Sony FX3: Cage-Free, Free Range

Sony Cinema Line

And now there are four. 

The FX3 is the latest addition to Sony’s growing Cinema Line of cameras. They are multiplying at an impressive rate. VENICE, FX9, FX6, and now — FX3. 

Sony explained the concept on Sept 2, 2020, foreshadowing the FX3: “Cinema Line will deliver not only a coveted cinematographic look but also enhanced operability and reliability. The series will extend beyond traditional cinema camera and professional camcorder form factors.”

FX3 is a cinema camera with a decidedly different form factor. Inside, the FX3 acts quite like the Sony’s a7S III hybrid still and video camera. Outside, the FX3 has lots of 1/4-20 threads in a unibody rugged steel skeleton. The cage-free design begs you to mount this camera in all kinds of places where a single mounting point and add-on cage wouldn’t dare to thread. I’m thinking bobsleds and vibrating Formula 1 car rigs where camera threads have stripped under pressure.

FX3 will be free to range almost everywhere because it’s common wisdom that the best camera is the one you always have with you. “Free range” reminds us of natural conditions, with freedom of movement.

The teaser for the FX3 launch on February 23 shows a lineup like the one at the top of this page  — but with the FX3 replaced by the words “New Alpha.”

I didn’t quite get it until Sony’s Mark Weir patiently explained the obvious and many other things for this article: all cameras in the Cinema Line have Sony E-mounts. Even the VENICE. VENICE has an E-mount nicely lurking underneath the removable PL mount. Of course. The alliance of ZELRX — short flange focal depth cameras — continues to grow so rapidly that if you were a lens manufacturer you might begin to wonder how much longer your customers would clamor for PL and PV longer depth lenses. As usual, I digress,  and that is a subject for another day. 

 

FX3 at left. a7R IV at right.

The Sony FX3 is even smaller than an a7S III. I did not have an a7S III on hand but do have a similarly-sized a7R IV to show the size comparison between an FX3. The FX3 is 5.11 inches wide x 3.06 inches high. FX3 weighs 640 grams.

The a7R IV is about 5.1 inches wide x 3.9 inches high. The viewfinder takes up most of that extra area. And a7R IV is about 737 grams. 

Audio module and Top Handle

FX3 comes with a top handle that slides into the camera’s “hot shoe” and secures with two ¼-20 thumbscrews. An audio module with gain controls and two XLR connectors are part of the handle and it comes with a mini shotgun mic.

Why did I not include the FX3 top handle in the Cinema Line at the top of the page? Because it’s big, but unlike FX9 and FX6, which require the handle to support the viewing monitor, the FX3 monitor is located directly at the rear. And so, it can be incredibly small.

 

FX3 Solo

This is the camera you want when you’re solo. Here we are in the frigid and bleak Southampton Long Island winter. Social distancing is not a problem. There’s not a soul to be seen. For many shots, a tripod was not necessary. With Active Image Stabilization turned on, the FX3 was like a tripod in the sky. I even jumped up and down while shooting, not necessarily to keep warm, but to see whether it would steady the image. It did.

I can also imagine this camera on non-solo, big productions. With its many mounting points, you could attach a dozen of them for running shots. Picture this. EXT. CAR CHASE  – DAY or NIGHT. FX3 on hood, close on driver. Another FX3 on passenger. FX3 outside passenger window, over on driver. Reverse on passenger. Another CU from below, hands clenched on steering wheel. You get the idea.

If the screenwriter can imagine it, you can shoot it. On drones, rigs, stunts, action shots, hostile environments, aerials, underwater. And because it doesn’t look like a scary big camera, you can probably go where you wouldn’t dare use those.

If you want to go even smaller, lighter, cheaper, less financial pain if lens bangs into something, you could try some of the E-mount lenses like the FE 35mm f/2.8 Sony/ZEISS (below).

 


 

Some of the specs will be familiar:

  • 10.2 Megapixel Full Frame sensor for video.
  • 12.1 MP for stills (Yes, you can shoot stills as well.)
  • ISO 80 – 102,400
  • Maximum ISO of 409,600.
  • 15 or more stops of Dynamic Range with S-Log 3.
  • Phase Detection Auto Focus with face and eye tracking.
  • XAVC S-I All Intra 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording.
  • Other recording formats including XAVC HS.
  • Up to 120 fps in 4K. 240 fps in HD.kept in natural conditions, with freedom of movement.
  • 16-bit RAW output via full-size HDMI type A connector.
  • 5 axis IBIS – In Body Image Stabilization with Active Mode.
  • Dual CFexpress Type A or SD card slots.
  • Touch screen monitor.

Other specs of the FX3:

  • S-Cinetone.
  • Matches VENICE and the other Cine Line cameras. 
  • S-Gamut3 and S-Gamut3.Cine Color Space.
  • S-Log3 Gamma.
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 HLG available in all recording formats. 
  • Internal cooling fan provides unlimited recording time.
  • Exposure control while shooting video with direct control of iris, shutter speed and ISO.
  • Zoom rocker controls E-mount servo zooms as well as primes using Clear Image Zoom.
  • Five 1/4-20 threads on three sides.
  • XLR inputs on removable audio module handgrip. Three more 1/4-20 threads on the handle. 
  • Magnesium alloy body with rugged steel skeleton. 
  • Another way to distinguish the four Cine Line siblings is by how you might work with them. VENICE is for a large family gathering: when you’re working with a focus puller, a camera operator (if you’re not working as DP/Operator) and full size camera crew. 
  • FX3 was designed for times when, as Greta Garbo said, “You want to be alone.” It excels when you are a one-person band. 
  • The Sony ILME-FX3 will be available in March for around US $3,900.

Additional information: www.sonycine.com

and

 

 

Leave a Comment

2 Responses:

  1. Mark Benjamin says:

    I want one.

  2. Expert says:

    The FX3 doesn’t have dual base iso? If it had, it would be the first dual base iso camera with a stabilised sensor

Tags: , , , ,