Sony FX30 Review Part 2: An Excellent Companion Camera – RedShark News | Episode Movies

Can you really get a cinema camera for a few grand? No not really… In part 2 of Roland Denning’s review of the new Sony FX30 he finds it to be an excellent companion camera but a limited main choice.

We’ve said many times here that all professional video cameras are capable of creating great images. If so, why did we choose a particular camera? My simple answer is, you choose the one that fits the way you work (and you can read the first part of this review here: Sony FX30 Review: A Gateway Drug In Sony’s Cinema Line?).

I see two main reasons to buy the Sony FX30. Firstly as a complement to a larger camera in the Cinema Line – FX9, FX6 or the earlier PXW-FS7 or PXW-FS5. Since the PXW-FS7 Sony have dominated mid-range TV production in the UK and I believe they will do the same with the FX9. For example, the FX30 is ideal as a secondary camera that can be switched off when you are recording an interview. It will be compatible with the same lenses as the main camera and, importantly, will be able to deliver with the same Sony codecs.

Second, as a low-budget indie camera that competes with cameras like the BlackMagic Pocket or the Panasonic GH5. But the FX30 is one of the better in its class. The optional handle not only has two XLR inputs, but an additional stereo channel accessed via a mini jack. It doesn’t need a cage, its batteries last a couple of hours, and it has a decent (but small) pop-out screen. It also features Sony’s increasingly usable autofocus system and 5-axis IBIS. One of the newest additions to Sony’s Cinema Line, it also features the latest software, including lens breathing compensation. The latter is great in principle, but it only works with certain Sony GM lenses, and Sony’s better zoom lenses suffer from poor breathing anyway.

Sony’s autofocus gets better with each generation of software, but you can still choose not to use it. It’s worth quite a lengthy discussion in itself, but if you want to know more I’d refer you to that two informative videos Philip Bloom has made himself a topic.

XAVC-S and XAVC-HS are great camera codecs, and for anyone craving ProRes (which I consider more of a post-production codec), I suggest you do some comparison testing. The choice of formats should satisfy most professionals, data rates up to 600Mbps for 4k 10-bit All-Intra but with options ranging from 100Mbps to 200Mbps should satisfy most users .

In addition to the increasingly standard Cine EI /S-log 3, Sony’s S-Cinetone is an attempt to offer an off-camera ‘film look’, escaping the traditional Sony video look which is now very much out of style, and it offers a nice smooth roll-off for highlights. A key element of S-Cinetone is that the image becomes more contrasty when underexposed and flatter when overexposed. This is a great creative tool, and since it’s designed to deliver this look without the LUT, you can assess the effect on the monitor as you shoot.

Nothing for sunny days

As I said in the first part of this review, Sony has tried to make its user interface more video-centric and make the LCD screen less cluttered, but it can’t get past the fact that it’s based on still image technology. The menus are still unnecessary complex and counterintuitive. And there is neither a waveform monitor nor an internal ND.

More importantly, there’s no viewfinder and Sony doesn’t make one as an extra. Without an EVF, you can’t hold the camera up against your head and, more importantly, you’d have a hard time seeing the image outdoors on a bright, sunny day, even in foggy London. I’ll say that again – you can hardly use this camera outside on a bright day.

The irony of many compact “pocket” video cameras is that you can only really use them with a tripod, gimbal, or some sort of shoulder strap. Sony’s IBIS is pretty good, but you won’t be able to get a lot of handheld shots with anything other than a small wide-angle lens.

Day and night shots

Although the FX30 doesn’t quite match the sensitivity of the full frame sensor found in the rest of the Cinema Line, I thought I’d try some night shots. All were shot on a Sony G 16-55mm at F2.8 using S-Cinetone, XAVC-S 4K 4:2:2 10bit, 140Mbps, 25fps and between 500 and 1250 ISO. Ungraded. On a pleasantly cloudy day I followed with some daytime shots.

Conclusion: A great companion

Conclusion: The FX30 is inexpensive and can deliver great pictures. It’s an excellent companion camera for the rest of the Cinema line, it’s good for recording interviews, but it’s severely limited as a main camera. I’m a big fan of the S35 format, but the still camera form factor just doesn’t suit me. But that all depends on how I use my cameras and how I work – your practice may be completely different. Can you really get a full-fledged cinema camera for a few grand? Not really, but there is no Santa Claus either.

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