Operating at the intersection of live production and cinema, the Sony FR7 Full-Frame PTZ Robotic Camera combines pan, tilt and zoom functionality with cinematic image capture. As the world’s first full-frame interchangeable-lens PTZ camera, the FR7 offers video streaming and recording in 4K at up to 120 frames per second. Plus, it supports the full range of Sony E-mount lenses, unlocking a wealth of creative options. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the Sony FR7. Let’s see what this unique addition to the Sony Cinema Line has to offer.
The FR7 is a PTZ camera
The first thing to know about the Sony FR7 is that it’s a PTZ camera. PTZ stands for pan, tilt and zoom, and PTZ cameras do just that. These small, robotic cameras are often used in multi camera live production, streaming and broadcast setups.
Because they can be operated remotely, PTZ cameras provide another perspective on the action without the need for an additional camera operator. Their small size also makes them convenient to permanently mount in a studio or event space. For these reasons, PTZ cameras can easily integrate into existing production workflows.
The Sony FR7, in particular, offers smooth, adjustable pan, tilt and zoom movement controlled via Sony’s RM-IP500 remote controller or over IP with a dedicated web application. Each RM-IP500 can control up to 100 individual FR7 cameras, and each camera can store customizable presets that an IP500 or web application can easily recall. Like all PTZ cameras, the FR7 is small, but this camera also supports flexible power-over-ethernet (POE++) installation, which reduces the number of cables needed to get the camera connected.
Despite the value traditional PTZ cameras offer, their smaller form factor presents a few drawbacks. The main issue is that most PTZ cameras on the market use smaller image sensors, which leads to weaker low-light performance as well as sacrifices in image quality and dynamic range. PTZ cameras also usually feature a fixed-lens design. You are stuck with whatever lens that camera has built-in, severely limiting your creative options. Finally, typical PTZ cameras don’t have a way to record video internally, so they can only function within a larger production system.
Fortunately, the Sony FR7 solves these issues and more. Here’s how.
The FR7 has a full-frame image sensor
Rather than the small image sensor found in most PTZ cameras, the Sony FR7 sports a 4K full-frame Exmor R CMOS image sensor. This back-illuminated sensor offers 10.3 effective megapixels and is paired with Sony’s BIONZ XR image processor.
With this hardware, the Sony FR7 provides cinematic image quality and improved low-light performance compared to other PTZ options. In addition to its top resolution and frame rate of UHD 4K 120p, the FR7 also captures DCI 4K at up to 60 fps. And for better integration into cinematic productions, the camera supports true 24 fps in DCI 4K with intra-frame recording.
In addition to higher-resolution recording, the FR7’s full-frame sensor also promises improved low-light performance. Complementing this, the FR7 offers an ISO range of 800 to 12,800, expandable to 409,600. This allows the FR7 to capture clear video in a range of lighting situations.
Finally, with S-Cinetone color science and S-Log3 support, the FR7 promises cinematic skin tones and flexible color grading along with 15 or more stops of dynamic range. This gives colorists a lot of latitude when color correcting, matching cameras and applying creative color grades.
It works with any E-mount lens
Along with improved image quality thanks to its full-frame sensor, the FR7 also offers more creative control with its interchangeable lens mount. In fact, the Sony FR7 is the first ever full-frame PTZ camera to support interchangeable lenses.
The FR7 supports all E-mount lenses, including the Sony G Master professional lens series. This gives you a wide selection of professional and enthusiast lens options to choose from.
It’s a PTZ camera that records internally
Speaking of professional options, the FR7 also stands out from other PTZ cameras for its ability to record professional video internally. While this sounds like a basic requirement for most cameras, it’s actually an unusual feature for a PTZ camera. Since these cameras are often paired with additional broadcast, streaming or live production equipment, internal recording has not been a priority.
The Sony FR7, however, breaks that expectation. It offers internal XAVC recording to dual CFExpress Type A and SDXC card slots. That means you can capture video directly inside the camera while at the same time also sending the feed to your live production software. Recording options include both All-Intra and Long-GOP compression. For even more control and flexibility in post-production, the FR7 also offers external RAW recording over SDI.
It has tools to support cinema production
With a full-frame 4K image sensor and support for interchangeable E-mount lenses and internal XAVC recording, the Sony FR7 is already shaping up to be a capable cinema camera in the form of a PTZ camera. However, on top of this strong foundation, the FR7 adds both Real-time Eye AF with Real-time Tracking and a built-in variable Electronic ND filter to further support cinematic productions.
The Sony FR7 offers the same Real-time Eye AF and Real-time Tracking technology found in other Sony cinema cameras. With 627 selectable phase-detection AF points, the FR7’s autofocus system can lock focus onto a subject’s eye and track a selected subject as they move across the frame. With a full-frame sensor and support for an extensive library of lenses, reliable autofocus is essential for capturing clear, cinematic images remotely with the Sony FR7.
Likewise, the FR7’s built-in electronic variable neutral density filter delivers more flexibility and functionality. With its ND filter, the FR7 can capture proper exposure, even in bright, sunny environments. It also allows cinematographers to capture shallow depth of field without worrying about overexposure.
The FR7 is ready to integrate into larger productions
Like any good PTZ camera, the Sony FR7 is ready to integrate into larger livestreaming and production setups. Along with industry-standard 12G-SDI, HDMI and IP outputs, the FR7 offers essential broadcast tools like a GENLOCK and timecode-in connectors to keep the camera synchronized in a multicamera production. The FR7 also features a tally lamp that shows when the camera is recording.
All of these features make this unique PTZ cinema camera an excellent addition to any multicamera setup.
Indeed, the Sony FR7 has already been to capture a variety of high-profile live productions, including concerts and other live events. For example, the FR7 was used to capture HBO’s ‘The Weeknd’s Live at Sofi Stadium’ concert. The FR7 was also used alongside 16 Sony VENICE cameras to capture The Big Steppers Tour: Live from Paris, a concert film based on Kendrick Lamar’s album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” You can find the FR7 being used everywhere, from major sporting events — like the Super Bowl Halftime show — to reality TV production.
Final thoughts on the Sony FR7
The Sony FR7 is unique in the Sony Cinema Line. It offers the functionality and form factor of a PTZ camera while simultaneously delivering the essential elements and image quality of a cinema camera. Equipped with this unusual combination of features, the Sony FR7 is ready to add a cinematic touch to any production. Learn more about the Sony FR7 at sonycine.com.