Sony FS7 Super 35 Cinema Camera
From a Canon Vixia camcorder, to several Canon DSLRs, to this, the new Sony FS7 Super 35 camera. What am I getting myself into?

With the versatile, high performing Sony FS7 Super 35 cinema camera there has never been a better time to make the jump from DSLR to pro level gear.

I’ve been shooting on DSLR since I moved from a Vixia Camcorder to the (spectacular and still spectacular, especially with magic lantern firmware) Canon EOS T2i. After much deliberation–endless amounts of research–we’ve made the decision to go “Super 35.”

But I’ll get this out of the way right up-front: no question, equipment is not the most important thing when it comes to producing videos (or movies, or music videos, or anything that intends to inform, entertain).

There’s so much more that we know is critical. From lighting and composition to the most important thing of all: story-telling. Ugh, my weak spot – okay one of my weak spots.

So while I get excited thinking about the prospects of shooting in higher resolutions, such as 4K, and having higher bit-rates in the resulting files, and all that great stuff that’s coming out of this new generation of camera gear, I constantly remind myself that I really should be working on getting better on the basics. For me, that means practice, practice, practice. Unfortunately putting your stuff out there means that everyone can see your progress (or lack thereof). I cringe when I look at a video we made for Stark Insider a few years ago. And I cringe possibly even more when I watch one made even just last week. There’s so many non gear-related things that will make the end result better than just having a higher quality sensor: pacing (or “beats” as we hear a lot in theater), composition, mood and atmosphere, a good storyboard, quality voiceover with proper cadence and tone, and on an on. And, yet, forgive me, I’m going to talk about gear for a bit here. Maybe, therapy?

I can make you look like you’re in a film… or at least die trying!

In 2007 the prosumer and pro video markets were vastly different than they are today. Camcorders generally ruled the day on anything less than a full-scale television or film production. That changed dramatically the following year when Canon introduced the now historic 5D Mark II camera. For the first time we could shoot video using a DSLR with interchangeable lenses. It was glorious. You could get “filmic” like results for not a whole lot of money. Canon generally ruled the roost for the following years. Meanwhile I wasn’t quite ready to drop thousands of dollars on gear for Stark Insider, so I put my little toe into the pond and came away with an EOS T2i (2010). I learned. I made many mistakes. Then I learned some more by shooting videos on location–theaters, wineries, concerts–as often as possible. Then it was on to an EOS 60D (2011) and,, finally, the EOS 70D a remarkable camera that I feel is a bit of a sleeper thanks to its stellar dual-pixel auto-focus and subject tracking. And it’s only $1,100 USD for goodness sake.

ALSO SEE: 5 Tips for Shooting Video with the Canon 70D DSLR


In 2014, the peaceful life that Canon was enjoying in the video market was upended. Panasonic released the micro four thirds GH4 which supported 4K resolution. And Sony introduced the full-frame alpha 7s (a7S). Priced at 1,700 and $2,4,98, not only did the prices undercut Canon’s top talk, the 5D Mark III, it even put pressure on some of the camera giant’s upper range products such as the Canon C100 and C300 cine cameras. The GH4 and a7S weren’t just good, they were terrific. Game-changers no question. Many a filmmaker and videographer began to make “the jump,” and move from Canon gear to those of what appears to be the next generation of video cameras coming from the likes of Panasonic and Sony.


Then Sony really upped its game when it announced the FS7 Super 35 camera at IBC in Q3 of last year. For $7,999 you got the world, and then some. It had internal UHD recording, ergonomically pleasing design with built-in handle and arm, the flexible e-mount which made it compatible with lots of lenses (using an adapter), a great LCD and EVF, and, better still for those of us that run-n-gun, it was fairly light and compact.

Sony really upped its game when it announced the FS7 Super 35 camera.

Though the camera is not widely available yet, those who have been fortunate to get early units have, for the most part, heaped on praise. Dive into the forums and you’ll quickly discover that the FS7 is the talk of the town.


But where is Canon’s response?

That’s a common question you’ll find circulating on the web. Canon had the lead, and it seems, is fading, even if only a bit. Sure the Canon C300 is a staple of the indie world, and even broadcast TV, but it coming up on its third birthday. It doesn’t shoot 4K. Does that matter? I think so…


Even though we deliver Stark Insider videos to the web at 1080p I’m quite convinced higher resolutions will become standard, and that will mean eventually everyone will want to watch the better quality videos. Sure, consumers are burnt out. The 3D hype was deafening and expensive. Many upgraded. And, now, just a few years later “they” are expecting us to refresh all over again? You can understand the gadget fatigue. My theory is that 4K (or maybe it will be 5K or 6K) will happen. Eventually. This cycle may take longer. The jump from 1080p to 4K, while significant, I don’t think has the same impact as it did back when we went from 4:3 standard definition to 16:9 high definition. When in the history of television have we ever stopped progressing? Why, all of a sudden, would the march to next generation display technology halt?

But, you’re not planning to shoot in 4K? Right, but it has 4K!

While I won’t shoot 4K it is important for me. If you’ve watched any of my videos you’ll quickly realize these aren’t designed for the big screen. My latest one shot at Treebones in Big Sur has many (many!) issues related to auto-focus hunting, color grading, and audio (voiceover especially). If you call me a charlatan I will not necessarily disagree–but, please, don’t call me a Charlie Nobody. However, 4K matters for a few reasons: (1) even if I ultimately scale down delivery to 1080p I have the option to reframe shots in post; (2) the footage will have more detail; (3) it’s future proofing!


Sony PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 Camera System
Sony PXW-FS7 XDCAM Super 35 Camera System.

That’s why the Sony FS7 speaks to me. It’s expensive, yes. More expensive than any other camera I have ever bought by an order of magnitude. But remember, it’s big brothers, the F5 and F55 used on shows like Anothony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and CNN’s upcoming and gorgeous looking show The Wonder List go for about $17K and 30K respectively. For a small operation like ours, that impossibly rich, even if I can depreciate them as business assets. Since the FS7 utilizes much of that top range technology, the trickle down benefit is huge. Many suggest the sensor between the F5 and FS7 are the same. And if I’m going to spend between $10-15K (with accessories, lenses, and stuff I’ll talk about in future posts) on a camera upgrade, I simply can’t go 1080p knowing that in a few years it  might become the norm, and I’ll be left with a heavily depreciated piece of gear. That’s why I’m surprised Canon has introduced a C300 Mark II with 4K yet – it seems as if Sony has the early jump, at least for now.

Going FS7 and Super 35 means I need a new lens strategy. That’s something I’ve never though of before. Over the course of the past few months, as I debated leaving the Canon fold, I gave that some thought. I even created a spreadsheet with an inventory of my current lenses. And then I thought about the “role” each lens would fulfill.


And the FS7 lens possibilities:


The most expensive lens I currently own is the terrific Sigma 18-35mm Art lens. I can’t use it much, as it doesn’t have stabilization, and since I’m running and gunning most of the time it much time on my 70D. Still, when it does WOW. I’ll be using a metabones adapter so I can still use my Canon glass. I’ll also be buying some native Sony e-mount lenses (though I’ve heard some concerns about their fly-by-wire focus systems), likely flexible telephotos. The significant jump in budget to accommodate better glass has taken some psychological adjustment, and re-framing of the idea of entry level. After all, this is still considered entry level in the professional world.


Loni, my wife, is absolutely exhausted hearing about these things. $8,000!?!!! Yes, but you get 4K, ND filters, and that Super 35 look!!! Look at this test footage! Look at this other test footage! I can make you look like you’re in a film… or at least die trying! But, you’re not planning to shoot in 4K? Right, but it has 4K!! (and oh, I’m thinking more like $13,000…?)

This gorgeous Sony FS7 “test video” is perhaps the ultimate camera review of all-time and illustrates the point ever so poetically:

SONY FS7 TEST by Jon Cole

Sony FS7 Test from Jon Cole on Vimeo.


I’ll also be getting a Sony a7S for Stark Insider videos. I think it’ll be ideal for low light situations and is far more stealthy than my current 70D setup (which has a mount with an LED and XLR shotgun that make it anything but discrete). That filmmaker Philip Bloom is also using the mirrorless little brother to shoot The Wonder List for scenes where the F55 is just too obvious pretty much sealed the deal. When we shot at Treebones (which was a lark – we were on vacation and it was just Loni and I, and not managed with PR as we do on many of our videos for theater, film, wine, etc.).

MORE STARK INSIDER: 5 best lenses for shooting video with a Canon DSLR (with video examples)

When we shot at the sushi bar at Treebones using the 70D (see video below), and the tripod, and the lighting, and the microphones, we probably got a lesser result because everyone was very aware. We shot the video on our second dinner there. On the first night, without the gear, the staff were looser. Also, larger cameras are disruptive to other customers. I don’t like that, and it was tricky to shots without feeling like… like, well, like a Charlie Nobody.

VIDEO: TREEBONES IN BIG SUR (Canon EOS 70D with – blasphemy I know – kit lens)


The FS7 is out of stock currently. So I’ll likely invest in the stealth portion of the setup. That will be the A7s, some batteries, maybe small cheese plate, a native Sony Lens (probably the 24-70mm OSS). We’ll be on location several times over the coming months so I’ll be able to get my feet wet, make mistakes early and often, and hopefully come out feeling alright about everything.

Then again, who knows, if Canon does manage to do something shortly (C300 Mark II with dual pixel auto-focus and 4K for $10K?), I might just need to re-write this, and spend even more time pontificating about gear.

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  • Excellent posting Clinton. I was wondering however wouldn’t it still be a lot less expensive to stick with the DSLR format (like the Sony A7S I know you are picking up) and simply NOT buying the FS7? That’s a lot of cash you can put into lenses, sound gear, gimbals, sliders, lights etc that will make a big impact on your productions.

    There are several DSLR type cameras that can shoot 4K either internally or externally and are much more “covert” than the larger Sony camera which seemed to be your two big criteria. Besides 4K are there features offered by the larger Sony camera that the less expensive DSLR type platforms are not giving you and that I missed?

    Jon Cole’s video was excellent but the exact same shots could have been accomplished with a variety of much less expensive cameras.

    • Thanks Steve. I originally was going to go Blackmagic, then realized maybe not so great for run and gun, low light.

      Then I wanted Super 35 doc camera. That led me to C100 (and Mark II). Then FS7 came out and I was like, only a few thousand more for 4K (just in case!). My worry with solely going a7S is: rolling shutter, no NDs, and XLR requires add-on. Then there’s the fact it’s still not Super 35 – maybe I’m prioritizing this too much.

      I think you make really good point about putting extra money saved into lenses, accessories. I’m definitely giving that thought. I might start with a7S first and see how that goes. Maybe only need one camera after all.

      Also, I am going to wait (yet again) probably until end of Q1 to see if Canon does something (i.e. Canon C300 Mark II?).

      Expression of the day: paralysis analysis. :)

      • Hey Clinton – Glad I found your blog.

        Regarding ND specifically I would go with a Vari ND style screw on ND filter that will give you about 8 stops of light reduction – easy breezy and what I actually use.

        Give yourself a few weeks to really play with the Sony A7S and I have a feeling you will be more than satisfied despite still having to work on a dual audio setup to give you XLR and maybe headphone monitoring (does the A7S have a headphone jack?)

        Dave Dugdale has recently released a very comprehensive review of the A7S and even did an in-depth comparison with the Panasonic GH4 which is in a very similar class.

        In the DSLR video space I think the old line manufacturers like Canon (in particular) have really got themselves into a real mess. We as consumers now see for ourselves what full frame DSLRs are actually capable of, hardware and software wise, when corporate marketing gets out of the way.

        Add that to the fact that Magic Lantern has exposed for all to see just how many artificial functional barriers Canon has built into their DSLRs solely for protecting their higher end video camera lines.

        Dave Dugdale who championed Canon DSLRs for years is selling all his Canon gear for Sony I believe.

        Then you have Panasonic and Sony providing 4K at DSLR prices and one is left with the question – exactly WHY are we paying so much for the traditional videocamera bodies when the same features and benefits are available at much lower price points?

        Where is the value?

        I haven’t done an exact price calculation but I bet you could add a nice rig, an external audio recorder like the new Zoom H6, matte box, follow focus, external power source, monitor and/or 4K video recorder and also throw in electronic viewfinder and still come out far far ahead price wise over the Kings ransom they are trying to extract from us.

        Also have you thought about buying TWO A7s’? How cool would it be to be able to shoot dual camera setups at once…or maybe the GH4 could be your “B” (and backup) camera. Lots of peace of mind too having two camera bodies.

        Of course, Canon and all the rest have the right to charge whatever they want. What they have lost is simply the ability to do so under the cover of darkness and confusion…consumers now see all the shenanigans and can make informed choices like never before.

        • Thanks Steve, great tip re vari ND, I’ll give that a go!

          I watched Dave’s (really) in-depth a7S review and I suspect if I do go down Sony path I will start with this before the FS7. If add the XLR module, some rails, etc. could be a great setup. And, yes, if I strike off FS7 then there’s room to buy second FS7, more accessories. BTW- I have Zoom H6 (and some H1s) and absolutely love it. Great for getting audio direct from mixing board at concerts, and also for voiceovers.

  • Abdul

    Enjoyed the article. There is a possibility of a Sony a7s II being announced this year. If that does happen, it will likely include internal 4K and based on the recently released Sony a7 II, it will likely include a 5-axes image stabilization system. I am currently holding off from purchasing the Sony FS7 to see if this happens. If it does, I think I might just stick with DSLRs.

    • The 5-axis stabilization in the a7 II looks pretty sweet. Would love that in next a7S – able to use any lens and have stabilization. Magic!

  • Good points Steve, I’m at a very similar crossroads myself. I’m wondering why you aren’t sticking with the Canon lenses and the metabones adaptor? Which I was intending to do. The only potential drawback I wanted to look into was vigentting at wide angles, or if it takes out a stop or two of light?