Category Archives: cameras

Sony Burano Is Coming!

Screenshot-2023-09-07-at-09.23.36 Sony Burano Is Coming!Sony have started a teaser campaign for a new camera called Burano. – Well, actually Sony haven’t said its a camera but if you look at the pictures it is pretty obvious that is what it is and the CineAlta badge is a huge clue. And I have shot with it quite extensively on two different continents and I have to say that this is an announcement not to be missed because it is very, very nice.  

It will be launched at IBC in Amsterdam, so if you want to actually see it and get your hands on it, that will be your first opportunity. Then I will be doing a webinar about it with Visual Impact on the 20th of September (Click Here) and the following week you will have an opportunity to join me for a Burano and Cooke lens event at CVP in Brussels on the 28th of September (Click Here)

Then in October and November I will be hosting more events in the UK and as the dates for these get confirmed I’ll let you know them.

This is going to be big!

And for those that don’t know:

Burano is a lot like Venice and very close to Venice. There are some similarities but also many differences. Burano might be considered to be a smaller version of Venice as it is a small island with many canals, gondolas and boats in the same lagoon as Venice. It’s around 6Km from Venice and actually closer to Venice airport than Venice itself. To get to Burano from the airport you take a water taxi, water bus or some other boat. The buildings along the canals in Burano are all painted bright colours and the island is famous for its lace makers. Its a very pretty filming location, I shot there a few years ago, but there is very little hotel accommodation, so most that visit Burano will be day trippers from Venice. 


The Creator, shot with the FX3.

I’ve been aware of this production, shot entirely with the Sony FX3 for some time. But I wanted to wait and see some footage before passing any comments. Well, the first trailer is out now and it looks great.

But really that shouldn’t be a surprise. The Sony FX3 is a small camera that delivers a very high quality image. It shoots S-Log3 offering 4K files with in excess of 14 stops of dynamic range. I wrote about the rise of small digital cinema cameras last year (The Rise Of The Small Cinema Camera). You don’t have to go that far back and films were being shot with digital cinema cameras with similar DR at 2.8K. And of course lens choice, lighting, composition, set design, post production etc are also key to great images. And when you have a decent budget there is no reason why any of these should be inferior just because you are using a smaller camera.  At this stage however we are only seeing highly compressed trailers online. It will be interesting to see how it looks on an IMAX screen, but I suspect it will look fine.

I do find it an interesting choice to choose to shoot the entire film with the FX3. I doubt it would have been for budget reasons, the cost of the camera is a teeny tiny part of the budget on a feature like this ($80 million?) and lets face it an FX6 doesn’t cost much more and a Venice would have been easily affordable.  The small size of the FX3 does bring some benefits, in the BTS film below you can see it being used on small lightweight gimbals (DJI RS3 I think) as well as small camera cranes. These can get into smaller spaces than bulkier gimbals and jibs, I expect this allowed for a very fluid shooting style. But at the same time you can see that they used wireless monitoring and a wireless follow focus. I also expect there would have been some kind of timecode feed as well as wireless audio. It can be difficult to find places to mount all this stuff with a small camera. In addition, with the FX3 the HDMI output has some limitations if you still want to see an image on the built in LCD and generally SDI is preferable over HDMI.  Perhaps if I had been asked to shoot this I might have used a mix of the FX3 and the FX6. Or perhaps even a Venice and then used the FX3 where portability and flexibility was paramount.  But the fact remains that it appears that a very good looking film has been shot entirely with the FX3 and audiences are unlikely to realise that the film they are watching was shot with such a relatively cheap camera.

It really is a great time to be a film maker. The majority of the cameras on the market today are perfectly capable of being used to shoot a movie. I’ve been working on a another blockbuster feature that used the FX3 alongside a Venice 2 and again the production is confident the audience won’t notice. So, really it’s up to you to develop your own skills, lighting, composition, framing and – story telling – those are the things you need to focus because you can’t blame the camera anymore.

Are you confused by the Sony Cinema Line?

Screenshot-2023-07-10-at-15.56.31 Are you confused by the Sony Cinema Line?Don’t know which camera from the cinema line to use for what? When would the FX30 be a good idea and when would the FX9 be better? I’m hosting an interactive webinar on this on Wednesday the 12th of July. Please – ask questions, this free session is an opportunity for you to ask those questions about which to use and the pro’s and cons of each.

XAVC-I or XAVC-L which to choose?


The XAVC family of codecs was introduced by Sony back in 2014.  Until recently all flavours of XAVC were based on H264 compression. More recently new XAVC-HS versions were introduced that use H265. The most commonly used versions of XAVC are the XAVC-I and XAVC-L codecs. These have both been around for a while now and are well tried and well tested.


XAVC-I is a very good Intra frame codec where each frame is individually encoded. It’s being used for Netflix shows, it has been used for broadcast TV for many years and there are thousands and thousands of hours of great content that has been shot with XAVC-I without any issues. Most of the in flight shots in Top Gun Mavericks were shot using XAVC-I. It is unusual to find visible artefacts in XAVC-I unless you make a lot of effort to find them. But it is a high compression codec so it will never be entirely artefact free. The video below compares XAVC-I with ProResHQ and as you can see there is very little difference between the two, even after several encoding passes.



XAVC-L is a long GOP version of XAVC-I. Long GoP (Group of Pictures) codecs fully encode a start frame and then for the next group of frames (typically 12 or more frames) only store any differences between this start frame and then the next full frame at the start of the next group. They record the changes between frames using things motion prediction and motion vectors that rather than recording new pixels, moves existing pixels from the first fully encoded frame through the subsequent frames if there is movement in the shot. Do note that on the F5/F55, the FS5, FS7, FX6 and FX9 that in UHD or 4K XAVC-L is 8 bit (while XAVC-I is 10 bit).

Performance and Efficiency.

Long GoP codecs can be very efficient when there is little motion in the footage. It is generally considered that H264 long GoP is around 2.5x more efficient than the I frame version. And this is why the bit rate of XAVC-I is around 2.5x higher than XAVC-L, so that for most types of  shots both will perform similarly. If there is very little motion and the bulk of the scene being shot is largely static, then there will be situations where XAVC-L can perform better than XAVC-I.

Motion Artefacts.

BUT as soon as you add a lot of motion or a lot of extra noise (which looks like motion to a long GoP codec) Long GoP codecs struggle as they don’t typically have sufficiently high bit rates to deal with complex motion without some loss of image quality. Let’s face it, the primary reason behind the use of Long GoP encoding is to save space. And that’s done by decreasing the bit rate. So generally long GoP codecs have much lower bit rates so that they will actually provide those space savings. But that introduces challenges for the codec. Shots such as cars moving to the left while the camera pans right are difficult for a long GoP codec to process as almost everything is different from frame to frame including entirely new background information hidden behind the cars in one frame that becomes visible in the next. Wobbly handheld footage, crowds of moving people, fields of crops blowing in the wind, rippling water, flocks of birds are all very challenging and will often exhibit visible artefacts in a lower bit rate long GoP codec that you won’t ever get in the higher bit rate I frame version.
A further issue is concatenation. The artefacts that occur in long GoP codecs often move in the opposite direction to the object that’s actually moving in the shot. So, when you have to re-encode the footage at the end of an edit or for distribution the complexity of the motion in the footage increases and each successive encode will be progressively worse than the one before. This is a very big concern for broadcasters or anyone where there may be multiple compression passes using long GoP codecs such as H264 or H265.

Quality depends on the motion.
So, when things are just right and the scene suits XAVC-L it will perform well and it might show marginally fewer artefacts than XAVC-I, but those artefacts that do exists in XAVC-I are going to be pretty much invisible in the majority of normal situations. But when there is complex motion XAVC-L can produce visible artefacts. And it is this uncertainty that is a big issue for many as you cannot easily predict when XAVC-L might struggle. Meanwhile XAVC-I will always be consistently good. Use XAVC-I and you never need to worry about motion or motion artefacts, your footage will be consistently good no matter what you shoot. 

Broadcasters and organisations such as Netflix spend a lot of time and money testing codecs to make sure they meet the standards they need. XAVC-I is almost universally accepted as a main acquisition codec while XAVC-L is much less widely accepted. You can use XAVC-L if you wish, it can be beneficial if you do need to save card or disk space. But be aware of its limitations and avoid it if you are shooting handheld, shooting anything with lots of motion, especially water, blowing leaves, crowds etc. Also be aware that on the F5/F55, the FS5, FS7, FX6 and FX9 that in UHD or 4K XAVC-L is 8 bit while XAVC-I is 10 bit. That alone would be a good reason NOT to choose XAVC-L.

Testing the Sony ILME-FX30


Please watch the video to see my video review or read on:

A few weeks ago I borrowed an FX3 from Sony for some testing in order to better understand the performance of this budget Cinema Line camera. I used it over a long weekend to shoot some circus acts and to perform some basic tests. By the end of the weekend of testing I decided to get one for myself even though I already own an FX3 and FX6. 

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-16.33.35-copy-600x335 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
I shot various circus acts with the FX30.


So what made me buy the FX30?

For a start it’s cheap. At around $2000 for the body only you get a lot of camera for the money. If you want the same handle as the FX3 with XLR inputs, add another approx $500 to the base price. But as well as the low price I also I really like the fact that it is super 35 rather than full frame. The FX30’s 6K APSC sized sensor delivers really good oversampled 4K from a scan area very similar to super 35mm film. This means you can use it with almost any classic cinema lens, of which there are many to choose from. You can use it with zoom lenses designed for s35 (again which there are many to choose from) as well as lower cost APSC lenses.  A combination that I am particularly fond of is the FX30 plus the Sony 18-105mm f4 G APSC power zoom. While this combination isn’t ever going to win an award for the ultimate in image quality it is very reasonable.  It gives me great look images at a wide range of focal lengths in a surprisingly small package. 

But just how good is the image quality?

Sony advertise the FX6 and FX3 as having 15+ stops of dynamic range, while only claiming 14+ stops for the FX30. So one of the first tests that I did was to compare the dynamic range of both the FX6 and FX30 using my home made dynamic range tester. While this device isn’t necessarily ultra accurate, it is consistent and it allows me to visually compare the DR of the two cameras. I also thought it would be interesting to include the FS7, another s35 camera in my tests.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-15.24.32-copy-600x231 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
Dynamic range test to compare the FX30 to the FX6

As you can see from the above image, the dynamic range of the FX30 is extremely close to that of the FX6, so close in fact that I was unable to measure a difference with my home made tester. There is a 15th stop buried deep in the noise of both cameras and at 800 ISO the noise is very similar from both camera, if anything, visually I prefer the look of the very fine noise from the  FX30, probably a result of the 6K over sampling.

But what about compared to the FS7? In this image you can see how in the shadows the FS7 produces a lot of coloured chroma noise compared to the FX30. It is this chroma noise that makes it desirable to expose the FS7 a bit brighter than Sony’s base recommendation as it is quite distracting in lower exposures. So against the FS7, for me the FX30 is a clear winner in the dynamic range stakes.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-15.25.34-copy-600x302 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
Coloured noise in the shadows of the FS7 limit the useable shadow range compared to the FX30/FX3/FX6. In a video sequence the FS7’s noise is very obvious. Click on the image to enlarge it.

What about resolution?

OK, so the FX30 does not lack dynamic range, what about resolution, how does it compare with the FX6? To see this image larger please click on it. And be aware that scaling of the image that may be happening in your browser or computer and that scaling may add aliasing and moire to the images not in the original.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-16.02.50-600x344 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
Comparing the resolution of the FX30 and the FX6. Click on the image to enlarge it.


What you can see from the above test is that aliasing starts to occur at a slightly lower resolution for the FX6 than the FX30. Aliasing happens when the resolution of the image falling on the sensor exceeds the  resolving power of the sensor.  This result isn’t really a surprise, the FX6 like the FX3 has a sensor that is a little over 4K pixels wide and it would appear that Sony tuned the optical filtering to squeeze as much resolution from this sensor as possible. Meanwhile the FX30 has a 6K pixel wide sensor, so it is easier to get close to 4K resolution without excessive aliasing. 

We can also see a difference in the coloured moire of these two cameras.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-15.43.11-copy-600x345 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
The FX6 produces more moire and aliasing than the FX30, click on the image to enlarge.


And I also chose to test the FS7 to see how much moire the FS7 produced. The FS7 was the worst of the 3 cameras by some way with a fair amount of strong coloured moire.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-15.48.40-copy-600x345 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
The FS7 produces more moire and aliasing than both the FX30 and the FS7, click on the image to enlarge.


I think what we are seeing here is simply improvements in the design of the Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) combined with the oversampled 6K sensor of the FX30 delivering an improvement in both resolution and moire/aliasing performance. The FX30 is a camera that is 8 years younger than the FS7, so you would hope that it would be better.

So, in the resolution stakes, the FX30 wins against the FS7, FX6 and FX3.

What about low light performance?

The FX30 has a Dual Base ISO sensor with 2 base ISO’s when shooting S-Log3 of 800 and 2500 ISO. The performance at these 2 ISO is very similar. The dynamic range is broadly the same and the noise is similar. But I would not say the noise is the same, there is more noise at 2500 than there is at 800, but not significantly more.

On the other hand the FX6 has a dual sensitivity sensor and its two base ISO’s are 800 and 12,800. This is a huge difference. You would need to add 24dB of gain to get from 800 ISO to 12,800 ISO and while the 12,800 base is noticeably noisier than the 800 ISO base, it is still quite useable. There is a small reduction in dynamic range at 12,800, but it isn’t really significant.

If you need to shoot in very, very low light the FX6 and FX3 are the clear winners, they are more sensitive than the FX30. But the FX30 isn’t as far behind as you might think. The 6K to 4K oversampling means the noise grain is very fine, so even with a bit of extra gain added in post production to bring it up to the equivalent of 12,800 ISO it doesn’t look terrible. It’s clearly not as good as the FX6, but if you needed to shoot in very low light the FX30 isn’t going to be a complete disaster.

First the FX6:

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-16.02.31-600x333 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
FX6 shot at 12,800.

And then the FX30, shot using the exact same light levels and exposure using 2500 ISO and then graded to match the FX6 which was at 12,800 ISO.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-16.02.50-copy-600x333 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
FX30 shot at 2500 ISO then graded to match the FX6. Same light level and exposure as the FX6.


I recommend you watch the video review to see these frames larger. There is more noise in the final FX30 image, but it’s not as far from the FX6 as you might imagine. But, on the sensitivity stakes, the FX6/FX3 are without doubt the winners.

What about colour matching?

A couple of quick tests, done both with S-Cinetone and S-Log3 confirmed what I expected I would find. As the FX30 is a part of Sony’s Cinema Line it looks pretty much like every other Cinema Line camera. The colours are extremely close to the FX6. It’s not totally identical, There are some very, very small differences. You do need to match the white balance of both as if you dial the same preset into both the colour temperature of each will be a little off, but once you find the matching white balance the images each produces will be close enough that only close side by side, like for like examination will reveal the subtle differences that do exist. I certainly have no concerns over using both the Fx30 and FX6 on the same shoot. 

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-16.15.51-copy-600x214 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30

What else do I need to know?

The FX30 does have more rolling shutter than the FX6, but it really isn’t terrible, it’s little different to the FS7. I suggest you watch the video and look at the circus footage that I shot with the FX30, rolling shutter didn’t cause me any issues.

The one thing that the FX30 does exhibit is a little bit of image smear. This occurs when you have a very bright highlight against a very dark background. What you get is a brightening of the background in line with the bright highlight. The FX6 isn’t totally smear free, but it’s very difficult to see the smear on the FX6, it’s not quite so hard to find it on the FX30. But for the vast majority of real world applications I doubt this will cause any major concerns, it certainly didn’t spoil any of my circus footage which often included very bright lights agains dark backgrounds.

Screenshot-2022-12-06-at-16.22.40-copy-600x197 Testing the Sony ILME-FX30
FX30 CMOS smear (circled in yellow)

As you can see, even when looking for it, it isn’t always obvious.

In Conclusion.

Both practically and technically I really like the FX30. Mine will be used on my gimbal with the 18-105 zoom or handheld as a pocket sized camera (yeah, OK, a very big pocket). It has all the same codecs as the FX3 and it has breathing compensation, a fine step variable shutter (similar to ECS shutter) and you can use it as a very high quality webcam. It has the same CineEI modes as the FX3 plus an additional CineEI mode that allows you to add gain to the S-Log3 recordings.

Technically it performs really well. It has great DR and delivers a high resolution image with very well controlled aliasing and moire. Skin tones look great, full of subtle and fine textures. It’s plenty sensitive enough for most normal applications thanks to it’s two base ISO’s of 800 and 2500 (for S-Log3) and the colours extremely closely match those of the FX6, FX3 and FX9.

For the money, the FX30 is a lot of camera. 

Sony FR7 Webinar

Screenshot-2022-10-24-at-11.31.32-600x390 Sony FR7 WebinarWant to learn more about the new Sony FR7? Why not sign up for this webinar where I’ll show some recently shoot FR7 footage. The FR7 is a new remote control pan/tilt/zoom camera based on the FX6, so it offers the image quality of a Cinema Line large sensor camera but in a PTZ style housing. 

I’ll be there along with Sony Expert Jin Koide and minicam specialist Dan Greenway.

Dan Greenway runs a hire company specialising in minicams and remote head cameras, providing equipment and crew for shows such as Gogglebox, Million Pound Drop as well as live events and sports. He’s already conducted one FR7 shoot for a primetime ITV production.

Alister Chapman is a freelance TV cameraman, Director of Photography (DoP) and Digital Imaging Technician (DIT). He is also a well-known instructor for shooting techniques and production methods.

The workshop will be followed by a live Q&A session.

Click Here for more information and to sign up.

Sony’s FR7, an FX6 that can pan and tilt.

Screenshot-2022-10-17-at-10.53.12-586x500 Sony's FR7, an FX6 that can pan and tilt.
Sony’s new FR7 Cinema Line Pan, Tilt and Zoom camera.

I first came across the new Sony FR7 PTZ camera (Pan, Tilt and Zoom) at IBC in Amsterdam in September and at first I was a little confused by it. PTZ cameras are not new and this is a fairly big unit, so  who would actually want one and what would they use it for, especially given the shorter zoom ranges possible because of the use of a large sensor. But now I am convinced that the FR7 will be a big hit – what’s changed my mind?

For those that haven’t seen it yet the FR7 is in essence a Sony FX6 camera that has been adapted and modified to fit in a remotely controlled pan and tilt head. You really do get all of the FX6’s features and performance including onboard recording to SD and CFExpress type A cards, S-Cinetone, S-Log3 and CineEI, raw output, built in variable ND filter and Sony great autofocus etc etc. But in a form factor that allows you to operate the camera remotely via either an optional control panel with a joystick or via any device with a web browser. 

Remote PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) cameras get used a lot in shows like Big Brother, Love Island, First Date etc but until now, generally the image quality hasn’t been as good as most mainstream broadcast cameras. This means that when you cut between the PTZ camera and other main cameras the difference is often quite obvious. So, straight away there is the obvious use of the FR7 for these types of shows, so that the image quality will be as good as any of the other cameras being used. It may mean that more PTZ cameras will be used as quality is no longer going to be an issue.


PTZ cameras also get used a lot in wildlife productions. A PTZ camera can be placed close to an animals nest or placed closer to a feeding area without disturbing the animals natural behaviour as a camera operator might. PTZ cameras can be used to film animals that may be dangerous to a camera operator or left somewhere remote for days, weeks or even months on end. Again, often the quality of these cameras is noticably different to the main cameras used and more often than not the small sensors in most PTZ cameras don’t do well in low light. The ability to use the FR7’s high sensitivity mode and shoot S-Log3 at 12,800 ISO with a fast lens will really open up a lot of new possibilities for wildlife film makers. Because you can fit just about any reasonably sized lens to the FR7 it opens up the possibility of fitting one with an image intensifier for extreme low light work. In addition the built in variable ND filter will be a great help for wildlife film makers working in variable and changing lighting conditions. The FR7 is controlled over an ethernet connection, so with a simple 4G router and a connection to the internet the camera could be controlled from the comfort of a warm studio anywhere in the world.

But what about other applications? Would a freelance camera operator like me benefit from one? Well I think the answer may be yes.

The Ultimate “B” Camera?

For 2 camera shoots such as interviews the FR7 can be used as a second camera and you have the ability to control it from the main camera position. This would be so much easier than having to walk over to the second camera to make a simple adjustment or reframe it. Instead of being a simple locked off shot that never ever changes your B camera can be moved and adjusted more frequently to add more variety to your shots. Program in some preset positions and you can confidently reframe your shot at the single press of a button. Creating presets is quick and easy.

Placing it where you can’t normally put a camera.

And what about getting shots from places or angles that aren’t normally possible? If you shoot conferences, events or performances, being able to place the camera on the front of the stage or in front of the podium opens up a lot of new possibilities. The FR7 won’t obstruct the audiences view in the same way that a camera on a tripod with an operator will and it’s far less distracting. I’m going to be shooting some live performances with one very soon and it will allow me to get the camera into locations around the performances where you just can’t normally get a shot. You can hang it from a ceiling or a lighting truss for overhead shots. You can even mount it on a jib. Once you start thinking about all the places you can place one, places that are unsafe for a camera operator or just simply inaccessible it does start to become an interesting proposition.

Time-lapse and trick shots.

You can also use it for time-lapse or other shots where you need to repeat the same move over and over. By setting up preset positions for the start and end points and then adjusting the speed of the move you can perform extremely slow moves all the way to very fast moves from point to point and each time the move is the same. Like the FX6 the FR7 has a built in intervalometer (interval record), so shooting time-lapse is easy. You can also make it speed ramp  the moves if you need to.

The big deal about the FR7 is that while PTZ cameras are not new, they have never offered the image performance possible from a large sensor camera. Because the images from the FR7 closely match the rest of the Sony cinema line it opens up more possible uses. And the cost isn’t prohibitive, it’s not that much more than a normal FX6.  Its limiting factor is the range of power zoom lenses that are currently available. The 28-135mm power zoom will be the lens that most will use with it and while this is going to be very useable for many things it isn’t a vast zoom range compared to the zooms typically fitted to PTZ cameras with very small sensors. You can use the cameras clear image zoom function to extend the zoom range by up to 1.5x in 4K if you need to. If you need a longer focal lengths then I believe it is possible to use the Sony 70-200mm with the 2x extender, but this isn’t a power zoom. Hopefully we will see more E-Mount power zoom lenses coming in the future for this very interesting camera.

Come back in about a month to find out how I get on shooting a live performance with the FR7. I’m really looking forward to putting it through its paces as I’m strongly considering getting one for myself – thinks – Northern Lights remotely controlled from home??????

Pixels and Resolution are not the same thing.

Before the large sensor resolution most professional video cameras used 3 sensors, one each for red, green and blue. And each of those sensors normally had as many pixels as the resolution of the recording format. So you had enough pixels in each colour for full resolution in each colour.

Then along came large sensor cameras where the only way to make it work was by using a single sensor (the optical prism would be too big to accomodate any existing lens system). So now you have to have all your pixels on one sensor divided up between red, green and blue.

Almost all of camera manufacturers ignored the inconvenient truth that a colour sensor with 4K of pixels won’t deliver 4K of resolution.  We were sold these new 4K cameras. But the 4K doesn’t mean 4K resolution, it means 4K of pixels. To be fair to the manufactures, they didn’t claim 4K resolution, but they were also quite happy to let end users think that that’s what the 4K meant.

My reason for writing about this topic again is because I just had someone on my facebook feed discussing how wonderful it was to be shooting at 6K with a new camera as this would give lots of space for reframing for 4K. 

The nature of what he wrote – “shooting at 6K” –  implies shooting at 6K resolution. But he isn’t, his 6K sensor is probably delivering around 4K resolution and he won’t have any room for reframing if he wants to end up with a 4K resolution final image. Now again, in the name of fairness, shooting with 6K of pixels is going to be better than shooting with 4K of pixels if you do choose to reframe. But we really, really need to be careful about how we use terms like 4K or 6K. What do we really mean, what are we really talking about. Because the more we muddle pixels with resolution the less clear it will be what we are actually recording. Eventually no one will really understand that the two are different and the differences really do matter.

3rd Party BP-U style batteries And Sony Camcorders (Update)

I wish to update and present the facts that I have regarding potential issues with mainly older 3rd party PB-U batteries. This isn’t here as a scare story, I’m not trying to sensationalise this, just present the facts that I have to hopefully clarify the current situation.

In 2019 I became aware that it was suddenly becoming very hard to buy 3rd party BP-U batteries. Dealers didn’t have any and you couldn’t find them anywhere. Talking to a couple of manufacturers I was informed that they had been told to stop making BP-U batteries.

Then I learnt from Sony that they had been getting an unusually large number of their more recent cameras in for repair, cameras that had suddenly and inexplicably stopped working. They traced this to design issues in some 3rd party batteries that resulted in power flowing through the batteries data pins, damaging beyond repair the cameras motherboard. It was not a case of a battery being inserted incorrectly, it was an issue with the circuitry in the battery.

As a result of this Sony took action in 2019 to prevent the manufacture of 3rd party BP-U batteries and that’s why you could no longer get them.

Since then however it would appear that the manufacture of 3rd party batteries is once again in full swing. In addition I’ve noticed that some older models have been discontinued, often with new versions replacing them, perhaps a “B” version or a model number numerically higher than before.

From this I must assume that whatever the issue was, it has now been resolved and that the 3rd party BP-U batteries on sale today should be perfectly safe to use with our cameras. I would have no hesitation in today buying a brand new BP-U battery from any of the reputable brands.

I have nothing to gain here. This is not a campaign to make you all buy Sony batteries. Even though Sony do make a very fine battery, I too use 3rd party batteries as I need the D-Tap port found only on 3rd party batteries.

But clearly there was a very real battery issue. I’m led to understand that the cost to repair these damaged cameras was over $1K. While not every user of these batteries ends up with a dead camera, I think you have to ask yourself – is it worth using batteries made in 2019 or earlier? I won’t list the batteries that I know to have problems because the list may be incomplete. Just because a battery is not on the list it would not be a guarantee that it’s safe. However if any 3rd party battery manufacturer is reading this and has the confidence to provide me with a list of batteries that they will guarantee are safe, I will gladly publish that (January 2022 and not one manufacture has provided any information).

Clearly not everyone ends up with a dead camera, perhaps the majority have no issue, but enough did that Sony had to take action and it appears that the manufacturers responded by checking and adjusting their designs if necessary.

So my advice is: Don’t use 3rd party batteries made prior to 2020.  

If you do, then make absolutely sure the camera is completely powered down when inserting or removing the battery. 

I believe that any BP-U battery made in 2020 or later should be safe to use. So please think about replacing any old batteries with new ones, or perhaps contact your battery supplier and ask if what you have is safe. However you should be aware that since 2019 Sony’s own BP-U battery chargers will no longer charge 3rd party batteries.

The information I have presented here is correct to the best of my knowledge and I hope you will use it to make your own decision about which batteries to use.

What do I think of the new FX3?

Screenshot-2021-02-24-at-09.28.59-448x500 What do I think of the new FX3?
Sony’s new ILME FX3

What do I think about the new Sony FX3. It’s certainly an interesting camera because it seems to be a bit confused about what it is.
It’s isn’t a mirrorless stills camera like the A7SIII, but it’s very, very like the A7SIII.
It isn’t a cut down FX6 or FX9, it’s very different to them.

So what is it and who is it for? Personally I see the FX3 as a great B camera option to pair with an FX6 or FX9. The FX3’s flat top and additional 1/4″ mounting points on the top and sides will making rigging it in more unusual situations much easier. It’s a camera I would use to rig in cars like a giant Go-Pro, perfect for any Top Gear or motoring shoots. It’s a camera I would use on a gimbal, it’s a camera you could sling from a drone. 

In most cases it would not replace any camera I currently have, but instead compliment it. It could be a good option for FX9 owners in particular as it would give them 4K 120fps as well as a second camera when needed.

The FX3 is not much more than an A7SIII in a different housing, with the EVF removed, new mounting points added and an removable handle with XLR connectors. There are some changes to some of the button positions and these make it easier to use when shooting video providing direct access to ISO,  IRIS and White Balance. The flat top makes it easier to mount in different ways and the built in 1/4″ mounting threads make it easier to mount accessories such as monitors. 

Really the FX3 is an alternative version of the A7SIII biased more towards video than photos. It doesn’t replace the A7S, just gives potential owners the ability to choose between the two different form factors depending on individual preferences.

For more information why not watch this recording of my Facebook live stream on the FX3.