Camera Records 10-bit 4:2:2 to XQD Cards; Optional ProRes Recording and 12-bit Raw Output to Come

At IBC today, Sony unveiled the PXW-FS7, a new 4K UHD XDCAM with a Super-35 Exmor CMOS sensor. Designed largely for shooters on unscripted/reality TV and magazine shows, the FS7 was engineered to be both small and lightweight — the camera body by itself is four pounds — making for comfortable handheld use. It's expected to ship next month with a suggested list price under $10,000.

At launch, the camera will shoot at a maximum resolution of 3840×2160. However, the company indicated that a firmware upgrade in early 2015 will enable full 4K (4096×2160) recording. For a quick, two-and-a-half-minute infodump on the camera, watch the "official promotion movie" below, then read on for more details.

"The camera head is incredibly small," said Senior Product Manager Juan Martinez at a pre-IBC press event in New York City. "It is really made like an Aaton A-Minima. You can put it up against your shoulder — it has a hand grip very similar to what you would find on an Aaton camera. [And it has] no sharp edges — they are beveled, so it doesn't dig into your body if you're cradling it."

Martinez noted that all of the connectors face backwards, for easy accessibility by the operator, that cables run close to the camera body to keep them from snagging while the camera is in use, and that some buttons have been made extra-large for comfortable operation while wearing gloves.

The camera's design includes an adjustable viewfinder and the Smart Grip, a retractable handle with a handgrip that allows access to the user menu, camera start and stop, zoom, and focus magnification. An assignable control wheel can be configured to handle iris, focus, audio level, and gain. This obviously offers a great deal of camera control in one hand and, because the Smart Grip rotates, it opens up a wide variety of possibilities for using the camera in positions that would otherwise be ergonomically awkward.

Up front, the camera has a native Sony E mount, and Sony offers an optional A-mount lens adapter. Because of the short 18mm flange distance, it's possible to use a wide array of other lens types with third-party adapters, but Martinez made a pitch for Sony's glass, noting that Sony currently offers 32 A-mount lenses and 22 E-mount lenses and is building "about five new lenses a year." Starting in December, the FS7 will be available in a kit with Sony's new FE PZ 28–135mm F4 G OSS lens ($2,500 separately). Four stops of ND filtering are built into the camera, selectable using a knob near the lens mount.

The camera is rated at ISO 2000, supports Sony's SGamut3.cine with S-Log 2 and S-Log 3, and has 16-bit analog-to-digital conversion. It supports on-board recording to Sony XQD memory cards at both UHD (3840×2160) and HD resolution via XAVC-Intraframe (at 113 Mbps) or long-GOP (at up to 150 Mbps). For 1080p and 720p recording, 50Mbps 4:2:2 MPEG-2 is also an option. Simultaneous recording of 10-bit 4:2:2 XAVC intraframe or MPEG-2 to both XQD cards is supported, and the FS7 will also permit recording HD (60p max) to XQD while raw output is being recorded using an optional extension unit (more on that below). You can also get 4:2:2 10-bit UHD and HD output via SDI and HDMI.

PXW-FS7 4K* Internal Recording

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-GOP 4:2:0 8-bit
59.94p (150 Mbps)
29.97p (100 Mbps)
23.98p (100 Mbps)
50p (150 Mbps)
25p (100 Mbps)

* QFHD 3840×2160 resolution from launch; 4096×2160 resolution with firmware update, early 2015

Source: PXW-FS7 Official Promotion Movie

If you need better options, you'll have to drop another $2500 on the XDCA-FS7 extension unit, due in December, which enables 12-bit linear raw output to a third-party recorder as well as in-camera ProRes HQ 422 support. That's right — Martinez explained that the camera sends its raw data through the 144-pin connnector to the extension unit, which encodes it as ProRes and then sends it back into the camera, where it is recorded to an XQD memory card. You'll probably also want the optional VCT-FS7 15mm rod support system, which comes with an adjustable shoulder pad and is designed specifically for rigging up this camera.

Side view with extension unit and battery attached. That box with two antennas mounted on top is a receiver for Sony's UWP-D wireless mic system. Click image for a (much) higher-resolution view. 

The bad news is the extension unit adds substantial bulk to the back of the FS7, which is no longer nicely rounded once the unit plus its required V-lock battery (due to increased power consumption) are both in place. (Without the unit, the camera can use the same batteries as Sony's XDCAM EX camcorders.) The extender is 1.3 pounds, and a V-mount battery runs about 2.2 pounds, adding substantially to the total weight. ProRes and raw are both necessary options, but many shooters will probably prefer to avoid the additional cargo by shooting to XAVC when possible.