The Sony FX3 has officially landed and, as expected, it is Sony's smallest and cheapest cinema camera yet and a compelling alternative to the excellent Sony A7S III.
The Sony FX3 and Sony A7S III are 12.1MP full-frame cameras compatible with Sony E-mount lenses and capable of recording 4K / 60p video. But the FX3 is part of Sony's Cinema lineup, which means it's designed specifically for professional filmmakers, rather than the hybrid shooters targeted by the Alpha-labeled A7S III.
This means the FX3 loses the built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) seen on its stable companion, but you get a supplied grip accessory that improves your handling and increases your audio options.
The removable handle (below), which fits into the FX3's multi-interface shoe, includes two XLR / TRS terminals. This is the gold standard for professional audio recording and gives you the same sound options as the Sony FX6, a much larger camera that costs € 6,000 / € 6,000 / AU € 9,500.
(Image credit: Sony)
With the inclusion of the same 12,1 MP backlit full-frame sensor as the A7S III, which promises 15 stops of dynamic range, the FX3 promises to record equally excellent video quality, especially in low-light situations. There is an option for 4K / 120p slow motion shooting, and the FX3 also features the popular S-Cinetone color profile, which recently arrived on the A7S III via a firmware update.
Because it's designed for solo, running, and shooting movie making, the FX3 also features In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), as well as an electronic active mode, giving you even stronger stabilization at the expense of a 10% harvest. However, we didn't find Sony's stabilization to be the best, so FX3 shooters should still consider using a gimbal or Sony's Catalyst software in the editing room.
(Image credit: Sony)
For a camera that weighs just 715g with card and battery (just 16g more than the A7S III), the Sony FX3 certainly packs in some powerful capture features. It can record 4K video with 10: 4: 2 2-bit color sampling internally and can also send 16-bit raw video to an external recorder via its full-size HDMI port.
Surely the combination of this firing power and the size of the FX3 is a recipe for overheating? Well, thanks to another difference to the Sony A7S III, an active cooling system with built-in fans, Sony promises "uninterrupted" 4K / 60p shooting, with a maximum continuous recording time of 13 hours. The FX3 may not be able to record 8K video, but it is quite impressive for such a small camera.
The lack of built-in ND filters is slightly less impressive, which is quite useful for filmmakers, especially when shooting in bright conditions. Sony says it's because they wanted to make the FX3 as compact as possible, but it's an omission that could make it less attractive to some filmmakers.
However, despite this lack of built-in ND filters, there is no question that the Sony FX3 has a very impressive feature set for such a compact camera.
This isn't the first small film camera we've seen that resonates with the power of a much larger body. The Canon EOS C70 recently pulled off a similar trick, packing most of the features of the Canon C300 Mark II into an incredibly portable and easy-to-use form factor.
While the EOS C70 combines a Super 35mm sensor (similar in size to the APS-C) with a DSLR-sized body, the Sony FX3 goes one step further with its full-frame sensor and super compact body. That said, the EOS C70 claims an additional stop in dynamic range (at 16 stops), so it will be interesting to see how the two stack up in the field.
(Image credit: Sony)
It's not just Sony and Canon fighting for novice or solo filmmakers' money - we recently saw the arrival of the much cheaper Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro. This camera combines a Super 35mm sensor with, yes, built-in ND filters for a fairly reasonable € 2,495 / € 1,879 / AU € 3,935.
Naturally, the full-frame Sony FX3, which comes with Sony's next-generation autofocus and other perks like the two CFexpress Type A / SD card slots, is a bit more expensive at € 3,899 / € 4,200 (about 7,460 AU PS But when you consider how many features the Sony FX6 manages to pack into a 715g body, it could match the popularity of the Sony A7S III, and maybe even tempt some of that camera's owners.