I first came across the new FR7 at IBC in Amsterdam in September and at first I was a little confused by it. Who would actually want one and what for? But now I am convinced that this will be a big hit - what's changed my mind?
For those that haven't seen it yet the FR7 is in essence a Sony FX6 camera that has been adapted and modified to fit in a remotely controlled pan and tilt head. You get all of the FX6's features and performance including onboard recording, S-Log3 and CineEI, raw output, built in variable ND etc etc but in a form factor that allows you to operate the camera remotely via either a control panel with a joystick or via any device with a web browser.
Remote PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras get used a lot in shows like Big Brother, Love Island, First Date etc but until now, generally the image quality hasn't been as good as most mainstream broadcast cameras. When you cut between the PTZ camera and other main cameras the difference is often quite obvious. So, straight away there is the obvious use of the FR7 for these types of shows, so that the image quality will be as good as any other cameras being used.
Additionally PTZ cameras get used a lot in wildlife productions. A PTZ camera can be placed close to an animals nest or placed closer to a feeding area without disturbing the animals natural behaviour as a camera operator might. Again, often the quality of these cameras was different to the main cameras and more often than not the small sensors in most PTZ cameras doesn't do well in low light. The ability to use the FR7's high sensitivity mode and shoot S-Log3 at 12,800 ISO with a fast lens will really open up a lot of new possibilities for wildlife film makers. The FR7 is controlled over an ethernet connection, so with a simple 4G router and a connection to the internet the camera could be controlled from the comfort of a warm studio anywhere in the world.
But what about other applications? Would a freelance camera operator like me benefit from one? Well I think the answer may be yes. For 2 camera shoots such as interviews the FR7 can be used as a second camera and you have the ability to control it from the main camera position. This would be so much easier than having to walk over to the second camera to make a simple adjustment or reframe it. Instead of being a simple locked off shot that never ever changes your B camera can be moved and adjusted more frequently to add more variety to your shots.
And what about getting shots from places or angles that aren't normally possible? If you shoot conferences or events, being able to place the camera on the front of the stage or in front of the podium opens up a lot of new possibilities. The FR7 won't obstruct the audiences view in the same way that a camera on a tripod with an operator will. I'm going to be shooting some live performances with one very soon and it will allow me to get the camera into locations around the stage where you just can't normally get a shot. You can hang it from the ceiling or a lighting truss for overhead shots. You can even mount it on a jib.
You can also use it for timelapse or other shots where you need to repeat the same move over and over. By setting up preset positions for the start and end points you can perform extremely slow moves all the way to very fast moves from point to point and each time the move is the same. Like the FX6 the FR7 has a built in intervalometer (interval record), so shooting timelapse is easy.
The big deal about the FR7 is that while PTZ cameras are not new, they have never offered the image performance possible from a large sensor camera. Because the images from the FR7 closely match the rest of the Sony cinema line it opens up more possible uses. And the cost isn't prohibitive, it's not that much more than a normal FX6.
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