Miniature Camera Takes Design Cues from the FS7

Sony has downsized the FS7 with the new PXW-FS5 Super 35 handheld camcorder. A smaller variation on the same style of camera body, the FS5 is a less expensive option (and direct competitor to Canon's C100) that Sony is aiming at documentarians, reality TV shooters, and independent filmmakers.

"It's not a replacement for the FS7," Sony Senior Product Manager Juan Martinez told StudioDaily during a briefing to introduce the camera. "It's a companion. The ergonomics are very similar, but this camera is about half the size and weight of the FS7." The new camera is built with a magnesium frame and environmentally sealed body with an active cooling system. It's designed for handheld use with no rig required, and Martinez noted that it boots in less than five seconds' time, and requires no reboots for format changes.


The FS5 shoots UHD (3840×2160) at up to 30p and HD at up to 60p. (Full 4K recording will be included in a future paid upgrade.) High frame rates reaching as much as 240fps (buffered to an eight-second cache) in 10-bit 4:2:2 HD and (calling back to the FS700) up to 960fps at more limited resolutions. It has dual SD card recording and one SDI output. Supported codecs are 8-bit and 10-bit XAVC Long (MXF) and 8-bit AVCHD (MTS), with two channels of LPCM or, in AVCHD only, AC3 audio. (Broadcasters may not be pleased to hear that MPEG-2 HD is not supported.) XAVC Proxy recording is available when the camera is shooting XAVC Long. 

One XLR input is on the top handle, along with a second on the bottom of the camera that can be used with the handle removed. Two channels of audio can be recorded via the MI Shoe connection, XLR, or a combination. A stereo mic is built into the top handle as well, but there is no mic on the main camera body. Outputs include a single BNC connector that outputs either SD or (with a future paid upgrade) Sony FS Raw and 10-bit HDMI 2.0. 

Here's a Sony marketing video that offers a good look at some of the camera's features.

Upward Mobility
This camera serves an ambitious function in Sony's line-up — it's a low-end pro camera that's designed to maximize its compatibility with high-end cameras. For example, it supports S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log3, making it a better match for more sophisticated cameras. When shooting in that mode, the Gamma Display Assist feature — really a LUT for the viewfinder — converts the image to Rec.709 800% gamma for accurate display. However, loading up your own LUTs is not supported. "This camera is a bit simplified because it's aimed at low-end and very fast operation," Martinez admitted. "It does not have the very complex and comprehensive menu that our other cameras have."

The FS5 has the same Exmor sensor as the FS7, so overall picture quality should be quite similar — however, thanks to advances in its internal image processing, the new camera is actually rated at ISO 3200, compared to the FS7's ISO 2000.


Another carryover from the FS7 is the camera's detachable Smart Grip, which is positioned very close to the FS5's center of gravity to help make it easy to hold. If you don't like it there, it's designed to use an ARRI-style rosette to put it on an arm and reposition it — which could come in handy when you're trying to balance the camera with a heavy lens on the front of it. When the Grip is removed entirely, the camera should fit nicely on gimbals or drones and in compact underwater housings.

The grip provides a second start/stop button for the camera. The two buttons can be mirrored, or the grip button can be used to start and stop recording to the card in one slot, while a continuous recording is being written to the card in the second slot.

Sony is clearly thinking about ergonomics, designing the top handle with multiple attachment spots for the viewfinder, allowing shooters to mount it on the front or back and on either side, as best fits a particular job or their general shooting style.

Variable ND Filtering: A First
Variable ND filtering is built in, which Martinez said is a first for a Super 35 format camera. An adjustment knob offers a "clear" position as well as three ND positions that users can assign to specific densities on a seven-stop range from 1/4 to 1/128, . "Eventually, we'll allow this to function automatically, so you can use it to control exposure automatically, without changing the depth of field, or use it to do depth-of-field pulls with a combination of auto iris and variable ND," Martinez said.

Another new technology, Clear Image Zoom, may sound dubious — we all know about the meritless nature of most "digital zoom" functions — but Martinez insisted that the FS5 can extend any lens by 2x when shooting HD (or by 1.5x when shoting UHD) with "extraordinarily high quality." Clear Image Zoom can also introduce a zoom effect while shooting with a fixed-length lens. 

Also available is a 2K center crop option that would allow legacy Super 16 lenses to be used with the FS5 via a PL- or C-mount adapter, or to double the apparent reach of any prime or zoom lens, Martinez said. And he described the focus assist system, with facial detection and a completely new algorithm, as extremely fast and accurate.

The camera has streaming functionality similar to that found on Sony's PXW-X70, Martinez said, noting that it's compatible with Teradek's Cube series of receivers. Recorded files can also be transferred to an FTP server via Wi-Fi. A built-in Ethernet connector won't make connections faster compared to Wi-Fi, but it should make them more bulletproof.


More details are available at Sony's product page for the camera. The FS5 is expected to ship in November at a suggested list price of $6,700 for the camera body only, or $7,200 for the camera with Sony's compact 18mm–105mm F4 G OSS (SELP18105G) as a kit lens.