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The NAB Interviews With Shawn Lam: The Sony NEX-FS700

An in-depth interview on Sony's new 4K-capable large-sensor camcorder that generated tremendous buzz at NAB 2012 in Las Vegas this week.


Sony NEX-FS700

Lens Adapters and Comparisons with the FS100

Shawn: It's Shawn Lam here with Streaming Media Producer, and I'm meeting with Juan Martinez from Sony. We have the Sony FS700 in front of us here. What can you tell us about this camera compared to the FS100?

Juan: Well, it is based on the same type of system as the FS100. The most important thing about it is that E-mount. So this type of lens mount was designed so it can accept a great variety of lenses. So because the flash is so shallow, it's only 18 millimeters, you can put virtually any SLR, DSLR and cine lenses on this camera. So this is the most important thing. You're not stuck with buying a certain brand of lenses, not even Sony lenses. You can buy whichever lens best works for you. So if it so happens that Nikon makes a beautiful shift lens and you want to use that, you can use it with this camera without any loss of performance.

Shawn: All right. So that's via an adapter. And so Sony has some adapters, the LA-EA1, the LA-EA2.

Juan: The LA-EA2 is a brand-new breakthrough technology. It allows a camera to do continuous autofocus using pace detection. This means that the camera produces-- most of the light goes through the LA-EA2 into the sensor to create an image, but a tiny amount of it is sent down to a beam splitter, and the beam splitter has a main image and a secondary image. And the secondary image could be the right or the left or the main image, and this tells the system if the focus is in front or behind your subject, so the system can very quickly focus the camera. And there's no hunting.

Traditional focusing on camcorders is using contrast. The image gets softer, but the system doesn't know if we're moving in the wrong direction until it knows that the image got progressively softer, and then it has to hunt back. The same thing once it goes over and achieves the highest sharpness. It may overshoot a tiny bit and have to come back. The camera can continuously focus.

We're showing a reel in N101 shot by Andy Young, and he has a dog racing towards him, and the dog races to him for over 50 feet, and he's shooting at 240 frames per second, and the dog is always in focus. It is really uncanny. This is something that you couldn't possibly do by manually pulling focus, and he's doing this from low to the ground, so the camera is really functioning very well.

Super Slo-Mo

Shawn: So slow recording, slow shutter speed, slow-motion. What's the upgrade been on the FS700?

Juan: This camera has an image sensor that's 11.6 million pixels. It produces a 4K image, and it goes into a big memory buffer. And we can accumulate up to 16 seconds when the camera is running at 120 frames per second, and up to eight seconds when the camera is running at 240 frames per second. Once this is transferred to 24p, in both instances the playback time is 80 seconds of unbelievable slow-motion.

Shawn: So this is really, really super slow-motion.

Juan: This is exactly how high-speed cameras operate, and until now this kind of functionality was only available upwards of $30,000, so you're looking $30,000 to $100,000 to have that kind of functionality. And it is really amazing what people have been able to record with this camera. Again, the reels that we're showing at N101, they're really surprising.

Shawn: I've seen, yeah, some of the slow-mo footage already, and it's really amazing.

Multifunction Handle

Shawn: So I see on here the zoom rocker on this handle here. What's that for?

Juan: It has four buttons. It has a iris, momentary iris so you can quickly set the exposure or find in the ballpark where you want to be. It has expanded focus, which could be four times or eight times. It has a photo button that allows you to capture high-resolution images and a start-stop button. And there's also a zoom rocker. There is a W and a T in there for wide and tight, so it is obvious there will be some kind of zoom lens, but we can't talk about that at this moment. 

Another great feature of the FS700 is that it is utilizing an ARRI Rosette. So there's an ARRI Rosette on the camera body, and there's a matching ARRI Rosette on the handgrip, and a T-screw. This makes it very simple to adjust the location of the handle, but furthermore this is fully compatible with accessories that are made for film cameras. So let's say with a simple Arri handgrip extender you could relocate the handgrip forward and down if you're shooting with heavy long lenses. So this is a major breakthrough of this camera. No other camera in this kind of price range has something like this.

Larger ND Filter

Shawn:  So it's very modular. We've got a new handle up top as well. This is very heavy-duty. And then moving down here, I see there is this larger component here, the ND filter. Now, this wasn't available on the FS100. What changed? How did you get that in to work with the small flange back?

Juan: That's an excellent question. What happened in the FS100 is we really wanted to make the best camera we could that could take virtually any lens, and so we went with the 18-millimeter flange depth. Unfortunately, the technology that existed at the time for neutral-density filters couldn't be used on the FS100. So what we have done is we borrowed from the F65, and there is ultra-thin neutral-density filters, and it is a turret. If you look at the camera, you can see that it has a centric configuration here in the front, and there's actually a turret that just clicks and rotates and puts the right filter on it. And the filter is located very close to the image sensor. This is another Sony breakthrough development, and we have been able to implement this. We have clear, two stops, four stops and six stops.

Shawn: So this is really going to allow us to get that shallow depth of field when we want without having to use the shutter speed at that point.

Juan: Exactly. Of course, in addition to the neutral density, you can control the gain and you can control the exposure time as well, the shutter speed or shutter angle.

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