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Review: Sony PXW-FS5

I've waited 5 years to write this review, about a new camera model that delivers everything I'm looking for in a professional video camera: Sony's large-sensor, interchangeable-lens, 4K-capable PXW-FS5 XDCAM Super35.

Enter the FS5

So here is where I get to talk about my new favorite, the Sony PXW-FS5 (Figure 2, below). Sony chose magnesium for the FS5 and FS7 bodies because it requires 33% less material by weight to achieve the same structural strength. Weighing in at just under 2 lbs., the smaller FS5 weighs half of the FS7’s 4 lbs. (body only).

Figure 2. Sony FS5 with 28-135mm f/4 PZ G lens. Click the image to see it at full size.

The larger FS7 pairs nicely with the larger Sony 28-135mm PowerZoom lens, while the smaller FS5 pairs nicely with the smaller Sony 18-105 f/4 PowerZoom lens (Figure 3, below). Of course, because both cameras are E-mount cameras in the αlpha line, either lens can be natively mounted on either camera. The light weight of the FS5 also makes it suitable for drone, gimbal, underwater-housing, and car-mounted work.

Figure 3. Shown here with the Sony 18-105 f/4 lens, the Sony FS5 has an LCD arm that can be mounted on the front or back and left or right of the top handle. The arm can also articulate further for optimal placement. The rear viewfinder gives even more monitoring options and offers an additional point of contact for handheld work. Click the image to see it at full size.

Power consumption is a lot lower on the FS5 than on the FS7, so you can get an incredible 4 hours and 20 minutes of recording at 4K with the LCD on. Like its FS100/700 predecessors, the FS5 records to SDXC cards (Figure 4, below). This means low-cost recording media and high compatibility. I love using SD cards because when I need to hand over footage to a client, I would rather it be on the most common recoding media on the market today, and one for which almost everyone already has a card reader. The same goes if I ever need to buy a replacement card in a pinch; I know that I can find one at most 24-hour convenience stores and pharmacies. The flip side is that SD card usage means the QHD is limited to a 30p 100Mbps XAVC-L codec, although that is plenty for my purposes. If you need DCI 4K, or QHD/UHD 4K with higher bitrates, higher frame rates, or 4:2:2 color space, you’ll need to choose the FS7.

Figure 4. Like the FS700 (left), the FS5 (right) records to SDXC cards, but it’s shorter, lighter, and skinnier, which is better for handheld work. Below, the FS5 is in the foreground, and the FS100 in the background. Click the images to see them at full size. 

While the FS5 and FS7 are from the same generation of the FS line, in some cases, like SD card recording media, it bears more similarities to the FS700 than to the FS7. Like the FS700, the FS5 can also record 240fps slow motion HD in its buffer (video only), whereas the FS7 maxes out at 180fps. The current FS5 firmware doesn’t allow RAW QHD output yet, but Sony has announced that, the FS5, like the FS700, will eventually receive a future firmware upgrade to add this capability—possibly as a paid upgrade.