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Sony NXCAM NEX-FS700 CineAlta
4K EXMOR sensor with SDI, slow-motion recording.


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Old May 29th, 2015, 10:29 AM   #1
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FS700 - new life as an ENG

Yes I know the FS7 is the new camera on the block but I don't care. As of last week I love my old camera like it's new again. Why? Because finally my journey toward using the FS700 as a proper ENG camera has ended, with great success. I have shot with this camera for three years now, and never has my footage looked this good. The camera feels nice and heavy, it's balanced, my shots are focused where I want, they're exposed how I want, I'm shooting beautifully gradable 4K footage through my Odyssey7Q, both units record from the same button, I can see it all perfectly though a properly adjustable diopter in a great new EVF, and it's all happening right up there on my shoulder.

I had to jump through a few hoops to get all this working together. Zacuto's new sliding shoulder camera mount helps not only in getting the FS700 on your shoulder, but also balancing it - which is a key difference to the rigs I have used in the past. But you can't just bolt it onto the FS700, even though I was told you could. The lens mount on the FS700 is very close to the bottom of the camera. This creates problems when you slide the FS as far back as you need to in order to balance it. I had to fabricate a 1/2" riser plate which I mounted to the camera's base, then I mounted Zacuto's sliding shoulder mount to that. This allows you to mount lenses and adjust the height of the rails properly. The Gratical HD is pretty new, I experienced a few issues with a unit or two but kudos to Zacuto, they are extremely prompt, generous, and supportive in resolving issues. I just used the new EVF successfully for two weeks out on the water, shooting from the deck of 21' clam boats. Remarkably steady shots all from my shoulder, sometimes in decent winds, often times while motoring at 5 to 15 knots. I never could do this with any configuration I ran the FS700 before. This water project is a year in the making now, four trips total, always shooting from boats. I went through most of my footage last night and there is a great difference in focus, exposure, and stability in this most recent shoot compared to any and all shoots previous to this setup.

It was expensive, adding the EVF, the shoulder mount, and a few other necessary bits to my old kit but I honestly feel like I have a new camera now. More than that actually, I feel like I have a new style of shooting. I used to shoot with a proper ENG style camera years ago but then I switched to Sony's EX3s, which eventually led me to the FS700. Ever since then, and especially with the FS700, it's been so much harder to be mobile. I never recognized it as such in the past, but looking back since just a few weeks now I feel like someone just untied my legs and hands. I'm free again. I'm quick. And I'm more accurate than I've ever been. That's a remarkable pairing for me.

I am not the gear reviewing type but I will say this - the Gratical HD really does create differences for me. My focus is more accurate, and it's so much quicker. I expose more accurately than when I used my Odyssey7Q to expose. And finally I can move with a camera on my shoulder again. That is everything to me.
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Old May 30th, 2015, 04:08 AM   #2
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

I'm looking into the new SmallHD EVF to create a similar type rig for handheld. Gratical is just way too expensive for me. Do you have some pics of your rig?
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Old June 1st, 2015, 05:57 PM   #3
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

Sorry for the slow reply Sami, I'm just back from a long weekend being really fast.

I just looked and unfortunately the only shots taken of the rig were from the rear, when it was on my shoulder. I'll build it tonight and take some more revealing shots. One thing you can tell from these is the follow focus is mounted to the right side of the camera. Weird I know, but without purposefully adding weight to the back of the camera you really have to slide the FS700 rearward to balance it on your shoulder. This can put the lens pretty close to your chin so I turned my follow focus around and went from the right side instead. It is doable, shooting this way, but mounting the Odyssey on one side of the camera put more weight on the grip of my right hand, so reaching up to focus took extra effort with my left grip first. Not really ideal. I should put the Odyssey in the back instead. Only reason I had it on one side is so I could glance up to my right and confirm it was recording/had space on the cards/had battery life left.
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Old June 1st, 2015, 06:15 PM   #4
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

Yes, definitely the best set-up I've had so far is when the O7Q was mounted to the back. It pretty much balances the rig spot on.

I find it's really difficult to turn on the rec though and indeed you can't really tell if the O7Q starts recording.

I'm hoping to get a really small EVF and just found out that the Blackmagic Design EVF for URSA might work on other cameras too. So will try that out when it comes out.
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Old June 1st, 2015, 06:19 PM   #5
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

While I'm at it maybe I'll add some other things I recently learned building this rig:

1 - Better way to mount your Odyssey7Q. Rather than spinning the 1/4 x 20 threaded ends of the articulated arms into the sliding Zacuto base plate, or a cheese plate, or whatever you are using, I discovered (late of course, because I am slow) that you can buy short 15mm threaded "rods" with female 1/4 x 20 centered holes in them. This way rather than a bolt on either end of the arm, you have short 15mm rods. I bought a few brackets meant to hold onto 15mm rods, with 1/4 x 20 holes in them - and bolted them to the base plate instead. Now I can quickly mount/dismount the Odyssey using no tools at all, in just a few seconds. No more twirling my monitor around in circles unscrewing it, or loosening the articulated arm so far that it's like a wet noodle in my hands which I then I have to completely re-situate when I want to install it again. Much easier this way.

2 - not all articulate arms are alike... With all this money I spent getting the FS700 on my shoulder, adding more and more pieces really started pissing me off so I scoured the web finding less expensive everythings. I did find cheaper articulated arms, from a major online camera supplier that we all buy from, and used them on this recent shoot - right next to the more expensive arm that I've had for years. The cheap one didn't hold very well. I found myself tightening it, re-tightening it, and then re-tightening it again. I did this enough apparently to break it. So it didn't hold well when it was perfect, and it didn't hold at all once it broke. It was pretty cheap though, I think about $40. You get what you pay for I guess.
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Old June 1st, 2015, 06:38 PM   #6
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sami Sanpakkila View Post
Yes, definitely the best set-up I've had so far is when the O7Q was mounted to the back. It pretty much balances the rig spot on.

I find it's really difficult to turn on the rec though and indeed you can't really tell if the O7Q starts recording.

I'm hoping to get a really small EVF and just found out that the Blackmagic Design EVF for URSA might work on other cameras too. So will try that out when it comes out.
I have not tried the SmallHD EVF. In fact I haven't tried any EVF other than the GraticalHD. I have wanted to, forever it seems, and I've spent days and days researching them at different times over the years but none really sparked my interest like this one. It wasn't the videos of dropping it off a ladder or running it over with a car and it still works. I do neither of those. It was having all the same great monitoring options that the O7Q does, but in a manner where I could see the screen just inches from my face. And to be able to focus, accurately, by a really sharp image... I've never been able to see clearly that close, so an EVF with a great diopter was key for me.

There is a long red line that runs across the bottom of the GraticalHD screen, to show when you are recording, and the signal I sent it was indeed coming from the O7Q, however I do not know for sure which this GraticalHD line is referring to - the camera or the monitor. I'll do a test tonight when I build it again because you are right, turning around to confirm you are recording is not a great strategy.
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Old June 11th, 2015, 11:25 AM   #7
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

The Zacuto Gratical is a fortune, but I would much rather clearly see what I am doing with a modest camera than squint through the best one ever made. Cant bring myself to order one without looking through it first, but I am going to NY next month so I will stop by B&H for a peak.

FYI, the Zacuto Z Drive is amazing, it moves the control forward and down and has the option of the extended handle but one thing they don't mention much is that it has fluid drag so pulling focus on modern AF lenses that have zero throw is much much easier
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Old June 11th, 2015, 02:15 PM   #8
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

You are killing me with the z-drive, Ray. It's been next on my list for a while now. Using my follow focus on the right side of the camera is not getting easier like I had hoped it would.

I like your idea of mounting the the trigger on the handle. I've been thinking about doing this as well because reaching back to hit record is just stupid.

Do you use an external recorder when you shoot from your shoulder?
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Old June 16th, 2015, 07:15 PM   #9
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

I really like the Z Drive, having the fluid dampening, has made my Nikon AFS lenses that I could not use because the slightest twitch of the focus ring was several feet easy to use now. I shoot from tripods pretty often so flipping it around to point back has also been a nice bonus for my wrist


The grip re locator works and is solid but $150 bucks is pretty steep, I was buying the follow focus and some other bits I actually needed and just went for it. probably could just stick a cheap small LANC start/stop switch on the handles you have


The only recorders I used are the Atmos Ninja because someone wanted ProRes same day (I just wedged it between the cheese and the camera) and the CD Odyssey 7 (mounted it to a tripod with a big magic arm)

I am toying with the idea of buying an Odyssy (or Shogun) but can't see using its screen when its on my shoulder so I would still need the EVF and that seems pretty unruly and I would mind selling my EVF to cover some of the cost
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Old July 12th, 2015, 06:18 AM   #10
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

Hi Eric
I totally agree with your sentiments. When the FS700 is properly setup it can be a very good ENG style system and produce amazing images with great flexibility in fps and formats on the 7q. With that in mind I set up this rig about 10 months ago and have been using it ever since.

I shoot documentary for broadcasters in the UK. I shoot sync and wildlife from macro and studio setups to field natural history on long lenses.

I wanted the body to feel like 'one camera' not a camera body with a recorder separate. As I mostly use an EVF the monitor becomes great for a director to keep an eye when he/she wants to. It also makes it very balanced. Balancing out the evf on the other side. Finally it's all powered from a single power source and the vlock balances it back to front.

I have had reliability issue with the 7q however I hope this can be resolved. Once it has this rig in my mind is as good as an F55, maybe better in some ways!

What I'd really love on the 7q.

- A cache / pre roll. Especially for the anticipated RAW>240 fps mode but for normal frame rates it would be very useful.
- A battery meter. If the 7Q could tell you when the battery its attached to is going to give up the ghost it would be a great feature.
- Full reliability.

With that in place this would be better 'for me' than anything else on the market at the moment.

Cheers
Mat
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Last edited by Mat Thompson; July 12th, 2015 at 02:05 PM.
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Old July 15th, 2015, 11:13 AM   #11
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Re: FS700 - new life as an ENG

Wow Mat, I have cables envy now. Please tell me the name of those right angle SDI cables.

And it figures, right? Just a few months after I take the plunge on the "too expensive for me but I ordered it anyway" Gatical HD, ....Zacuto release a new version of the exact same EVF at almost half the price.

Regrettably I do agree with the idea of mounting one battery out back, but I am not there yet. I bought my FS700 used a few years ago and it came with eight Sony batteries, which I do like very much because they last so long. However your setup makes better sense - balancing the EVF on the left side with the Odyssey on the right side (battery-less), would be better I agree. Plus with more weight out back I could access the lens easier, farther forward and away from my chin.

I am surprised to hear that you have had reliability issues with your O7Q. Of all my gear the only piece more reliable has been the FS700. My O7Q only stumbled one time - of course during the most important interview I have ever shot, which I will ever only get/got one chance to capture. When I told Convergent Design about the sudden missing footage that the O7Q apparently ate for brunch that day, they asked me to send the drives to them so they could recover the footage. Which they did. Then they included a fix for what caused my issue in their next firmware upgrade. Hopefully the new firmware version this week resolves your reliability issues.

Good job on your setup. I have to say, again, that getting the FS700 up on my shoulder with a good EVF and the O7Q has been remarkable for me. Very much like, or even better than buying a new camera. I am happier with my FS700 now than I ever have been.
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