The Price Is Right

If you’re looking seriously at adding filmmaking to your mix and you’re tempted by the excellent Sony Cinema line-up, the new FX30 is designed to offer a bargain entry point.

There are many entry points into the world of motion and, for photographers, it’s often a case of being tempted down the hybrid route in an attempt to cover off all bases. However, this approach inevitably involves a certain amount of compromise and, if you’re serious about your filmmaking and the budget is there, it can make more sense to go down the route of having separate bespoke systems that are specifically devoted to each side of your business.

If you’re thinking about looking at a dedicated cinema camera then there’s a lot to be said for the Sony Cinema line-up and, in particular, the full-frame FX3 has for the past couple of years been one of the most solid choices for those looking for cinema camera quality at a price point – £3900 body-only from CVP – that was around the level you might expect to pay for a good quality hybrid model, such as the Canon EOS R5 (CVP price £4299). 

Canon R5

While you undoubtedly get a lot of camera for that money, that’s still a sizeable pot of cash to find, particularly if you’re also looking to invest in a camera that’s designed to cover off your still requirements. Sony went away and considered the conundrum and, in October last year, launched the scaled-back FX30, that was available for roughly half the cost of the FX3 at £2099. It was a model that created a huge stir and, at a stroke, it dramatically slashed the price of entry into Sony’s celebrated Cinema family.

Naturally, the new arrival doesn’t come with the full set of FX3 features on board, the most obvious difference being the fact that it features at its heart an APS-C sized 26MP BSI sensor as opposed to one that’s a full frame 12.1MP BSI version. While, for some, that would be considered a major downtick, for others the pros of working with the smaller sensor could actually make the newer model the better and more flexible option. 

“Full frame has been all the rage for a few years now,” comments CVP’s Technical Marketing Manager Jake Ratcliffe, “but Super35 and APS-C sized sensors still have their place. All different sensor formats come with their own particular pros and cons. For example, while you can’t easily achieve the same wide field of view and shallow depth of field look when using an APS-C model as you can with full frame, you can still achieve fantastic images with smaller sensors that are designed well.

“One of the biggest benefits is lens choice. Lenses for smaller sensors are often more compact, lighter and more affordable than those designed to partner their full frame counterparts. Sony offers a decent range of APS-C lenses that they’ve been fleshing out for quite some time now, while there are also a bunch of awesome third-party ones you could consider. 

“The one that instantly comes to mind is the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 (CVP price £678), which, when paired with Sigma’s MC-11 adapter, performs excellently on the FX30. Designed specifically for APS-C sized sensors, the lens translates to the equivalent of 27mm – 52.5mm on a 35mm camera, and is capable of doing a really good job for what’s not a huge investment.”

Making the Choice

Key specifications of the FX30 include its ability to record oversampled UHD 4K (6K capture) at up to 60p and UHD 4K/120p capture with an additional 1/62x crop, in-body image stabilisation, 10-bit 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 capture in a choice of H.265 or H.264-based AVC formats, S-Cinetone colour profile, S-Log3 with up-loadable LUTs for previewing or applying to footage, 16-bit Raw video output, no mechanical shutter mechanism and front and rear tally lamps. 

Overall Sony has delivered a camera that represents a significant step up in production quality over some hybrid models attempting dual functionality, while also giving access to a higher level of colour grading and post-production workflow that might otherwise require a sizeable investment in a top-end cinema model. 

By opting to produce a dedicated video-production camera rather than one, such as the A7S IV, that looks to add high-end stills capability to the mix, Sony has come up with a well-priced alternative that, in the opinion of many, looks to have the capability to gives its higher priced FX3 sibling a testing run for its money.

Outwardly the FX30 appears identical to the FX3 and, indeed, shares the same body, which is brilliant news if you’re looking perhaps at utilising both cameras into your workflow, since all the cages and accessories designed for the full frame model are going to fit. Being designed for movie production there are a selection of 1/4-20 (tripod-style) holes scattered across the body for mounting accessories or for rigging-up the camera. Further options on offer include the XLR adapter/top-handle, which comes as standard with the FX3, which takes up two mounting holes on either side of the hot shoe, to ensure everything is securely mounted.

Both models feature an outwardly similar 3in vari-angle LCD screen with touchscreen functionality but, surprisingly perhaps, the one on the lower-priced FX30 boasts almost double the resolution, at 2.36 million dots compared to 1.44. While the difference is not immediately obvious, those used to working with hi-res screens will appreciate the step up.

Other key areas such as size and weight and autofocus ability are remarkably similar, with the FX3 offering 637 phase detection pixels on its sensor to assist AF, while the FX30 has 495. And both offer real time eye AF and tracking to make focus automation straightforward. The ‘AF Assist’ function also automatically switches into manual focus with just one turn on the lens’ dial, while the Focus Map facility shows exactly what’s in focus within each frame, so there are no missed opportunities when capturing images.

Proving that its highly competitive price point doesn’t need to mean that it’s lacking a high-end feature set, the FX30 also comes with a Zebra function that shows, at a glance, how accurate your exposure settings might be. In the review he carried out for CVP Jake looked at this facility and reckoned it to be one of the best that can currently be found on the market. 

“Exposure tools are really important to make sure you’re getting the best image out of the camera you can,” he explains, “and Sony always does a great job with its Zebra function. It’s an incredibly flexible way to work, which means dialling in the exact IRE you need is a breeze, something that’s especially handy if you’re using a mid-grey card to determine your exposure.”

Choice of Cameras

Alongside his bespoke video review of the FX30, Jake has also compared the new model up against potential rivals such as the Fujifilm XH2S, its A7S Mark IV mirrorless sibling and the Panasonic GH6, all of which are, of course, designed as hybrid cameras as opposed to dedicated video models.

“All these cameras are definitely options to look at if you’re in the market for a system priced around the same as the FX30,” says Jake. “They all have different pros and cons of course, but the FX30 is a fully focused video camera, rather than a hybrid, as its stills capabilities are quite restricted. I think another close competitor would be the Blackmagic Pocket cameras, which are also priced similarly but have a slightly different feature set.”

In terms of how the FX30 specifically compares to the FX3 that it so closely resembles, Jake considers that it contains a huge amount of the same DNA, which is remarkable given its much lower price point, but it does make a few compromises, chief of which, of course, is its smaller sensor size. 

“That will be thing that most people pick up on,” agrees Jakes, “but, then again, that’s how Sony has been able to keep the price down, and it also means you can use more affordable lenses. I would say that the FX3 and the A7S IV have better overall image quality, especially in low light, but that’s not surprising given that they’re full frame models. Otherwise, the FX30 features everything that’s great from the FX3 when it comes to shooting video, with actually a few features added. 

“It’s also come in at a whole new price point compared to the other models in Sony’s cinema line-up, and this does now mean that a slightly different level of market can get into the Sony Cinema Line ecosystem for the first time, which has to be a really good thing. That’s who Sony has made the FX30 for, namely creatives who want a camera that’s more focused on video acquisition, but who don’t want to spend the extra to get an FX3.”

So, the million-dollar question: should those planning to take their filmmaking more seriously be looking to go down the FX30 route, or rather still be keeping a wary eye on the hybrid alternatives? “The FX30 is definitely a video-first camera,” says Jake. “It can take stills, but it’s very limited versus the FX3 and Sony’s Alpha series cameras. Whether you would look at investing in a camera for video and then a separate model for stills will depend on your budget. 

“However, if it makes financial sense and you feel your business would benefit from two different workflows for stills and video, then it could actually be a good idea. On the hybrid front the models up against the FX30 would be the likes of the Canon EOS R5c and R6 Mark II, the Sony A7 IV and Fujifilm’s X-H2S/X-H2 models. 


“In all honesty, making the call of which way to go can be a bit of a minefield, so I would really suggest giving CVP a call and speaking to one of our experienced team to get a better idea as to which camera might best suit your particular circumstances.” 


Outwardly the FX3 and FX30 look identical, and share the same body, which is great news if you want to use accessories across both models.

The new FX30 features dual memory slots, and can work with either SD or CFexpress  cards to give the user maximum choice.

Compact and easy to get to grips with, the FX30 is a well-priced and brilliantly featured video-only option.

The top plates of the FX3 and FX30 are identical, and the pair make great A and B cameras.  

Sony’s FX3  full frame model has been a favourite of filmmakers since its launch, but it is a relatively expensive option.

Hybrid alternatives to the FX30 include Canon’s EOS R5C and Fujifilm’s  X-H2, but the  addition of stills will mean compromises. 


Scan here to watch CVP’s in-depth review of the Sony FX30. 

Scan here to watch CVP’s comparison between the BM Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, Panasonic GH6, Fujifilm X-H2S and the Sony FX30.

Leave a Reply