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HD Webcasting with the Sony NEX-FS100

Part 2 of this series on webcast video production focuses on Sony's NEX-FS100 large-sensor camcorder and new capabilities added via a firmware upgrade that (among other things) makes it compatible with Sony's LA-EA2 lens adapter. While it's not as strong a webcast camera as the FS700 (review coming soon), it still has much to recommend it.

In my previous article in this series on HD webcast video production, I discussed the different types of video cameras and what is important when choosing a video camera for HD webcasting. While I do encourage you to re-read that article, let me summarize that piece with what, in my opinion, are the two most important factors when selecting a video camera for HD webcasting: Low noise, and the type and number of clean and simultaneously live video outputs.

With that in mind, let me present to you what I feel is the best HD webcasting video camera available today: the Sony NEX-FS700. When I originally planned this series, my top selection was going to be the Sony NEX-FS100, but its outputs are limited and after working with an FS700 production model (my previous experience was limited to a pre-production model at NAB 2012 that wasn't as refined as the production model), I no longer felt the FS100 was the best camera for webcasting because the FS700 simply has fewer trade-offs that are important in a webcast workflow.

In order for me to properly explain and review the FS700, I'm going to start by reviewing the FS100 anew, since it received a recent firmware update that I have yet to cover in any previous articles. It still has several important shortcomings for webcasting applications so this article will set up my next article, a review of the FS700 (Figure 1, below), which I feel adds so much more value, albeit at a heftier price-tag. At the time of this writing, the FS100 body (sans lens) is selling for $4,999 and the FS700 for $7,999 at popular New York retailers like the family-owned Armatos, who are celebrating 44 years in business.

Sony NEX-FS700
Figure 1. The Sony NEX-FS700

Large Image Sensors and Capturing Low-Noise Video

When it comes to low noise, a single large sensor like the Sony Super35mm CMOS sensor found in both the FS100 and FS700 is unmatched in any camera with a lower price point. Some DSLRs like the new Canon 5D Mark III have larger full-frame sensors, but their photography sensors are prone to aliasing and moiré. Their HDMI output is not clean, and the active area is only 1620x910, once you crop-out the red Record light and the black border that surrounds the entire image.

In some respects, the FS100 has no direct competitors, as the next closest large-sensor video camera is Panasonic AF100, which has a smaller and noisier 4/3" sensor, although it does have both HD-SDI and HDMI output options. As I will discuss later, having HD-SDI outputs is important in a webcast workflow, and I wish the FS100 had at least a single HD-SDI output instead of the HDMI one that limits it.

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