Sony has announced its new NEX-FS700U Super35 camcorder, an update to the popular NEX-FS100 interchangeable-lens professional model. This is no mere refresh, however; the FS700 has greatly expanded capabilities over the earlier model. Right out of the box, the FS700 does high-frame-rate recording at up to an astounding 960 fps (not a typo).
In the future, the camera will be even more powerful, when a planned firmware upgrade unlocks 4K data-stream output over its 3G/HD-SDI port. This, of course, also doubles as an output for 1080p60 and other video signal formats. 4K recording will be possible via an optional Sony 4K recording device.
Recording 1080p60 for playback at 24 fps is a great way to produce 2.5x slow-motion video, and that is a great strength of the FS100. This new camera, however, does extreme over-cranking—the likes of which has never been seen anywhere near this level—all the way up to 960 fps. The feature is somewhat limited in that you (of course) can’t just let the camera run and record as much super-slo-mo footage as you want.
At 240 fps, you can capture 8 seconds of full-resolution 1080p video to the frame buffer. The camera lets you trigger the readout to the SDHC card/MemoryStick card or to the optional FMU unit starting either at the beginning or the end of an event—say, a figure skater’s triple Axel or a glass crashing to floor. At 480 fps you can record up to 16 seconds in similar fashion; at 960 fps, you can capture 9 seconds. There’s some loss of resolution at these blazing-fast rates, however.
But before we get too deep into advanced features, let’s recap the basics. As part of the NEX family, this camcorder takes interchangeable lenses via its E-mount, just like the FS100, the NEX-VG10 and VG20 Handycam models, and Sony’s mirrorless digital cameras with that same NEX prefix. Like the FS100 camcorder, the FS700 can take adapters that make it compatible with Sony Alpha lenses, Canon EF lenses, and cine lenses. Because the flange of the FS700 is so shallow, many adapters can constitute just an extension tube with no optical element.
The FS700 has a Super 35 sensor with a drastically higher resolution than that of its predecessor: While the sensor of the FS100 has 2464 x 1394 effective pixels (3.43MP), the Super 35 CMOS chip of the FS700 has a total (not effective) pixel count of 11.6 million pixels. (Sony hasn’t shared the number of effective pixels for the future 4K output.) This is a native 4K sensor, though 4K streaming out of the 3G/HD-SDI port will be enabled later via a firmware update.
Even before the firmware upgrade, that extremely high sensor resolution enables the recording of high-quality HD with low aliasing, thanks to the gross over-sampling of HD. The 4K sensor also strengthens the color information of the AVCHD files it records. According to Sony, on-camera recording is still in 4:2:0 color space, but the larger sensor means there’s no interpolation to achieve that.
The NEX-FS700U records AVCHD at a max rate of 28 Mb/s to a MemoryStick/SD card slot, an optional solid-state FMU unit, or both simultaneously for backup (relay recording is not possible). Formats up to 1080p60 can be recorded to on-camera storage. As a “worldcam,” the FS700 records both 50 Hz and 60 Hz HD formats. The camera also captures 8.4MP 16:9 still photos.
This NXCAM model has an HDMI output for either monitoring or for outboard recording, and there’s that aforementioned BNC that does both 3G/HD-SDI (again, for monitoring or for recording) and future 4K data-stream output.
When it’s used to transfer video signals over 3G/HD-SDI, the camera’s BNC puts out 59.94p, 50p, 23.98p/PsF, 29.97p/PsF and 25p HD video at 4:2:2 (8-bit).
The FS700 shares the four HyperGamma settings of the PMW-F3 CineAlta camera and uses 3D look-up tables (LUTs). The camera enables the creation of up to 10 picture profiles and 99 camera profiles, which are highly useful for recalling oft-used settings or for shooting pickups.
The FS700 maintains the generous sensitivity range of its predecessor, offering ISO 500 (0 dB) to ISO 16,000 (30 dB) for impressive low-light performance. That’s quite a feat considering the massive jump in pixel density between the respective sensors of the FS100 and the FS700.
The camera shares a shape with the FS100, but it’s notably longer, wider and taller than its forebear. This added real estate allowed for the employment of larger buttons, which should be a boon to camera operators with larger fingers and those who regularly wear gloves. There are convenient controls that directly address slow and quick motion, with a dial for setting the frame rate. The hand grip attaches via a standard ARRI rosette mount, which allows for flexible, positive-locking positioning. The removable grip hosts buttons for auto-iris, photo capture, REC start/stop, for either 4x or 8x expanded focus, and it also has a zoom rocker. Because it’s got an industry-standard connection, replacing this hand grip with another from Sony or from a third party will be possible.
The 3.5-inch LCD and its detachable viewfinder tube unit carry over from the FS100. One of the XLR inputs has been moved closer to the front of the FS700 for a more convenient connection to the included onboard microphone or to a wireless audio receiver. There’s now a dedicated DC input; no longer do you have to install an adapter in the battery slot. According to Sony the camera runs cool and quiet without a fan, thanks to the company’s circuitry design.
With E-mount lenses, you of course have auto/manual controls readily accessible at the left-hand position. To make the NEX-FS700U compatible with a wide range of other lenses, look to adapters for the E-mount. The Sony LA-EA2 opens up the world of Alpha DSLR lenses. This adapter features a translucent mirror that sends info to the AF sensor, to enable continuous TTL phase-detection autofocus. Birger Engineering produces an adapter that accommodates Canon EF-mount glass, enabling electronic iris control over those lenses. For attaching PL-mount cine lenses in strictly mechanical fashion, 16x9 Inc. offers a Cine Lens Mount. The NEX-FS700U will be available in June.
|Side||Rear||4 Button Handgrip|
|Lens Mount||Sony E mount|
|Image Device||4K Exmor Super 35mm CMOS Image Sensor (11.6MP)|
|Effective Pixels||HD: 8,400,000 pixels (approx.)|
|Photo (3:2): 7,100,000 (approx.)|
|Sensitivity||ISO 500 (0 dB) - ISO 16,000 (30 dB)|
|Slow Motion||120, 240, 480, 960 fps|
|Signal System||50/60 Hz|
|Built-in Filters||ND: Clear, 1/4 (2 stops), 1/16 (4 stops), 1/64 (6 stops)|
|LCD Monitor||3.5" LCD|
|Viewfinder||Supplied VF tube for LCD|
|Shutter Speed||Not specified by manufacturer|
|White Balance||Not specified by manufacturer|
|Memory Card Slot||SD/SDHC/SDXC / MemoryStick|
|Recording Formats||NTSC SD|
|1920 x 1080 (60p)|
|1920 x 1080 (50p)|
|1920 x 1080 (29.97p)|
|1920 x 1080 (25p)|
|1920 x 1080 (23.98p)|
|File Format||AVCHD; MPEG-2 for SD|
|BNC Connector||3G/HD-SDI 4:2:2 8-bit (59.94p, 50p, 29.97p or PsF, 25p, 23.98p or PsF)|
|HDMI Output||HDMI 4:2:2 8-bit (59.94p, 50p, 29.97p, 25p, 23.98p)|
|Power Requirements||Not specified by manufacturer|
|Operating Temperature||Not specified by manufacturer|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||Not specified by manufacturer|
|Weight||Not specified by manufacturer|
Sony has also announced another professional camcorder that will be available in June. The HXR-NX30U NXCAM camcorder is a palmheld model that has two features that currently set it apart from the rest of the pro AVCHD crowd: a gyro-stabilized lens and a projector that’s quite useful for screening instant dailies just about anywhere.
Hold the NX30 backwards and look at the lens. Move your hand any which way, and the movement of the lens will be quite apparent as it works to mitigate that shake. As seen in the viewfinder, the practical results of that Balanced Optical SteadyShot™ feature are just as astounding: It’s as if you’re operating with a camera-stabilization rig. This feature is a clear boon for journalists, documentarians and anyone who needs to travel light, shoot handheld for long hours and produce fluid, shake-free HD video.
Secondly, there’s a projector on the backside of the flip-out LCD screen. Now, this feature has migrated upward from Sony’s Handycam line, so some skepticism might be warranted. We’re not talking native HD resolution or anything approaching home-theater levels of lamp brightness, so surely the NX30 won’t be a playout device for any high-level presentations. But given the proper circumstances, the projected image can look surprisingly good, up to perhaps 40" on the diagonal. The prospect of reviewing footage at the end of the day with a small crew in a dark or even semi-dark room is going to be too helpful for many working professionals to pass up; call them “guerrilla dailies.”
The rest of the unit is a little more familiar: The NX30 has a new 1/2.88" Exmor R sensor and a 10x Vario-Sonnar lens from Carl Zeiss, and it records AVCHD at up to 1080p60 (28 Mb/s). For low-light shooting, there’s a built-in LED light and a Night Shot mode. For multicamera shoots, there’s timecode, plus the ability to reset timecode on multiple NX30 units via a remote control. As small as the HXR-NX30U is, the form factor still leaves enough room to mount on the shoe a handle with a professional audio capture unit with a built-in mic, phantom-powered XLR inputs and pots. There’s 96GB of built-in memory, and a single card slot.
|Lens||10x Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens (35mm equivalent: 26.0-260mm)|
|Image Stabilization||Balanced Optical SteadyShot™|
|Image Device||Exmor R CMOS sensor|
|Card Slot||1x SD/SDHC/SDXC / MemoryStick|
|Frame Rates||1920 x 1080/60p,30p, 24p, 60i; 1280 x 720/60p|
|Audio Inputs||2x XLR|