Sony FX3 is officially its smallest, cheapest cinema camera for pro filmmakers

The Sony FX3 has officially landed – and as expected, it’s the smallest, cheapest Sony cinema camera so far and a compelling alternative to the excellent Sony A7S III.

Both the Sony FX3 and Sony A7S III are 12.1MP full-frame cameras that are compatible with Sony’s E-Mount lenses and can shoot 4K/60p video. But the FX3 sits in Sony’s Cinema line, which means it’s specifically designed for pro filmmakers, rather than hybrid shooters targeted by the Alpha-labelled A7S III.

This means the FX3 loses the built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF) seen on its stablemate, but gains a supplied handle accessory that both improves its handling and boosts its audio options. 

The removable handle (below), which slots into the FX3’s multi-interface shoe, includes twin XLR/TRS terminals. These are the go-to standard for pro audio recording and gives it the same sound options as the Sony FX6, a much larger camera that costs $6,000 / £6,000 / AU$9,500.

Sony FX3

(Image credit: Sony)

Thanks to the inclusion of the same back-illuminated 12.1MP full-frame sensor as the A7S III, which promises 15 stops of dynamic range, the FX3 promises to shoot similarly excellent video quality, particularly in low-light situations. There’s an option to shoot slo-mo 4K/120p footage, and the FX3 also has the popular S-Cinetone color profile, which recently arrived on the A7S III via a firmware update.

Because it’s designed for solo, run-and-gun filmmaking, the FX3 also has in-body image stabilization (IBIS) along with an electronic Active Mode, which gives you even stronger stabilization at the expense of a 10% crop. We haven’t found Sony’s stabilization to be the best, though, so FX3 shooters may still need to consider using a gimbal or Sony’s Catalyst software in the edit room.

Sony FX3

(Image credit: Sony)

For a camera that weighs only 715g with a card and battery (just 16g more than the A7S III) the Sony FX3 certainly packs in some powerful shooting features. It can shoot 4K video with 10-bit 4:2:2 color sampling internally, and can also output 16-bit raw video to an external recorder via its full-size HDMI port.

Surely the combination of this shooting power and the FX3’s size is a recipe for over-heating? Well, thanks to one other difference from the Sony A7S III – an active cooling system with built-in fans – Sony is promising ‘uninterrupted’ 4K/60p shooting, with a maximum continuous recording time of 13 hours. The FX3 might not be able to shoot 8K video, but that’s pretty impressive for such a small camera.

Slightly less impressive is the absence of built-in ND filters, which are a pretty useful for filmmakers, particularly when shooting in bright conditions. Sony says this is because they wanted to make the FX3 as compact as possible, but it’s an omission that could make it less appealing to some filmmakers.

Cinema paradiso

Still, despite that lack of built-in ND filters, there’s no doubt that the Sony FX3 has a highly impressive feature set for such a compact camera.

It’s not the first small cinema camera we’ve seen that shoehorns in the power of a much larger body. The Canon EOS C70 recently pulled off a similar trick, packing in most of the Canon C300 Mark II’s features into an impressively portable, user-friendly form factor.

Whereas the EOS C70 combines a Super 35mm sensor (similar in size to APS-C) with a DSLR-sized body, the Sony FX3 goes a step further with its full-frame sensor and super-compact body. That said, the EOS C70 claims an added stop of dynamic range (at 16 stops), so it’ll be interesting to see how the two compare in the field.

Sony FX3

(Image credit: Sony)

It’s not just Sony and Canon slugging it out for the cash of solo or beginner filmmakers either – we recently also saw the arrival of the much cheaper Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro. That camera combines a Super 35mm sensor with, yes, built-in ND filters for a pretty reasonable $2,495 / £1,879 / AU$3,935 price tag.

Naturally, the full-frame Sony FX3, which comes with Sony’s class-leading autofocus and other bonuses like twin CFexpress Type A / SD card slots, is a little pricier at $3,899 / £4,200 (around AU$7,460). But when you consider how many of the Sony FX6’s features it manages to pack into a 715g body, it could well equal the popularity of the Sony A7S III – and possibly even tempt some of the owners of that camera over.

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