Sony PXW-FS5 II Camcorder Review

Sony has announced the latest member of its professional Super 35mm lineup, the FS5 II. Similar in looks and functionality to its predecessor, the upgrades to the FS5 II are mostly features that were available to its predecessor through paid updates-only now they’re ‘free’.

Inside, the Super 35 Exmor CMOS sensor remains untouched. Likewise, the E-mount body of the camera continues to be identical aside from the updated nameplate and a different color neutral density dial. Where the digital camera gets the biggest changes is in its colour science, Raw shooting modes, and high frame rate functionality.

The stand-out feature of the FS5 II is the updated color science that’s gone into it. Sony says it’s taken everything it’s learned from developing the 6K Venice camera and brought it into the much more compact (and affordable) FS5 II. The changes are said to yield ‘rich mid-range colours, alluring facial tones, and a softer tonal look’. Also added are usually nine color profiles, including a few designed specifically for S-Log2 and S-Log3.

Sony’s new Large Format Sensor lineup is expanding with the introduction of the FS5 II (Body: PXW-FS5M2, Lens Kit: PXW-FS5M2K). Complete with stunning 4096 x 2160 4K HDR and 120fps performance at 60Hz mode (and 100fps at 50Hz mode), as well as RAW capabilities, the new Super 35 mm camcorder marries outstanding image quality with an ergonomic modular frame, offering content creators ultimate creative flexibility.

Specifications

  • Weight
    Approx. 830 g (body only)
  • Recording Format
    (Video)XAVC QFHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
    4:2:0 Long profile
    XAVC HD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
    4:2:2 Long profile
    AVCHD: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
    AVCHD 2.0 format compatible
  • Imaging Device (Type)
    “Exmor” Super35 CMOS Sensor
  • Effective Picture Elements
    3840 (H) x 2160 (V) (16:9)
    4096 (H) x 2160 (V) (17:9, at RAW output)
  • Built-in Optical Filters
    ND filters
    OFF: CLEAR
    1: 1/4ND
    2: 1/16ND
    3: 1/64ND
    Linear variable ND
    (1/4ND to 1/128ND)
  • ISO Sensitivity
    S-Log2/Log3 Gamma ISO2000

Sony PXW-FS5 II: Price

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In addition to S-Log 2/3, the FS5 II offers Instant HDR Workflow to produce HDR content material, when shooting in HLG/BT.2020 mode, for quick post-production without the need for grading.

The FS5 II interchangeable lens, E-mount camcorder offers flexibility for applications including web commercials, music video production, dramas, corporate and event videography and documentaries.

Designed to meet the requirements of today’s content creators, the FS5 II features an all-new look with a refined picture tone to capture natural highlights, subtle, alluring and well rendered facial tones and the softer tonal appear, for capturing lifelike portrayals. Using the accumulated expertise of Sony’s digital cinematography camera VENICE, the FS5 II promises a fresh and vivid look while still retaining plenty of creative options in post-production, as a result of its high performance 4K Super 35 Exmor® CMOS sensor.

Takuro Ema, product manager for Sony Professional Solutions Americas explains, “When Sony develops new digital camera technologies we gather feedback from all ends of the production chain – from DOPs to post production professionals. This camera was no exception. We’ve evolved and developed our hugely popular FS5 with default shooting abilities and the FS5 II is now a powerful addition to the Big Format Sensor line-up which guarantees even more flexibility and innovative choices.”

The FS5 II builds on Sony’s heritage for image quality, delivering stunning High Frame rate shots supporting four seconds of 120fps in 4K and continuous 240fps at 60Hz mode and 200fps at 50Hz mode in 2K (2048X1080) RAW output when used in conjunction with a compatible external recorder. Continuous 4K 60fps Natural output at 59.94p is fully supported, with 50fps supported at 50Hz mode.

The camcorder also offers High Frame Rate (HFR) recording to an internal SD card at Full HD 10bit 4:2:2 image quality and a frame rate of up to 240 fps of 8-second cache recording, allowing up to 10 x slow motion and capturing 239.76fps at HD or 2K, and playback in 23.98p. Continuous recording of 120fps in Full HD is also supported.

With an Instant HDR Workflow users can now reduce time in post-manufacturing and produce high-quality HDR content quickly with no need of grading. For productions of longer lead-times, S-Log 2/3 allows the HDR image to be fine-tuned via color grading.

Lightweight but robust, theFS5 II’s well balanced 0.8kg body, adaptability and creative features make it a perfect fit for movie shooting, while its modular design makes it easy to reconfigure for any application including mounting on a gimbal or drone. Sony’s unique Electronic Variable ND filter with Auto ND function covers a wide range of exposure adjustment, and also creating a wide range of shallow Depth of Field control.

Now with ten Picture Profile settings, the FS5 II allows users to instantly and easily configure the camera for different shooting styles, such as cinematic and online content creation.

Sony PXW-FS5 II: Performance

The camera is about the size of a grapefruit, and the body only weighs 1.8 pounds. Depending on the lens you use, the full setup can easily stay under 3 pounds. For on the go shooters like documentarians, wedding and event videographers and news gathers, the FS5 II is a lightweight choice. For our review, we shot mostly on the Sony G-Master 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens. The Super 35 sensor offers a 1.5 times crop factor, giving the 24-70mm lens an effective focal length of 35-105mm. We didn’t need anything too wide, so this zoom lens worked well. For wider shooting, the 16-35mm F.2.8 G-Master lens would work well. Sigma offers Sony E mount zooms for those who are on a budget but still want high quality.

The grip and the monitor make the camera easy to operate if you have to shoot at low or high angles. Because it’s light enough, neither angle is a chore to shoot. The ND makes keeping the shallow depth of field in higher lighting situations a cinch. The quick switches for ISO and white balance make going in and out of different lighting situations easy.

Any time we needed to use the menu it was fast and responsive. Even when changing resolutions and formats, the restart of the camera was fast. Everything about this camera is quick, meaning it’s ready for just about any shooting situation its thrown in to.

The FS5 II has great slow-motion frame rates with the option to shoot up to 960 frames per second internally. If you need higher frame rates than that, you’ll need a specialty camera. The only catch is that frame rates higher than 60 fps have lower and lower quality up to 960fps. Also, those high framework prices have a limited record time, though many things you want to capture in high body rates only last a few seconds anyway. With the end trigger recording, you can tell the digital camera when to end the chance and it will record the few seconds before that. We were not impressed with the quality of the video shot at any of the higher frame rates. Although it is possible to catch at that high of frame rate, the video quality is junk, so you better want the slow-mo more than you need a good looking picture.

Low-light Performance

Like we do with every camera that comes through the Videomaker Labs, we tested the FS5 II’s low light performance, rolling shutter effect and moiré. Starting at the lowest ISO and ramping up to the highest, while adjusting the shutter speed to compensate, we look for where noise is introduced in the picture. This will allow you to understand what kind of low lighting performance the camera offers. When not shooting log, the base ISO is 800. By doubling the ISO, we are able to see the performance at every stop. The FS5 II has visible noise from the get-go, but it’s not distracting if you’re not looking for it. Each stop offers a bit more noise until you get to ISO 3,200, where it starts to be noticeable. By ISO 6,400, the full picture has sound. At ISO 12,800, the size of the noise gets larger. The digital camera can go up to ISO 32,000, and even though there is significant sound at that level, the image integrity is still there and the colors are still true.

Panning the camera from left to right shows if vertical lines bend from the rolling shutter. Starting with slow pans going up to whip pans, the digital camera offers some rolling shutter but not enough to be concerned about. To test the moiré of the camera, we shot our DSC Sine Chart. The camera does not offer any moiré issues. All fine lines are still and look good.

Sony PXW-FS5 II: Price

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Sony PXW-FS5 II: Verdict

The Sony FS5 II has so many great qualities, including its price. We love the electronic ND filter and are impressed by the video quality captured externally. The internal capture was good, too, but video captured externally was exceptional. With 14 stops of dynamic range, we were very amazed in the detail and tonal reproduction of the camera. The camera is impressive, and for shooters who need their tools light and ready for anything, the Sony FS5 II is a camera that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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