Tested: The Wonderful Sony FS7 Firmware 3.0 Update

Ah the Sony FS7, which we were one of the first in the world to review last year, has a new firmware update out. Well liked this little affordable camera has been taking over the indie scene and with good reason. It's a true mini F5, a great camera itself.

However, like that camera it was released in an incomplete state. Well over a year later, has Sony finally fixed the camera? The answer is yes. Absolutely.

Version 3.0 adds a ton of really good features. I have now has time to test this firmware and my detailed notes are In parentheses in the bulleted list below that Sony provided. It's superb and really enhances the camera.

The FS Raw issue has been fixed and also this firmware even speeds up the slow menus a decent amount so they have essentially become usable without delay (they aren't instant but don't feel like they are a half second behind you anymore - a welcome improvement!). And there's much more. 

Sony FS7 Firmware 3.0 Features

  • Focus Magnification function is improved. Support for magnification area position adjustment. Magnification resolution improvement. (In testing this works as advertised. A welcome improvement.)
  • Support for “2K Full”, “2K Center” setting in Image Scan Mode. (This is great if you want to extend the range of your lenses in HD or to eliminate aliasing in HFR. Or use S16 lenses which I don't. In any case another welcome improvement.)
  • Support for Interval Recording function. (I don't use this but it's nice to have. )
  • Expand lowest value of Zebra level to 0%. (Great if you are trying to judge proper slog levels)
  • Support for Noise Suppression setting in Cine EI mode. (For me this is huge. One of the reasons I avoided Cine EI was that it was frankly too noisy for my tastes. I shot in custom Slog which as we know sacrifices the correct color gamut. It also operates less like a film camera and more like a video camera. With this change, NR is effective in Cine EI. I ran a side by side test with custom footage shot at medium NR settings and Cine EI set the same. It is virtually identical, noise wise. This setting isn't too aggressive yet cleans up a lot of color noise. A huge plus.)
  • Video Signal Monitor usability is improved. (This is also huge. You can now use the wave form regardless if your mLUT is on or off. A massive improvement. There are some limitations – for example you have to have the HDMI output set to HD so you can't externally record a monitor in 4K if you want to use the waveform. And the waveform and mLUT settings are tied to SDI2's output. But this is inconsequential. You now have virtually fully independent control over what you see in the viewfinder versus what is being recorded in the camera AND a waveform to boot - prior to v3 you could not get a waveform unless you burned in the LUT internally. If you want to record externally, you can just use a LUT on an external monitor. But for internal use you can finally run in Cine EI take advantage of waveforms and mLUTS in your viewfinder, and on your SDI2 output, AND still record the pristine unaltered SLog internally. This is a huge improvement. Note that this bullet as described by Sony doesn't fully knowledge the fact that you can finally use LUTS independently where you couldn't before. They were tied in with the internal recording setting so you were forced to burn in your LUT in some cases - or have no LUT. Or have a waveform but no LUT. It was frankly crazy and now the camera finally operates more or less as you'd expect it should. Finally of note I have tested the waveform represents the underlying Slog signal and not the LUT displayed in the viewfinder. Thank god.)
  • The operability of “Iris setting” using the “Iris dial” and the “assignable dial” is improved. (It's very quick now, even with Metabones adapters. Native lenses are much improved)
  • FS-RAW image quality and operation stability improvement. (I did not test this)
  • Overall stability and operability of the camera is improved (The previously slow as shit menu system is sped up. It's not instant like the FS5, but it no longer has that annoying half to full second delay when selecting things. This is a very notable and welcomed improvement and makes the camera easier to use. I did note that I had to create a new "all files" to see this. If I loaded up an older one from FW 2,1, the menu seemed slower.)
  • The shutter reset bug is fixed (not on the list but I verified that when changing modes the shutter stays put. Finally!!)

For now the firmware is available worldwide on Sony US (with the most detailed description of what changed that I've read), Sony Japan, and  Sony Europe sites but I'm sure in a few days it will filter around the world. The firmware should work on all cameras sold as it is a world camera.  

Needless to say, I think this is the firmware that finally reasonably "completes" the camera to the state it should have been released at. Over a year later. It finally fulfills its promises as a mini F5 with 4K. While it's disheartening to see cameras (and most consumer electronics frankly) released in half baked states - and how this has now filtered to professional products - at least Sony listened and did it right in the end. Like with the A7RII and soon the FS5, they DO listen. This firmware is the ultimate proof of that. 

Much as I have been critical of Sony, the fact is all my cameras are from them for a reason. They look very good for the price. Their firmware takes time to improve but at least they are improving things consistently. The F5 and F55 for example just saw their 7th major update drop. That's a very big deal as its like getting a newer model every year for free.

Many of the fixes in this and other firmware versions are a direct result of the "voice of the customer".  I'm confident the FS5 will be similarly improved. At least enabling Raw output will help a lot for set up and studio shoots. 

In the last year the FS7 has been a powerhouse for us. It rents out well, and has been used on many a shoot. It has a malleable internal codec good for grading. It can be adapted to all sorts of lenses from EF with speedboosters to Nikon and with this latest FW even more lenses. It is rugged, and great on the shoulder. The FS7 is a truly fantastic camera overall and I think this firmware finally gets it right.  Go get it now!!