The Sony FX30 is the Ideal Entry-Level Cinema Camera09/28/2022
With the release of the Sony FX30, it is now easier than ever to pick up a cinema camera. Many everyday content creators in need of a cinema camera have found current options to be either too expensive, too complicated, or both. With the FX30, the barrier for entry is even lower without sacrificing quality or performance. Sony accomplished this by taking the clean design of the FX3 and packing in a newly developed 26.1MP APS-C BSI sensor.
The FX30 is an ideal first cinema camera and a perfect entry into Sony’s Cinema Line.
Super 35mm Sensor
The FX30 is designed to be a camera you can grow with, offering much of Sony’s technical mastery—including advanced functions such as timecode support and S-Log3—while remaining relatively affordable. Using a newly developed APS-C/Super 35mm sensor allowed Sony to offer the same recording specs:
- UHD 4K at up to 120p
- 10-bit internal recording
- 16-bit raw output
- Standard ISO Range of 100-32000
- Dual Base ISO (800 / 2500)
You need to watch the crop. The FX30 performs 6K oversampling from an area of the sensor that is an almost unnoticeable 1.04x crop. This will work for 4K in 10-bit in any recording mode up to 60 fps.
Now, for 120 fps, there is a 1.6x crop of the Super 35mm area. This is on top of the system’s standard APS-C/Super 35mm crop.
To make this all happen, the FX30 uses the latest BIONZ XR image processor, which allows it to realize all of these new features found in other new camera releases.
You can also use the FX30 to snap some still images if you prefer; the 26MP resolution is great for that.
Compared to the FX3
Coming in at a much lower cost than the FX3, the FX30 is an interesting option for many. Those considering the FX3 may find that the FX30 checks all their boxes, and more, without the higher cost and with the ability to create a much smaller package. But what do you get by moving up to the FX3 and what do you lose by choosing the FX30?
Obviously, the FX3 has a larger full-frame sensor compared to the FX30’s APS-C sensor. This usually means that the FX3 will have better dynamic range and low-light performance; however, Sony seems to have worked some magic with the FX30.
By using the 6K image area and down-sampling, the appearance of noise in the image is minimized. This can give a boost to low-light performance and allows shadows clearly to retain more detail. Further testing is needed, but it is very promising.
Even though the two models share the same native ISO range and dual base ISO specs, the FX30 has a rated dynamic range of 14+ stops—still quite excellent, but just a hair behind its full-frame brothers.
But as mentioned earlier, when compared to the FX3, the FX30 needs to crop into its already cropped sensor to realize 120p recording. The FX3 crops, but only 1.1x on the full-frame image while the FX30 is another 1.6x on top of its already cropped format. Not a deal breaker by any means—just something to be aware of if you plan on using the slow-motion recording options extensively.
Interestingly, the FX30 gains some features that aren’t currently available in the FX3, such as Breathing Compensation.
Beyond that, almost everything else is the same:
- Same body design
- User LUT support
- Cine EI and other log shooting modes
- Fast Hybrid AF, including 4K 120p
- In-body image stabilization
- Active cooling
- Timecode input via optional VMC-BNCM1 Timecode Adapter Cable
Without the XLR handle, users can gain monitoring and recording through the 3.5mm input and output jacks on the body of the camera. The Multi Interface Shoe remains, and Sony makes plenty of accessories that work directly with it for audio transmission.
So if you don’t have a ton of use for the XLR handle at first, acquiring it is a decision you can make later on.
Many of Sony’s newest features include metadata that is recorded directly into the video files. This includes the following:
- Embedded LUT and EI information
- Gyro and lens stabilization metadata
- Breathing compensation
- Camera rotation
- Shot mark
By using this information in Catalyst Browse and Prepare, you can make tweaks after shooting to optimize each shot. This can mean faster editing workflows, better image quality, improved stabilization, and more.
To help creators integrate these benefits into their existing workflows, there will be a future Catalyst Prepare Plug-in released for Adobe Premiere Pro that is able to offer editors these controls within their current NLE.
All The Lenses
Over the past couple of years, Sony has laid the groundwork for the FX30 with the release of a handful of new APS-C optics. Even without options specifically designed to work with the Super 35mm system, Sony’s E mount has plenty of full-frame options, plus a ton of support from third parties. If you are looking, there is going to be something out there for you.
Still, let’s highlight a few recommended choices.
The E PZ 10-20mm f/4 G is a great place to start because it features Power Zoom, which can be conveniently controlled from the lens or the FX30’s zoom rocker. The wide equivalent zoom range of 15-30mm is ideal for handheld shooting and vlogging.
For primes I would recommend two up front: the E 11mm f/1.8 and the E 15mm f/1.4 G. You may have noticed that the first three lenses were all recent releases—and that’s no accident. These two primes bring fast, wide options to the APS-C line are well worth a look since they are so small and ideal for the FX30.
Other lenses to consider:
- E 16-55mm f/2.8 G — Your standard, fast zoom
- Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA — Older, but a personal favorite from the a6000 days
And APS-C/Super35 opens up the door to many third-party cinema glass. You can find fun, new options like affordable anamorphics in this area. There are plenty of options for all types of filmmakers.
Bigger CFexpress Type A Cards
Alongside the FX30 announcement was the reveal that two larger sizes of Sony’s CFexpress Type A TOUGH Memory Card series are on the way: 320GB and 640GB. This has been one complaint about the relatively new format, and this release should help users looking for speed and long recording times.
Even though Sony has dramatically increased the sizes of these cards (the original release included 80GB and 160GB versions), the speeds have remained the same. This series has rated read and write speeds of up to 800 MB/s and 700 MB/s, respectively.
If you have been looking for bigger cards for your a1, a7S III, FX3, FX6, or now the FX30, these will do the trick.
The FX30 appears to be a very compelling option for content creators looking to get started with a more serious cinema kit while having room to grow in the future. It will definitely be a great place to start if you aspire to use Sony’s Cinema Line cameras later on, or perhaps as rentals on current jobs.
What do you think about the FX30? How does it compare to similar options in the market? Let us know your thoughts and please feel free to ask us any questions in the Comments section, below!