In 2014, Sony’s FS7 brought the FS-series camcorders into a new age with an innovative ergonomic design, robust recording capabilities, and extensive modularity. Today, the FS series receives a new addition, the FS7 II. To be clear, the FS7 II does not replace the current FS7 (which will continue to be produced and available for purchase); rather, it adds new feature sets and future-proof updates to the product line, furthering it as a tool for professionals. So, while the FS7 II contains some improvements, the original FS7 is still a very relevant product, and complements the FS7 II in terms of practical workflow.
Before we examine the new features in-depth, here’s a quick rundown of the improvements implemented in the FS7 II
- Lever-lock lens mount
- Electronic variable ND filter
- Updated operator control layout
- Updated viewfinder mounting hardware
- Tool-less SmartGrip handle
- Redesigned XQD card slots
- Rec. BT-2020 color space support
With the popularity of the original FS7, there was no shortage of customer feedback. Sony took this feedback into account and leveraged it to include several of the aforementioned additions to the FS7II.
Lever-Lock Lens Mount
Making its debut on the FS7 II, and hopefully to be included on other cameras in the future, the lever-lock lens mount is an innovation on Sony’s versatile E-mount. It operates on a similar principle to the classic ARRI PL mount and offers similar benefits while retaining the adaptability of the E-mount. Instead of twisting the lens onto the mount, simply place the lens into the mount and tighten the locking ring on the mount itself. A safety latch automatically engages to prevent the lens from being accidentally released. This new E-mount design is stronger, able to hold heavy lenses and lens adapters without support, and allows for tighter tolerances to ensure consistent optical quality with current and future E-mount lenses. Additionally, the securing force of the mount eliminates rotational play between the lens and the mount. All electronic communication with compatible E-mount lenses is supported.
Electronic Variable ND Filter
Originally featured on Sony’s well-received FS5 camera, the electronic variable neutral density (ND) filter built into the FS7 II offers filmmakers a new way to control exposure. Since the electronic filter is itself variable, exposure changes are seamless from 1/4 (2-stop) to 1/128 (7-stop) densities, enabling creative new techniques, like depth-of-field pulls, to be used. Lens aperture can also be finely tuned since you’re not limited by the 2-stop increments of traditional ND filter wheels. Optical qualities of the lens are maintained, because the filter does not rely on polarizing elements used in screw-on variable ND filters. IR pollution is removed internally by a separate filter on the sensor, so blacks remain black regardless of ND setting.
The ND can be operated in three modes. Preset mode lets you choose between three preset densities, similar to the way a filter wheel would be used. Changes between these preset densities is smooth and can be done without interrupting the image, and the presets are customizable to fit your style of shooting. Manual mode lets the filter be finely controlled by the rotary encoders on the camera body or the handgrip. Perhaps the most unique option is the auto mode. The camera will automatically apply the correct amount of ND for appropriate exposure, and will constantly vary it depending on exposure changes. This works similarly to an automatic gain control, but does not introduce artifacts or noise due to signal amplification.
Ergonomic and Mechanical Design
While the overall form-factor and design philosophy of the original FS7 are carried over to the new model, Sony engineers took the opportunity to improve some of the mechanical aspects of the camera to benefit the end user. The operator-side controls have been updated to feature 10 customizable buttons (up from 6 on the FS7), new controls for the electronic ND system, and as a small touch, a redesigned audio control door, which opens downward as to not obstruct the XQD card slot door while open.
The viewfinder system has had several updates, as well. The entire assembly is completely modular and uses a standard 15mm rod, which can be replaced with one of a different length for further customization options, including left-eye shooting. Both the monitor and microphone holders now attach to the rod using thumbscrews. The viewfinder bracket also uses a square rod, which keeps it locked in a perfectly horizontal position, and it won’t slip. Responding to a common request from experienced camera operators, the loupe included with the FS7 II quickly secures with a single (rather than double) latch and utilizes a 52mm diopter that can be easily swapped for another 52mm diopter matching the operator’s eyeglass prescription. The ability of the eyepiece to use a standard 52mm diopter is notable. A folding sun hood for the LCD is also included, helpful on sunny days when the viewfinder loupe is not in use.
Tool-less adjustment is the name of the game for the SmartGrip arm included with the FS7 II. With the simple twist of a lever, the handgrip can be extended or retracted for comfortable positioning. A new screw location on the handgrip extension lets the handgrip assembly be relocated closer to the camera body for a compact shooting setup.
Ejecting and inserting XQD media has been improved with the slot redesign. The cards protrude farther from the camera body, for easier changes when wearing gloves. As mentioned above, the XQD card door won’t interfere with the audio control door.
BT-2020 Color Space Support
Newer standards for high-resolution content are being ratified, and new workflows are being created for future-proofing media captured today. The ITU Rec. BT-2020 color space is the standard, going forward, for 4K content distribution, with a larger color gamut and brightness range than the HD standard Rec. BT-709. The FS7 II supports both standards in the Custom mode on recording and output so you can be ready for today’s and tomorrow’s broadcast workflows. Recording resolutions, frame rate selection, ISO sensitivity settings, and colorimetry all carry over from the original FS7, so with identical settings the FS7 II and FS7 will match perfectly through post-production.
This evolution in the FS7 camera lineup brings updates that any professional shooter can appreciate. It shows that Sony is willing to further their product lines both through their own innovations and with customer feedback. Be sure to check out the B&H SuperStore website for tech specs, availability, and pricing information.