November 20, 2015 at 5:49PM, Edited November 20, 5:54PM

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Why FS5 instead of FS7 or Ursa Mini 4.6k

This began as a response to a comment, but got too long. So, here it is:

My day job is at Baron, a meteorological company that does an amazing amount of weather stuff—weather data processing, weather data products, alerting systems, radar development, on-air display software, etc.

My job is the in-house video guy, so I do marketing communications like promotional videos, internal communication videos, videos for tradeshow booths, sales tools, testimonial videos, and occasional events like our conferences.

I shoot, edit, grade, animate, mix, and everything else nearly every day. It’s really fun. As far as corporate gigs go, it’s hard to beat.

After years of waiting, 2015 is finally the NAB where I felt it’s time to make a camera purchase. In no particular order, these are the things we considered:

- Cost - Everyone likes to save money. The cost included camera, media, power, and anything else necessary to shoot. We have sticks and all that.
- Future-proofed (as much as is reasonable)
- Size - fitting a camera kit into a carry-on is really important to me and my job.
- Practicality - how much harder or easier will it make my life.
- Image quality - obviously, everyone wants the best image they can get.

Initially, the decision was between the Ursa Mini 4.6k and the FS7. Then the FS5 came out and changed things.

Here are specific reasons I ultimately chose the FS5 over each of the others in regard to the above list. Granted, whenever the camera arrives and I use it, I might very well hate it and send it back for something that’s been missed in early reviews. We’ll see.

- Cost. The FS5 is the cheapest option of all three once the kit is put together. Power, viewfinder, and media costs killed the Ursa Mini’s initially low cost.

- Future proofing. The Ursa Mini won out here, since everything on it (media, power, etc.) is all universal. But the FS5 was future-proof enough due to UHD recording, a future raw output option, Sony batteries being basically a universal power solution, and SDXC cards. The FS7 kind of lost this one due to their proprietary media, but really—if Sony only just now announced the end of Betamax, they’ll likely support these cards for a long while. Look at the inexplicable life of the Memory Stick.

- Size. This was really in the FS5’s favor. The Ursa Mini does break down kinda small, but when you consider the accessories needed to operate it, being a small body doesn’t count. If everything I need can’t fit in a carry on alongside audio equipment, sticks, etc., it’s not small enough. The FS5 is. This is also the biggest knock agains the FS7.

- Practicality. This is really where the FS5 won out over the Ursa Mini. As much as I'd rather be able to ignore them, file sizes are a real thing. When you have to shoot and keep footage for years and years (which I do) sensitivity to file size matters. Raw and ProRes recording are great, but they are an expensive chore to keep up with. Literally almost everything I shoot will be used in videos for years at my job—so I have to keep all of these files accessible. Yes, you can compress ProRes files down to a smaller codec, but when I’m away from my desktop I have to dump footage to SSDs after every shoot before I get back, so they have to be able to be small enough. It hurts me to say it, but sometimes a compressed codec is a good thing.

Another major practicality concern for the Ursa is its lack of internal NDs and (even worse) its sensitivity to IR contamination. So you need proper IRND filters, which is an added expense. I’ve been shooting with the a7s, so I’m used to shooting with a set of good ND filters—but still, to remove that step from my life isn’t a bad thing. So the FS5 wins out on that with its built in variable ND.

Still another practicality concern for the Ursa Mini is low-light performance. We haven’t seen it yet, but it’s safe to say it won’t be as sensitive as the FS7 or the FS5. We have lights, and I know how to use them—but not every shoot lets you use them. Even when you can light, it never hurts to be able to worry less about raising the ambient level and instead focus on shaping the light. Additionally, it’s nice to have the option to stop down in a low-light environment and crank up ISO so I can pull focus more reliably. I’ve seen this with the a7s, and it’s really been nice.

- Image quality. This is the FS5’s worst area vs the other two. But even so, the FS5’s images look really, really good. The codec is weaker, sure, but a camera is more than the codec it puts out, and there are other factors to consider—especially when you’re buying a camera instead of renting.

Besides, the FS5 will receive a future upgrade that will allow raw output which will hopefully end up giving me the best of both worlds—uncompressed recording when I need or want it, compressed when I don’t.

Additionally, I’ve gotten really used to XAVC-S on the a7s. I’m no master at grading, but I feel comfortable with Slog2 on 8-bit footage. You learn how to shoot with it, and you learn how much you can and can’t push it. I like the look. I’m sure I’ll like the Ursa Mini 4.6K sensor look better, but it’s a balance.

15 Comments

Hey David.

Thanks for that post. I've been weighing up FS7 vs mini for awhile but it's kinda redundant for me until I see some footage (or get to edit some) from the ursa.
You make some really good points for the fs5 though. Form factor mainly- shooting on a big job last few days and the fs7 when all assembled an not on a shoulder looked like a pain in the ass to have around. "Not designed to fit in a bag" shooter said. Also after watching everyone - myself included, rushing to change lenses why aren't I looking more at Panasonic http://nofilmschool.com/2015/04/panasonic-reveals-new-large-sensor-4k-ca... ?

Could save some $$$ and buy an a7s mkii as a low light option...

Anyway, "story first" and if you have that you can shoot it on a potatoe as my grandma never said. ;)

November 21, 2015 at 7:12AM, Edited November 21, 7:12AM

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John-Jo Ritson
Producer / Director
95

im actually leaning towards fs7 over fs5 because of media speed and reliability.
If the a7sii data rate issue is any indication of too much compression. i think these issues will exist in the fs5 as well unless they do change the currently announced recording bit rates

November 22, 2015 at 7:37PM

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Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1207

Your post and John- Jo's comment illustrate why the big manufacturers have so many models. They know that there are consumers with specific sets of needs, and they build different models to fit the different sets.

November 22, 2015 at 9:11PM

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Charlie K
1375

Solid piece!

I'm still in love with my nearly obsolete C100, but Sony is slowly pulling me away.

November 24, 2015 at 5:24PM, Edited November 24, 5:28PM

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Danny Daft
Motion Designer
159

Perfectly justified and a fine choice for someone doing the kind of work you do. I'm still queueing for the 4.6K as it's more catering to our style of production and deliverable.

November 26, 2015 at 1:01AM

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Samu Amunét
Director
398

Hearing what you do, i think the blackmagic isn't an option, filming conferances would eat too much data. The sony option might be easier to deal with on a daily basis work. The ability to do a basic quick video with a regular gamma and a light codec when needed is very usefull. I would go the FS5 as it is smaller, lighter to carry around and the with the update it's not worth to put more to get the FS7 in my opinion.

November 26, 2015 at 6:08AM, Edited November 26, 6:08AM

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AvdS
1067

I'm Not big on Sony. Ah mean through Media/Film School that's all i used but it had may short comings, but it got the Job done especially if you just need to get something shot and shot right away without proprietary gear and you cant beat that. I like how you nailed your points and never played the fanboy roll but spoke about why acquiring that Sony camera was the best thing for you. I'm All things Black magic lol i still shoot sony and i agree with pretty much all of your points, because you spoke from point of purpose.

December 9, 2015 at 1:12PM

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Wentworth Kelly
DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2726

Reliability... if you can only have one camera, and it has to be used for conferences etc... the Blackmagic will end up letting you down sooner or later.

December 25, 2015 at 4:50AM

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gandulf charpentier
director of pornography
642

I've been shooting with a BMPC for over a year and even in hot conditions it has performed very well. The only problem I've had showed up recently and infrequently: glitches in recording. Not sure if it's media or the camera.

December 26, 2015 at 4:25AM

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David Gurney
DP
1881

FS5 or FS7, I have this very question in hand at the moment. Would like to be making a purchase by next week, and I'm trying to decide whether the FS7 is worth paying €2,000 more.

I love the size of the FS5 and what it can give me in terms of recording 4K and high speeds, as well as the step up in image quality and colours I'd get from jumping from my GH4. But I've read some negative comments about the codec and noise issues, and I wanted to ask if anyone had any experience with the FS5 and could let me in on those? Are they a problem with the camera or do they have to do more with the operator's error, such as lighting and settings? The size factor is important since I mostly shoot solo, and a lot of my shoots involve a lot of movement.

The FS7 is great with xavc-i, and with the ability to record UHD in 60fps, it looks like a more secure camera option, but the size and price are a little too much for me at the moment, and if the FS5 does feel like a mistake, I can always sell it and move to the FS7 when I want to.

Help me out here guys!

January 27, 2016 at 4:49AM

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Sebastian Kammonen
Filmmaker
412

The noise issues are exaggerated, in my opinion. They can be produced, sure, but I've yet to run into them shooting in real life—additionally, Sony says they are going to fix them.

This camera isn't an a7s—but I think some people expect it to be and crank the gain way up expecting a noiseless image.

Also, don't forget that it's more than a 2k price difference—media is substantially cheaper for the FS5.

February 11, 2016 at 10:02AM

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David S.
2902

Quality and aftersales; Sony. If your Sony breaks down in less nice parts of the world, chance you will find a Sony dealer or somebody who can service it nearby is high. If your BM Ursa breaks, and you are in Brazil for example, you are out of luck. To me, that is a gamebreaker and makes me stay away from BM.

February 10, 2016 at 5:59AM

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gandulf charpentier
director of pornography
642

Hi David,
1- How can i Recording 4K on FS5,Will i need to special SD Card or i Can Record with normal Card??
2- why i dont have 4K i Have just 2160/60P 100Mb with XAVC??
3- what the best number of Shutter Speed for 200fps??

Regards
Ramzi

February 26, 2016 at 7:38PM, Edited February 26, 7:38PM

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Ramzi Alkaysi
Director of Photography
161

If you're set on either Sony or BM Mini I would go for the Sony every time. The FS7 is a great piece of kit. True, the menu system isn't particularly intuitive but the camera does exactly what it says on the tin. I was a big fan of the C100/C300 but the FS7 offers a lot more.

I have had nothing but issues when using BM cameras. I was shown this on the lensrental site the other day regarding the Ursa Mini 4.6K

WARNING:
We cannot recommend this product for professional work. We reached this decision after repeated failures in the field, experienced both first-hand by LR-folks and second-hand via rental clients. Though it might work much of the time, it is our opinion that this product’s performance is too unpredictable to be trusted on high-value projects. Use for casual testing or try-before-you-buy purposes only.

https://www.lensrentals.com/rent/video/cameras/blackmagic/blackmagic-des...

This would raise alarm bells for me if I was using it on a client's work.

April 20, 2016 at 9:13AM

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After using the FS5 for a couple of months now, its all about size and ease of use. The FS7 and Ursa Mini are still shoulder cams when it comes down to it. You simply can not use them comfortably any other way for long. As everyone knows, this opens up more possibilities when it comes to shooting styles. I personally love the freedom of getting the camera off my shoulder after decades of using Sony ENG cameras. The electronic ND is fantastic too.

Obviously, the codec is the other main issue. This is easily remedied with a Shogun or, Ninja for narrative or studio work, when you're not running and gunning. For our purposes, we're not producing for the theater. Its ending up online, at trade shows and conferences and sometimes on-air and it all holds up just fine, shooting 4k and mastering in 1080. The quality of the FS5 codecs is no problem. Unless you're pushing a grade to extremes(where it probably shouldn't go), you have to really zoom in and pixel peep to see the difference. I've compared them side by side, and was actually disappointed in how little difference the Prores from our Shogun made. You had to really nitpick.

And frankly, lets get serious...if you're buying cameras for less than 10k, getting overly anal retentive seems a bit silly? You're not shooting massive multi-million $ features where the difference will make or break you. You're renting REDs and up. Remember, people were shooting national commercials on 5DMIIIs for cripes sake and people thought it looked beautiful. Your audience doesn't care as much as you think about the minutia =) And they sure aren't zooming in to the little portion of the sky that's on screen for 4 seconds and throwing their hands up in disgust to tell you your whole production sucks. Get some perspective.

We got the FS5 over the FS7 specifically for the size and portability. The lack of internal ND on the Ursa killed its chances.

April 22, 2016 at 11:41AM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
938

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