I’ve written a review of the FX6 that you can read here.
But I thought I would also write more of an opinion piece here. What do I really think about the FX6 and also where does it fit in the grand scheme of things.
First off, it is a brilliant little camcorder. But it has to be. There is huge pressure from ever better mirrorless cameras and ever better larger cameras. Red’s Komodo is similarly priced and offers an interesting option if you are a film maker that doesn’t mind adding your own viewfinder etc..
Sony really have packed an amazing set of features into the FX6, S-Cinetone, LUT’s, CineEI all make it a very, very interesting camera for film makers and corporate video producers alike. But the FX6 hasn’t been aimed at broadcasters, the lack of interlace recording and the lack of a streaming function make it less desirable for news and current affairs. That’s more of the realm of the FX9.
The FX6 is likely to be a huge success. I know I will be getting one. It will be fantastic for my trips overseas where size and weight are important, and I can’t wait to try to shoot the Northern Lights with it. The low light performance is indeed very impressive but this could become a problem area for it.
When you have a camera with a base ISO of 12,800 I think there will be an expectation that you won’t need to light, that it will produce brilliant pictures no matter how dark it is. But you have to remember that one of the keys to getting good results in any light level is not the amount of light but the amount of contrast. You will still need to think about how you add or control the light in your scenes and it will be all too easy to blame the camera when you don’t get great looking pictures on a pitch dark night shoot with no light to add some contrast.
I also think that the gap between 800 ISO and 12,800 ISO is too big. At 12,800 ISO there is so little light that something called Photon Shot Noise becomes an issue. It can make the mid range noisier than you would like it to be, even when you are correctly exposed. And ND filters won’t help as they reduce the light hitting the sensor and the relative photon shot noise increases. But if you do want to shoot in very dark conditions, then the FX6 performance is indeed impressive.
When I had the pre-production FX6 I took it up to the Lake District, shot interiors at home and spent a couple of days examining the images with charts and test scenes. What I learnt was that it is a very easy camera to work with. Changing settings via the touch screen is quick and simple. The single menu button that first brings up what are referred to as status pages on the FX9 and then with a long push brings up the main menus is brilliant. One button for both. No fumbling around going from the status button to the menu button as on the FX9. The auto focus works brilliantly, and I love having a waveform display with the zebra levels clearly indicated on it. It makes judging exposure easy and reliable. Set the zebras to 61% and if you toggle the s709 LUT on and off you can check the brightness of a white card when looking at the S-Log3 or skin tones when looking at the s709.
Going back to the Auto Focus for a moment – Yes, it does work in S&Q and even when shooting UHD 100 or 120fps. BUT I did find it less responsive and slower to respond when shooting at 120fps, it definitely didn’t seem as good as when shooting at normal frame rates. And there are actually a few limitations, AF only works when the shooting frame rate is a direct multiple of the base frame rate.
it also has some other oddities, like the field of view when shooting 17:9 4K DCI is narrower than when shooting ordinary 16:9 UHD because of the way the scan modes work. If you want to output raw the FOV is narrower than when recording UHD internally.
I’m really looking forward to using it on gimbals, lighter weight sliders etc. For those on a tight budget having a lighter camera means you can also save money on your support gear compared to a heavier camera. I think I’m going to enjoy shooting with the FX6 and I’m sure many others will enjoy it to.
And that’s the thing. It’s an easy camera to use, it delivers a beautiful image with very little effort. This is one of it’s big strengths and why I believe it will convert a lot of mirrorless DSLR shooters over to a “proper” video camera. It brings the ease of a built in variable ND filter, LUT’s and other great exposure tools for shooting log, good battery life and pro audio all together in an easy to use package at a good price. At the same time it isn’t so big that you need huge pro tripods and expensive heavy duty support equipment.
It will also appeal to users of Sony’s Venice digital cinema camera to get into places you simply can’t get the bulk of a Venice or as a crash camera for high risk shots. The pictures match close enough that it won’t stand out in a finished production as an obviously different camera.
One issue is the lack of audio inputs when the top handle is removed. This does seem to be an oversight. Gimbal users will find it frustrating I’m sure. Time to break out the external audio recorders, at least the built in scratch mic will help with audio sync. Maybe someone will figure out a way to get audio into the camera body via the connector that the top handle plugs into. The other alternative is to take the video out of the FX6 to an external recorder that also has an audio input such as many of the Atomos recorders.
So where does this leave the FX9? The FX9 is a great camera. It is worth remembering that the FX6 really is Full Frame only (unless you are happy shooting HD in it’s super 35mm mode). So users of normal 35mm PL lenses or APSC lenses will be better off with the FX9 with it’s greater choice of scan modes including 6K FF, 5K crop FF and 4K s35. In the next firmware update the FX9 will also get a 2K s16 center scan mode and it will be able to use the Sony B4 lens adapter with 2/3″ ENG zoom lenses. I still love shooting with my super 35mm Fujinon MK’s on the FX9, it’s a great combination. The FX9 also has no issues with interlace, so news shooters that still need 1080i will want the FX9 and not the FX6. I have every intention of getting an FX6 but I have no plans on parting with my FX9. Because the images from the two cameras look virtually identical they will compliment each other nicely (anyone want to buy my FS5??).
And that for me is the thing: Two cameras for two different types of shoots, but both look the same, so I can just use whichever is the most appropriate for the job without any concern.