Thanks to Blackmagic Design and ARRI, the Super 35 sensor isn’t going away anytime soon. Now, Sony also wants a piece of that pie.
Cinema cameras with Super 35 sensors have really made a splash in recent months. The BMPCC 6K G2 was a welcome upgrade to the pocket lineup, and the ARRI Alexa 35 elevated the standard by which all other cameras are measured.
But now, the new Sony FX30 has just been announced. This Super 35 cinema camera packs a 6K sensor that delivers 4K 4:2:2 10-bit in a super compact package. So why could it be the BMPCC killer?
It’s priced at $1,799. That’s less than half the FX3 and just over $100 less than the BMPCC 6K G2. To learn more, keep reading.
The FX Line Goes Super 35
Much like its older sibling, the Sony FX3, the FX30 utilizes the same form factor, with the same dimensions, and packs almost the same features. This is great for creatives who already have cages and accessories for the FX3 but need a cheaper B Cam.
A new 6K back-illuminated APS-C Exmor R™ CMOS sensor packs a solid usable 20.1 megapixels (26.1MP total), which is double that of the FX3. This is oversampled to give creatives a superb 4K image. On top of that, the dual base ISO at 800 and 2500 delivers great sensitivity, low noise, and a claimed 14+ stops of dynamic range when used with SLOG3.
At 4K, the FX30 can pump out 120fps and 240fps at HD. Although that will require a 38% image crop and either shooting in S&Q mode (slow and quick) or some processing in post.
And, like with most of Sony’s cameras, an HDMI Type-A port outputs 16-bit RAW to an external recorder like the Atomos Ninja V or Ninja V+. With this workflow, creatives can get up to 59.94p and a nice choice of color spaces. Creatives also get timecode sync when using a VMC BNCM1 cable, which is a must for multicam productions.
Not too long ago, the Sony FX received a new firmware update, unlocking custom LUTs and a few new shooting modes that creatives had been asking for. For creatives looking to record in SLOG3, the Cine El, Cine El Quick, and Flexible ISO modes will be available. There will also be a selection of built-in cinematic looks, such as S-Cinetone, but filmmakers can also upload their own.
Powering all of this is the BIONZ XR processing engine, which Sony claims will provide natural gradations and realistic color reproduction.
I got a chance to shoot with a pre-release FX30, and I have to say, the images look amazing. But more on that when our review drops soon.
Auto focus and low light
There’s not much to say about Sony’s autofocus that hasn’t already been said. It’s pretty damn awesome. I recently shot on the Fuji X-H2, which was an amazing little camera. It had some pretty amazing autofocus with eye and face detection. But the Sony FX30, along with the new APS-C lenses, was just a hair faster and smoother when tracking and transitioning between subjects.
Best of all, the Sony FX30 adds bird AF tracking, which the FX3 doesn’t seem to have.
As for low-light shooting, this is where the FX30 falls a bit short when compared to the FX3. The new Super 35 camera will only top out at ISO 32,000. Compared to the FX3’s ISO 409,600, creatives won’t be getting that night vision action. But that’s not to say it won’t do a great job in low light at all. Sony is known for having solid low-light performance, and the FX30 doesn’t disappoint, even though it has its limits.
Check out this launch video to get an idea of what the footage will look like.
Keeping Things Steady
After using the Sony FX30 for the past week, the one thing that stood out to me as a solo filmmaker is the 5-axis IBIS. After using the Fuji X-H2, which has superb stabilization (even with manual lenses), I thought I had been spoiled rotten. But the Sony FX30 really kicks butt in this department.
When set to standard, the stabilization is rock solid, even when I was using my all-manual Zeiss ZF.2 lenses. But when I set the camera to active, it really felt like I was using a gimbal. The camera does crop a bit in this mode, but it’s not something that really affected my framing.
All in all, it was hard to distinguish which was better, the Fuji or the Sony. I might have to do a side-by-side to really get some solid answers.
BMPCC vs Sony
I know I said that the Sony FX30 could be a BMPCC killer, so let me elaborate. The BMPCC line of cameras has always been an excellent solution for filmmakers looking not only for affordability but quality. No other camera could come close on price and image.
But now, the Sony FX30 can be had for $1,799.99, sans the top handle.
If we compare it to the BMPCC 6K G2, the Sony not only gives you amazing battery life but IBIS, and industry-leading autofocus, for about $100 less. Sure, you give up internal RAW, but 14+ stops of DR is nothing to scoff at, even with the XAVC. So while you won’t be able to shoot 6K with the FX30, the sensor does capture that resolution. Maybe Sony will unlock that feature in the future if filmmakers really want it.
While Blackmagic recently released an update to give it is pocket cameras gyro stabilization, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the IBIS of Fuji or Sony.
This Is Where Creatives Win
The BMPCC lineup still offers a lot to creatives. BRAW is a dream to work with, and the BMPCC 4K is still one of the cheapest cinema cameras out there, right next to the Sigma fp. But Sony is really giving BMD a lot to think about for its upcoming cameras.
If you really want to know how the Sony FX30 will stack up, we’ll have a full review coming soon. Till then, check out our review of the BMPCC 6K G2.
In the end, the only people winning in this situation are the creatives. Competition breeds excellence, and I, for one, can’t wait to see how Blackmagic Design responds. Until then, there’s the Fuji X-H2, Sony FX30, and BMPCC 6K G2 to choose from, giving filmmakers a cornucopia of tools for their creative projects.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.