A new entry-level cinema camera to beat?

Thanks to Blackmagic Design and ARRI, the Super 35 sensor will not disappear anytime soon. Now Sony also wants a piece of this cake.

Cinema cameras with Super 35 sensors have made a really big splash in recent months. The BMPCC 6K G2 was a welcome upgrade to the pocket offering, and the ARRI Alexa 35 raised the standard by which all other cameras are measured.

Sony FX30 with 15mm f / 1.4Loan: Ira Edelman

But now the new Sony FX30 has just been announced. This Super 35 cinema camera is equipped with a 6K sensor that provides 10-bit 4K 4: 2: 2 resolution in a very compact body. So why could it be the BMPCC killer?

Its price is $ 1,799. That’s less than half the FX3 and just over $ 100 less than the BMPCC 6K G2. To learn more, read on.

The FX line goes super 35

Like its big brother, the Sony FX3, the FX30 uses the same aspect ratio, the same dimensions, and has almost the same functions. This is ideal for creators who already have frames and accessories for the FX3 but need the cheaper B Cam.

The new, backlit APS-C Exmor R ™ CMOS 6K sensor has a solid, usable 20.1 megapixels (26.1 MP in total), which is twice as much as in the FX3. This is oversampled to give creators a perfect 4K picture. Moreover, the dual ISO base at 800 and 2500 ensures excellent sensitivity, low noise and a declared over 14 stops of dynamic range when used with the SLOG3.

Sony FX30 Super 35 sensor
FX30 with 4K Super 35 sensorLoan: Sony

In 4K, the FX30 can pump 120fps and 240fps in HD. Although it will require cropping the image 38% and shooting in S&Q (slow and fast) or post processing.

As with most Sony cameras, the Type A HDMI port transmits 16-bit RAW to an external recorder such as the Atomos Ninja V or Ninja V +. With this workflow, your creatives can get up to 59.94p and a nice selection of color spaces. Creators also obtain timecode synchronization when using the VMC BNCM1 cable, which is essential for multi-camera productions.

Heritage

Not too long ago, the Sony FX received a new software update, unlocking custom LUTs and some new shooting modes that the developers had been asking for. Cine El, Cine El Quick and Flexible ISO modes will be available for creators looking to record with SLOG3. A selection of built-in cinematic looks like the S-Cinetone will also be available, but filmmakers can upload their own as well.

Sony FX30 in use
A great camera for solo filmmakersLoan: Sony

All of this is powered by the BIONZ XR processor, which Sony claims will provide natural tonal gradation and realistic color reproduction.

I had the opportunity to shoot the pre-release FX30 and I have to admit the pictures look amazing. But more on that when our review drops soon.

Autofocus and low light

There isn’t much to say about Sony’s autofocus that has yet to be said. It’s fucking amazing. I recently took pictures on a Fuji X-H2 which was an amazing little camera. It had a pretty amazing eye and face detection autofocus. But the Sony FX30, along with the new APS-C lenses, was a hair faster and smoother when tracking and moving between subjects.

Best of all, the Sony FX30 adds bird tracking AF which the FX3 seems to lack.

Sony FX30 low light
FX30 at ISO 2400Loan: NFS

When it comes to shooting in low light, the FX30 is slightly weaker in this case compared to the FX3. The new Super 35 camera will achieve the highest level of ISO 32,000. Compared to the ISO 409,600 in the FX3, developers will not have such night vision action. But that doesn’t mean it won’t work in low light at all. Sony is known for its solid low-light performance, and the FX30 doesn’t disappoint despite having its limitations.

Watch this introductory video to see what the footage will look like.

Maintaining stability

After using the Sony FX30 for the past week, the only thing that made me stand out as a solo filmmaker was the 5-axis IBIS. After using the Fuji X-H2 which has great stabilization (even with manual lenses) I thought I was spoiled. But the Sony FX30 is really a butt kick in this department.

Sony FX30 IBIS
IBIS keeps all your nervousness at bayLoan: Ira Edelman

When set to the standard, the stabilization is solid, even when I used my manual Zeiss ZF.2 lenses. But when I set the camera to active it really felt like I was using a gimbal. In this mode, the camera cuts a bit, but it’s not something that really affected my framing.

In fact, it was difficult to tell which was better, Fuji or Sony. I may have to do this side by side to really get some solid answers.

BMPCC vs Sony

I know I said the Sony FX30 could be the BMPCC killer so let me expand. The BMPCC line of cameras has always been a great solution for filmmakers looking not only for affordability, but also for quality. No other camera can come close in terms of price and image.

But now the Sony FX30 can be purchased for $ 1,799.99, without the top handle.

Sony FX30 Side view
FX30 Side view with top handleLoan: Sony

If we compare it to the BMPCC 6K G2, Sony not only delivers amazing battery life, but also IBIS and industry-leading autofocus for around $ 100 less. Sure, you forgo the internal RAW, but over 14 DR stops are nothing to mock at, even with XAVC. While you won’t be able to record 6K with the FX30, the sensor captures that resolution. Perhaps Sony will unlock this feature in the future if filmmakers really want it.

While Blackmagic recently released an update that brings gyro stabilization on pocket cameras, it doesn’t come close to that of Fuji’s or Sony’s IBIS.

Here the creative win

The BMPCC offering still offers creators a lot. BRAW is a dream to work with, and the BMPCC 4K is still one of the cheapest cinema cameras, right next to the Sigma fp. But Sony really does give BMD a lot to think about for its upcoming cameras.

If you really want to know how the Sony FX30 fares, we’ll have a full review soon. Until then, check out our BMPCC 6K G2 review.

After all, the only winners in this situation are the creative. Competition breeds excellence, and I, for example, can’t wait to see how Blackmagic Design responds. Until then, there is a choice of Fuji X-H2, Sony FX30 and BMPCC 6K G2, giving filmmakers a wealth of tools for their creative projects.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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