It’s only 18 months since Sony released the full-frame Sony FX3, a compact cinema camera based on much of the same tech found in the Sony A7S III but with a design better suited to filmmaking. It’s been a popular camera – and we just used two of them for our IBC coverage in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago – but now there is a new contender.
Sony has today officially announced the new Sony FX30, which is essentially an APS-C (or Super 35mm, if you prefer) version of the FX3. With that smaller sensor also comes a slightly smaller price tag, bringing that FX3 cost down from around $3,900 to only $1,798 for the FX30. But is it a like-for-like comparison? Or does the FX30 make a few compromises beyond the sensor size?
In Sony’s announcement, they say the Sony FX30 is the result of listening to creators needs, and those needs seem to be an APS-C/Super 35mm format cinema camera in an FX3 style body. A shiny new 26.1-megapixel Backside Illuminated APS-C sensor, to be specific. It shoots 4K UHD at up to 120 frames per second, offers 10-Bit 4:2:2 AXVC and 16-Bit RAW output with 14+ stops of dynamic range. That 26.1-megapixels is also the camera’s 3:2 stills resolution. Cropped down to 16:9 for video, it’s 20.1-megapixels.
The 4K video is created using oversampled 6K video for lower noise levels and improved detail. Well, it is unless you want to shoot 120fps. When shooting 4K at 120fps, there’s a 1.6x crop of the APS-C area (which is already a 1.5x crop) resulting in a 2.4x crop when compared to full-frame. This makes the capture area even smaller than Micro Four Thirds. You do get the full use of the sensor when shooting at up to 60fps, though.
Like the FX3, the FX30 includes LUT support (including custom ones) and you get all of the usual HDR-HLG, S Cinetone and Sony S-Log 3 gamma curves as well as HEIF, JPG and 14-Bit raw stills. It has dual 800/2500 ISO with a range of 100-32,000, which isn’t quite as wide as the FX3’s 80-102,400 but is still quite respectable. The fast hybrid AF is available in all modes, even shooting at 120fps. Naturally, it also sees in-body image stabilisation and active cooling.
With as many similarities between the cameras as there are, you might be wondering why there’s such a massive price difference between the two. Well aside from the size of the sensor and the not insignificant crop factor when shooting 120fps, part of the price is down to the included accessories. The FX30 does not include the XLR-H1 handle that comes supplied with the sony FX3. It is compatible, although it’s available as an optional extra on its own for which a price doesn’t appear to have been announced quite yet. B&H does list a bundle containing both the camera and the handle together, though for $2,198. Still, that’s far less than the FX3.
Without the handle, though, you do still get the usual 3.5mm microphone input jack as well as the 3.5mm headphone output jack. The multi-interface shoe also remains on top of the camera, allowing you to use it with microphones such as the Sony ECM-B1M on-camera shotgun mic. For storage, you’ve got the now standard dual format dual card slots which are both capable of accepting either a UHS-II SD card or a CFexpress Type A card, up to two cards total in use simultaneously.
So, while there are a couple of slight compromises as compared to the FX3, it looks like it should satisfy the needs of many who want to shoot a camera like the FX3 on a lower budget. Given that it’s less than half the cost of the FX3 and you’re not forced to pay for an XLR handle you likely don’t anyway, this opens up Sony’s cinema ecosystem to a lot more potential users. I can see this one becoming quite popular.
The Sony FX30 is available to pre-order now for $1,798 and is expected to start shipping in late October.