The popular Sony NEX-FS700 HD camcorder is available in standard form equipped with a new 4K Exmor Super 35 CMOS sensor (total 11.6 million pixels) capable of cranking at up to 960 frames per second. This high-speed readout chip is optimised for motion picture shooting, producing exceptional image fidelity with high sensitivity, low noise and minimal aliasing.
As a relatively low budget device, the NEX-FS700 is a remarkable camera and is used across a broad spectrum of productions from features, commercials to corporate productions. It can in many areas compete with its bigger brother, the PMW-F55 camera, which costs several hundreds of thousands of rands more. The main difference however is its inability to provide a RAW output.
The NEX-FS700 started as a 4K sensor Super 35mm camcorder capable of a vast array of high frame rate and recording options to the superb on-board AVC-HD recording capability. It essentially records in HD.
Local Sony accredited technical support company Central Engineering has completed the upgrade of the firmware into two NEX-FS700 camcorders, enabling them to now record linear RAW with 12-bit precision to the HXR-IFR5 RAW interface, plus AXS-R5 memory recorder which is sold separately. Another local company, Visual Impact, is the only other company able to do this firmware update, although all Sony accredited dealers are also able to perform this procedure.
“This update,’ says Central Engineering’s Ivor Westpfahl, “enables continuous, full 2K resolution recordings at: 23.98, 25, 30, 50, 60, 100, 120, 200 and 240fps. The upgrade is also capable of continuous full 4K RAW recoding at: 23.98, 25, 30, 50 and 60fps.’
The system can also record 120fps at 4K resolution in four-second “bursts’ that result in 20 second at 24fps. An additional hardware interface, the Convergent Design’s Odyssey 7Q records 2K, uncompressed, Cinema DNG up to 240fps and 4K DPX up to 30fps when connected to the FS700U.
Other key creative controls are also enhanced, namely increasing the camera’s ISO range; from 320 ~ 20 000 to 320 ~ 64 000. It also adds S Log2 and 800% 709 gamma curves widely enhancing its exposure latitude HD capability. Monitoring is accomplished from a BNC feed from the camera.
Compared to its big brother the DSF-55, which offers RAW as standard, the NEX-FS700 with the RAW update offers truly exceptional value for money and upgrades the camera to include top end feature film usage.
“There are various different RAW formats,’ advises Westpfahl, “so if a facilities company is going to use the files on say a Baselight or Da Vinci Resolve, it will need to acquire the appropriate software in order to understand the RAW output from the NEX-FX700 camera.
“The camera will obviously also allow you to shoot in its normal HD mode up to 1 000 or 960fps. It shoots at 1 920/1 080 up to 240fps and from there up to 1 000fps it drops it down to 1 080/720.
“When you are using the camera to shoot in RAW format it is not able to shoot up to 1 000fps because the data throughput is too high, so you are shooting 2K RAW at 240fps or 4K RAW up to 60fps. If you consider this camera is to be used in South Africa with a 50i PAL television scenario, then this changes to 50fps for 4K RAW and 200fps for 4K RAW. The software includes the S Log2 option which basically changes the gamma curves.’
A special jig is required to hook up a laptop to actually “talk’ to the camera board. The top section of the camera must be removed, which then exposes a connector in the body of the camera. A cable is then plugged in to this connector and this goes to an interface unit which then feeds into the laptop via a USB connector. The appropriate firmware from Sony is then required for the laptop.
“A NEX-FX700 camera was purchased recently by a film production company and the firmware update was installed,’ says Westpfahl. “They wanted an inexpensive RAW camera. They already owned the recorder which is the expensive part, as well as the interface unit, so they only required the software upgrade.’
The upgrade also enhances other key creative controls: increasing the camera’s ISO range from 320 ~ 20 000 to 320 ~ 64 000, while the S Log2 allows 800% 709 gamma curves, widely enhancing its exposure latitude HD capability. The upgrade also enhances other key creative controls; increasing the camera’s ISO range; from 320 ~ 20 000 to 320 ~ 64 000. It also adds S Log2 and 800% 709 gamma curves widely enhancing its exposure latitude HD capability.