Pre-Face to rigging the Sony FS7
The Sony FS7 is a very versatile camera. It’s small enough to be compact yet can easily be rigged to make it a complete production camera. In this post I’ll discuss the different options available to Sony FS7 owners to really make their FS7’s shine!
I’ve personally owned my Sony FS7 since February 2016. Therefore many of my observations and considerations are based on my own personal experiences, shooting corporate films, branded content and broadcast documentaries.
I will discuss three key areas when considering how to rig your Sony FS7; Battery Power, Bolt on Kit & Lenses.
1. Battery Power
So let’s start off with powering the camera! There are only really two options when it comes to power; BP-U batteries or V-Lok batteries.
The FS7 uses Sony’s BP-U batteries natively. They are a great workhorse, lightweight with cost effective 3rd party options. If you are looking to keep things small and compact these are a great option. Personally I’d recommend looking at batteries which also offer a D-Tap connection. You can use this D-Tap connection to power camera accessories like top lights and on camera monitors. Swit, Hawk-Woods and IDX all do their own flavour of BP-U style battery with D-Tap connections. Personally I have a handful of Swit’s BP-U 60 style batteries for when I want to keep the camera small and compact.
Alternatively you could consider V-Lok batteries. V-Loks have been used by the industry for years and are a industry workhorse. To use these batteries on your FS7 you will require an adaptor plate to attach them to the camera. Sony offer their FS7 XDCA Extension Unit which, in addition to being able to power the camera via V-Lok batteries, also offers a variety of I/O connections too. On the other hand, if you are only interested in powering your camera; Hawk-Woods, Tilta & Movcam offer a simple V-Lok mounting plate that attaches to the camera, powering the camera via the DC input. Most of these battery plates offer some form of power output via D-Tap, USB etc. too. I personally use the Hawk-Woods FS7 V-Mount plate with IXD Cue D95 batteries. Two of these batteries last a days filming and act as the perfect counter weight when the camera’s on my shoulder.
2. Bolt on Kit
Now we’ve looked at powering the camera, what ‘Bolt on Kit’ do we need to really make the camera shine?
While out of the box the Sony FS7 will happily sit on the tripod or pop onto the edge of your shoulder, as soon as you want to attach a follow focus or a heavy lens you will need a rails system. While there are options to just add rails, such as the Vocas Compact Kit, I’d personally opt for something with a built in shoulder pad. The pads make doing handheld camerawork much more enjoyable as you can generally achieve a perfect balance on your shoulder. Zacuto, Vocas and Shape all offer baseplates for the FS7. I use the original Zacuto Baseplate and have found it great! With most of these options you need a V-Lock VCT plate to attach the camera to the tripod.
One of the first things I purchased for my Sony FS7 was a cheese plate for the top of the camera. These usually fit around, or in place of, the top handle and offer various 1/4″ and 3/8″ mounting holes. I’ve used mine to hold wireless video transmitters, monitors and wireless mic packs via various articulating arms and clamps. I have SmallRig’s Cheese Plate, which is now discontinued but replaced with a new upgraded version.
After becoming fed-up with the Sony arm/handgrip combination I went in search of a better solution. I still wanted to use the Sony handgrip, as this offered greater functionality over a basic handle, but it seemed impossible to mount without the Sony arm. That is until SmallRig produced their Handgrip Rosette Adaptor. The Adaptor allows you to attach the Sony handgrip to a standard Arri rosette mount. I use this with the Lanparte 15mm double rod clamp with Arri rosette mount. This places the Sony handgrip in just the right place to make handheld camerawork even easier.
Since I purchased my Sony FS7, and before then the Sony A7s mirrorless camera, there has been a host of great E-mount lenses that have flooded the market.
Zoom Kit Lens
When I purchased my FS7 one of the few lens options was the kit zoom lens, the 28-135mm F4. This lens isn’t really ideal for the FS7 as it’s designed for a Full Frame sensor. At 28mm on the wide end, it just doesn’t go very wide on the FS7’s Super 35mm (cropped) sensor, and hence why I didn’t bother buying it! When Sony released the FS7 II they also announced a new kit zoom lens. This lens was designed for the FS7/FS7 II and offered a more attractive 18-110mm at F4, a much better fit! The great benefit of the Sony lens is that you can control the zoom via the Handgrip, just like a camcorder!
Fuji MK Zoom Lenses
Fuji offer a ‘budget’ range of cinevised E-mount zoom lenses specifically designed for the Sony FS7 user. These lenses offer Fuji quality glass at a price point more suited to the FS7 shooter. They are currently offering two lenses in the range, 18-55mm T2.9 and 50-135mm T2.9. These lenses look a great option if you are just about to start buying lenses for your FS7! Please note they are fully manual lenses, so don’t offer auto focus, auto iris or servo zoom control like the Sony 18-110mm F4. On the other hand their build and optical quality are said to surpass the Sony 18-110mm F4.
Sigma Art Primes
Sigma have just announced they are releasing their famous Art Prime lenses with an E Mount. This is very encouraging for those investing in E Mount lenses. While 2-3 years ago E Mount was the new kid on the block, it now appears it’s here to stay! I personally have a set of Sigma Art Primes (but in EF Mount) and they are exceptional for their price! I’d guess the E Mount versions wouldn’t disappoint.
Veydra Mini Primes
The first Veydra Mini Prime lenses were designed for Micro 4/3 Mount cameras. That is until somebody noticed they’d work on APS-C size sensor cameras too. Hence the E Mount Verydra Mini Primes were available for the FS7! I know people who rave about these lenses, with their great build and optical quality. These lenses are well worth considering if you wanting native E Mount Prime lenses with manual iris and focus control.
Non E Mount Lenses
What options are there for using Non E Mount lenses on your Sony FS7? Perhaps you already own lenses you want to use or would just prefer not to invest in E-Mount glass.
So the first thing to consider is what lens adaptor to use to convert your lenses to E Mount. The great news is you can pretty much convert most lenses for use on your FS7. This is due to the short flange distance of the E Mount. That is the distance from the lens mount to the sensor.
I personally have Canon EF mount lenses and use the Metabones adaptors, both their EF-E Mount Speedbooster II and standard EF-E Mount Adaptor. The adaptors are electonic and allow me to control the lenses iris through the camera.
When choosing an adaptor, consider what lenses you are going to use with it. If you are using Full Frame lenses then it is probably worth considering a ‘Speedbooster’ adaptor. This will allow you to take advantage of the complete image circle of the lens, meaning you get a wider field of view and gain almost a stop on the iris too, converting an f4 lens to f2.8 lens. If your lenses are designed for APS-C sized sensors a ‘Speedbooster’ wouldn’t work as the image circle isn’t big enough. Therefore you’d have to look at a standard adaptor, like the EF-E Mount Adaptor.
Canon EF Mount Lenses
EF mount lenses are a very popular choice at the moment, they are manufactured not just by Canon but 3rd parties too, such as Sigma and Tamron. With a variety of zoom and prime lenses available they offer a very cost effective option for the FS7. Personally all my lenses are EF Mount, including Canon L Series Zooms and the Sigma Art Primes too.
EF mount lenses have become so popular with filmmakers that Canon have recently announced a EF Mount ‘Cine Style’ lens, the 18-80 T4.4 CN-E. This looks a great option if you are wanting a cost effective, Cine Style zoom, that is flexible enough to use on any camera that can take a EF mount lens!
So here’s my Sony FS7 rig, I’ve spent the last two years making this perfect and it still continues!