Sony NEX-FS700, The Ugly Ugly Duckling

So I’ve now done a hand full of shoots on the NEX-FS700 and my opinions are mixed. It is undoubtedly one of the ugliest and fidgety cameras I have ever used but its also one of the loveliest when used right.

Before I continue I’d like to give the guys at CVP Mitcorp a huge thanks for making it available during some emergency stunts filming James May’s ManLab. They have been massively helpful and continue to be a stalwart resource whenever we need them. It worries me that Darren Simpson has found his way into my speed dial but I think it worries our accountant more!

Hands down this camera should only ever be used for its high speed function. Stick it on a tripod and point it wherever, ramp it up to 200 odd frames per second and enjoy. End of.

We all witnessed the 5D revolution, then came the C300. TV more than ever is evolving at such a pace the arrows available in our quiver are causing the quiver to overload. On any given shoot now I’ll carry a 5D, a main camera and now even a 3rd specialist toy. Technology is truly matching the creative appetite of an increasingly visual hungry world. We consume time lapses like crew consume bacon sandwiches. The visual media has become fast food with a fine-dining benchmark.

I was recently in Egypt shooting with three cameras at once. Typically I find myself shooting with two cameras at least. Its wonderfully frustrating but the results of each of these tools makes it all worthwhile. The FS700, mark my words is going to be the next happy headache for you all. In my opinion Sony have just scored a direct hit with this one, its simple to use, its cheap and its light enough to put in your virtual pocket, despite being as ugly as sin.

I love the end record function too. For those of you who aren’t aware what that means, you can hit record after the event and the camera will write from the buffer. Its an almost essential tool that allows you to snipe out your shots, the old fashioned way, considered and calculated. I can’t name the shoot itself as it hasn’t yet gone to air but we were recently out storm chasing with the BBC, specifically hunting lightning strikes. We had mixed results and a limited budget so the 700 proved a piece of genius. We could wait safely in a Farraday cage in the middle of an expected strike zone and remotely activate record after the event. It all worked perfectly except for the fact the lightning never played ball.

There’s also mid-point record which initially I couldn’t see the point of until two days ago. This is currently my favourite thing and perfect for how we’re using it in a pilot we’re doing for BBC2. Again I’m not at liberty to divulge the details but we’re essentially sniping out character traits that double up as profile shots. Its not always easy to predict or capture exactly what we want so being able to hit record as somebody appears to do what you’re hunting for is brilliant.

Drawbacks

The only minor drawback with this camera, apart from it being pig-ugly is the write speed. Obviously its having to process data from realtime into high speed so typically, although I haven’t measured it exactly, a 5 second action will take 10-15 seconds to write meaning the camera is out of action during the processing. There is an upside to this in that you can watch the shot back while its writing in so you know immediately if it hasn’t worked. You can also cancel the shot if you know it didn’t work.

I can also hear some of you tut-tutting about Mbps. Get over it. Its not 50mbps but when is your programme ever likely to exceed 10-20% content shot at 200fps?

Picture quality.

So here’s the thing. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t 50mbps, despite being a full sized sensor but none of that matters because at 200fps it all looks captivating. Weirdly enough it somehow maintains a slightly filmic soft focus feel too. That, combined with a shallow DoF results in a lovely romantic feel. Its all subjective but it works. Beyond that it also retains an impressive level of detail. The whole 50mbps rule is an absolute nonsense dreamt up by technicians justifying their jobs at the end of the day. The UK is one of the very few places in the world that is plagued by it. That his camera looks so good and costs so little is further evidence its all slightly irrelevant. Look at the success of instagram for example.

Rating: BUY

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