Testing the new Sony FS100E

I was recently so lucky to be able to try Sonys new competitor in the big chip camcorder market. And, its new in a lot of ways.

Its basicly a brick. A brick with all the important buttons and switches we long for on our DSLRs. It might be odd out of the box, but with all those Redrock/Zacuto/Jag35/Genus rigs (the list goes on and) out there, everyone can handheld this thing their way. On a tripod, its ergonomics is in my opinion excellent. You have the bright, high res screen angled perfectly at you while standing, and all important functions is either on top of the camera or on the usual left side.

Its really puzzling to me why Sony has left so much great qualities from the F3 in the FS100. Its the same large S35 sensor and therefore very similar great low light capability. Sure, the FS100 is only AVCHD, but so is its main competitor (the Panasonic AF101, which is not great in low-light). And the F3 is has only XDCAM EX (35mb/s) onboard, which also makes it unable to capture 50p at 1080p. So, none of these codecs are considered very pro, and they are all actually lower bitrates then what in theory the 5d offers (40-45 mb/s).  I talked to a Sony. rep about this codec issue on the F3, and since the codec was designed for the EX line, 50p in 1080p was not achieved. Manufacturers are throwing cameras out there, in my opinion a bit too soon,  to be able to monetize on the cravings of the DSLR crowd. Sure, you can use external recorders, but then we are back to fixing problems (like audio on DSLRs) that the manufacturer should have done for us.

Do I miss higher bitrate on this camera? I do a lot of run and gun short documentaries. Since the DSLR revolution, the expected visual quality of this kind of work has increased, which is great! The hassle of external audio and monitoring has always kind of payed of when a client is amazed of what you can get out of available light. After my first little tests with this camera, I`m actually certain enough about its qualities that I want to bring it out on an assignment pretty soon. It has  much better low light capability than the AF101 (even though its the same codec). The stock lens is, for the first time I can remember, actually quite good. 18-300 is very usable for docustyle work, and with a couple of adaptors for Nikon/Canon glass (or even Sony Alpha DSLR lenses), you are good to go. The sensor is huge, quite similar to 7d, and therefore you will get the shallow depth everyone is expecting.

Pros
Its got all the missing knobs and levers youre looking for
– Great placement for assignable buttons (6 on a row!)
– Amazing results from a poor codec
– Very good low light capability, quite a lot of shadow detail.
– 1080p 50p (and soon 60p I hear)
– Very adaptor friendly with regards to lenses (can use many adaptors already in place for the Sony NEX line)
– Great flexiblity on the placement of the hot-shoe adaptors. Mic-mount doubles as hand-grip (if not too heavy lens)

Cons
– Challenging design
– The XLR inputs are spread oddly apart
– Poor codec, but thats more expected in this price range then the F3s

And, yes, thats me on the second last frame. Biting my lips out of maddening uncertainty about achieving focus. Cold too, by the looks of it.


Music by Tyler Ramsey

Thanks to Fotovideo for letting me check out their camera. Looking forward to shoot more with this thing

 

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