MissingPiece

Sony Professional USA and Europe have begun teasing the launch of a new FS-series camcorder, creating the hashtag #MissingPiece to suggest that something’s coming to their line-up between the NEX-FS700 and PXW-FS7, as seen in their meme above. It wasn’t a sure clue, but leading up to that, their big price break on the FS700 was timed to match. The continued value of that workhorse raises some interesting issues about what this missing piece should be after all. (I leave it to that Dutch panhandling rumor site, which shall remain nameless, to speculate…and then beg for clicks to pay for dinner as always.)

Click here to register directly with Sony for an update on the launch
Click here to register directly with Sony for an update on the launch
Serious filmmakers are still making use of the NEX-FS700 with great results. It added the in-body ND filters that Sony had claimed were impossible on the NEX-FS100, and its purpose-built Super 35mm sensor has big photosites for low-light sensitivity rivaled only by their a7S that’s arguably not a viable option for many professional applications (basically, the a7’s have the form factor of a point-and-shoot purse cam). My line in the sand, for example, is balanced XLR audio inputs: anything without that is in B-camera territory! The AVCHD internal codec’s not great, though, recording 8-bit 4:2:0 color at a low bitrate that grades poorly. It’s basically the same as the FS100, which remains my sentimental favorite, still a central part of my kit. So the first thing we could expect from the #MissingPiece is XAVC.

But we’ve got that in the PXW-FS7, upgraded to 4K internal recording at 10-bit 4:2:2 color, with a better form factor for shoulder-mounted shooting. At $8,000 USD, though, it’s pretty cost-prohibitive to a certain kind of shooter who’s not writing off expenses, or renting, or sending their bill up to deeper pockets. And it’s getting “old” in this light-speed tech niche.

It also doesn’t have a full-frame sensor. And that’s where I’m going with this: there’s no disputing by now that the a7R II is a full-frame 4K wonder (despite its form factor), but it has a massive product defect: it overheats. (More on that soon here, as I’ve been shooting with it for a few weeks.) All eyes are on the dream of a video-focused a7S II, but the chip fabrication evolution that’s necessary for heat reduction, within the original a7S form factor, is probably a product cycle or two away (kind of like the tick-tock of Intel microprocessor development). Bottom line, the only way to get that ideal real-world combination of shooting features without overheating — in-body image stabilization while actually moving around (not just shooting a locked-down static shot of a potted cactus), plus heavy number crunching for XAVC 4K compression on actual kinetic footage — Sony needs a bigger form factor with proper heat management for full-frame 4K. Their CineAlta line doesn’t have it yet, but will the FS line get it first? If Sony plays things right, that’s the #MissingPiece. We’ll find out in exactly one week.