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The Rise of the FS7: A Look Back at Our Camera Usage Reports
In the constantly evolving video production industry, manufacturers are consistently putting out the latest tech to stay ahead of the curve and provide better quality. Since Crews Control started back in 1988, we have seen the industry change drastically and many cameras have come and gone.
Because of the tens of thousands of corporate video shoots we’ve helped with and our in-house database, we can track camera models, major city percentages, additional equipment, software, camera crews and more. When looking at this data, we notice trends in what our video crews are purchasing and what our clients are asking for.
If you’ve ever received our monthly ‘Crews News’ newsletter, you have seen our camera usage report. Here is the data from November 2019:
With this data, it’s easy to zero in on trends. A long-term trend we’ve picked up on while analyzing our camera usage reports is the consistent rising demand of the Sony FS7. You can see above that this camera holds the biggest percentage out of all of the cameras for last month. But was this always the case?
The History of the Sony FS7
In 2018, our top camera was the Sony PXW-FS7 at 38.51% of our entire camera catalog. In 2019 the PXW-FS7 was still our most used camera at 38.67%. Not a drastic change but an increase in this camera none the less. When we go back to our camera usage reports from previous years, like 2014 right before the PMW-FS7 came out, we can distinguish new patterns in camera demand and change within the industry.
Sony launched the PXW-FS7 in late 2014. When the FS7 first came out, it was not 4K. At just 1920 x 1080, it did still come with the advantage of being able to create a more cinematic look by adding lenses with a fixed focal length (“prime” or “shallow depth of field”) and a large sensor. There was a firmware upgrade you could purchase to get to 4K starting in March 2015. Then 4K became standard in the model. As a new 4K XDCAM camera with a Super35mm CMOS sensor and great lenses, the FS7 had several advantages over the earlier camera.
Plus, the FS7 had a unique compact design meant to be used on the shoulder “out of the box” with a built-in adjustable grip and handle that controls zoom control. It’s also moderately priced. the Sony PXW-FS7 was not meant to replace the FS700, but that is what it ended up doing. In 2014 our most popular camera was the Sony PMW-EX3 at 30.46% of our entire camera catalog. The FS7 came out later that year, but it took a few years to get to that number one, most used spot in our reports.
We reached out to three of our top crews to talk about the ins and outs of the Sony FS7, as well as what they do and don’t like about using this camera. Check out the video above to see what they said.
Top 3 Cameras For The Last 5 Years
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back on our most used cameras from the past 5 years. The top 3 contenders have been:
- Canon EOS-C300: came out Oct. 2011
- Sony PMW-EX3: came out 2008
- Sony PXW-FS7: came out November 2014
Here are where each of these three cameras ranked on our camera usage reports for the last 5 years:
Overall Camera Usage Report of 2014:
- PMW-EX3: 30.46%
- EOS C300: 16.48%
- PMW-F3: 5.81%
Overall Camera Usage Report of 2015:
- EOS C300: 22.75%
- PMW-EX3: 22.13%
- PXW-FS7: 4.78%
Overall Camera Usage Report of 2016:
- EOS C300: 21.80%
- PMW-EX3: 19.48%
- PXW-FS7: 18.96%
Overall Camera Usage Report of 2017:
- PXW-FS7: 34.18%
- EOS-C300: 15.90%
- PMW-EX3: 9.98%
Overall Camera Usage Report of 2018:
- PXW-FS7: 38.51%
- EOS C300 Mark II: 10.33%
- EOS C300: 10.33%
- PMW-EX3: 7.04%
Overall Camera Usage Report of 2019:
- PXW-FS7: 38.46%
- EOS C300 Mark II: 13.05%
- PXW-FS7 M2: 7.81%
- EOS C300: 5.28%
- PMW-F5: 3.98%
- PMW-EX3: 3.52%
It wasn’t until the end of 2015 that the FS7 made the top 10 of the camera usage report. No camera is perfect when it is first released, so it can take a few years to iron out the kinks and reach peak demand. It’s also during this time that new cameras become cheaper, although the need to purchase multiple high-end lenses offsets the cost reduction, and the new technology is more understandable.
The Sony PMW-EX3 has been discontinued but is still used today, as it has a pretty long shelf life. The Sony PMW-300 was made to replace the EX3, but never achieved the same level of popularity according to our data. Even after the EX3 was discontinued in 2019, it still ranked at 6th most popular this year.
This isn’t too far down in the rankings, but definitely a much lower position considering where it was in its prime just a few years before. High tech cameras such as these are usually good for a long time, unless the industry changes drastically.
“I think the FS7 and C300 both had the advantage of being able to take prime lenses and the C300 was the successor to the 5D series and came out earlier, so it got the lead,” Valerie Nolan, Crews Control’s Vice President of Production, said. “Then the FS7 got 4K and jumped out in front.”
For DPs who are prefer the stability of traditional shoulder mounted cameras, the FS7 is easier to use. The Canon C300 Mark II with 4K came out in April 2015 but the FS7 already had the jump on it in ranking, having been released earlier.
It seems like it doesn’t take much for a new camera to bump an older model out of our top three, especially with new features and new demands in the market. With new advances in camera technology such as the recent rise in 4K and cinematic shallow depth of field at a reasonable price, it’s no wonder that the FS7 has consistently taken to be our most used camera since 2017.
“In the last few years there has been a jump from 1080 to 4K and prime lenses for shallow depth of field cinematic look”, Nolan said.
So we’ve seen the data from the past five years… is there any chance we’ll see a large change in 2020? In 2025?
For the FS7 to get knocked out of its top position, video production styles would need to change in order to make what the FS7 offers obsolete or at least in less demand. If the track record with the EX3 has shown us anything, its that a Sony camera has a pretty long shelf life and can continue to be in demand even when more advanced tech is available.
Currently it doesn’t look like Sony will be releasing anything new soon to replace the FS7, but that can change depending on where the industry goes. What do you predict the shelf life of the PXW-FS7 will be? How can Sony improve on this camera for their next model? A new 8K?
“My prediction is that going forward in corporate video production is that there will be larger, more ‘agency style’ shoots with a cinematic feel,” Nolan said. “And that, at least for now, the camera formats will stabilize with 4K and prime lenses becoming the key words rather than exact camera model numbers”.
Let us know what you think in the comments! And if you’re ready to take the Sony FS7 for a whirl at your next corporate video shoot, reach out to us today for a free quote.
Bill Paris says
Nice article about the rise of the FS7. As an owner operator with two FS7s I’ve certainly benefitted from the popularity of the camera. While the FS7 is not perfect, the camera has a lot of features for the price and I believe will continue to be popular with many clients and shooters for years to come.
One correction to your article…. the new Sony FX 9 that will start shipping at the end of this month looks to be the next generation of cameras in the FS7 category. Sony has improved many of the aspects of the FS7 by adding dual ISO, full frame sensor, variable ND, a new more cinematic color profile based on the Venice and an impressive auto focus system when using Sony G Master lenses ….all in a price range that’s similar to the FS7. It will be interesting to see how quickly this next generation Sony camera is adopted by Crews Control clients, many of us users may have to keep a FS7 around for the clients that insist on sticking with the FS7 look. Please keep the camera reports coming, they really help many of us determine what clients are requesting!
Michael Misconi says
The Sony FS7 already has an announced replacement in the FX9 which is scheduled to be released in January.
Phil Yunker says
“Currently it doesn’t look like Sony will be releasing anything new soon to replace the FS7, but that can change depending on where the industry goes. What do you predict the shelf life of the PXW-FS7 will be? How can Sony improve on this camera for their next model? ”
–Obviously this article was penned before the announcement of the Sony FX9. Although the Sony FS7 still has some legs it is long in the tooth with a five plus year old sensor and the new Sony FX9’s 6K sensor for 4K down sampling and the new Sony Venice color science added to the FX9 will and have owner operators selling their FS7’s to make way for the FX9. As an owner operator of a FS7 I’m going to wait and see what clients ask for, the Sony FX9, the Canon C500Mkii, continue with the FS7 or something different, then I’ll make a decision on what new camera system to buy.