posts, one of which is linked in the video "Snowlight" above.

December 11, 2014 at 7:57AM

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Paul Antico
Producer
142

Thank you! I just read your blog posts and they were very informative! What is your experience when shooting with the camera handheld, not on the shoulder, but out in front of you much like you would with the C300 or a DSLR? On the FS7 I imagine that the arm would need to be folded up and would get in the way. Where does your right hand go in this position? Is it awkward to shoot this way with the FS7?

December 12, 2014 at 2:53PM

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Derek Doublin
Director, Cinematographer, Large Scale Artist
328

I am excited by the prospects of all of these cameras, but I'd like a much more objective test than this one. This test was kind of confusing and didn't really tell me all that much...except that people still don't know how to properly grade with Log footage. For now, I still prefer shooting linear RAW footage and grading it properly vs. applying a LUT to all of these flavors of Log footage.

December 10, 2014 at 3:56PM, Edited December 10, 3:56PM

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Harry Pray IV
Director of Photography/Lighting Technician/Colorist
367

Agreed Harry, the first round seems to favor the C300 when compared to what appears to be ungraded log on the Sony ? My eyes still hurt.

December 11, 2014 at 10:21PM

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Paul Henschel
Director-DP
81

I'll be shocked if canon matches the FS7 with a new camera in 2015.

December 10, 2014 at 4:44PM, Edited December 10, 4:44PM

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Very confused why he didn't use c-log when comparing to the c300- makes the comparison vs. canon worthless. Great for looking at A7s and FS-700 though, nice work!

December 10, 2014 at 5:48PM

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The FS7 and A7s look very similar in a lot of situations. The FS7 seems to have a bit more wiggle room in shadows and highlights when exposed incorrectly. The A7s is a camera you have to expose over by 1-2 stops to get a clean image, especially at native ISO. The A7s seems to be a more sensitive sensor. Also being a truly downsampled 4k sensor with internal compression to 1080 gives you a very detailed image comparable to 4k. The main issue is color as S GAMUT and SLOG has major issues with greens and magentas. We are also looking at these images on compressed youtube which takes away any fine detail. I think the FS7 will be the best affordable 4k internal camera capable of shooting cinema with proper ports and 10 bit as well as the capability of being a balanced heavier camera.

December 11, 2014 at 3:07AM, Edited December 11, 3:07AM

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Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
373

I can't help but wonder what some of you would think if the images were labelled the wrong way round. Spec sheets are continuously affecting what people see. An associate of mine was chatting to me the other day about shooting on FS700 RAW with the Odyssey box on the end, in comparison with the C100 and BMPCC. He basically said it's a nice clean image but both the C100 and Blackmagic are just so much easier to get nice skin tones out of. The Sony comes out more video looking and almost too clean. I don't own a high end camera and I have to admit if I was going to take the plunge it might be the FS7, but I still haven't seen an image as organic as I get from my BMPCC, which is far cheaper, and I already have it.

I hope someone can prove me wrong though.

December 11, 2014 at 5:03AM, Edited December 11, 5:03AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
687

The video on YouTube (I don`t waste my time with vimeo) looks pretty much just like average 1080p footage! But since most People only have FHD Monitors, they don`t realize that. Tons of blockings, artefacts, too low data rate, you have to upload at least with 100 Mbit/sec. After horrible YouTube compression usually only 22 Mbit/sec remain.

So, I downloaded the file, only 1440p available, 8 Mbit/sec !!! only. It is really that bad! Only the latitude/DR looks good!

Always the same story: 4k is a difficult subject, especially for Professionals !
But nobody dares to criticize! Applause, applause!

December 11, 2014 at 7:12PM

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Markus Stark
Nature 4K Film, YT: Markus Stark
152

She's purdy.

Not sure what the hoopla is over the camera though. Seems like you're trading skin rendition for a little dynamic range, though we can't even be sure of that if the C300 wasn't C-Log (this was a case for C-Log but otherwise WDR is theoretically better if it's not a matter of extreme contrast).

December 12, 2014 at 8:28PM

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By the way, didn't the runaway popularity of the C300 kinda prove it's not about the specs? I bought a C300 for just about everything else, though good image quality was a must.

December 14, 2014 at 3:00PM

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I started out shooting on the canon scoopic in the early 1970's , and then 3/4 inch
super vhs , M2 , beta cam , on and on , i now have a red , canon , and sony cameras.
I aslo worked as a bench tech , i do like the way sony has produced and engineered there boards and parts through the years always top notch designing. but i think it comes down to what you need the camera to do, what job , its like having tools and doing construction work one tool does not do it all . pick the tool you feel can do the job according to the parameters the job requires , and remember a craftsman is only as good as his work

December 13, 2014 at 10:22AM

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John McClung
Director of Photography
81

I own an FS7 and did not see it mentioned but internal 4K (not UHD) is not yet enabled. There is supposed to be an update from Sony in the first quarter of 2015.

January 7, 2015 at 2:10PM, Edited January 7, 2:10PM

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How to get the best from your Sony Fs7 | Cinematography Blog
http://www.camaleonrental.com/gb/blog/how-to-get-the-best-fron-your-sony...

February 5, 2017 at 6:40AM

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Camaleon Cinema Services SL
Camera , Lighting & Grip House Rental. SPAIN
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