Sony released a minor update for the FX3 and FX30 cameras but almost immediately withdrew the firmware. If you have already downloaded the update package I recommend you do not install it. There may be a bug in the firmware. Sony are investigating to understand whether there is a bug or something else causing an issues that some users have reported. So for now, don’t do the FX30 version 1.01 or the FX3 version 2.01 update, wait until Sony have had a chance to look into the situation. It remains safe to continue to update version 1 FX3 cameras to Version 2.00, it is only FX3 version 2.01 and FX30 version 1.01 that is affected.
I’ve added a new LUT for S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine to my free LUT collection. The new LUT is called Elixir and is the first LUT from a collection of 3 new LUTs with similar contrast and brightness but quite different colours that I will be releasing between now and the end of the year. Elixir is designed for short film projects and drama to provide rich colours with pleasing skin tones. Blues are shifted slightly teal, but there is no distracting colour cast, just pleasing colours with mid to high contrast. The LUT can be used with any Sony camera that has S-Log3 and SGamut3.cine, so that includes the whole of the Cinema Line including the FX6, FX3 and FX30 as well as cameras like the FS5 and FS7. For more information and to download this or any of my free LUTs please go to the LUT page: https://www.xdcam-user.com/picture-settings-and-luts/alisters-free-luts/
Although I wouldn’t normally recommend removing the screws from Sony cameras there are times when this is something you need to do, for example to remove the microphone mount on an FX6.
Most of the small screws have a thread locking compound applied to the threads to prevent them from shaking or vibrating loose. This can make them hard to unscrew.
JIS NOT Phillips!!
The main issue is that most cross of the commonly found small and miniature head screw drivers are manufactured to the “Philips” standard. But the screws used on the Sony cameras are manufactured to the JIS standard. The differences between these two very similar looking standards means that you will not get a secure and tight fit between a Philips screw driver and a JIS screw head. The edges of a Philips screwdriver are at an angle that is too shallow to properly engage with the full depth of a JIS screw head. So when you try to undo a tight screw the head of the screw will deform or strip, often to the point where it can’t be undone.
Whenever working on Sony cameras you should use JIS standard screwdrivers and ensure the screwdriver is the correct size for the screws you are working with. The smaller screws used for thing like the microphone mount on the FX and Alpha series cameras are JIS size +0 or +00. A JIS size +0 seems to fit most but I would also get a +00.
Don’t try to use a miniature Philips screwdriver on a tight JIS screw. It might look like it fits, but only a very small part of the screwdriver head will be correctly engaged with the JIS screw and once the screw head is damaged you can’t undo the damage and it may become impossible to remove the screw without drilling it out.
If you search for “Vessel JIS” you should be able to find good quality small and miniature JIS screwdrivers on Amazon, ebay or from other suppliers.
A fundamental aspect of electronic cameras is that the bulk of the noise comes from the sensor. So the amount of noise in the final image is mostly a function of the amount of light you put on to the sensor v the noise the sensor produces (which is more or less constant). This is known as the signal to noise ratio, often abbreviated to SNR.
Whether you use S-Log3 or S-Cinetone, even though the base ISO number the camera displays changes the sensitivity of the camera is actually the same, after all we are not changing the sensor when we change modes. In fact if you set the camera to dB you will see that in custom mode the base for both S-Cinetone and S-log3 (and every other gamma curve) is always 0dB.
All we are changing when we switch between S-Cinetone and S-Log3 is the gamma curve – which is a form of gain curve. The base ISO number changes between S-Log3 and S-Cinetone because if you were using an external light meter this would be the number to put into the meter to get the “correct” exposure, but the actual sensitivity of the camera remains the same.
First let’s think about what is happening at the base ISO of each if we were to use an external light meter to set the exposure…..
If we shoot at S-Cinetone and use the 320 ISO value in the light meter the aperture will be a little over a stop more open than if you shoot with S-Log3 and use 800 ISO for the light meter. So when using S-Cinetone at the base ISO there is a little over twice as much light going on to the sensor compared to S-Log3 at the base ISO and as a result the S-Cinetone will be much less noisy than the S-Log3. Not because of a sensitivity or noise performance difference but simply because you are exposing the sensor more brightly.
And if we use the SAME ISO value for S-Cinetone and S-Log3?
So now think about what might happen if you were to put 400 ISO into your light meter and use the values for shutter and aperture the meter gives and shoot with either S-Cinetone or S-Log3 using the very same aperture and shutter settings so that the same amount of light is hitting the sensor for both. The result will be that the amount of noise in the resulting image will be broadly similar for both and the same would happen if you were to use, let’s say, 4000 ISO (assuming you switch to high base for both).
There will tend to be a bit more noise in the S-Log and CineEI at the default settings, because by default NR is turned off in CineEI. But with the same in camera NR settings, again both the S-Log3 and S-Cinetone will have very, very similar noise levels when the sensor receives the same amount of light.
What about when there isn’t enough light?
So – when you are struggling for light, both will perform similarly from a noise point of view. BUT where there may be a difference is that with S-Cinetone all your image processing is done before it is compressed by the codec and what you see in the viewfinder is what you get. With S-Log3 the “underexposed” image gets compressed and then you will need to process that in post and when you add your post corrections this will be to the recorded image + compression artefacts so there will always be a lot of uncertainty as to how the final image will come out.
Personally I tend to favour S-Cinetone for under exposed situations. Generally if it’s under exposed dynamic range isn’t going to be an issue. S-Cinetone also spreads what image information you do have over a greater range of code values than S-Log3 and this may also help a little. But there is no right or wrong way and any differences will be small.
Here’s a handy chart of the base ISO levels for Sony’s cinema line cameras including Venice, the FX9, FX6, FX3 and FX30 as well as the A7SIII and A7IV. The new Sony FR7 is the same as the FX6. I’ve include the base ISO’s for both S-Log3 and S-Cinetone. If you use other gammas the base levels may be different to the S-Cinetone base level, so these values should only be used for S-Cinetone and S-Log3. You can click on the image for a bigger version or left click on it to download it.
As explained above there is a difference in the way the dual ISO functions work between the FX6/FX3/A7SIII and the other cameras. Venice, the FX9 and FX30 have sensors with two distinctly different sensitivities. These cameras offer near identical performance at either the low or high base ISO. Sony call these cameras “Dual Base ISO” as in most cases the two base ISO’s can be used in exactly the same way depending on which best suits the light level you are working at and a near identical image produced.
The other cameras (FX6, FX3, A7SIII) probably have a dual gain sensor plus additional processing to deliver their 2 distinctly different sensitivity ranges. The result is that there is a more visible increase in noise at the high range (compared to the Dual Base ISO cameras) plus a very slight reduction in dynamic range. However, the noise level in the high base setting is significantly lower than you would have by adding gain to get to the same level and the upper base sensitivities are very usable and allow for shooting at very low light levels.
For more information on Dual Base ISO sensors take a look here: https://www.xdcam-user.com/2019/11/what-is-dual-base-iso-and-why-is-it-important/
The new Sony FX30 has been much leaked and much rumoured. I got to see one and briefly play with one at IBC and I actually think this is a rather exciting camera. From the outside it looks just like an FX3 and the overall specs and menu system is pretty much exactly the same. The body of the FX30 does use a bit more plastic than the FX3, but this does make it a bit lighter without it feeling flimsy.
The big difference is the sensor. The FX30 has an APSC sensor, so this means that for video it is the equivalent of a super 35mm sensor. Go back 5 years and Super 35 dominated the large sensor video camera market. But now Full Frame is the flavour of the day, so s35 seems a bit dated, but is it?
Super 35 was/is the most widely used frame size for film production. There is a vast range of lenses available for Super 35. If you want a parfocal zoom lens there are many more options for s35 than FF. s35 lenses tend to be smaller, lighter and more affordable that their direct full frame equivalents. There is a vast range of classic cinema glass out there.
One of the best things about Sony’s Venice and FX9 cameras is the ability to use either full frame or super 35 for 4K. So, you can pick and chose which to use depending on what you are shooting. For wildlife and natural history super 35 remains very popular. For news and documentary work the range of zoom lenses available for super 35mm means that many will chose s35 over full frame. And sometimes you just don’t want the extra shallow DoF that FF may mean (of course you can always stop down in FF).
An interesting proposition.
I think the FX30 is a very interesting proposition. For a start it’s a fair bit cheaper than an FX3 (half the price). In addition APSC lenses are cheaper than full frame lenses, so for a student or someone starting out it’s an interesting low cost option. It might also be an option for a crash camera or some other hazardous job where the camera may get damaged. APSC lenses are often smaller and lighter than full frame so this may allow you to get the camera into smaller spaces. If you have an FS5 or FS7 you will be able to use all of the same lenses.
Dual Base ISO and Speed Boosters.
Something I learnt about the FX30 is that the sensor it uses is a true dual base ISO sensor. As a result there is almost no difference in noise or dynamic range between its low base of 800 ISO and it’s higher 2500 ISO base (for S-Log3). I also feel that this is a more useful split between the two ISO’s. With the FX3 and FX6 the higher base sensitivity of 12,800 ISO is often a lot more than you really need and it is not a true dual base ISO sensor. Instead the FX3 and FX6 have two base sensitivity modes and this means the higher mode is noticeably more noisy and the dynamic range is very slightly reduced. This might be great for specialist low light work, but it’s not so useful for drama or short films. If you do need to work at very low light levels then you can add a speed booster to the FX30 and use full frame Canon or Nikon lenses. In fact, if you want the so called “full frame look” (something that doesn’t really exist and is a bit of an internet myth) then use a speed booster and full frame lenses.
26MP Sensor = Oversampled 4K.
If your sensor has 4096 x 2160 pixels, that’s only 8.8 megapixels. 26 megapixels on an APSC aspect ratio sensor, with 20MP used for video suggests that you’ll have around 6.2K x 3.6K of pixels when shooting video, so your 4K recordings will be nicely oversampled. Interestingly the raw output seems to be 4.7K x 2.6K, so I’m not sure quite what goes on when shooting raw (it appears to be oversampled or downconverted). Potentially the FX30 may deliver higher resolution images than possible from the 4.2K sensor in the FX3 and FX6 (remember a bayer sensor only resolves at around 70% of the pixel count). I need to test this! This oversampling also means that if you want to shoot anamorphic, even after you have made the necessary crops into the image, the resolution will exceed that of a classic open gate Arri camera, although the side crop will mean you will have a reduced field of view. For anamorphic the FX30 may be an interesting choice, don’t forget that most anamorphic lenses are made for 35mm movie film, not full frame. 1.2x anamorphic lenses on the FX30 will look great. Of the lower cost cameras I still feel that the FX9 is the best choice for Anamorphic.
The dynamic range is specified at around 14 stops, so perhaps a little lower than the FX3/FX6/FX9 etc. Perhaps given the smaller pixels this isn’t really much of a surprise. But again this needs to be tested and in most applications I doubt anyone will really notice.
Typically Sony’s APSC sensors have exhibited more rolling shutter than the full frame sensors in cameras like the FX3 and FX6. And this remains the case with the FX30. It does exhibit more rolling shutter than these two cameras. But it isn’t terrible, I’ve seen much worse. I didn’t get a chance to do any side by side tests so it’s is difficult to be precise, but I don’t thing the rolling shutter is any worse than an FS5 or FS7.
With the same CineEI mode as the FX3 the FX30 will be a great camera for shooting Log. Like the FX3 it can shoot at up to 120fps in 4K. There isn’t much not to like about the FX30, especially for those on a tight budget or those that need a super 35 sensor.
Another exciting feature is the ability to use the FX30 as a webcam. The FX30 supports the UVC and UVA standards allowing it to be plugged into a computer via USB to use it as a high quality web camera or streaming device. My brain is already thinking about things like using one to stream the Northern Lights from Norway next January.