Sony PXW FS-5 Review

The Sony PXW-FS5 is a compact interchangeable lens, super 35mm camera. It fills the gap between its bigger brother the FS7 and its predecessor the FS700. The first thing you notice about the camera when you first pick it up is how light and compact it really is. Sony did an amazing job with with this camera when it comes to weight savings and usability on aerial platforms, and gimbals. The FS5 stripped down with the removable handgrip and top handle off fits perfectly onto a ronin M or Movi M5. Its also definitely light enough to be used as a drone camera along with the ronin on something like the DJI S1000.

Ergonomically the camera is pleasant to hold with the same detaching quick release handgrip form the FS7 that is connected via a LANC protocol 2.5mm plug. The handle has a multitude of assignable buttons, a record button, a zoom rocker, and an assignable dial which is great for dialing in exposure. The handle does rotate into multiple locking positions which allows for low and high angle handheld shots.The handgrip mounting system is solid and feels secure with little to no play in the locked positions. While it is not supplied with the camera a standard ARRI rosette is compatible with the handgrip mount once the grip is detached which allows for the use of the rosette arm for shoulder mounted shots as well as a host of other accessories.

The camera has two XLR inputs, one on the main body and one on the removable handle, that way when you remove the top handle you still have one input to record audio. The standard 12-g SDI sits on the back of the camera along with a full size HDMI and a LAN port, which allows for wireless control of the camera from a smart phone or tablet. The LAN port is not necessary to control the camera but it is one option. The other option is to set up te cameras in house wifi network that sets up a private wireless connection to the camera from any supported and compatible device.

When connected to a wifi network the camera can also livestream its video directly out or upload it via FTP. The SDI supports HD out and the HDMI supports HD and 4K out. As of right not the 4K output is limited to 8 bit 4:2:2, but in the near future (hopefully in firmware 1.2!) there will be an update to output RAW. The sensor in this camera is the trusty Super 35mm that is in the FS7 and F5. With a base ISO of 1000 some footage in low light situations can be slightly noisy, but nothing that cant be fixed in post and definitely not an issue in terms of usability. Also because this camer is a dedicated 4K video sensor rolling shutter is minimal especially compared to its distant cousin the Sony a7s. Even when we used this camera for fast moving high action shots the image stayed stable and usable all the way through. It is worth noting though that the camera does not have a CineEl mode like the FS7. Also the XAVCL codec can be processor intensive when editing and grading so be sure you have a computer that can handle it. Our MacBook Pro Retina display seemed to have no problem with the footage once it was transcoded. 

While the camera has a lot in common with its big brother the FS7 it does have a few tricks up its sleeve, the most notable aside from the size and form factor is the variable ND filter. Gone are the days of limiting static ND settings. With Sony's new variable ND system you can dial in any amount of darkening you need. Keep in mind that this is not a polarizing filter but rather an liquid crystal system that darkens when voltage is applied to it. This allows the user to dial in the perfect amount  of ND for any given shot. 

Overall the fs5 is a great camera especially for those of you moving up from a DSLR or similar camera. It offers the capability of a video camera in a light compact and easy to use package. Also the ability to shoot in 4K is a nice upgrade.

Keep checking back for more, and look on the youtube channel this week for a video review of the FS5 and some more great content including some films we have been working on!!

-Christopher Settineri