PMW EX1 // NEX FS100 // 7D Compared

(See bottom of post for video examples of each camera and specific camera mixes)

This was an email to a friend. My friend asked about the cameras I use. He wanted to know about what camera I liked best. Anyone that has a cinematographer friend will know that that is a question who's answer will take quite a length of time to explain. Here was my response. His first question has to do with line skipping of DSLRs. 

Downsample, (probably not the right word Line skipping is more accurate) the sensor on the 7d is an 18mp sensor - 5D is something like that. So what happens is to make an image 1920x1080 from a sensor that is actually something like 5500 pixels across the image is having to skip a lot of lines of resolution. As a result of this 1. dynamic range suffers big time. 2 color depth suffers pretty heavily (along with the codec issues) 3. it makes for a more noisy image at higher iso levels. 4. It creates aliasing (weird mini-refractive junk in spots of the footage with patterned regions) So Although the image looks great, I've actually been pretty frustrated with the image I get from the 7D as compared to like the EX1 and especially my fs100.

EX1 and FS100 are such different cameras. If I was only doing ENG run-and-gun type work and I could only carry one camera it'd be my EX1. It's what I shot my documentary in India on. If I was doing only cinematic style work where there is plenty of time to set up the shot, choose the lens, light the scene, and filter the lens I'd go with the FS100 every time. I will say the EX1 has a good cinematic look too. I had people tell me that the India Documentary I shot on the EX1 was the best looking documentary they'd ever seen. Finally If I'm trying to get through an airport or some packed place, and don't want to get caught for filming, I'd go with my 7D. 

Here's the problem I ran into with trying to mix my 7D and EX1 footage. The color tone and dynamic range of my EX1 was so good, and the 7D mediocre. So I'd have to heavily adjust my 7D footage to get it to really look similar enough to put in the timeline with the EX1. It can be done but it just looses something. The color info on the 7D is so limited and it's pretty thick and juicy on the EX1. The Fs100, however, fits in with the EX1 very easily. The bitrate on the FS100 is 24mbs so it's a little lower than the EX1's 35mbs. However, the FS100 is using AVCHD which is a H.264 codec which is said to be 2.5 times more efficient than the EX1's codec. So this means the FS100 sits at the equivalent of about 48-60mbs. That's an estimation of coarse but the point is that the FS100 look very compatible together without much color grading, the FS100 is a nicer picture most of the time. It also depends on the lens you throw on there but generally the fs100 picks up a range of color that the EX1 just barely touches on.

The EX1 dynamic range is clocked at about 8.5, the FS100 has been clocked at up to 11.5 which is basically the same as the first generation of Red cameras. Now though, Red can get up to like 18+ stops with their new tech advances. Point is that the tech inside the FS100 is really good stuff. It's a DSLR killer for me. It doesn't kill the DSLR totally though. There are still places where a DSLR is valuable. The interesting thing is that it's not a traditional video camera killer. The FS100 is great but it's more like using a DSLR than it is like using a traditional Video camera. I don't envy people that have to shoot event work on DSLRs that's a pain. The FS100 is much less of a pain but it still doesn't compare with the beautiful ease of using something like the EX1 and a high speed event. 

I feel like an EX1 a FS100 and a 7D are a great set of Cams to get done any Mid-Low budget shooting.  

This video mixes a few shots from the EX1 but is mostly shot on FS100.

Here is a piece shot exclusively on Canon 7D.

Here is a Piece shot on both the EX1 and EX1

Here is one that was a mix of 7d and EX1 footage.


  1. Hi,
    I have a 7D at the moment and wan to sell it so I can buy a Ex1r or an fs100. I mostly do corporate work and lots of green screen. What would yo recommend any why?


  2. Great question. I would say first. Don't sell your 7D if you can afford not to. As you can see above there are specific cases where you still can use it. Secodly, if you need to sell it and you want to have only one camera I would go with the EX1. It has a great zoom lens and lots of features. The FS100 has lots of features but it takes a little bit more time to set up because of the lens and filters needed. The EX1 makes a nice complement to the 7D. If you are looking for an DSLR upgrade then the FS100 is the way to go. It's like a DSLR with video functions. It's great in low light. Green screen stuff would be great on EX1 or FS100. If it's lots of studio work on Green Screen and you have a nice set of lenses, then the FS100 may not be a bad pic. I'd say with a nice lens, the image is nicer in most cases on the FS100 than it is on the EX1... but not so much nicer that you'd slap your grandma. It's a little better. Now if you have a set of lenses that you like, you have a lot more control over the look on the FS100 in terms of DOF and Width of image. It's all a trade off. Does this help? I'd be happy to discuss it further.

  3. I have been reading lots of info online and you basically sum up everything. I am just curious to know wich camera has a bigger sensor. Ex1 has better codec with 4:2:2 possibility over SDI and FS100 has better picture quality but worst codec and 4:4:4 possibility over HDMI.

    Most of what I do is in studio, but don't any video lenses. I sold my 50mm 1.4 lens and am left with a 18-50mm 2.4 Sigma EX lense that I mostly use on my 7D. Keeping the 7D could be a good option, but not if I go with the FS100.

    The way I see it, EX1 is a easy solution (all you need in a box), but with expensive memory. On the other hand, FS100 has an ok lens (that comes with the kit) and great future potential. It can get expensive by buying tons of gear and lenses. I also belive the viewfinder is better than the Ex1.

    All my work is corporate, so I never had a situation where I needed to run with the camera.

    I still can't decide :(

    If you have both cams, can you tell me what camera produces better keying footage? The AVCHD worries me vs the EX codec, but the super35 sensor seems bigger. I will eventually get the external recorder, but here in Canada things are expensive. Both cams are 7k before taxes!!!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. These are great questions. I'm going to go through them one at a time because when I was looking I wish I had someone to answer a lot of these same questions.

    1. FS100 has a bigger sensor, is a super35 which is basically the same size as the sensor in your 7D. The EX1 has a 1/2" sensor. So the FS100 has a MUCH BIGGER sensor. I've actually been very happy with the sensor size in the EX1 as well though because you can still get a pretty good DOF with a little zoom. Although in this area the FS100 is the definite winner.

    2. 422 and 444. I haven't read up on it in a while but I think they both can only do 422 on an external. The FS100 is 8bit, can't remember what the EX1s is. I thought I'd go and get an external recorder, but once I saw the kind of footage the cameras were spitting out I no longer felt the need. Both these cameras will output images that you will be proud to show off.

    3. You said the EX1 has a better codec. I would actually say they are neck and neck. Heres why. The EX1 has a data rate of 35 where the FS100 is 24. However the AVCHD is supposed to be 2.5 times more efficient. What this means if it's true is that with the AVCHD you are getting what would be a data rate roughly equivalent to 48 in the EX1's codec. This was actually a BIG question I had when I saw that the codec was AVCHD on the FS100. I had to do some digging but what I found was that AVCHD is not actually a bad codec it's that some of it's early adopters had low end cameras so people began to associate AVCHD with a crappy image. However if you have a decent data rate like the FS100 has it looks great, it is plenty to compete with the EX1. I shoot documentary stuff a lot. I shot a couple feature length films on the EX1 without an external recorder. I just used the footage straight from the cards. I will say if you do lots of Green screen the higher data rate from an external might be important, but I have always been happy with the image I get off the card.

  6. 4. I agree you probably don't need your 7D as much if you go with the FS100, which may be a good reason to go with the EX1. Because you can achieve a similar look with the 7D. You could then use your EX1 for audio capture and any zoom work you're doing. Just a thought.

    5. You mentioned expensive memory, one of the updates that the EX1R has is that it allows third party memory. You have to get an adapter but it allows you to use cheap media cards. I use these SDHC cards all the time. I shot a documentary in India and relied on these cheap media the whole time. I could not afford all sony memory cause I needed to travel with about 15 cards of 16GB each. I think I got my adapter from hoodman and it's been a real great solution. It was pretty cheap. So with it, I can then use the same kind of media cards that I use on my FS100.

    6. I wouldn't suggest getting the kit lens with the FS100. I didn't so I'm just basing this on reviews and the specs. The reason you would get a FS100 is to put interesting lenses on it. I'd say you'd be better getting an adapter for the lens you have and putting it on an FS100.

    Ok so here is the equalizer. If I'm shooting green screen, I tend to not want a really shallow depth of field. I would want to close down the iris and get as much in focus as possible. This is just a preference but it keeps there from being fuzzy areas. I like to avoid this because it makes things harder to key if the talent moves around in front of the green screen. With this in mind, I will say that one of the most common reasons for wanting a camera like the FS100 is for the shallow depth of field. If you are doing mostly studio stuff, this is probably not your main concern.

    In my opinion for what you're doing, the EX1 would be the winner. It works much more like a standard studio camera. When I first got my EX1 and started shooting on it. People asked me what kind of camera I was shooting on. They noticed a difference in the crisp clarity. It's a great camera. I LOVE my FS100 but I think you might would find it a bit annoying with what you're doing.

    So I got my EX1 after I got my 7D. They played together nicely. I would often set one up and roll it while I manned the other. I would say since you already have a 7D and can get that DOF if you want it, the EX1 would be the obvious winner. It's a great camera.

  7. Just on a side note, your comments add-on on the blog is a PITA. I almost didn't post a comment as I had to choose an account to log in and on my iPad I had to retry 4-5 times before it worked. I recommend you use Disqus or any that allows Facebook/Twitter, Guest.

    I decided to sell my 7D. Found buyers and will pay a good price for it. Just to give you an idea, here is my gear I am selling

    I will still be stuck with my iKan Kit (most probably sell it on ebay) and a Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC Macro.

    1. I am not sure the sensor is the same as on the 7D. 7D has a cropped sensor, not a full one as the 5D II. I might be wrong, but if you are telling me the sensor is the same as on the 7D (and the 7D encodes in AVCHD), how can the quality be better on a FS100? 7D does an OK job on my Chromatte Greenscreen Kit (that I am thinking of selling as well, because it is worth a fortune). The edges on the talent are too compressed!

    2. The external recorder is only needed if you need the extra color space info (green screen) in my opinion.

    3. I have read that somewhere and you might be right about the codec. I am still impressed by how good the EX1 is even it is 6 years old.

    5. Do you know if the EX1 does that as well? If I go for the EX1r, I might consider a used EX1, as it will be 2k or 3k cheaper with accessories. Yes it has a better viewfinder, ergos and HDMI, but it isn't work 3k more for that.

    6. FS100 kit lens....big problem! On B&H photo some reviews said the lens is perfect for normal studio/video environment. But, here in Canada, the kit with the lens is 1k more expensive. I could go and buy a better lens for 1K, but won't have all the features working. From I have read, and correct me if I am wrong, but all lens adapters don't have electronic connections. In other words, if I put my current EX lens, I won't be able to control aperture as there is no control on the lens itself. I need to wait and get a 300$-500$ adapter...

    What lens would you recommend. There is no E-mount lens, under 1k (I know Zeiss makes good ones, but are $$$) you would suggest? If I am not mistaking, if I don't go with an E-mount, I won't be able to have continuous focus( or wtv it's called...the camera focusing on the subject when he moves), aperture control and so on.

    I was 60/40 in favor for the FS100 yesterday, but now I am back to 50/50.

    Ex1r is the easy solution but doesn't look as the best long term investment. Ex1r will be great for Greenscreen (already borrowed one for a day) but if ever I have a project where I need a more cinematic look, it won't deliver as much. But on the other hand, I can always rent an FS100 if needed.

    FS100 looks great and is brand new. I love the look of the body and the way you can mount a shit load of things to it. It's also light, so finding a crane won't be hard. It can get complicated to setup, by I am the kind of person that reads the user guide and knows everything about the product before buying it.

    On top, I have just look again at my local video store and here are the prices for each.

    EX1R: 7k (8k with taxes!) and they applied a rebate of 300$.

    FS100 with lens: 6.1k (7k with taxes) and they applied a rebate of 450$.

    FS100 body: 5.1k (5.8k with taxes) and they applied a rebate of 700$.

    I am obligated to buy it at a local store as I have a Credit Card that triples warranty and I have a business, so I can deduct taxes.

    By looking at the prices, FS100 body + 1000$ lens (used if possible, this way it can be worth 1.5k) would be a good option.

  8. Yep, I think the lens stinks...

  9. Look at this great review. I think I found the lens I need....if I go with the FS100

  10. It's not the same sensor as the 7D it's similar in size. A super35 is not a full frame sensor. it's close in size to the 7Ds but it's much better for video because it doesn't do line skipping.

    The codec on the FS100 is much better in image quality than the 7Ds.

    You question about adapters is right. I use Canon FD lenses mostly on mine, they are a little older but I like the manual functionality. I have a FD adapter and an EOS adapter. I like them both and you can get them pretty cheap.

  11. Tx again for your help. I decided to go with the FS100. I hope you don't mind, but I linked your blog and our convo to my blog:

  12. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)