The Sony FX30 is the most affordable Sony cinema camera to date, but that, thankfully, doesn’t come at the cost of functionality. This new camera offers all the functionality and ergonomics of the Sony FX3. However, there are some features from the FX3 that are missing. With that being said, the FX30 offers a more affordable price point for cinematic video producers and online content creators. For creators, this camera offers a massive boost in production quality over smartphones and expands post-production capability — a feat often reserved for more expensive cameras.
However, is the Sony FX30 really worth the extra cash, or can creators settle for using their smartphones? In this review, we’ll find out whether the FX30 is worth the upgrade. We’ll decide if it’s just a mini FX3 or if it’s a super duper FX3 at half the cost.
We won’t beat around the bush: The Sony FX30 is a great camera for those looking to take the plunge into their first high-quality cinema camera. It’s got everything you’d want to produce higher-quality content at a reasonable price. On paper, the FX30 is an FX3 but with an APS-C sensor instead of a full-frame sensor. However, that’s just part of the picture. The FX30’s shining qualities are in the details.
This camera may look like your typical mirrorless camera. Indeed, it can capture 26 MP stills. However, the FX30 flaunts a video-first design. This, admittedly, does substantially hinder the camera’s photo ability. This is a video camera, first and foremost.
Harnessing an all-new APS-C sensor, the FX30 leverages a powerful imaging system that echoes more expensive cinema cameras. It captured impressive 10-bit 4K footage up to 120 frames per second. It comes equipped with professional picture profiles such as S-Log3, S-Cinetone and HLG. You can also upload your own LUTs and add them as presets to preview footage accurately while shooting. It’s also got a full-sized HDMI that can output 16-bit RAW video to an external recording device; however, there is no external recorder that can capture 16-bit RAW. Therefore, the footage is converted to 12-bit.
The optional audio handle adds professional XLR inputs, a shotgun microphone mount and physical audio dials and switches for all audio settings. The body is covered in custom function buttons and threaded mounting locations that are perfect for accessories. There’s also the fully-articulating LCD display, uninterrupted video recording thanks to the built-in fan, five-axis in-body image stabilization, a dedicated zoom rocker and dual base ISO.
Plus, did we mention it’s only $1,800? That’s quite cheap for a cinema camera.
Right out of the gate, the FX30 impressed us with its feature-rich spec sheet boasting 4K/120p. Albeit, that’s with a hefty 1.56x crop — more on that later. It can also capture 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording and a slew of shooting profiles. The FX30 can capture UHD 4K video — oversampled from a 6K capture with no line skipping or pixel binning. The image has a beautiful cinematic look, crisp detail, film-like color and pleasing rendering of skin tones. 4K/60p is really great for covering up mistakes. It’s nice being able to crop in up to 200 percent without resolution loss when working in an HD workflow.
Just as important, when working in a 24p sequence, you can slow the footage down up to 50 percent of the original speed without it becoming choppy. For example, this can be used to extend B-roll clips to cover up the fact that the shot wasn’t long enough for whatever reason. And we love that when we film in 4K/60p, there is a minimal 1.04 times crop. The crop’s small enough to where we don’t really notice it and certainly not enough to alter the way we shoot.
The Sony FX30 has an exceptionally good and reliable autofocus (AF) system. Its AF system offers face tracking and Eye AF, with animal subject options. The FX30 has a very similar AF system to more expensive Sony releases, such as the Sony a1, Sont a7S III and Sony FX3. You’re getting essentially the same AF system but on a camera that’s half or less than half the cost of the cameras mentioned above.
The FX30’s AF works great even in less-than-ideal scenarios. We found the Eye AF maintained its tracking even when overexposed or underexposed by a few stops. The consistent, accurate and responsive autofocus system is fully customizable like other Sony cameras. You can increase or decrease the tracking sensitivity and how fast it transitions from subject to subject. We like the fact that this allows us to get nice-looking rack focus shots with ease.
In addition, the FX30 has the focus breathing compensation option for select Sony lenses, which, surprisingly, the FX3 does not have. Even more shocking is that Sony’s flagship a1 and video-centric mirrorless camera, the a7S III, are also lacking this important feature. This is nice for FX30 owners. However, a1 and a7S III owners will understandably be upset that a camera that costs a fraction of the price of their cameras has features their cameras are lacking. All that aside, the breathing control option is a very nice feature and can also be applied after the fact using Sony’s Catalyst software. Why this feature would not be used in the first place, however, baffles us.
AF assist is a really nice feature that some higher-end Sony mirrorless cameras also lack. AF assist keeps the manual focus ring of the lens working during autofocus – at least while using Sony lenses. You can override autofocus simply by turning the focus ring which is perfect for those times when AF is struggling to grab the subject you want. It’s also a fast option to cancel any touch tracking you’ve got going. The accurate and sticky autofocus makes the FX30 great for run-and-gun-type shooting situations and especially useful for vloggers and online content creators.
Log and picture profiles
The Sony FX30 is loaded with several Log and picture profiles, including S-Log3, S-Cinetone and HLG. According to Sony, you get 14+ stops of dynamic range when shooting in S-Log3. S-Cinetone is a huge plus for users new to cinema cameras. This shooting profile can mimic the popular cinematic look of Sony’s Venice cinema camera. S-Cinetone is a great tool for content creators working with short deadlines and a tight budget because it makes it easier to create rich-looking content without the need for expensive post-production. S-Cinetone also provides a bit more dynamic range versus using no profile. For those coming from a smartphone — or perhaps a photo-first camera — S-Cinetone doesn’t require you to shoot any differently, as opposed to S-Log3. Just expose your shots well, and the footage will turn out really nice.
The FX30 has the ability to upload custom LUTs and use them differently than any other prior Sony APS-C camera. Typically, LUTs provide a preview with a graded look so you can adjust and determine your settings while shooting. Now with the FX30, you have the option to apply uploaded user LUTs as a picture profile and have the look burned directly into the footage. This can help speed up the time needed in the editing stage. You can skip the whole process of applying a LUT to your footage. Being able to apply a default LUT or your own custom LUT is especially helpful when shooting in log.
Cine EI (exposure index) is a new tool that came out in a firmware update for the FX3. Conveniently, it comes ready to go on the FX30. Cine EI is a powerful option while shooting in log. It allows you to adjust where the stops of dynamic range occur, shifting the stops of dynamic range from the highlights to the shadows or vice versa. For example, if you’re shooting in a low-light scene, you can increase the exposure index to capture more information in the shadows. It has its uses but can also add additional post-production processing to extract the best image possible.
The Sony FX30 comes in two models: a model without the XLR handle for $1,800 and one with the XLR handle, which runs for $2200. This is the same XLR handle unit that comes standard with the FX3. The detachable handle provides the FX30 with two XLR/TRS combo inputs for professional audio gear. It adds physical dials and switches for adjusting gain and other audio settings. Plus, it doubles as an ergonomic handle and features a built-in shotgun mount, up to four channels of audio with phantom power and three ¼-inch-20 accessory mounts. Even when using a single microphone, you can adjust one of the audio channels down a bit to have a safety track at a lower decibel. It gives us peace of mind knowing we can give ourselves the best chance at capturing usable audio without overmodulation. There’s also a low-cut filter that can remove constant background noise, such as air conditioning or other static room noise.
We would have liked it if the FX30 had the option to remove the audio module from the handle and attach the handle to the multi-interface shoe directly without the screws. Good audio is just as important as good video. We’re glad to see Sony making a concerted effort to provide those beginning their cinematic journey with a good option for robust audio.
Let’s talk about crop factors. If you’re used to full-frame cameras, the APS-C world can take some getting used to. You’ll either need to get new lenses or deal with a 1.5 times crop on all your full-frame lenses. With the FX30, you’ll be dealing with an additional 1.56 times crop when shooting in 4K at higher frame rates such as 100p and 120p. All that crop really starts to add up and will affect how you shoot. With a crop like this, it makes it extremely challenging to find a lens that provides you with a wide-angle view. The good news is that 4K 60p is only a 1.04 times crop, which is so minimal it’s not even a factor. This is nice to be able to capture a higher frame rate without needing to adjust your position significantly or rearrange the entire scene.
Lenses are a huge factor to consider when budgeting for a new camera. In the case of the FX30, it’s not as big of a factor. That’s because APS-C lenses are way cheaper than their full-frame counterparts. That’s another reason this is a great first camera for someone looking to step up to the next level. Sony released a few new APS-C lenses that suit the FX30 perfectly, including a power zoom and two primes. You could scoop up all three lenses for around the same price or less than a full-frame G Master lens. The power zoom lenses are also really cool; they work in conjunction with the dedicated zoom rocker to provide smooth zoom shots.
The FX3 and FX30 share the exact same body. Therefore, all accessories are interchangeable between the two cameras. The camera body feels quite robust with a premium build quality. The beefy hand grip is not the same tiny grip found on the Alpha 7 series of mirrorless cameras. It’s noticeably larger, making it more comfortable to hold the camera. The FX30’s button labeling and layout are all designed with video use in mind. All of the important buttons are within easy reach of the handgrip. It’s got several customizable function buttons along with the four-way controller dial and Fn button, which brings up the customizable Fn menu. This is handy for making quick settings adjustments. There are also threaded mounting holes scattered across the body and multiple recording tally lamps; the whole camera lights up bright red when you press record.
The camera’s dedicated zoom rocker is an interesting feature to have on a camera this size. It’s compatible with Sony’s power zoom lenses and provides smooth zoom like you’d find on dedicated servo-zoom lenses. There’s also a full-sized HDMI port and dual card slots that accommodate both SD and CF Express Type A memory cards. A built-in fan prevents overheating. There are some other I/O that are nice to have, such as headphone and mic jacks and a USB-C port to provide power for continuous recording. The I/O port doors are much more robust than the doors on Sony’s Alpha mirrorless cameras. They act more like a door than a flap and remain open and firm, adding to the camera’s overall build quality.
Outside using an external monitor, the only option to view your shot is via the camera’s three-inch touchscreen LCD; there is no EVF on the FX30. Having no viewfinder is a significant drawback, especially when shooting outdoors and in run-and-gun-type scenarios. Also, viewfinders make it so much easier to nail your focus and exposure when compared to small LCDs. However, there are a few third-party viewfinder loupes that can help remedy this issue.
The LCD offers full touchscreen operation, allowing you to navigate menu features, change camera parameters and use touch focus. We especially enjoy using the touch focus to create effortless rack-focus-type shots.
Overall, the FX30’s screen is decent. At first impressions, we felt the screen could be brighter. Thankfully, it comes with a Sunny Weather option that greatly increases the brightness — so that helps. It’s the same fully articulating LCD found on the more expensive Sony FX3 and Sony a7S III. That means it’s a nice step up from the a7 IV’s display, which is a bit soft in our experience. What’s really nice about the screen on the FX30 is that all the settings and status icons are displayed around the edge of the screen so the image remains clear of any clutter. We’re glad to see Sony making some nice improvements to their camera screens in terms of hardware and software.
Speaking of interface improvements, the FX30 benefits from the latest updates to Sony’s menu system. In addition to the customizable My Menu, there are now the new Main1 and Main2 “at-a-glance” menus. They provide a fast and easy way to quickly view and make changes to your most important video settings such as recording format, video settings, picture profile, exposure settings and more. They help speed up the process of changing your settings versus diving deeper into the vast menu system. Though, we would like the option to change the Fn button to access the Main1 or Main2 menu instead of the more-limited Fn menu.
Let’s talk about vertical video
The Sony FX30 captures metadata when you’re filming vertical video. When importing into your editing software, the software will recognize it’s a vertical video and rotate the video for you. This was a nice start to the vertical video workflow. However, if you’re looking to share the footage straight to your smartphone, the transfer app is slow and frustrating to use. The workflow is clunky, and you’ll typically end up pulling the video files off a memory card. Considering this camera’s designed with the possibility of creating native vertical video, it’s a bit confusing why Sony didn’t design the UI to rotate when filming in portrait orientation. It’s not a deal breaker, but it will certainly cause a kink in a few creators’ necks.
The FX30 is designed with online sharing and cinematic video creators in mind. This camera is perfect for those working on videos for weddings, advertising and marketing, music videos, vlogging, social media content and more. Based on its price point and features, it has some natural competition.
First up is the Panasonic GH6. This tried and true video production workhorse has been a go-to camera for smaller-budget productions for some time now. The GH6 features a Micro Four Thirds sensor and has no crop when shooting in 4K 120p and has a higher top-end frame rate option (300p in FHD). Plus, it offers higher resolution modes such as 5.7K and 5.8K. The GH6 IBIS is legendary and therefore edges out the FX30. There’s also the fact that the GH6 has a really good EVF which can be useful for dialing in your exposure and focus. The FX30 does however have a much more reliable and sophisticated autofocus system than the GH6. The FX30 body-only also undercuts the GH6 price point. So you’ll need to weigh your options carefully and choose which best fits your needs.
Next up is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2 (BMPCC). Both the FX30 and the BMPCC have similarly sized sensors. The FX30 has IBIS, whereas the BMPCC does not. The battery life and autofocus are also much better on the FX30. However, the BMPCC has its own strong selling points: It has internal RAW recording and robust audio ports built-in (dual XLR inputs). The FX30’s excellent autofocus may not even be a factor for those planning on primarily using manual focus. Similarly, the FX30’s IBIS and good battery life may not be in play if this camera will ultimately be used in a scenario where the camera will live on a tripod, such as livestreaming.
With the FX30, Sony has extended its cinema line all the way down to reach those just entering the world of cinematic video production. It provides a massive step up in production quality for those looking to make the switch from a smartphone. The FX30 is a highly-capable cinema camera at an attractive price. It even offers some important features that much more expensive cameras lack. Its dedicated video-rich features help bridge the gap for those upgrading from smartphones or switching over from hybrid mirrorless cameras.
- 4K/60p, 4K/120p (with crop)
- Cinema features and Log modes
- Optional XLR handle
- Attractive price
- Crop in 4K 120p
- No EVF
- Weak photo options
- Vertical shooting workflow
|Actual: 27 megapixel
Effective: 26 megapixel (6192 x 4128)
|23.3 x 15.5 mm (APS-C) CMOS
|Built-in ND filter
|Internal filter holder
Stills and video
|Electronic rolling shutter
1/8000 to 30 seconds in Photo Mode
1/8000 to 1/4 second in Video Mode
|100 to 32,000 (extended: 50 to 102,400)
|Advertised dynamic range
|2,500 to 9,900 K
Presets: Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Shade, Underwater
|Internal recording modes
XAVC HS 4:2:2 10-bit
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) from 1 to 119.88 fps
XAVC S-I 4:2:2 10-bit
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) from 1 to 119.88 fps
1920 x 1080p from 1 to 239.76 fps
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) from 1 to 119.88 fps
1920 x 1080p from 1 to 239.76 fps
1920 x 1080
1280 x 720
|External recording modes
|4:2:2 10-bit via HDMI
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
ProResRAW 16-bit via HDMI
4672 x 2628 at 23.98/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
|HDR-HLG, S Cinetone, Sony S-Log 3
|Built-in microphone type
|2-channel 24-bit LPCM audio
4-channel 24-bit LPCM audio
26 MP (6192 x 4128)
|Image file format
|HEIF, JPEG, RAW
|Media/memory card slot
Dual slot: CFexpress Type A / SD
|Articulating touchscreen LCD
|Auto and manual focus
|Automatic, Continuous-Servo AF, Direct Manual Focus, Manual Focus, Single-Servo AF, Touch AF and Shutter
Phase detection: 495
|-3 to +20 EV
|Sony Z series
|Tripod mounting thread
|1 x 1/4-inch-20 Female (Bottom)
|1 x Intelligent hot shoe on camera body
5 x 1/4-inch-20 female on camera body
|Material of construction
|Dimensions (W x H x D)
|5.1 x 3.1 x 3.3-inch / 129.7 x 77.8 x 84.5 mm
|1.2 lb / 562 g (body only)