Got to spend only an hour or so with the Sony NEX-FS100U yesterday, thanks to our friends at Expandore. So this isn’t a full review, just a quick look I got in between meetings. My first impressions are actually pretty favorable. If you’ve used an EX-1 or EX-3, this functions pretty much the same, and there will be no real learning curve.
First off, the construction of the camera was actually very good. Sure it was no Arri or Leica like tank, but it felt exactly the same as our EX-1’s in terms of build, solid and serviceable. So if you’re happy with the construction of those cameras, you’ll be happy with the FS100U.
The LCD was nice, and crisp, and can be placed for any viewing angle except under the camera. The included viewfinder was a bit ungainly, but worked well once it was set and locked, in case you’re out in the bright sunshine.
The included Sony e-mount lens is a bit of a dog, slow, sticky, and a real step back if you’re used to the excellent Fujinon lenses of the EX series. However the whole point of this camera is that you can put any lens you like on it, so grab your favorite lens and get an e-mount adapter. Because of the myriad of still photo lenses that will be attached to this camera, some of which don’t have iris control on the barrels, Sony has included an iris control on the camera body itself, separate from the lens. This allows you to use auto-exposure, and manual exposure on any lens even if it lacks an exposure ring. Unfortunately we didn’t have a PL mount to E-mount adapter to try our Ultra Primes on, but I imagine getting good glass on the front makes a world of difference.
The FS100 we had was the PAL unit, so it did all the 50 fps frame rates, but not 24p, or any of the NTSC rates. I had hoped that in this day and age, making a worldwide camera would be a given, but evidently this is still considered a luxury option. It’s especially hard on Southeast Asian filmakers, where some countries are NTSC, and some are PAL, all within the same time-zone, so this is a large drawback for us.
The FS100 uses a super 35mm sized CMOS sensor, that gives it the same depth of field and lens options as a 35mm film camera. However with the relatively slow lens that came with the kit, I didn’t have a chance to see just how shallow you could get it.
This camcorder was the first one I’ve shot in that can shoot 1080p50. It ups the compression bandwidth from 24Mb/s to 28Mb/s, and I thought it looked quite good. But I’ve always been a fan of great temporal resolution, and don’t think the words “video look”, are a pejorative.
It records of course, in AVCHD which makes it a bitch for post production to handle, requiring a lengthy transcode process to edit with. This transcoding makes it just about as efficient as digitizing tape, which is one of the key benefits of the tapeless workflow was supposed to get rid of. I suppose that editing software will catch up eventually (Adobe already has), but seriously it’s been 5 years at least, and we’re still transcoding AVCHD. The FS100U does have an HDMI out if you want to record natively into a better acquisition codec, which I would recommend.
A nice option for archiving is that you can plugin specific Sony Blu-Ray and DVD players into the camcorder directly, and do a backup without a computer. Not a fast solution, but I applaud any company who is considers archiving workflows in their products.
Again, these are first impressions on having the Sony NEX FS-100U in house for about an hour. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I shot off some footage in a few different modes for you to download and see for yourself. They are in .MTS format straight off the camera, and you will need VLC to view them.