The gap between the FS7 and FS700R is no more. Sony announced the PXW-FS5, a miniature version of their F5, I suppose. It’s a sexy Super35 digital motion picture camera sporting the versatile E-mount and offering 4K in XAVC Long GOP 4:2:2 at 100 MB/s, S-Log3, and 240fps in full HD 4:2:2 sans sensor crop. Sony says it should be out in time for Thanksgiving. So how does it stand up against the upcoming Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K?

I am a big fan of Sony’s XDCAM line. The FS5 not only represents the latest miniaturization of an existing cinema camera (Arri Alexa Mini, for example), but at a price tag of around $5600 (minus the 18-105mm f/4 lens), it would seem Sony is hoping to go toe-to-toe with the upcoming Blackmagic Ursa Mini capable of up to 4.6K lossless CinemaDNG raw at 180 MB/s (or up to 250 MB/s ProRes 444 XQ) and 240fps in sensor-cropped full HD. Of course, XAVC Long is no slouch. Both cameras are tiny, shoulder-able and capable of capturing clean, sharp images in Super35. And Ursa Mini is slightly cheaper (or much cheaper, depending on what version you want): the 4.6K PL mount version is only $5495. However, the FS5 has built-in electronic, variable ND from 1/4 to 1/128th cut. I’m not a huge fan of electronic ND, but I’m sure the FS5’s will be terrific, but I would prefer an optical solution.

fs5-lens

Another thing worth mentioning in the Sony’s favor is the affordability of its accessories: BP batteries and SDXC cards are much less expensive than brick batteries and CFast2 cards. So, in the long run, the FS5 looks like the cheaper option. If only it could shoot raw (it will, but externally via SDI and an upcoming firmware upgrade). However, the biggest slap in the face I see from Sony is the FS5’s 4K is limited to 4:2:0 8bit and that, my friends, sucks.

Regardless, it is a good time to be shopping for a new camera. Of course, neither Ursa Mini or FS5 is available yet so all we have to go on is white papers and official YouTube product videos like the one below, so it’s anyone’s guess how “good” either camera really is; but I’m willing to bet both are going to be rather excellent.

What camera will I ultimately go with? The Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K PL is a no-brainer for me. Ursa Mini does come with an EF-mount version which would play well with most of my Canon stills lenses, however, I am interested in more serious motion picture work so the PL version (and swappable B4 mount) is the way to go for me. The rest of it: out-of-the box 4.6K CinemaDNG raw, 15-stop DR and many flavors of ProRes including 4:4:4 12bit XQ; Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K PL is definitely my next camera.

(Added November 17) I posted this in the Blackmagic Cinematography Forum today:

What would you rather have? 4K UHD (3840×2160, 1:78.1) at 4:2:0 8bit XAVC-L but with built-in variable electronic ND, or 4.6K DCI (4096×2304, 1:78.1) at 4:4:4 12bit ProRes XQ but with your choice of third-party external ND?

That’s the simple one. It gets more complicated with raw. Actually, it doesn’t because Ursa Mini will shoot 4.6K CinemDNG in two flavors of “visually-lossless” compression straight out of the box, whereas the Sony will be able to output a raw signal via SDI to an external recorder, but will have to wait for a firmware update to activate it. It might even be a paid update.

And there you have it.

Sony PXW-FS5 product video:

And for comparison, the first footage from the new 4.6K sensor in Ursa:

Find out more about the PXW-FS5 at www.sony.com/fs5. Also, B&H Explora has a nice little write-up here. Blackmagic Ursa Mini’s product page has a ton of info here.