November 9, 2016

Sony FS7 Mark II Upgrade Features Serious Hardware Refinements

Sony continues refining the popular 4K Super35mm FS7 with a series of small but well-considered improvements.

Today, Sony released an upgrade to the popular FS7 Super35mm sensor size line of cameras with the FS7 Mark II.

The upgrades are sure to be attractive even to existing owners.

Bucking the trend of many "mark" upgrades that tend to evolve but not innovate, the camera has several hardware refinements that will be much appreciated, including a new internal variable ND (that will be very useful in the field), a revised lens mount, and a host of software and internal upgrades sure to be attractive even to existing owners. 

FS7 Mark II Right Side View with Dual Microphones into the XLR portsCredit: Sony

From an internal technical standpoint, the biggest upgrade is the ability to capture in the Rec. 2020, and not just the Rec. 709 color space of the original FS7. This is a huge upgrade, especially at this price point, where Rec. 709 tends to remain the dominant color gamut.

Having internal Rec. 2020 is a worthwhile upgrade.

Raw cameras can, of course, be processed to either Rec. 709 or Rec. 2020 in post. But for workflows where raw doesn't make as much sense—anything with a tight turnaround, for instance—having internal Rec. 2020 is a worthwhile upgrade compared to the original. It's likely to keep the camera in service well into the future.

The lens mount improvement introduces a rotating locking mechanism. This is a beneficial upgrade, especially for filmmakers working with longer glass and cine lenses. The new locking E-mount is capable of supporting even the heaviest of cinema lenses—though, of course, you'll still want to attach a lens support to your rails for the most secure attachment.

FS7 lens mount revisionCredit: Sony

In addition to the improvement in strength, you'll no longer need to twist the lens into the mount; instead, you can push the lens straight in and twist a ring at the base of the lens for security. This design is more similar to the cinema style PL and PV lens mounts. As cinema lenses are often longer and heavier, the twist action of the E-mount hasn't felt as natural, and with more accessories like matte boxes and follow focus systems, it's often easier to just slide the lens straight in (no twist necessary).

The upgraded strength and security of the mount will be worth learning the new muscle memory.

One quirk of the design is that, unlike the clockwise lock of PL mount, it locks counter-clockwise—but that's an unavoidable result of the way the flange ramps are designed. Since you twist the lens clockwise to lock it into the body, the mount ring has to twistcounter-clockwise to lock. This might be frustrating to get used to on projects mixing PL and E-mount glass. But for most situations, the upgraded strength and security of the mount will be worth learning the new muscle memory of it turning the other way.

FS7 operator body sideCredit: Sony
A fascinating new feature from a technical perspective is the internal variable ND filter. While variable ND filters have been available for a while now by using multiple polarized filters and rotating them against each other, this is the first time we've seen the technology integrated into the internal ND function on a camera.

Sony has achieved this feat by using liquid crystal polarizers—a technology that is very popular in stereoscopic cinema applications, where they are mounted to the projector lens to change rapidly between the left eye and right eye projection. Since Sony is obviously very dominant in the theatrical projection space, it's likely the company was able to transition expertise from one department to another in the development of this tech. Sony has been developing the feature in-house for many years; the company had first hoped to launch it with the FS700 back in 2012, but waited until they were confident it could be implemented with no color shift whatsoever as you ramped through the various ND levels. (So far, judging from viewing tests shot both by Sony and independent cinematographers, little or no color cast is discernible in the ramp.)

FS7 Mark II with lensCredit: Sony

The variable ND is available in three modes. The first is relatively normal: a smooth dial manual mode where you turn the ND up or down to achieve your desired darkening level. The automatic mode is more interesting, as it offers the option of using the variable ND to automatically maintain a constant exposure throughout a dynamically changing shot—all the while keeping a constant aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This is unlikely to work well in highly dynamic situations (such as running from a dark tunnel to outside). However, for outdoor light situations involving moving clouds that change exposure, an automated system to keep the exposure even without bumps that also doesn't change noise, color, or depth of field could be a very welcome tool.

For the traditionalist, there is also a preset mode that clicks through 1/3 stop increments for precise exposure control. This will also be useful in multi-camera situations where exposure needs to be set identically to cameras that might not have the same variable ND feature. However, testing will need to be done to see how the color compares to a traditional ND.

Credit: Sony

A small but useful improvement: the scroll wheel that controls the ND filter (and also the iris in manual iris mode) has been redesigned to take acceleration into account.

When you need to set exposure quickly, a faster turn of the scroll wheel will lead to a faster exposure change. This should be useful for news, documentary, and run-and-gun shooting situations. In addition, the rod for attaching the onboard monitor has been changed from round to square to prevent slippage. While round rods offer more flexibility for mounting at odd angles, sometimes it's more important to have fewer mounting options when the ones you have are more likely to stay in place without slippage. A square mount here makes more sense.

SELP18110GCredit: Sony

Along with the Mark II, Sony has also released the SELP18110G servo zoom lens with an 18 to 110mm focal range. It's a constant F4 Parfocal lens designed to have no breathing or shift while remaining sharp edge to edge, with internal zoom control to allow for a smooth zoom that lasts up to 90 seconds. 

The current generation FS7 will remain in the lineup, while the Mark II will be a premium upgrade that will be available soon.

Tech specs

  • 4K and UHD resolutions
  • Internal Variable ND
  • Upgraded locking E-mount
  • Rec. 2020 color space
  • XQD cards eject further from body for easier card swapping in the field
  • Square mount rod for viewfinder

Your Comment

18 Comments

Will the BT.2020 thing make the picture nice? I don't see many pretty pictures out of the first FS7.

November 9, 2016 at 10:17AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
831

So, one notorious problem with Sony is that there test footage is very contrasty: it's like a house style. But at the release they had some footage from other DPs testing the footage and I was impressed. If not graded too heavily, it's pretty nice.

BT.2020 will just offer a bigger color gamut, which future proofs the camera as more TVs move to the bigger color gamut. for instance, the new macbook pro has a 2020 screen. A camera that captures in 2020 can take advantage of all that.

November 9, 2016 at 10:44AM

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Charles Haine
Director/Writer/Colorist

It might be my Canon/Blackmagic adjusted eyes. It can be difficult to look past what I am used to shooting and grading sometimes. I just find the magneta lean kind of tricky to ignore.

November 9, 2016 at 11:07AM, Edited November 9, 11:07AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
831

No, the new Macbook Pro does not have a BT.2020 screen. It's P3 colorspace. Currently only a few RGB laser projectors can reproduce almost 100% BT.2020. LCD and OLED displays stay at 80% coverage.

November 9, 2016 at 1:36PM

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Driftwood
258

The new MacBook pro has a DCI-P3 screen which means it covers about 72% of BT.2020. As far as I know, not even reference grading monitors hit 100% BT.2020. Closest I've heard of is NHK who hit 98% coverage with a hybrid LCD-laser screen.

November 9, 2016 at 4:44PM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
1137

Fs7 is a popular rent camera even beating c300 ii in popularity but why there is so little Fs7 samples over internet? Simple, because of "non disclosure agreement".

November 9, 2016 at 10:57PM

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I don't understand why there is no IBIS in that mark II?

November 9, 2016 at 10:39AM

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Jean-Baptiste Brégon
Filmmaker / Editor
74

Just not really that kind of camera; I think we are going to see some real in body stabilization options in high end cameras soon, but oddly enough it's usually be mirrorless/DSLR/action cam where the most OIS and IBIS activity is.

November 9, 2016 at 10:46AM

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Charles Haine
Director/Writer/Colorist

I might be reading this wrong, but the article makes it sound like the FS7ii is the first camera to have a built in electronic variable ND. It's new to the FS7 lineup for sure, but the FS5 has had that since the beginning, and added auto ND in the FS5 as the technology grew. Either way, the camera looks interesting! Wondering if the FS7's price will go down, or this will just come in higher than current prices.

November 9, 2016 at 10:52AM, Edited November 9, 10:52AM

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Craig Douglas
Writer/ Director/ Editor/ Videographer
1724

Yes, that baffled me to. I'm used to the function on the FS5, so clearly the writer hasn't gotten himself acquainted with the FS5. It works really seamlessly, though I would love to have switches insted of buttons to sitch between modes, sometimes a little bit lost at what setting the camera is.

November 10, 2016 at 7:30AM

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That's it??????? Seriously???? Dam that's disappointing.

November 9, 2016 at 11:54AM

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Devin Pickering
Cinematographer/Editor/Composer
158

Rec.2020 is great, if you have a capable monitor for accurate grading. But the article seems misleading when it talks about raw workflows. Doesn't shooting in S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.Cine on the FS7 (mk1), in any flavour of CODEC give you a larger colour space that can then be graded to rec.2020 for delivery?

Am I missing something? Because, all this means is that the mk2 can record rec.2020 natively for quick delivery, while the mk1 will still be a capable production camera when rec.2020 becomes more widespread – it'll just need a grade.

November 9, 2016 at 12:43PM

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Adam Hale
Lighting Camera / Shooting PD
88

Yes, that's right. This article is incorrect that the FS7 Mk1 has a native color space of rec709. Its more of a sGamut3.cine native space. Sony's sGamut3.cine, I believe is a bit smaller than rec2020, but very comparable.

If the MK2 has the same sensor and CFA, native rec2020 is not more than a firmware convenience. Until we need to start delivering in rec2020 (which I've never had to do) its 100% useless.

January 17, 2017 at 1:36PM

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Like a lot of others, I was expecting more (may be that's just how spoilt we've gotten). However with the limited upgrades I feel like it's a better choice to keep my FS5 and upgrade that to shoot RAW, only thing it's missing is the 10bit 4K and 4K60p.

November 9, 2016 at 3:21PM

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Sebastian Kammonen
Filmmaker
412

Unfortunately that 10-bit makes a pretty big difference.

November 9, 2016 at 4:46PM

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Oscar Stegland
DP/Steadicam
1137

If you own a FS5 with Raw (so that you can record 10bit ProResHQ into a Shogun Flame, for instance), this FS7ii is a tough camera "upgrade" to buy. On the one hand, yes, the internal on the FS5 kinda sucks (although it's quite usable for many jobs). And tethering a recorder to it kinda sucks, too. But the improvements this FS7ii have over the original FS7, and it being $2K more expensive than the original FS7... I dunno. If you have a FS5, you're pretty close to a lot of these features if you shoot Slog, use an external monitor and recorder, etc. When you get to $10K, for me I'm like, give me a better body shape, give me a new sensor, give me a way better monitor than 1/4HD.

November 10, 2016 at 8:04AM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.

"this is the first time we've seen the technology integrated into the internal ND function on a camera."

Did you guys forget about the FS5?

November 9, 2016 at 4:08PM

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Joe O
Videographer/Editor
250

Hey Ursa! Good Lookin.. i'm comin!!! *I notice Sony haven't said a thing about that IR pollution but... carry on*

November 9, 2016 at 7:36PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2733

I start shooting with my new Sony FS7 Mark II, and using the SELP18110G from Sony, until the arrival of the new Fujinon MK18-55mm T2.9, I feel a litle frustrated, SELP18110G is fast if we compare with prior zoom but regarding Luminosity ....

March 25, 2017 at 11:25AM

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Sergio Pinheiro
CEO, news cameraman, editor, news producer
1