Sony FS7 II is an incremental upgrade of Sony’s FS lineup, and not a replacement. The previous model FS7 will continue to be sold (in body-only form) at the existing price. The sensor and image are unchanged from the original FS7. The codec choices and the autofocus system are also the same. The FS7 II will be sold as body-only, or as a kit with the new 18-110mm f4 G cine zoom. So what’s new (except price) in the new Sony's camcorder?
We spoke with Sony’s senior product manager for the FS7, Juan Martinez, who gave us the rundown on the new features.
The electronic variable neutral density filter can be operated in three ways:
1. You can preset the four-position filter wheel to whatever fixed discreet levels of ND you want – in a similar way to the way you can assign values on the gain switch on other models. This allows you to work in much the same way as you would with a conventional ND filter wheel, with rapid ND changes if you need them.
2. Alternatively you can use a thumbwheel to vary the ND continuously, through seven stops of correction. This is essentially a better version of a front mounted variable ND filter, but without the drawbacks.
3. You can use automatic ND for auto exposure without varying f-stop, gain, or shutter speed. The electronic neutral density control doesn’t affect the color the way a regular ND fader filter on the front of a lens does, and it quickly becomes your primary exposure control, allowing you to work at a constant aperture in almost all situations.
The new locking ring lens mount is part of a whole new strengthened internal front that will support heavy cine lenses or ENG lenses. At the preview, Sony had a long B4 ENG lens hanging off the front of a FS7 II via a 16x9inc adapter, with no apparent flex in the mount. Because of the E-mount flange design, the locking lens ring goes counter-clockwise, opposite from the F55 PL mount locking ring.
To mount a lens, you insert it without rotating the lens, and then turn the locking ring. There’s an interlock button to prevent dropping a lens when you remove it. Martinez can change lenses one-handed but it would take me some practice.
Other changes make the camera easier and more ergonomic to use. Sony say these improvements are a direct response to customers’ requests and feedback:
The viewfinder and microphone mount have been changed.
The microphone mount is now a hand-tightened clamp on a 15mm rod that runs through the handle front, rather than being fixed on the rod as on the FS7. The microphone mount itself has been modified for better noise isolation from handling. With the new mount you can use a microphone either on top, or slightly underslung closer to the lens.
The viewfinder mount’s front and rear adjustment has been changed from a round rod, to a very slightly longer squared-off tube that will ensure that the viewfinder stays in a horizontal orientation. Included with the camera will be inserts so you can replace the square rod with a standard 15mm round rod if you prefer – some users prefer a round rod because it allows you to swing the viewfinder in front of the camera, making the camera slimmer for transport in bag.
The viewfinder is the same as the existing FS7, apart from the fact that the magnifying tube loupe now has a fixed top bracket, instead of having latches both top and bottom. This makes it easier to attach and detach.
The camera will also come with a sun shade folding hood in addition to the magnifying tube. Because of the clamp mount for the microphone, you are now free to use a longer 15mm rod to offset the viewfinder for left-eyed use (or even on the opposite side of the camera.)
The main body is essentially the same but there are a host of minor changes.
There are new buttons added to the left side of the camera, so you now have ten programmable buttons instead of six. These have a dotted texture that makes them easier to locate by touch.
The door covering the audio controls now opens down, instead of to the rear. The media slots on the original were always a bit fiddly. On the FS7 II they have been changed so the XQD cards stick out far enough to grab with gloves on. (They’re also introducing new 256 gig XQD cards.) There’s a more obvious light to indicate the power switch is turned on.
On the right side of the camera, the handgrip arm has been upgraded. You can now change the arm position without tools and there’s a new alternate mounting position to get the handgrip much closer to the body for chest-level or under-arm shooting positions. This alone makes it a much better shooter’s camera than the preceding FS7. The control wheel on the new model’s handgrip has new ballistics and senses the speed you’re turning it. It can control the variable ND in addition to the host of other things it can already control. Unlike the FS5, the joystick can’t control the ND, however.
The FS7 II uses the same BP-U batteries that Sony has been using since the EX1. However, they recently introduced an optional new BPU-60T battery with a hirose connector to power external accessories. Image-wise, it will be the same as the FS7 except now REC BT.2020 color will be included in your color space choices. This is a welcome upgrade that has the potential to make for better HDR and 4K images.
This new FS7 II is an incremental upgrade that makes it better to shoot with, but doesn’t fundamentally change the image coming out of the camera. If you’re thinking of getting an FS7, the FS7 II may be worth the extra money for the ergonomics alone. But for those who already own an FS7, I think it will be hard to make them consider upgrading given the price.
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