Pros and Cons of a Camera in a Box


The LUMIX BS1H and Sony’s FX6 retain existing sensors in new “boxy” form factors. Does this offer a better shooting experience? Let’s see . . .

When Sony’s FX6 was launched last year, it surprised a lot of shooters, especially FX9 owners who were perplexed at the new features that weren’t on their own cameras (namely the RAW output of the FX6).

But, strip down the FX6 into the basic “near” box shape that’s left, and you have an a7S III in a cube shape, however, with no audio inputs (more on that later).

Sony's FX6
Treating Sony’s FX6 like a box camera can change your shooting style. Image via Sony.

The new LUMIX BS1H is more of a recognized box camera with its multiple attachment points—11 1/4in 20 threads are available on the body. You also have a massive increase in I/Os from the S1H including Ethernet LAN, Genlock and timecode in and out, and SDI out.

But, what does the box format give these hybrid cameras and is it something you can take advantage of, especially if you already own the original mirrorless products within their photographic lineage?

Here are some ideas on how to use your Sony FX6 and LUMIX BS1H in their extreme naked state. We’re not going into the camera feature sets. Instead, let’s see how you can enter this ultra-small camera world and make it work for your shooting style.


Using the FX6 with a Gimbal

To use the Sony FX6 in this box-like format, you have to undress the camera from its top and side handles. You’d perhaps only do this for covert documentary shooting or use with a gimbal or a drone, but you’ll be amazed at where you can put this 890g full-framed camera as a result.

Gimbals like the DJI RS 2 are highly usable with the FX6, you just have to be careful what lens you want to balance with it, as well as any accessories like a follow focus rig, batteries, etc.

The Sony FX6
The Sony FX6 after-sales accessory market is healthy and growing. Image via CVP.

Sam Holland has a practical video about this below. He details the care you have to give to a camera like the FX6 when you’re dealing with gimbals. Down to the right cables and how he organized the monitoring—the camera’s top handle had to go which carries the camera’s monitor panel.

With a weight of only 890g without handles, the FX6 is also perfect for drone use, apart from there being a lack of support threads on the body. Perhaps Sony missed a trick when they didn’t pepper the magnesium-alloy body with mounting points, but a vibrant third-party market has the answer.

Most accessory manufacturers have an answer for mounting for the FX6, including some handheld solutions for the light body only.

Plenty of FX6 owners have bemoaned the fact that the only audio inputs are on the detachable handle. So, if you take that off to pursue your small footprint style, you only have the rubbish electret microphone in the camera’s body to record anything.

You can record externally, then use a synched timecode with something like the Tentacle Sync TRACK E timecode audio recorder, synching it in post. But, it’s still a pain not to have an in-built solution to this.


Monitoring Choice

Once you’ve taken off the top handle, you’re without audio and monitoring. Perhaps too naked for some except for a total guerrilla shooting approach.

But, you can turn this on its head by using a recording monitor like the Atomos Ninja V 5in model, which gives you a bright monitor and a way to record a cool new feature—120fps in 4K ProRes RAW.

You’ll then have to manage batteries for both camera and Ninja for the target weight you have. The Ninja is quite power-hungry though.

4K 120p ProRes RAW
With a May 2021 firmware update, you can now record 4K 120p ProRes RAW. Image via ATOMOS.

This 4K external recording option is derived from a firmware update in May 2021, so make sure you have the latest code on-board before you investigate this game-changing possibility.

The Sony FX6 is a future classic camera but its lack of certain I/Os—like Ethernet for network LAN control and mounting points for fixing—makes it less of a traditional box camera like the BS1H. But, it’s still extremely adaptable.


LUMIX BS1H: The Box Story

So, why has Panasonic or LUMIX introduced the BS1H? We have a wider introductory piece to the camera, but I think that it’s mainly about the sensor and how another form factor can introduce more people to this cinematic world.

As a reminder, we’re talking about a dual ISO full frame 6K imager that can also offer a Super 35mm 60p solution, albeit with a crop. Check out the full Panasonic specs.

This is also a continuation of the move to smaller cameras with extensive communication technologies.

Panasonic obviously has decades of broadcast and install experience. You can see it guiding the specification of the BS1H. The box shape has to be of a certain size to interest the dronies and still fit on land-based gimbals.

LUMIX BS1H
The new box camera version of the LUMIX S1H—the BS1H. Image via Panasonic.

Those in the install business need network control over multiple cameras and like the idea of a controllable cinematic look. They also appreciate the dual output of SDI and HDMI—getting a clean feed on HDMI and overlays on SDI. The BS1H also has the ability to stream on networks through its RTP and RTSP features.

Ultimately, the BS1H really scores with its multi-cam capabilities. Panasonic’s Tether control software can manage up to twelve cameras with the mixture of an impressive image and sophisticated network management.


The Future of the Box Format

Those who are using box formats can see the way forward for small cameras. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how it’s changed the rules for careers. A single shooter can look to the streaming media world for work, as well as web films, for instance.

Panasonic has been incredibly active in putting streaming tech on their prosumer ranges. Perhaps a LAN output should be more of a standard feature, as well.


Need a few more camera updates, reviews, and advice? We’ve got you covered:

Cover image via Sony and Panasonic.





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