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Friday, 13 April 2018

Sony FS7 Mark II vs FS5 : Clash of the Camcorders

Sony’s top of the range handheld camcorder line-up include the FS5 and the FS7 Mark II which, at a quick glance look quite similar. So why the price difference between the two & which one suits your production better?

Work the Body

The most obvious difference between the two cameras is the size, weight & overall body design. The body of the FS7 Mark II weighs in at hefty 2000g & is primarily designed to be a shoulder mounted camera.

It features a telescopic arm with a smart hand grip that provides shooting control without requiring access to buttons on the body and records to XQD cards which are an ultra-fast & reliable media.
The two cameras are quite different in size and weight.

The FS5, on the other hand, is a featherweight at 830g with a rotatable grip & an LCD screen that can be attached in 9 different positions. It is designed as a run-and-gun system with the flexibility to be mounted on a drone or gimbal. It records to SD cards which are generally cheaper than XQD.

Control your Exposure

One of the features of both the Mark II version of the FS7 and the FS5 is the built-in electronically controlled variable neutral density filter.

This innovative technology uses an electrical current to control how much light passes through the filter, allowing operators to set the iris and shutter settings then use the electronically variable ND to control the exposure.

The same technology can be used to capture incredible Depth-of-field pulls because when the operator closes the iris to increase the depth of field in real-time the electronic variable ND filter can automatically compensate for the changing exposure.

This new way of controlling the focus in your scene means you can bring a background into focus without losing focus on the foreground or vice-versa.

Lock it Down

Both camcorders use an E-mount that, because of the sensor position, allow the use of EF and PL mount lenses with adapters. The FS7 Mark II also boasts a Lever Lock Type that supports heavier cine glass with a secondary locking stage for peace-of-mind when changing lenses.

The FS7 Mark II's Lever Lock Mount is designed for more secure lens attachment.

Blow by Blow Account

Now let's get into the gritty details so we can compare each camera. Both shoot glorious 10-bit colour in Full HD with a more-than-reasonable 4:2:2 chroma subsampling ratio, but only the FS7 Mark II can record 10-Bit colour in 4K at 4:2:2.

The FS5 shoots a slightly lower resolution UHD 4K with an 8-bit colour depth & a more compressed 4:2:0 chroma subsampling ratio.

Keep in mind the capabilities of both cameras improve when complemented with an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun, as well as additional software and hardware upgrades. I'll go into more detail about that later on.

For now the chart below should make it easier to compare the video functionality of each model.

FS7 Mark II
4K Video

4096x2160 (DCI)
3840x2160 (UHD)
Colour Depth
10 Bit
8 Bit
Chroma Subsampling
Maximum Frame Rate (continuous)
Maximum Bit Rate
Full HD Video

Colour Depth
10 Bit
10 Bit
Chroma Subsampling
Maximum Frame Rate (continuous)
Maximum Bit Rate

Beautiful Codec Moments

The cameras use different versions of the XACV codec to compress the pixel information from the sensor for storage, but what is the difference between the two main codecs the cameras use?

XAVC is a recording format introduced by Sony that comes in many sizes and flavours


The FS7 Mark II can make use of the high-end XAVC-Intraframe codec which records each frame of footage in its entirety, resulting in larger file sizes that are easier for your computer to edit. The XAVC-I codec in the FS7 II produces high image quality footage with bit-rates up to 600Mbps for 4K & 222Mbp for Full HD.


The FS5 uses the XAVC-Long GOP codec to reduce video file size by grouping frames together & only recording pixel information that changes between frames while ignoring pixels in each frame that stay the same. This keeps file sizes manageable but is more demanding on your computer to edit & grade. The XAVC-L in the FS5 has a bit rate up to 100Mbps for UHD 4K and 40Mbps for Full HD video footage.

Not all 4K is Created Equal and How Slow Can You Go

Able to shoot 4K DCI footage with a resolution up to 4096x2160, the FS7 II boasts frame rates up to 60fps, & captures Full HD resolution footage with a continuous frame rate up to 180fps for silky smooth slow-mo.
The FS5 also records 4K video but UHD 4K at the lower resolution of 3840x2160 at 30 fps which is half the frame rate of the FS7 II.

Where it has an advantage though is with the High Frame Rate (HFR) recording mode. This uses a cache to shoot quick bursts of ultra slow-motion footage. It can record Full HD footage with a faster 240fps frame rate in 8-second bursts, and can even shoot up to 960 fps at lower resolutions.

The high speed recording capabilities of the FS5 can be improved with a software upgrade but we'll get to that in a bit.

Colour Spaces and Profiles

Both cameras shoot with Slog2 & Slog3 colour profiles, which means they have great colour grading flexibility for post-production. The FS7 Mark II does have a bit of an edge though, with support for 3D LUTS that deliver a real-time grading preview. The camera also supports the Rec.2020 colour space.

Unlock Hidden Potential

Optional upgrades are available for both cameras to improve functionality.


The XDCA-FS7 module for can be attached to the back of the FS7 Mark II and improves the colour depth of the video output from 10-bit to 12-bit while also allowing you to record a 4K & 2K RAW signal with an external recorder, like the Atomos Shogun.

It also outputs 2K footage at a continuous frame rate up to 240fps & includes built-in encoding for Full HD Apple ProRes 422.

Definitely worthwhile if you're shooting for a high-end production where detail and image quality are key, but be aware that your video file sizes will be significantly larger.

It is also worth noting that the XDCA-FS7 unit blocks the camera's battery connection so it is necessary to use V-lock Style batteries to power the camera instead.
The FS7 Mark II with the optional XDCA Module attached.


The FS5 is compatible with two software upgrades that add significantly faster frame rate recording and enable RAW video output as well.

Sony's CBKZ-FS5HFR software upgrade enables the FS5 to shoot  HD video internally at 120fps continuously or in 16-second bursts.

The CBKZ-FS5RIF upgrade improves the camera's video output capability so that, when combined with an external recorder, you can capture 4K RAW video output at up to 60fps. It also outputs 2K RAW at up to 240fps, and you can even capture 4K footage at a blisteringly fast 120fps with a 4-second burst.

And the Winner is......

Don't get too excited because working out which of these cameras is the best is not going to that easy, it's a very close fight between the two and it really depends on what you plant to use them for.

The FS7 II is capable of capturing higher bit-rate video footage with the XAVC-I codec and the larger DCI resolution. The massive files sizes created by shooting 10-Bit footage does mean that you might find yourself regurly changing XQD cards though, when filming at the highest quality.

I would recommend using it in combination with the XDCA Module and an external recorder. This setup makes the overall weight and size of the camcorder quite hefty, making it better suited as a shoulder mounted A camera for film productions where image quality is paramount.

The FS5 on the other hand is still very capable of shooting high quality footage but the XAVC-L codec means you won't have to swap SD cards as often. Combined with the slow-motion and RAW output software upgrades, the FS 5 is more than capable of producing incredible looking footage with a UHD 4K resolution.

But, what really sets the Sony FS5 apart from the Sony FS7 Mark II is the compact size, portable weight and modular design that make it the perfect camera for a run-and-gun setup that does not compromise on features. Ideal for short films, documentary work and videographers constantly on-the-go.

So whether you're looking for a production video powerhouse or a compact camcorder that suits your active shooting style hopefully now you have a bit more of an idea about what your options are in the Sony Pro Video line-up.


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