A Minimalistic Sony Camera: FS5


There are a bunch of breakthrough technologies and good ideas in the new mini Sony PXW-FS5 4K camera. Read complete report in FDTimes September Edition, now online.

1. Variable ND: Internal, 7 stops, CONTINUOUSLY VARIABLE! The ND control knob is continuously variable from clear to ND2.1 (7 stops). Or, with the flick of a switch, you can choose  one of four presets.

That means the FS5 can do iris shifts with an auto-iris lens while maintaining constant exposure. For example, you’re focused on a flower in the foreground. Turn the continuously variable ND Filter Knob, and your iris will shift, for example, from T2.0 to T22 (7 stops) to nicely bring the background into focus.

2. The Sony FS5 has Autofocus with face detection: new algorithms provide very responsive and rapid focus that can lock and track faces, selectable with joystick control.

3. The FS5 resembles the FS7, but it is half the size and weight. It is the baby sister. This comes as no surprise, since the body was designed by Naofumi Yondea, the same guy who also styled the FS7.  The new camera is modular and has a great handgrip. The ergonomic design of the FS5 screams “handheld.” This is a mini, ultra-light, cinema verité hand-held or shoulder-resting camera. It reminds me of a digital homage to the Aaton a-minima.

Product Manager Juan Martinez said, “During the design phase, it was clear that a DSLR shape was not ideal. We took the design team to AbelCine and looked at cameras. We especially liked Jeff Kreines’ Kinetta and Jean-Pierre Beauviala’s brilliant Aaton handheld cameras. We especially liked the a-minima for its size and ergonomics. I truly admire Jean-Pierre Beauviala for everything he’s invented and created for cinema.”

The official name is Sony PXW-FS5, with an “X” as in XDCAM family—not branded CineAlta like the F5, F55, F65.

FS5 has the same Super35 size CMOS sensor (APS-C 16:9 format) as the FS7. FS5 FS RAW data comes directly out of the single BNC in back of the camera body. It is a Sony proprietary 12-bit RAW signal, lossless, slightly compressed, that will be available as a paid upgrade later on. (On the FS7, there is a 144-pin connector to which the XDCA-FS7 I/O and Codec Extension Unit docks to receive 12-bit FS RAW data. On the FS700, 12-bit RAW comes out of BNC connector.) All these cameras record RAW onto compatible third party recorders.

The camera has 14 stops of dynamic range. Suggested ISO is 2000, and it might go up to 32,000. It records 8-bit 4:2:0 UHD up to 30 fps in 16:9 aspect ratio XAVC-L codec to internal SD cards. Top speed is 240 fps in Full HD, external UHD recording to 60 fps, and a few other variants. Total number of pixels is 11.6 Million — 4352 x 2662. Effective pixels:  8.4 Million (4096 x 2160).

Sony paid particular attention to ergonomics and modular design. Almost everything attaches without tools. The top handle can be removed with two knobs. The onboard monitor finger-tightens and mounts in a myriad of positions in front, back, middle or side  for almost any viewing position. The OLED EVF in back is similar to the one found in Sony’s a7RII still camera.

For lenses, the FS5 uses the increasingly popular E-Mount, familiar on Sony’s FS7, FS700, FS100, and prosumer VG30, VG900 cameras.

Sony’s a7 series of still cameras is also E-mount, but covers Full Frame. Lenses that cover this larger 24×36 mm format are designated as Sony FE lenses.

Currently, there are more than 63 E-mount Full Frame and APS-C and Sony, Sony/ZEISS, ZEISS Batis, Loxia, Touit, ZA, CP.2, and CZ.2 lenses.

The FS5’s E-mount flange focal depth is 18 mm, which is short enough to accommodate almost every after-market adapter and lens combination in the universe: PL, Canon, Nikon, Leica M, Leica R, Leica S, Panavision, etc.

The FS5 camera body is made of magnesium. It weighs about 2 lbs (0.8 kg).

Who is the intended user and what are the productions we’ll see it on? Documentaries, Reality TV, Independent Features, Sports, Wildlife, Second Units, Rigs, Drones, Underwater Housings…

Not only is this camera lighter and smaller than its FS7 sibling, but the ergonomic handgrip is also more compact, easier to grip, and has a helpful strap for additional support.

If you were one of the camera operators complaining about the FS7’s lack of EVF, you’ll be happy with the FS5’s excellent OLED a7RII style finder in back. Actually, you may still find a nit to pick. The EVF is so good, wouldn’t it be nice if you could pop it off and place it anywhere around the camera body—just like the onboard monitor?

The onboard monitor would make a contortionist smile. The designers should be really proud of how they were able to position the monitor in almost any viewing position: forward for handheld, back for tripod operation, middle for low angle shots.

PXW-FS5 makes its debut at IBC.

Please note: this report was put together from pre-release  information and prototypes. Details and specs may change.

www.sony.com — IBC Hall 12

Leave a Comment

2 Responses:

  1. Great, articulate piece on this seemingly amazing new camera. Reminiscent of the Aaton, indeed!

  2. michael dubrow says:

    I love the reference to the beautiful Aaton a-minima. Spot on observation!

    Btw, I have ordered the new FS5 to upgrade from the Sony NEX EA50 we’ve been using, along with an A7S, to do very polished corporate video for our portfolio companies. It looks like a groundbreaking camera. Love the trade off of giving up 10 bit 4:2:2 4K in the camera for the cost savings of SD card media. When we need to do 4K at 10 bit and 4:2:2, or when we want to record to Pro Res, we can simply record to a Shogun Assassin. But most of our work is HD, not UHD, so we love the aspects on this.

    I’ve read all the FS% interviews done so far, and yours is by far and away the most textured and interesting. Thank you.

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