While 4K is certainly not for everyone – it’s a bear to work with, manage, and store – it is true nonetheless that 4K capture produces superior HD images: the additional fineness and reduced noise contributes to much better HD than originating in HD in the first place
It goes without saying the FS700 performs very well for the money. Unlike other manufacturers’ approaches to RAW recording the updated FS700RH only mildly constrains the signal emanating from the sensor. At 4K the camera’s images have a pleasing organic look that can be adjusted and finessed during grading almost without limitation. In pro-level cameras the SDI output is typically 10-bit but in RAW mode the FS700 outputs a 12-bit proprietary signal via 3G-SDI. Sony has not permitted third parties like Convergent Design to capture the 4K raw signal (they can only capture the 12 bit raw signal at 2K or HD). For 4K raw, shooters must use Sony’s 4K recorder and interface - the AXS-R5 coupled to thec
Aside from the storage and many workflow challenges the real drawback to 4K image capture in my opinion is the need for suitable high-quality optics; satisfactorily capturing high res images in 4K demands the highest performance (i.e. expensive) lenses to offset the increased visibility of hitherto concealed optical defects. The use of some vintage SLR lenses in particular, especially at or nearly wide open, may produce images that lack good contrast and punch. Remember: 4K cameras do not necessarily 4K pictures make!
The operational aspects of any camera must be considered as well, and this is where the FS700’s shortcomings, owing mostly to its low price, become most apparent. The flimsy remote plug is a case in point. So is the clip-on viewfinder that offers little functionality, and a maddening LCD screen that does not fully articulate in all directions and is thus a real chore to work with. Same story for the bevy of menu and control buttons on the operator side of the camera, making them inaccessible to a harried camera assistant. These are real drawbacks from an operational perspective.
The FS700 2K and 4K configuration requires outputting the RAW signal through a BNC cable that is prone to physical stress and damage when subject to the rigours of a typical production. We know too well that cables and connectors are a leading cause of failure in the field. Recall how camera systems became much more reliable years ago with the advent of on-board batteries for example. The R5 recorder and interface may be mounted on the rear camera rails but this is not really practical owing to the clumsiness of the extended configuration and a noisy fan that effectively precludes placing the recorder anywhere near the set. Sony reports that a quieter replacement fan is in the offing along with updated firmware that will automatically disable the fan during recording in the style of the F5 and F55 models.
FS700 shooters should confirm their camera’s firmware is up to date – v3.0, as of this writing - and v1.2 for the recorder interface.