With its Super 35-Sized CMOS sensor, UHD at 24/30fps, HD up to 240fps capabilities, XAVC Long, AVCHD recording codecs, superb variable ND filter, and compact form factor, the Sony FS5 II is one of the most preferred camcorders on the market, no doubt about it.
Even though the new color science designed to improve the already existing picture profiles alongside the new 4K/120fps 4-second burst mode weren’t the most significant updates that the majority of FS5 owners were expecting to see with the latest iteration, the FS5 II still packs a decent amount of prograde features turning it into a real workhorse for many professionals out there.
Recently, Greg Farnum of LensProToGo decided to put the camera through its paces by testing high ISO and exposure recovery performance to reveal its true potential.
First and foremost, if you need to squeeze the most dynamic range from the camera, it’s best to shoot with its native ISO 3200. Another conclusion that can be made is that the FS5 II dynamic range remains rather consistent throughout the ISO levels, although shooting at the camera’s native value revealed the best balance between the shadow and highlight areas of the image.
When shooting between ISO 2000 (minimum) to ISO 5000, you should expect relatively clean footage with no signs of image softening at all. Around ISO 6,400, however, you may start to notice some noise in the shadows. Even at these high ISO values, the footage is still usable, even for your commercial projects.
Typically at ISO levels 10,000 and 16,000, footage from other rivals would be far from unusable. However, in the case of the FS5 II, the quality of the captured images is still worthy of being used, with little to no noise reduction required to end up with clean-looking video – no color shifting, lots of detail and sharpness across the board.
Unfortunately, all cameras have their limitations, and the FS5II is no exception. In most situations, shooting at ISO 25,600 will produce video with a decent amount of digital noise in the shadow areas. Going further up with your ISO to 32,000 and beyond, you will notice the image gradually becoming softer with blocky noise filling the screen, all topped with a magenta-tinted color shift.
Although the FS5 II’s ISO limits are clear, it’s incredible to see just how far you can push the camera’s ISO. By having the ability to shoot up to ISO 16,000 with little to no noise reduction required, low-light video shooters will have a much easier time filming their subjects without having to worry about image degradation and detail loss.
Moving on to exposure recovery, the FS5 II seems to perform more than adequately, especially for a camcorder in this price range. Starting with one stop underexposed, the footage from the camera can quickly be recovered in post. However, when shooting two or more stops underexposed, you will be introduced to a lot of noise in the shadows – much worse than what was reportedly found with the original FS5 camera.
On the other hand, the overexposure tests reveal the FS5 II to be slightly more forgiving. Similar to the previous test, shooting at one stop overexposed does not appear to be a problem as all the visual information is recovered, including details from the highlight areas of the shot.
At two stops over, most of the image can also be easily recovered, with the notable exception of pure white highlight areas, such as the mug found on the top shelf in the frame. Going to three or more stops overexposed, however, the footage would be considered unusable as color shifting and image information loss increasingly become an issue, depending on the level of overexposure.
All in all, when shooting with the FS5 II using S-Log 3, it would be ideal for you to take the time to ensure your footage is properly exposed. However, if you are in a situation where you do not have much time to nail down your exposure, odds are the footage from the camera could be recovered more easily when overexposed, rather than underexposed, as confirmed by the above tests.