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Review: Sony NEX-FS700 Large-Sensor Camcorder

The Sony NEX-FS700 has much to recommend it as a top-flight large-sensor, interchangeable-lens camcorder and as a worth-the-upgrade successor to the Sony FS100. And it's 4k support and 10x slo-mo are nothing to sneeze at. But what makes it the best camera in the market for webcast producers?

Other Power Supply Issues

I insist on using a Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) on each of my editing workstations, and laptops automatically have this feature, but unfortunately this has never been a feature that Sony has allowed in previous cameras in their prosumer/entry-level professional class and this failed opportunity continues with the FS700. When you unplug the FS700 while it has a battery connected it still powers down. Three times this year I’ve had the plug from my FS100 unplugged accidentally by attendees while I was filming. An internal battery backup would have prevented any issues.

Sony had to add some value to the FS700 power supply situation to justify the change and increased cost over the FS100--but don’t get too excited. The power supply for the FS700 is separate from the included FS700 battery charger. So you can charge a battery in the battery charger at the same time as your camera is plugged-in to AC power. A replacement Sony AC-VQ1050D battery charger for L-series batteries costs under $100 in the US, although the same model sells at Sony Canada authorized dealers for 2.4x more. This isn’t a currency difference, as the US and Canadian currencies are hovering around par, and the FS100 body is actually $100 cheaper in Canada at the time of this writing.

Regardless, if the charger has a $92 or $220 value, it isn’t anywhere close to bridging the $3,000 price difference between the models and I should note that the replacement charger comes with both a flat-style connecting cord and a battery plate adapter but neither are compatible with the FS700--so don’t lose your power cord.

Advantages of the FS700’s Added Height

The other physical change is added height on the FS700. This solves one of the most annoying problems I had with the FS100 when paired with the Sony LA-EA2 adapter that allows me to use my Sony Alpha and other A-mount lenses with the FS100. The adapter sits below the level of the FS100 so you can’t mount the FS100 on a tripod without first removing the adapter and lens from the body. And then, to make matters worse, you lose the ability to slide your tripod plate back at all, which is helpful when you’re using heavy or longer lenses.

Sony NEX-FS700

The LA-EA2 adapter blocks the tripod plate on the FS100. Sony added height to the FS700 to fix this problem.

The FS700 and its e-mount are positioned high enough to allow proper LA-EA2 adapter clearance. My perceived value: $300 for an aftermarket riser for FS100 required to add enough height, although admittedly I can’t find a simple one that is even that “cheap.”

4k: What's it Good For?

The FS700 is touted as a 4k-ready camera but this isn’t relevant for current-day webcasting, nor is the 4k even ready until Sony releases a new proprietary external recorder and accompanying firmware update. My concerns going in were that the FS700 might be noisier than the FS100 because both share the same-size sensor but the FS100 has larger photo receptors than the FS700, by sheer fact that the FS700 has a higher resolution. I was not able to discern a difference between the two cameras in terms of grain.

Value of 4k almost-ready camera: If you need 4k, then it alone will justify the upgrade to the FS700 (barring new entries). But if you don’t need 4k--and I count myself and all current webcast producers in that group--then it has no value to you.

How Slo-mo Can You Go?

The slo-mo on the FS700 is what everyone else is talking about. Yes, it is fun to be able to see something at 1/10 the normal speed--240 fps in 24p--or slower in lower resolutions, but I really don’t think this feature will be a money-maker for me like the next feature, although I did shoot some slow-motion footage of my son Andrew getting soaked and a bumblebee in flight. 

Perceived value: None to me in a live webcasting application, but still a cool feature. For others, this feature alone will be worth the entire upgrade price.

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