Sony Takes on the BMD Pocket Cinema

I guess Sony got tired of being beaten up in the "small video camera" realm by Blackmagic Design, ECam, and others. Today Sony announced the full frame FX3, which is basically a ruggedized and repurposed A6600 body designed specifically for video. Or: it's a repurposed A7S Mark III with a smaller, video-specific body. Take your pick.

bythom sony fx3

"Specifically for video?" Yes. Take a closer look. You'll see the customizable buttons all numbered (up to 6) ala pro video cameras, there's no Mode dial, you'll see 1/4" mounting sockets across the top and sides, there's no EVF, there are three tally lights onboard, and if you still haven't figured it out, Sony also puts a very large "Cinema Line" label atop the camera. Even closer examination reveals that the A6### body has grown a bit to provide better heat management via a fan and vents (dust and moisture resistance is maintained).

Yes, you can take stills with the camera, but since the image sensor is 12mp, many will probably discount it as a true still camera, and for that the A7S Mark III body is probably a better choice. Of course, I'm not sure that either the FX3 or A7S Mark III body design is quite right for handholding (run and gun) video. Sony's own introductory video had several scenes of people awkwardly trying to handhold the FX3. Good thing that there's not only sensor IS as well as new Sony post production stabilization software, Catalyst Browse/Prepare.

bythom sony fx3 handle

Like the A7S Mark III the big claim is low noise in low light, with up to 15 stops of dynamic range, coupled with Sony's S-Cinetone look. 4K up to 120 fps (slight crop) is available, and 4K 60P (full frame) is said to be infinite in recording length due to the cooling system. A 16-bit raw output is available to an external recorder. An XLR "handle/microphone holder" is included with the camera. Price is US$3899. 

Sony is having some of the same problems every camera maker has had as their line matured. Lately, we've seen Sony veer towards a more video orientation (A7C, RX3, and some would argue the A7S Mark III and the 8K of the A1). Most of us who use a Sony Alpha for stills would argue there are still plenty of things left "undone" on the still side (focus stacking, for example).

One has to wonder whether Sony Imaging is having some internal political battles about how to ward off the competition now that Canon and Nikon seem fully committed to full frame mirrorless. I don't think "video" is the ultimate answer, though I do appreciate the fact that it's easy to move between truly still-centric cameras (e.g. A7R Mark IV) and truly video-centric cameras (e.g. FX6) without having to buy new accessories or lenses.

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