With so many exciting cameras, new lighting solutions and audio kit this year, it wasn't easy to pick the stand-out product of the year for us, but after careful considerations we came to the conclusion the Sony PXW-FS5 ticked all the major boxes for professional video production.
While carefully deliberating all the fantastic products that have been released this year including the super exciting Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K, the new Litepanels Brick LED light and expanded industry-leading Astra 1x1 range, the Sennheiser AVX digital wireless system on the audio front, it wasn't easy to pick a winner, but in the following paragraphs I'll try and explain our reasons for picking the FS5 as our Top Product of the Year 2015.
- Price Range
The below £5,000 price range, historically, has usually been occupied by small chip/fixed lens camcorders such as The Sony EX1R, EX3 later the PMW-200/300 and PXW-X180 and X160 lately, as well as the workhorse grunts like the Canon XF305 and 205 for example. These are great cameras for event work and fast paced productions, but in 2015 - the large sensor camcorders rule the world of high-production value video work.
And this is where the Sony FS5 shines - it offers the "big boy" Super 35 look at a very aggressive price point. Considering the fact that the body only version costs just about £4,000 ex VAT, and that the camera itself does not require additional rigging in the sense that most others do (such as the FS7 for example to a degree).
All you need to run with an FS5 is a spare BP-U60 battery and a couple of SDXC cards. Slap on the Sony 18-105mm f4 lens and you have a run' n gun camera with the 4K sensor from the F55 and FS7.
- Image Quality
Of course, what good is a camera if it isn't able to produce world class images? And this is also where the FS5 has a significant advantage over a lot of competing products - the Super 35 CMOS 4K sensor from the PXW-FS7 and bigger F5/F55 cameras. Despite the 8bit 4K codec, the camera is very capable of delivering outstanding image quality thanks to its 14 stops dynamic range and the classic large sensor aesthetic.
At a recent training session in Pinewood I was able to observe some stunning footage from the FS5 mixed with a F55 and even F65 4K footage on a 4K OLED screen that completely blew me away. Words can't really do it justice, it's a sight to behold really.
The FS5 however, as most cameras is far from perfect. No camera is, but the question here is whether it is the right camera for the job. And in most cases the FS5 it is - you get 10bit 422 in Full HD, and also incredible slow-motion at up to 240fps in an 8 second burst. For those who do require 4K, there is UHD at up to 30 frames per second.
- Versatility & Innovation
The Sony FS5 features quote a few innovative new features such a Variable Electronic ND filter allowing for step-less exposure variation up to 1/128 ND (or 8 stops) allowing you to control exposure especially when shooting in Slog2 or Slog3 which requires a minimum ISO of 3200.
The presence of Sony's proprietary S-Log2 and S-log3 flat gamma curve allows shooters to capture the highest possible dynamic range from the sensor and have the most information to play with in post-production while grading the footage.
The tool-less design allows for the camera to be stripped down to body only in under a minute. There is an XLR input on the body itself so when flying on gimbals or drones you still have the option of a professional audio input. Speaking of size, the FS5 is just north of 800 grams when stripped down of it's side grip and handle granting more versatility than ever before.
The only type of cameras that come even close to this performance to weight ration are probably DSLR's and mirrorless cameras, but then they don't have the "proper" camcorder form factor and lack significant exposure, focus and audio features and inputs.
Wi-fi and LAN outputs future-proof the camera even more by allowing for extensive control remotely. Live event videographers will love the LAN output, which should come handy when streaming conferences and large scale events.
The Sony FS5 is the perfect B-cam for the bigger FS7 and even F5/F55. In addition, the Sony A7s, and A7R II and A7s II complement the camera due to the presence of Slog-2 and Slog-3 and the Super 35 CMOS sensor from the F5/F55/FS7 and FS700.
Check out some superb sample footage from the Sony FS5 below, shot by our good friend Alister Chapman:
Sony PXW-FS5 Features
* 4K Super 35-Sized CMOS Sensor * 14 Stops Dynamic Range * Sony E-Mount - users can adapt a wide range of Canon, Nikon, Leica, Sigma and other lenses via appropriate adaptors * UHD (3840 x 2160) up to 30p, 1080 Full HD Up to 50p contnuous recording * 4K XAVC-L and Full HD AVCHD Recording Codecs * 10bit 4:2:2 XAVC-L in Full HD * Super Slow-Motion up to 240fps in Full HD (8 seconds burst = 80 seconds real time) * Dual SD Media Card Slots for Relay or backup recording * Comfortable Side Hand Grip * 3G-SDI & HDMI Output * Wi-Fi and NFC Built-In * LAN Port for live streaming
The Sony 4K Creators YouTube channel has an unboxing video, which gives you a good idea of what you can expect to find in the box:
The Sony FS5 is really a fantastic grab and go solution for not just event and wedding videographers, but also news crews, documentary filmmakers, and corporate shooters. Music video and commercial DP's will love the slow-motion capabilities and high dynamic range of images out of the camera.
For the last few months we've ran a number of webinars and hands-on events in our Teddington base giving chance to hundreds of freelance DoPs, production companies and filmmakers from all levels to get their hands on the FS5. Their feedback has been extraordinary positive and we've been overwhelmed with orders for the new tiny, but very powerful Sony 4K camera.
Combine this plus the super compact form factor with the very competitive price tag of £4,490 (with the 18-105mm lens) and you have a universal solution for just about any production no matter how big or small.
Hence why we awarded the 2015 Product of the Year to the Sony PXW-FS5.