How Does The New Sony PXW-FS5 Fit Into the Current FS Line?

Every time there is a new announcement of a ground-breaking new piece of kit its imminent arrival is bound to cause some disruption to rival products and make it even harder for video professionals to decide whether the latest camera is the right choice for their type of work.

Just this past Friday at the start of IBC 2015, Sony announced their latest addition to the large sensor XDCAM range - the PXW-FS5. Featuring a similar, ergonomic and compact design we've seen from the FS7, the FS5 is slimmer and smaller, but still has a lot of horsepower under the hood. So, with that said, let's see how it stacks against other cameras from Sony and competing brands, at least on paper.

Of course, the reality is that you can't judge a camera before using it in the field for some time, and the purpose of this post is not to do so. It is simply to compare the features of the FS5 and other cameras sitting on the same level and targeting the same or similar demographic of customers - those shooting weddings, corporate work, events and web content on a daily basis.

Sony FS5 vs Sony FS7

Starting with the obvious, the body weight has been reduced to just 0.8kg, so it's great for gimbal operation and drone usage. The bigger FS7 and even longer NEX-FS700 require extended arms to be used on the DJI Ronin 3-axis stabiliser for example, but the more compact FS5 should be much easier to mount and balance. Not only that, the viewfinder is now at the back, and the front LCD screen does not have the plastic eyepiece.

The LCD screen can be mounted in a variety of ways along the top handle, which is actually quote a clever design. This is something that the FS7 is missing, as it's EVF mount is notoriously fiddly and fragile. Vocas and Zacuto do make third party accessories, which replace the viewfinder mount on the FS7, but those shouldn't be necessary.

FS5 with 28-135 zoom lens

The 4K internal recording is only in the XAVC-L (Long GOP) format at 8bit 4:2:0 colour sub-sampling in 100Mb/s, which will save you space on the SDXC cards as it is a more efficient codec than the XAVC-I codec in the FS7. However, the XAVC-I codec in the FS7 is a 10bit 422 codec at 400+ Mb/s thus packing more data into each frame making more suitable for VFX work or heavy grading for broadcast and content destined for large screen exhibition.

If you a Convergent Design Odyssey7Q+ for example to the mix, the 8bit Long GOP compression in 4K can be bypassed completely - and you get broadcast ready 4K ProRes 10bit 422 files via the HDMI output. However, this does involve extra cost (£1,600 + VAT for the recorder and extra for SSD drives, which are proprietary to Convergent Design).

The FS5 does also have an SDI output and a future Raw upgrade is planned. From what Sony reps told us at IBC, this will be a paid upgrade, however details of when and how much have not been yet finalised. It's good to know that it will happen, however don't bank on it coming out shortly after release. If you need higher bit rate recording in 4K - get an external 4K recorder.

The media is more affordable and readily available on the FS5 - you can use USH-I U3 rated SDXC cards from 64GB to 256GB, which cost from £40 to £100+ depending on size, which is close to three times less than the cost of XQD media cards.

fs7 arri pca Sony FS7 with ARRI PCA accessories

Sony FS5 vs Sony FS7

Key differences:

  • Size: the FS5 is about %25 smaller and weighs only 0.8 kgs (stripped without lens, side grip and top handle, about 2.2 kg kitted with lens)
  • 4K XAVC-L: the FS5 can only shoot in Long-GOP up to 30p compared to the XAVC-I and L up to 60p on the FS7
  • Different Hand Grip - the FS5 uses a similar, but different hand grip which attaches directly to the body. The FS7 Handgrip can be adapter with purchase of appropriate rosette mount from Sony.
  • Slow Motion up to 240fps in Full HD 10bit 4:2:2 - in Burst Mode up to 8 seconds (80 seconds real time) - the FS7 can do FullHD at 180fps continuous.
  • The FS5 will have Raw Upgrade option in future, but no XDCA attachment - the FS7 requires the attachment which grants the Raw output.
  • Variable electronic ND Filter from 1/4 to 1/128th in step-less increments on the FS5. The FS7 has a three stage rotating ND filter. The FS5 variable ND filter can come handy when you need more ND filtration in extremely bright conditions.
  • The FS5 features Centre Scan - can use Super 16mm glass - this will be a future firmware update on the FS7 (firmware version 3.0).
  • It uses more affordable media - SDXC compared to the more expensive XQD cards into the FS7.
  • Simultaneous Proxy recording - 720/25p 9Mb/s and 360/25p at 3Mbp/s
  • The FS5 has built-in Wi-fi and a LAN port - this will be helpful with streaming events and shooting long conferences for example.

For those who are yet to make the leap into 4K, the question begs - do I get a Sony FS5 or an FS7? Sure, there are other options in the sub £10K range - such as the Blackmagic URSA and upcoming URSA Mini 4K/4.6K as well as the Panasonic DVX200, which does feature a large 4/3 type sensor, but has a fixed lens.

The way we see it, at the moment Sony have positioned the FS5 to sit between their NEX-FS700 (which is in the NXCAM range) and the FS7, which is in the XDCAM range. The FS5 is part of the XDCAM range and does shoot 4K on board in a compressed codec, which is something the FS700 cannot do (it does 4K Raw out to a compatible external recording solutions such as the AXS-R5 recorder or Odyssey7Q+. The FS5 is currently priced at £4,100 + VAT for the body only which is rougly around £800-900 (exc. VAT) below the price of the FS7.

The FS7 does offer benefits over the FS5 such as - TC/Raw Output/Genlock and ProRes in 1080p onto XQD cards, but this increases the bill from around £5K to more than £6,500 and then  you add an external recorder for another £2K and you can easily go over £8.5K and not even consider media and extra batteries.

The FS5 will make a fantastic budget oriented option and an entry point into the exciting world of 4K acquisition and high-frame rate Full HD recording for less than £5K. If you plan on shooting mostly live events, weddings and web/corporate content, which will end up 99% of the time on the Internet - whether Facebook/Youtube/Vimeo or any other platform - the 8bit 420 internal in 4K shouldn't discourage you - as it will scaled down to 1080p very nicely and give you very good images.

We did a short video with our good friend Alister Chapman explaining the differences between the two models at IBC 2015. Check it out below:

The FS5 is a grab and go camera intended for single camera operators who need to grab the shot in any circumstances in a fast paced production environment. If you are doing mostly the above mentioned work - then definitely the FS5 is made for you. However, if your require Raw, plus multicam shoots, more flexible codecs such as XAVC-I and MPEG2 HD 422 in 50Mb/s for broadcast work for example, you're better off investing a bit more and go for an FS7.

At the end of the day, the Sony FS7 is available now and in stock with us and if you have an imminent shoot on the horizon - we can help with that. If you can wait until November, and are not too fussed about the more robust features of the FS7, give us a call at 0208 977 1222 or pre-order the FS5 and FS5K (with lens) on our website here.