Ever since I plunked down my hard-earned cash for the Panasonic AF100, I’ve been a little nervous about Sony’s answer to the 35mm video question. I’ve been a fan of Sony for a long time, and I was worried that whatever they released to compete with the AF100 would give my buyer’s remorse.
Now that they’ve released the specs and sample footage from their new camera, the NEX-FS100, I’ve relaxed. Here’s the promo video from Sony Europe.
The first thing I noticed in the video was the disclaimer that the interviews were shot with the Sony F3. I’m not sure this was a good idea, as the interviews look great and the sample footage from the FS100 suffers by comparison. Mind you, there’s nothing WRONG with the FS100 footage, but it doesn’t look better than the AF100, or even better than a Canon DSLR.
This wouldn’t be an issue if the Sony were cheaper than the current alternatives, but it’s not: it’s at least $1,000 more expensive than the AF100, and at least double the price of the HD-capable Canon, Olympus and Nikon DSLRs. Worse yet, the AF100 has a built-in, three-level ND filter, which the FS100 does not, and much better ergonomics (the first full-length review of the FS100 complained mightily about the difficulty in using the center-mounted eyepiece when shooting handheld). The only thing the FS100 offers is a slightly larger sensor than the AF100. However, since the difference between Panasonic’s Micro 4/3 and Sony’s APS-C sensors doesn’t seem to translate into any significant difference in image quality, I’m not impressed.
To give you an idea where I’m coming from, here’s a little corporate project I finished recently. In it, I combined slightly older footage that I shot on the Canon 5D Mark II, new footage from the Panasonic AF100, and existing footage shot by a different production company on the Sony F3. If you have an experienced eye, you’ll be able to pick out which shots are which, but the average viewer will think it ALL looks pretty darn good. (Just out of curiosity, post your guesses in the comments section … I’ll be interested to see which shots folks think are from which cameras).
I suspect that the basic issue here is related to the first thing I noticed about the promo video: the F3 takes a much better picture than the FS100. Sony has a $16,000 camera on the market, and it doesn’t want to cannibalize its own customers. So, it’s released a mid-level camera that’s too expensive for DSLR shooters, and not capable enough to steal the AF100’s thunder.
I haven’t put my hands on the FS100 yet, and I’m obviously biased, having invested in the AF100, but based on what I’m seeing, Sony is going to have to work pretty hard to make me feel bad about my Panasonic purchase.