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  • Cheryl Tan

Sony FX30 Review: Professional Capabilities Without Breaking The Bank

The camera we're taking a look at today focuses on filmmaking, and we're not talking about a camera that can only do basic video functions. We're talking about real filmmaking tools, and a camera that is focused primarily on video. Best of all, it's an entry-level camera, so if you're thinking of starting out in videography or filmmaking, this review of the Sony FX30 is for you.

If you think that we're reviewing an FX3 instead of the FX30, we wouldn't blame you. In a lot of ways, the two cameras do share a lot of similarities in terms of design. We don't have confirmation from Sony, but we think the body of the FX30 is pretty much the same as the FX3. The only way to really tell them apart would be the logo at the top as well as the sensor size.

Now, we've recently used the FX3 and we weren't keeping hopes too high for the FX30 as it's an entry-level APS-C camera for video. In our opinion, though, Sony has really stepped up their game with this new camera, because the performance was comparable to the FX3's and we didn't feel like it was an entry-level camera.

The body dimensions and size are exactly the same as the FX3. The body does weigh slightly less than the FX3 at 562 grams without any batteries or accessories though. There are multiple 1/4-inch threads around the body to attach accessories to, which really comes in handy if you don't have a cage.

There's no electronic viewfinder, and there are a lot of buttons, along with tally lamps that light up red when rolling so you have fewer chances of accidentally not rolling on a shoot.

The camera comes with a vari-angle LCD touchscreen, and it uses a NPFZ-100 battery similar to the other Alpha series cameras. There are dual CF Express type A and SD card slots along with a mic and headphone jack.

There's also five axis In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) and an internal cooling fan to ensure uninterrupted 4K recording. We were out shooting some content at a farm and the weather was quite hot and humid. Despite long takes, we didn't have any issues with overheating. The body is also dust and moisture-resistant..

There's an attachable XLR handle that goes on the multi-interface hot shoe mount, with two full-size XLR connectors and a variety of different recording formats such as 24-bit 4 channel. There's also a 3.5mm stereo mic mini jack and loads of manual controls on the side of the handle so you can make adjustments on the fly.

As mentioned before, the FX30 has a new APS-C sensor which takes on a 4K super 35 format, with an impressive 14+ stops of dynamic range. There isn't a mechanical shutter and even though this is a cinema line camera, it can shoot stills at 26MP which is impressive. A lot of other video or cinema cameras from Sony can only shoot stills at 12MP and below.

Do take note though, that the FX30 shoots stills but only single shots, so you won't be able to take burst shots with this camera. There's also no uncompressed RAW, so there are still a few limitations to shooting photos.

Speaking of the 4K sensor, the camera does 4K 120FPS and even 240FPS in full HD. You have all the LOG colour profiles similar to the other Sony Alpha cameras as well as S-Cinetone. What's new with the FX30 is that you can even import your own user LUTs. Within the colour profile menu system, if you scroll all the way down, you would see PPLUT. The LUTs, however, are burned into the files, which might be ideal for some people since it does reduce the time needed in post-production. But do take note that this isn't a reference LUT to preview images like how you can do with some external monitors.

Another interesting new feature is the added vertical aspect ratio markets that comes in handy if you're intending to shoot content that's catered for viewing on a mobile phone. You can now know your frame borders if you're shooting for IG Reels or TikTok videos.

There are a ton of recording formats that you can choose from, similar to the A7SIII and FX3. 10-bit 4:2:2 files are also available, and we have to point out that at this point in time, we tend to not shoot with 8-bit files as the footage tends to be very difficult to grade in post-production.

If you do a lot of heavy colour grading like us, the FX30 10-bit footage is super clean even at high ISOs, which is quite rare in APS-C cameras because of the smaller sensor size. Oh yes, speaking of ISO, the FX30 has dual native ISO at 800 and 2500. For those unfamiliar with how ISO affect noise in an image, most cameras have a native ISo which would create the least amount of noise in footage.

Without getting too technical, having dual native ISOs would mean that you would get the same amount of minimal noise at two different ISOs, which comes in really handy if you're working with a small setup and don't have the luxury of adding more lights. You can then bump up to the next native ISO value and perhaps add an ND filter or reduce the intensity of the lights.

What really blew us away with the FX30 is the autofocus. Similar to other Sony cameras, you get to choose between Eye AF of humans, animals or birds, but what we really fell in love with is the accuracy and speed of which the AF works. A few days ago, we were shooting at a workshop and we filmed some laser cutting machines that were moving really quickly. We were surprised the FX30 could keep up and tracked the laser cutter as it was moving along the frame. There wasn't a lot of light in the workshop, but the camera still managed to detect the machine.

We had the luxury of testing the FX30 in a few situations. We shot at the workshop, a garden and as we mentioned, we were really impressed by the speed and accuracy of the autofocus. For the most part, the autofocus worked really well in all the situations we put it in.

In terms of noise and 10-bit footage, even when pushing the ISO to above 2000, the image was kept surprisingly clean. We cannot emphasise enough how impressive this is for an APS-C camera. The high frame rate footage was all really smooth and buttery as well after slowing down, and the colours turned out really nice.

Another nice feature is the ability to record low-bitrate HD proxy files simultaneously with all recording formats. This saves editors a ton of time and speeds up the workflow without having to create proxies for offline editing because the file sizes do get quite large, so working off the 4K footage might not be ideal in some cases.

To be honest, having used the FX3, which is Netflix-approved, we can't really differentiate the FX30 from it in terms of image quality. Of course, there would be more flexibility with the FX3. After all, it is a full-frame sensor, but if we're comparing it from a usability standpoint, the FX30 doesn't fall far from the tree.

For an entry-level cinema camera, you'll be paying S$2,799 without the XLR handle and S$3,399 with the handle. We must say, this is a very appealing price for a camera that has so many professional functions.

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