Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

Sony FS5 MR

Only today I got another phone call from a disgruntled FS5 user complaining about its noisy picture. Part of the problem is caused by Sony themselves by not producing an E mount servo zoom lens fit for purpose. The other problem is the cameras style…it looks like a cut down FS7 and users are expecting the noise figures of the FS7 in the FS5 body.

A company looking to film 4K part exchanged their Canon C100 and are now regretting this deal as they claim their FS5 is noisy compared to their C100. These complaints are a small drop in the ocean compared to some forums on the internet.

The “kit” lens for the FS5 is an older Sony G lens the 18-105 f4, 6x servo zoom. This lens came out about August 2014 mainly to accommodate the likes of the FS700 but at f4 this lens is seriously lacking “F” stops compared to other lenses on the market.

G lens

The kit lens does come with some advantages…

  1. Its a constant aperture lens at f4
  2. 6x servo zoom
  3. Holds its focus throughout the zoom range
  4. Sony have updated the autofocus in the FS5 giving you face detection which works extremely well

Starting at f4 gives this camera a serious disadvantage indoors as it promotes the use of extra gain or the need for extra lighting.

Sigma lens side

People are telling me they are disappointed with the FS5s low light capabilities, now thats not surprising if you are stuck with the kit lens but add a Metabones adaptor and a Sigma 18-35mm ART manual zoom f1.8 Canon fit lens and things are a lot brighter.

FS% side UD

The Sigma covers a lot of bases apart from the tight end even with the s35mm sensors 1.5x crop factor, the field of view (35mm) is 27 x 52.5mm but with “Clear Image Zoom” you get a further 2x digital magnification so your 52.5mm becomes 105mm giving you the same throw as the kit lens but with one major advantage…f1.8 rather than f4.

One disadvantage of the Sigma is it does not hold focus from 18-35 but as its a photographic lens this is not a surprise.

To be fair the Sony FS5 will happily go up to 9dBs with little to no noise in the picture and further if needed but you have to be aware of the limitations, Sony have deliberately not given us a cut down FS7 for obvious reasons, compared to a Canon C100 once again they perform in their own unique ways and you don’t get 4K with a C100.

I keep pointing out the obvious but most cameras are noisy beyond 9dBs, I use 0dBs as much as possible because the camera produces the best pictures at 0dB/1000 ISO. I don’t bother with ISO as its the same thing but far more confusing.

Conclusion : I think some people think they are avoiding the cost of buying an FS7 by buying an FS5, while FS7 owners like myself have no expectations, they know they are buying a “B” camera and treat it as such.

I use the FS5 as a “B” camera or run and gun as the FS7 is quite heavy to hold compared to the FS5. There is a lot of sexy footage out there using the FS5 but I hark back to the demo footage produced by Den Lennie for Sony, …its a very capable camera in the right hands.

Sony PXW-FS5 Launch film “Free Spirit” from Den Lennie on Vimeo.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

9 thoughts on “Sonys FS5 with mixed reactions…”its a very capable camera in the right hands”

  1. Thanks Philip for speaking about this and being part of the FS5 controversy. I think it’s a good service to FS5 shooters and people planning on getting an FS5. (like me)

    Your post raises some questions:

    1.) The FS7 and FS5 share the same sensor and “should” have the same signal to noise ratio at the raw data collection stage. Does the FS7 truly have better overall noise performance than its cheaper FS5 cousin?

    2.) If the FS7 does have better noise performance, why? Is it because it has “better processing”? If so, what “processing” is the FS5 missing that the FS7 has? Does the FS5 have noise reduction processing that is inferior to the FS7?

    3.) Is it possible that the FS5 is “intentionally” the way that it is today to protect the FS7? Is it possible that Sony has reduced the FS5 noise handling for “business reasons”? Yes,…this certainly well within their right to do if they choose to do so. (I’m speaking strictly 8bit for 8bit performance)

    Yes,..I’m just talking out of my rear end here and just throwing guesses into the air. I know this can be a very “emotional” topic for some people on the web.

    Philip, can you do a side by side noise test between the FS5 and FS7 with similar picture profiles? ALLOT of people out here would LOVE to see a real A/B side by side concerning noise performance. That should be a very popular video if you make it.

    I think many people want to see the real 8bit performance difference between these two cameras that share the same image sensor.

    If the two models are significantly different, that would appear as fishy marketing plan to me.

    HDW : Answers 1. Sony told me the F5, FS7 and FS5 all share the same s35mm sensor but not the same electronics. 2. Dont understand this one either Sony are not known for downgrading picture quality. 3. I have no doubt, the FS7 is a big time seller and Sony don’t want to affect sales. Remember the FS5 is 10bit 422 in full HD and at 0dB you can’t tell them apart.

    No fishy marketing, people keep comparing FS7 and FS5 and at 0dB on Full HD they are the same.

  2. While the Sony 18-105mm is not a lens of stellar performance, unless I’m mistaken, there is no other lens in the 18-100mm category that is faster than the Sony lens. There are many f3.5-f5.6 lenses in this class, but at a constant f4 it is on par with all of the competition, unless you go to mega bucks cine zooms. So which lens should Sony be putting on this camera?

    The FS5 does not have a 1.5x crop mode. It has a 2x crop mode, but only in HD, so crop mode rules out 4K. Furthermore while in HD you can use clear image zoom on top of crop mode, I really, really wouldn’t recommend it as the image noticeably degrades if you combine crop mode and clear image zoom. So the notion that an 18-35mm lens can somehow act as a 18-105mm lens really is quite ridiculous, for a start you can’t simply zoom from 18 to 105mm, you have to switch in and out of crop mode.
    What’s really impressive is that you can use clear image zoom in HD to turn the 18-105 into what is effectively and 18-210mm servo zoom (in 4K it becomes a 18-157mm), almost 12x, with constant aperture and reasonable parfocal performance. You are getting very close then to the kind of zoom ratios we are used to with broadcast handycams like the PMW-200. Even Canon’s CN7x17 lens which costs £25k is only T2.9-T3.9 so barely any faster than the f4 of the Sony lens.

    When will people understand that big zoom ratios, large apertures and affordability for s35 just don’t mix.

    How many people would actually be happy if the kit lens on a camera designed for grab and go style shooting was just a 2x zoom?

    FYI the native ISO for standard gammas is 1000ISO, not 800.

    HDW : Thanks Alister I think we are at cross purposes on the crop mode, I will re-write to make myself clearer. Native ISO has been changed I was quoting the FS7 by mistake !
    I am referring to the s35mm sensor having a 1.5x crop. The clear image zoom is 2x (HD) so you can have the following… 18-35 with 1.5x FOV (35mm) is 27-52.5 add a 2x digital zoom and you get 27-105mm or without adding a 35mm FOV factor you still get 18-70mm at f1.8…a good all rounder.

  3. Sorry Philip, but I think “….at f4 this lens is seriously lacking “F” stops compared to other lenses on the market” misses the point.

    Bigger the format, the bigger (hence heavier and normally more expensive) the lens is going to have to be to keep all else equal. That’s all down to laws of optics and physics.

    So the normal approach is to reduce the zoom range and/or f stop of the lens – which is just what we see here. It has to be remembered that a counterbalance operates in the way native ISO (the ISO corresponding to 0dB gain) increases with sensor size – the bigger the sensor the smaller the f stop needed for a given low light performance.

    But most significantly it’s a camera on which lenses are interchangeable. It’s a case of use the kit lens if you need such as zoom range etc – use such as a fast prime if you need ultimate low light performance. A case of you can have cake or eat it – but not both at the same time!! 🙂

    From what I’ve seen, then for the price the low light is really pretty good. If not the FS5 (and you can’t stretch to an FS7), then what? The DVX200 is WORSE in low light than the FS5 (though has a longer zoom reach) – and with no option to use any alternative faster lens.

    C100? Maybe better than the DVX200 – but it’s back to the same lens choice options as the FS5, isn’t it? (Without the nice features such as better codec and vari ND etc.) With a given lens, does the C100 really offer anything the FS5 doesn’t?

    If you want a larger sensor camera, and a zoom, then without paying massive money a small aperture is going to have to be the price. At least an interchangeable lens camera enables an either/or choice of such or putting on a fast prime or short range zoom.

  4. Let’s not forget if you’re shooting indoors or in a studio there are wonderful old Canon FD lenses with speed booster adapters that enable the camera to virtually see in the dark. And speed booster adapters with electronics for Canon lenses, both zooms and primes, that give you plenty of light with great image quality.
    Of course, hand held many don’t work since they don’t have steady shot, but neither does the Sigma 1.8 you mentioned.

    HDW : Thats because it seems to have become un-cool to use a tripod…total nonsense.

  5. “””C100? Maybe better than the DVX200 – but it’s back to the same lens choice options as the FS5, isn’t it? (Without the nice features such as better codec and vari ND etc.) With a given lens, does the C100 really offer anything the FS5 doesn’t?””

    Nicer images especially in daylight.
    Better AF.
    Made in Japan. Better built.
    Little brother of c500 NOT totally different camera like FS7 to FS5.

  6. Nice post, but using “fastest” lens may impact on the way you doing focus.
    For corporate work, having the C100/300 sensibility let you close your iris and move along workers without need for much extra lighting.
    The FS5 can’t do that.

    Sony is doing wrong with this new ways or releasing product not tested.

    What about the extra luminosity stop on the preview viewfinder issue?
    Or the, now solved, dual preview output issue.

    Why such mistakes in a rushed-to-released-product more than have it right for consumer?

  7. nnikba says: “using “fastest” lens may impact on the way you doing focus.
    For corporate work, having the C100/300 sensibility let you close your iris and move along workers without need for much extra lighting.
    The FS5 can’t do that.”

    I don’t understand what you mean by that. In terms of base sensitivity the FS5 is rated HIGHER than the C100? (Base ISO for the C100 is given at ISO850.)

    So for a given light level – and both cameras at base ISO (“0dB”) – you’ll be at a smaller f stop with the FS5, not the C100. So *more* in focus in your example.

  8. I really have to ask my previous question again: if you want a camera for low light shooting, and you consider the FS5 noisy – then if not the FS5, then what?

    We’ll have to wait to get the definitive answer, but it’s my belief the FS5 is actually LESS noisy than the FS7 when set to the same high ISO (ISO3200 and above). But there’s a catch. It gets there with in-camera noise reduction – which appears to work well most of the time, but I believe occasionally gets caught out, and this is the cause of the artefacting that some have complained about.

    I agree with Alister that it’s unrealistic to expect very high ISO performance without “flaws” – but where I think the problem may lie is in perception. A slight flaw may be more irritating than a larger one, depending on nature. (As example, someone may sit hardly noticing a given level of background traffic noise – but be highly aware of (say) a crying baby at a far lower volume.

    If Sony have made a mistake, it may be that this noise reduction is on all the time. Fortunately, it seems highly likely it will be switchable via a future update. To give the OPTION of the (quiet) crying baby *OR* the (louder) traffic noise!!

    I didn’t see Alister’s post above until I’d posted, but I can’t agree more with his comment “When will people understand that big zoom ratios, large apertures and affordability for s35 just don’t mix.” If you go for a s35 type camera it has to be a case of a kit zoom with likely restricted max aperture *OR* a short zoom or prime with wider aperture. At least the user can choose.

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