Sony FS7 updated tips and tricks
I’ve been shooting with the Sony PXW-FS7 and Metabones Ultra Speedbooster EF for about six months, and a lot has changed in that time. This post is current as of Sony’s firmare FS7 V2.00, XDCA-FS7 v2.00, and Metabones’ firmware V0.38, which are the most recent available today (May 19, 2015). For my earlier notes, check out my first post on the FS7.
The FS7 still holds the crown in performance under $15,000. I’m not looking forward to the release of the C300 mark II, which will probably be about the same quality of camera for nearly double the price. Canon is an expert at marketing their products to producers, so I’m sure we’ll see lots of producers eager to move from the C300 to the C300 mark II, despite the FS7 being a more logical choice (for budgetary, as well as production and post-production reasons).
In terms of must-buy accessories, you need to get some batteries. Most aftermarket BP-U series batteries won’t work with the FS7, and Sony’s are crazy overpriced. After experimenting with half a dozen different battery manufacturers, the only third-party batteries I could get to work properly are BP-U90 batteries made by Vivitar.
The firmware updates from Sony are coming often, so be sure to update your camera and check for updates weekly. I strongly suggest not upgrading firmware in the middle of a project, though. You don’t want to brick your rig halfway through a week’s shooting, or find out that highlight handling or something was changed halfway through your shoot. The version 2.00 firmware fixes some twitchy things, and unlocks 1080p30 ProRes recording when you add the XDCA-FS7 (and update its firmware to 2.00). ProRes is a relatively inefficient codec, so record times maybe aren’t as great as you’d hope. I’ve only done test shoots in ProRes so far, but the quality seems good (for 1080p). If you’re more serious about a ProRes workflow, you’ll want to get an external recorder like the Odyssey 7q+ so you can get 4K recording as well as framerates well above 30fps.
There are two big things to know about the Metabones Speedbooster Ultra. First, it needs to be adjusted before you can get infinity focus with most lenses, particularly wide lenses.
I’ve seen this issue with two different EF Speedbooster Ultras, and have heard about the same problem on the F-mount Nikon version. I needed to rotate each one between 2/3 and 7/8 of a turn counterclockwise before I could get infinity focus on a Zeiss CP2 21mm or a Rokinon 14mm. This seemed to pull the focus witness marks a little closer to accurate, as well. It’s tempting to rotate until you can get past infinity, but I suggest tweaking just enough to get your widest lens happy. Sloppy third-party wide lenses like the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 are probably best avoided completely.
Second, most lenses with electronic apertures will “flicker” when you roll the iris wheel. I’ve been waiting for a Metabones firmware update to fix this. It doesn’t appear to be coming. When you boot the camera, or re-attach the speedbooster, you’ll want to press the wide-open button. This will eliminate the flicker issue.
I mostly shoot with cinema primes on the FS7 (with the notable exception of the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS) so I don’t notice the iris flicker issue much. If I were a zooms shooter, I’d seriously consider getting an E-mount lens like the Sony 28-135. That lens makes the whole experience much more like shooting on an EX3 but with 4K.
LUT handling is limited in the camera, and I don’t expect a firmware update that enables preview in one LUT while recording in another. The easiest solution to this for me has been to add a Zacuto Gratical HD EVF. But wait, you say, that’s three grand for an EVF! The Gratical HD is the kind of tool that will probably outlive your camera by years, and will work with just about any other body you’re shooting on. Being able to use the same EVF on every camera body you shoot on makes a HUGE difference when bouncing between rigs. The exposure tools are incredibly helpful, and being able to output with LUTs applied means producers and clients are happy, too. The display is incredibly sharp, which helps a lot when focusing in 4K. It’s a huge upgrade over the stock EVF, and you can still use both if you like.
The physics of the camera are a big improvement over the FS700, but a baseplate is almost mandatory for most shooting styles. Moving the shoulder pad back a few inches helps with balance and ergonomics, and without one, the arm/handgrip tends to get caught on tripod heads and pan handles. The Vocas Baseplate is awesome, but obscenely priced over $1000. The Ikan Tilta BS-T10 is the best “affordable” $500 option. If you don’t want to spring for a baseplate, at least get a 10″ 15mm rod to mount the EVF on, so you can get it far enough away from your head.
What are your experiences with the Sony FS7? Let us know in the comments below.
Posted by Jon Kline