Having used and now owning both an FS7 and GH5, we can say they both have their place in today’s video production company. We’re often making small business videos that don’t involve a giant crew and the Panasonic GH5 (matched with a Metabones Speedbooster so the sensors are a very similar depth of field and focal lengths) produces some of the best we’ve seen in small cameras.
Let’s compare the Sony FS7 vs Panasonic GH5 in 2018!
One of the most overlooked parts of the GH5 versus the FS7 is how easy it is to dial in perfect color in camera. We use the Cine color profiles and set manual white balance using the very ergonomic JOYstick. Choosing to say “joy”stick because coming from every other video camera out there – it is a JOY to use. There are fixed buttons on the GH5 for ISO & WB along with dedicated wheels for iris and shutter speed without taking your hand off of the grip. Much different than the Sony FS7.
The camera operator can literally set a custom white balance with one hand dialing in the kelvins then doing color shift with the joystick without diving into menus or taking your hand off the camera
Add on top of that the new 400mbps 4k codec, unlimited record time, affordable SD memory cards that aren’t tied to just a handful of Sony brand cameras and the magical IBIS… Perhaps not magic but when paired with a small rig the sensor stabilization can turn turn your cinema lenses into stabilized lenses without giant gimbals.
Here’s a sample video mixing both camera footage – can you even tell which camera did which clip?
The downfall of the Panasonic GH5 versus the Sony FS7?
Honestly, the biggest downside we see is just the client perception when working with larger productions and higher budgets. The bigger camera is heavier – bulkier – it uses proprietary storage media which becomes a problem if you ever need to purchase additional storage space in a smaller city.
They both can accept professional microphones via XLR (if you use the dedicated XLR1 module the GH5 takes XLR directly into the camera bypassing the pre-amps in camera similar to a JuicedLink XLR module except it completely bypasses the in-camera preamps). That said – the FS7 can record 4 tracks of audio.
One benefit to the Sony FS7 is that it does have a larger battery and built-in ND filters which are nice perks for long-form video projects like seminars and outside in the sun. With the GH5, you’re forced to use ND filters on your lenses or using a mattebox with filters. This may seem to eliminate the benefit of a small camera minus the fact that the camera still ends up significantly smaller with a V-mount battery on the back of the rig powering everything (if you choose).
Perception is reality (sadly) and most companies we work with would rather have an FS7 than a GH5 because they just feel it will be a better video in the end. When they get comfortable with us throughout the project and we suggest actually using the GH5 due to 4k 60p and more stable imagery… Clients we have already built trust with often listen to us and allow us to use the GH5. We just highly prefer the GH5 footage and the ease of use on location. For travel outside of the Minneapolis / St Paul and greater Minnesota area, also like how compact the cameras can be saving the client’s travel budget for other gear like sliders, gimbals, audio or lighting gear.
Starting out – we are able to more easily differentiate from the newbies who have a photo camera that also does video… Despite it’s pretty clear that NOBODY actually buys a GH5 for the photography alone. There are many cheaper m4/3 cameras – camera people all buy the GH5 because of the video – with the added benefit (or required functional requirement) of hybrid photo and video coverage. Example: we go film for a day in a factory and they want us to take a group photo of their team. Do we carry an FS7 and a Canon DSLR just to grab one photo? No – just grab the GH5!
Yes – I’m skipping over some advantages of the FS7 – but I’m trying to point out how the GH5 compares to the FS7 in terms of its advantages for common video production projects we face in Minnesota. Often video guys say “the FS7 is better – case closed” when in actuality that’s not always the case. Especially when price is removed from the discussion – there are many times the GH5 is simply a better choice – and there are cases where the FS7 is a better choice.
Both cameras are great and powerful tools that have their place and the price difference is now less than ever. The question as to which camera is better really comes down to your specific use case. If your project doesn’t include putting the camera on a gimbal or using stabilized lenses – I’d say the sensor stabilization will heavily weigh into your consideration for useable shots (and being able to shoot with a monopod or even handheld to get solid footage).
If you do a lot of marketing agency and ad agency work – an FS7 may help you win some reasonable paying jobs.
It’s also easier to rent out your FS7 to other professional DP’s and production companies to get it paid off faster. You can also bring it within your day rate to recoup the cost difference on projects you’re already shooting – or get jobs just because you have the Sony fs7.
If you exclusively sell the end video (never raw footage or sub-contracted) the client will probably never know the difference and the stills camera + 4k video in a small form factor might outweigh the big camera.
Often in Minneapolis, clients would prefer the great video quality at affordable freelance videographer prices versus the bigger camera budget for the Sony FS7 with it’s bigger setup (you need heavier duty tripods, slider re-inforcement, bigger gimbal, more expensive media or another crew member to offload data throughout the day).
So – it’s a bit of a draw. Depends on what you’re using it for.
It’s crazy that you can now compare a camera 1/5th the size and cheaper in terms of image quality and usability.
At the end of the day – just keep shooting. Gear is just a tool you can use to get the shot – and the shot is only as important as the story your film is telling.
Travis – Director of Photography at Provid Films in Minneapolis Minnesota