FX3 vs. FX30 - Which Camera Should You Choose?
The Sony ecosystem continues to grow and exceed as a major player in the video industry. With a range of high-quality digital cameras, lenses, and accessories, Sony has become our workhorse brand at Element 7, and continues to be a driving force in the prosumer video market as a whole. In recent years, Sony has innovated and expanded its Cine and Alpha lineups with improved models, one of which being Sony’s newest FX30, released late last year.
The FX30 is the most recent camera design that offers advanced features and high-quality video capture in a compact, DSLR-like format. This isn't the first of its kind for Sony, though. Starting way back in the A6300, Sony has kept up a trend of manufacturing small cameras that pack a punch. The A7 Series was short to follow, which focused on being dual-capable, photo & video systems.
The release of the FX3 was a new chapter in Compact Cinema-heavy focus. The FX3 reigned king of this group until now, rivaled with the emergence of the Sony FX30. Let's sift through the buzz and get down to brass tax. Which does it better? The FX3, or the FX30?
One of the features of the FX30 that Sony highlights is its 20.1 megapixel sensor. This is a technical step up from the FX3, which houses a 12.1 megapixel sensor. While both cameras maintain Sony’s heavy lean towards video, this is an appreciated upgrade to photography capabilities in a pinch.
This upgrade, however, is offset by the FX30’s rolling shutter and lack of burst mode capture. It’s not expected that you’ll be handling professional photo shoots with either the FX30 or FX3, but this is an important point for shooters looking for a photo/video dual-capable system. If photography is the end goal, you can find great results in Sony’s A7R series, which is much more focused on still capture.
A noteworthy change in the FX30 is the choice to house an APS-C Sensor. This is an important deviation from the Full Frame Sensors that the FX3 implements. An APS-C Sensor crops the field of view to 1.5x on the same lens as the FX3. For our shooters at Element 7, the Full Frame benefits have been a big selling point. Full Frame sensors allow for more real estate out of the lens, as well as an easier bokeh between subjects and background. This has been an incredibly helpful feature when shooting in small and challenging locations typical of downtown businesses and offices.
Another relevant difference between these cameras is the downgrade for the FX30 in ISO flexibility. The FX30 only has dual-native sensitivities of 800 and 2,500 ISO. This is a disappointingly small increment when compared to the FX3, which boasts dual base sensitivity settings of 800 and 12,800 ISO.
To explain further, the terms "Native ISO" or "Base ISO” refer to the base sensitivity of a camera's image sensor, and indicate what ISO levels the camera considers ideal conditions for capture. Namely this addresses the amount of noise present in the image. The Native or Base ISO levels have the least amount of noise present, and thus the cleanest image.
This lack of a much higher base ISO is a major discrepancy in low light capability between the FX3 & FX30, an area that Sony has largely been dominant in thus far. This aspect should be a massive turn-off for shooters operating in challenging lighting conditions, such as concerts, weddings, or nighttime events.
The FX30 supports a lot of the staple video specs present in the FX3, and that we’ve come to expect from Sony’s cinema line cameras in general. This includes 4K capture at frame rates up to 120FPS, impressive in-body camera stabilization, and handy S&Q capture modes that allow for in-camera slow motion and timelapses. The camera body is also largely the same, with both systems being equally lightweight and maneuverable.
It’s always worth mentioning that Sony’s autofocus with native E-Mount glass is impeccable for interviews and fast-moving subjects alike. Being one of our favorite features of the FX3, we’re happy to see this capability being included and innovated further for the FX30. The performance of the autofocus is comparable, but the new release offers some more control points for objects and animals that are not present in the FX3.
Present in both cameras is the need for an additional hot shoe top handle to tackle Audio connections. This adds XLR ports and is essential for any interviews.
Let’s address the real elephant in the room, and that is the cost. Currently on B&H, the FX3 stands at $3,899. This compared to the FX30, which lands at $2,198. (Both prices including the XLR Top Handle)
With the FX30 being close to half the price, it starts to excuse a lot of the shortcomings and differences. Ultimately this is always the debate when considering what camera gear to purchase. What features are worth the price, and what can you live without?
The FX30 ticks another entry in the Sony Video ecosystem as the company continues to innovate for making cinema features available in smaller and smaller packages. While Pros and Cons are present, they're ultimately both great cameras, and a trustworthy brand.
It really comes down to resources. If you've got the means to shell out a little more money, we'd recommend going with the FX3.