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Impressions of San Francisco with the Sony FS7

I spent a few days filming in San Francisco lately. As I never dared to leave the FS7 at the hotel we stayed at, I thought I'd shoot a few pictures whenever I had time to get the camera out of the bag in the street. I am impressed with the Slog-3, although it's still very much a learning curve (as much as a gamma) for me. Here are a few lessons I've learned:

1. Overexposing Slog3 by 1.5-2 stops is not always advisable. I always use a Monitor LUT as well as the built-in luma parade to judge my exposure. I deliberately went to the hilt with the overexposure of the gamma in broad daylight (note: the ND filters are awesome in this camera and super handy too) in order to protect the shadows. In the edit, I found that although the luma parade showed no clipping in the highlights, my eyes couldn't really agree. I indeed lost some detail in the highlights. That's not a big deal when you are filming white walls and houses in broad daylight. However, recent interviews in daylight situations have showed that you definitely don't want to overexpose skin tones, or even let them go over 60% on the luma scale. Even if the luma says otherwise, you will lose some detail and colour in the higher regions of the midtones and in the highlights, especially if the light is direct and you can't diffuse it. The face will look like a white patch and that's no good. I recently had a chat with a multiple BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker and his advice Slog3 was to rather sacrifice smooth shadows then letting the face get into that washed-out territory. You can always bring back the whites in the edit (in theory) but it won't do the job in my experience. Stay conservative with exposure unless you have some really important stuff wrapped in precious shadows.

2. I still need to figure out how to avoid noise in the shadows. Despite some (deliberate) overexposure in the beach scenes, you can still see quite a bit of noise in the deep shadows. Personally, I can live with that but I know some people can't. It's work in progress.

3. You can film against the sun and shoot backlit subjects with pretty acceptable results. I deliberately did this at Golden Gate and I quite liked the result. Fair enough, the sun was going down, but still.

4. Keeping this camera steady without a big shoulder rig is a bitch. I did not bring a shoulder rig to SF as I was mostly working on the tripod. I did not carry that tripod everywhere with me though. I can tell you, this camera is not great to work with handheld unless you have a pretty good shoulder rig with padding and counterbalance. I'm not sure I like the handle solution either. I think the C100-C300 grip is still better, especially if you are a documentary filmmaker who doesn't want to carry a conspicuous rig with an already chunky camera attached to it.

5. Who said you need 180 fps to shoot amazing slow-mo? I stuck to the 60 fps so I could shoot in 4K. I think it's stunning.

#SonyFS7 #cameratest #SanFrancisco #gear