Last year I worked as a DP/Camera operator on several television productions, and as part of my job I assembled a camera package for each shoot. Our trusty Sony EX3 fit the bill perfectly with its sharp zoom lens and ability to record 1080i video for broadcast, but we needed a second camera for the shoot and didn’t want to rent another EX3.

Earlier in 2015, DVS purchased the Sony FS7 4K cinema camera, and we have no regrets over our decision. The ability to shoot Ultra High Definition video with a flat gamma profile means we have great flexibility in post-production. However, these television productions needed to edit the footage quickly and with very little adjustment to color. Thankfully, the FS7 can be tuned down to shoot 1080i in Rec. 709 (HD Broadcast color space) and the footage is a near-match to the EX3’s.

The FS7 has a much larger sensor than the EX3, which makes it difficult to find a zoom lens to cover all situations. Sony generally recommends their e-mount 18-105mm f/4 lens as a starter lens for the FS7. While it has a nice focal range and is quite sharp, and at street price of around $600.00 it is a reasonably good value, trying to pull focus on Sony’s e-mount lenses is an exercise in futility. They use a focus-by-wire system that is variable depending on how fast one turns the focus ring, and attempting a rack focus is an incredibly frustrating experience. The same problem plagues the e-mount PZ 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS, and its rather slow variable aperture makes it a less than stellar choice for indoor work, but I own this lens and the optical image stabilization, focal range, and power zoom capabilities really come in handy for fast moving shoots, so it went in the kit. In order to make up for some of the shortcomings of the Sony lens, I threw two other lenses in the kit: a Canon FD mount 35-105mm with a constant f/3.5 aperture, and a Sigma 18-35mm with a constant aperture of f/1.7.

The Canon FD 35-105mm f/3.5 is a fantastic lens for this type of work, excepting that it could stand to be a touch wider. This thirty-ish-year-old lens is reasonably sharp wide open and is tack sharp when stopped down a touch. The zoom is very well dampened (far better than the much more expensive stock lens on the EX3) and it is parfocal. It is a fully manual lens, so one has complete control over the iris, and focusing is repeatable, with hard stops. One of the chief complaints many have had about the FS7 is its laggy aperture control, and that is a non-issue with this lens. On one of the outdoor shoots my producer told me I’d “get extra points for lens flare.” That was no problem for this lens, as its coatings aren’t as sophisticated as those on newer lenses. This can be addressed with a lens shade, matte box, or clamp-on French flag. A nearly flawless copy of this lens can be found for under $100 with a little looking around. I found mine for $40 on eBay. You’ll also need an FD to E-mount adapter which runs around $25.00 for a well-built but basic version. Keep in mind that the lens does not have image stabilization. If you must have that, Canon offers the EF mount 24-105mm f/4 L, which also features an expanded zoom range and updated glass coatings, but also an electronically controlled iris, for around $630.00.

For wider shots in low light or to control depth of field, the $800.00 Sigma 18-35mm f/1.7 is a no-brainer. We have the EF Mount version, and it is stunningly sharp, even wide open, and the zoom range is quite useful. Because the FS7’s depth-of-field is shallower than the EX3’s, I tended to use the FS7 for wide shots and the EX3 for close-ups during two camera setups, so the Sigma was on the camera a lot. I really can’t say enough about how much I like this lens. My only real quibble about it is that it, like most other EF Mount lenses, has an electronically controlled iris. Of course, you’ll need an EF to E-mount adapter to use this lens, but many FS7 owners already have one that was given as a rebate to new buyers.

These lenses covered the vast majority of what I needed to shoot, and the EX3 covered any extremely wide or telephoto shots. If the FS7 was our only camera I would have included a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 just in case we needed something wider than the Sigma could handle. Also, Sony is releasing an update to the camera that will allow a lossless 2x crop in HD/2K mode (hopefully button assignable) that should cover most telephoto needs. With its built-in shoulder pad, ND filters, and sturdy adjustable hand grip, the FS7 is wonderfully suited to use in run-and-gun situations, and the fact that readily available, inexpensive lens choices are plentiful makes it that much more fun to use.

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