Video / Hands-on Review

Sony NEX-FS100U: A Super35 CMOS Sensor in an Affordable Camcorder


Some professional camcorders can cost an arm and a leg. Sony’s PMW-F3 falls into that category. Fortunately, manufacturers realize that not everyone can afford to part with an arm and a leg, so they find ways to offer products with similar feature sets to the pro cameras, but which can be had for just an arm. Sony’s new NEX-FS100U fits the bill. Like the PMW-F3, the NEX-FS100U features an Exmor Super35 CMOS sensor and interchangeable lenses. But the NEX-FS100U does not support SDI or HDSDI, and instead of SxS media, the NEX-FS100U uses the more common and more affordable Memory Stick and SD/SDHC/SDXC media.

At 23.6mm x 13.3mm, the Exmor Super35 CMOS sensor is roughly the same size as an APS-C sensor. The plus-size image sensor provides top-notch clarity, excellent low-light sensitivity and shallow depth of field, making this camcorder ideal for use in the ENG and the motion-picture industries. It is sensitive enough to shoot under minimum illumination of 0.28 lux. The camera records in the AVCHD format, which is supported by most popular nonlinear editing systems. Uncompressed 4:2:2 footage with embedded SMPTE timecode can be output through the HDMI port to an external recording unit. A shotgun microphone is included with the camcorder, and dual XLR inputs let you capture high-quality audio from an external source.

The Sony NEX-FS100U can record 1080p full HD video with playback rates of 60, 30 and 24 frames per second and bit rates as high as 28Mbps. A slow- and quick-motion function allows you to select a frame rate that’s different than the one used for playback (you can choose from 60, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2 and 1 fps). Of course, the camera can also record in Standard Definition MPEG-2 format.

The Exmor Super35’s imaging area matches that of standard Hollywood film cameras, making the NEX-FS100U compatible with numerous cine-style film lenses. The camcorder's E-mount lens system is compatible with most E-mount lenses made by Sony, Zeiss, Tamron, Sigma and Cosina, and a large selection of Sony A-mount lenses is compatible when used with the optional LA-EA1 lens mount adapter. Most 35mm lenses can be used with third-party adapters. B&H also sells the NEX-FS100U as part of a kit that includes an 18-200mm zoom lens.

The NEX-FS100U can record on compatible Memory Stick Pro Duo media and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, as well as an optional HXR-FMU128 flash memory unit, which allows continuous recording for more than 10 hours, as well as instant backups. Simultaneous recording to memory cards and other media is also possible.

Seeing what you’re shooting is easy with the NEX-FS100U, as it features a 3.5-inch, 921,600-dot XtraFine LCD screen that can be rotated for easy viewing from either side of the camera. A viewfinder tube with a 1.2x magnifier is included with the camcorder to convert the LCD into a viewfinder, making it much easier to see your subject when shooting in bright sunlight.

Other features of the NEX-FS100U include geotagging with a built-in GPS receiver, an onscreen histogram display that enables easier exposure adjustment, a peaking function that allows for more precise focusing, and various markers that can be displayed on the LCD to aid in shooting. Housed in a compact, lightweight body, the NEX-FS100 body is only 5 inches wide by 4 inches high by 7.6 inches deep and it weighs only 2.3 pounds. It features a detachable handle and grip. The angle of the grip can be adjusted as needed, and recording can be controlled by a button on the grip. Screw holes on the handle and on the bottom of the camera body (1/4" and 3/8") allow for flexible mounting of peripherals.

The NEX-FS100U is an impressive piece of filmmaking equipment, chock-full of pro features, at a price point that professionals can easily afford. 

Discussion 6

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I'm thinking about buying this camera, but the lack of ND filters stop me. What kind of ND screw on filters should i use with it? Brands? Prices? Thanx a lot.

Apart from the much frendlier controls, and handles...  e.c.t. and the XLR inputs, how would this camera compare to the new NEX-VG20? The sensor sizes must be very similar, REcording Codecs are the same, it appears that the recording bitrate in both cameras is up to 28Mbps. Both Use the same lenses, both have HDMI outputs (although I have not seen the specs on the output of the VG20, 4:2:2 Uncompressed?).

My question in a nutshell...   apart from the XLR Inputs and the much nicer manual controls...   where does the other $3400 go?

What about the rolling shutter issue?

The best thing about this camera is that it's easy to rig properly for professional use.  Hot Rod Cameras makes the best accessories for this camera on the planet, bar none.  I just got done using one on a national commerical.  Using a Hot Rodded FS100 simpy blows away a stock FS camera!

Peter B.

I guess no servo zoom?

Is the "Auto" focus the type you'd see in a video camera or a DSLR, where it isn't continuously adjusting focus?

I've been watching this move towards becoming available with great interest.  Any word on what pricing will be?