Tag Archives: FX3

Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2

This is part 2 of my 2 part look at whether small cameras such as a Sony FX3 or A1 really can replace full size cinema cameras.

For this part of the article to make sense you will want to watch the YouTube clips that are linked here full screen at at the highest possible quality settings, Preferably 4K. Please don”t cheat, watch them in the order they are presented as I hope this will allow you to understand the points I am trying to make better.

Also, in the videos I have not put the different cameras that were tested side by side. You may ask why – well it’s because if you do watch a video online or a movie in a cinema you don’t see different cameras side by side on the same screen at the same time. A big point of all of this is that we are now at a place where the quality of even the smallest and cheapest  large sensor camera is likely going to be good enough to make a movie. It’s not necessarily a case of is camera A better than camera B, but the question is will the audience know or care which camera you used. There are 5 cameras and I have labelled them A through to E.

The footage presented here was captured during a workshop I did for Sony at Garage Studios in Dubai (if you need a studio space in Dubai they have some great low budget options). We weren’t doing carefully orchestrated  camera tests, but I did get the chance to quickly capture some side by side content.

So lets get into it.


In many regards I think this is the most important clip as this is how the audience would see the 5 cameras. It represents how they might look at the end of a production. I graded the cameras using ACES in DaVinci Resolve. 

Why ACES? Well, the whole point of ACES is to neutralise any specific camera “look”.  The ACES input transform takes the cameras footage and converts it to a neutral look that is meant to represent the scene as it actually was but with a film like highlight roll off added. From here the idea is that you can apply the same grade to almost any camera and the end result should look more or less the same. The look of different cameras is largely a result of differences in the electronic processing of the image in post production rather than large differences in the sensors. Most modern sensors capture a broadly similar range of colours with broadly similar dynamic range. So, provided you know the what recording levels represent what colour in the scene, it is pretty easy to make any camera look like any other, which is what ACES does.

The footage captured here was captured during a workshop, we weren’t specifically testing the different cameras in great depth. For the workshop the aim was to simply show how any of these cameras could work together. For simplicity and speed I manually set each camera to 5600K and as a result of the inevitable variations you get between different cameras, how each is calibrated and how each applies the white balance settings there were differences between in the  colour balance of each camera.

To neutralise these white balance differences the grading process started by using the colour chart to equalise the images from each camera using the “match” function in DaVinci Resolve. Then each camera has exactly the same grade applied – there are no grading differences, they are all graded in the same way.

Below are frame grabs from each camera with a slightly different grade to the video clips, again, they all look more or less the same.

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The graded image from camera A. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


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The graded image from camera B. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


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The graded image from camera C. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


D-Graded_1.4.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
The graded image from camera D. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


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The graded image from camera E. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.

The first thing to take away from all of this then is that you can make any camera look like pretty much any other and a chart such as the “color checker video” and software that can read the chart and correct the colours according to the chart makes it much easier to do this.

To allow for issues with the quality of YouTube’s encoding etc here is a 400% crop of the same clips:


What I am expecting is that most people won’t actually see a great deal of difference between any of the cameras. The cheapest camera is $6K and the most expensive $75K, yet it’s hard to tell which is which or see much difference between them. Things that do perhaps stand out initially in the zoomed in image are the softness/resolution differences between the 4K and 8K cameras, but in the first un cropped clip this difference is much harder to spot and I don’t think an audience would notice especially if the one camera is used on it’s own so the viewer has nothing to directly compare it with. It is possible that there are also small focus differences between each camera, I did try to ensure each was equally well focussed but small errors may have crept in.


OK, so lets pixel peep a bit more and artificially raise the shadows so that we can see what’s going on in the darker parts of the image.


There are differences, but again there isn’t a big difference between any of the cameras. You certainly couldn’t call them huge and in all likelihood, even if for some reason you needed to raise or lift the shadows by an unusually large amount as done here (about 2.5 stops) the difference between “best” and “worst” isn’t large enough for it to be a situation where any one of these cameras would be deemed unusable compared to the others.


So, if we are struggling to tell the difference between a $6K camera and a $75K one why do you want a “better” camera? What are the differences and why might they matter?

When I graded the footage from these cameras in the workshop it was actually quite difficult to find a way to “break” the footage from any of them. For the majority of grading processes that I tried  they all held up really well and I’d be happy to work with any of them, even the cameras using the highly compressed internal recordings held up well. But there are differences, they are not all the same and some are easier to work with than the others. 

The two cheapest cameras were a Sony FX3 and a Sony A1. I recorded using their built in codecs, XAVC-SI in the FX3 and XAVC-HS in the A1. These are highly compressed 10 bit codecs. The other cameras were all recorded using their internal raw codecs which are either 16 bit linear or 12 bit log. At some time I really do need to do a proper comparison of the internal XAVC form the FX3 and the ProResRaw that can be recorded externally. But it is hard to do a fully meaningful test as to get the ProResRaw into Resolve requires transcoding and a lot of other awkward steps. From my own experience the difference in what you can do with XAVC v ProResRaw is very small.

One thing that happens with most highly compressed codecs such as H264 (XAVC-SI) or H265(XAVC-HS) is a loss of some very fine textural information and the image breaking up into blocks of data. But as I am showing these clips via YouTube in a compressed state I needed to find a way to illustrate the subtle differences that I see when looking at the original material. So, to show the difference between the different sensors and codecs within these camera I decided to pick a colour using the Resolve colour picker and then turn that colour into a completely different one, in this case pink.

What this allows you to see is how precisely the picked colour is recorded and it also shows up some of the macro block artefacts. Additionally it gives an indication on how fine the noise is and the textural qualities of the recording. In this case  the finer the pink “noise” the better, as this is an indication of smaller, finer textural differences in the image. These smaller textural details would be helpful if chroma keying or perhaps for some types of VFX work. It might (and say might because I’m not convinced it always will) allow you to push a very extreme grade a little bit further.

I would guess that by now you are starting to figure out which camera is which – The cameras are an FX3, A1, Burano, Venice 2 and an ArriLF.

In this test you should be able to identify the highly compressed cameras from the raw cameras. The pink areas from the raw cameras are finer and less blocky, this is a good representation of the benefit of less compression and a deeper bit depth.

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Camera A. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


B-Compression_1.2.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Compression and codec Camera B. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


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Compression and codec Camera C. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


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Compression and codec Camera D. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.


E-Compression_1.4.1-600x316 Is This The Age Of The Small Camera Part 2
Compression and codec Camera E. Click on the image to view the full resolution image.

But even here the difference isn’t vast. It certainly, absolutely, exists. But at the same time  you could push ANY of these cameras around in post production and if you’ve shot well none of them are going to fall apart. 

As a side note I will say that I find grading linear raw footage such as the 16 bit X-OCN from a Venice or Burano more intuitive compared to working with compressed Log. As a result I find it a bit easier to get to where I want to be with the X-OCN than the XAVC. But this doesn’t mean I can’t get to the same place with either.


Not only is compression important but so too is resolution. To some degree increasing the resolution can make up for a lesser bit depth.  As these camera all use bayer sensors the chroma resolution will be somewhat less than the luma resolution. A 4K sensor such as the one in the FX3 or the Arri LF will have much lower chroma resolution than the 8K A1, Burano or Venice 2. If we look at the raised shadows clip again we can see some interesting things going on the the girls hair.


If you look closely camera D has a bit of blocky chroma noise in the shadows. I suspect this might be because this is one of the 4K sensor cameras and the lower chroma resolution means the chroma noise is a bit larger.

I expect that by now you have an idea of which camera is which, but here is the big reveal: A is the FX3, B is the Venice 2, C is Burano, D is an Arri LF, and E is the Sony A1.

What can we conclude from all of this: 

There are differences between codecs. A better codec with a greater bit depth will give you  more textural information. It is not necessarily simply that raw will always be better than YUV/YCbCr but because of raws compression efficiency it is possible to have very low levels of compression and a deep bit depth. So, if you are able to record with a better codec or greater bit depth why not do so. There are some textural benefits and there will be fewer compression artefacts. BUT this doesn’t mean you can’t get a great result from XAVC or another compressed codec.

If using a bayer sensor than using a sensor with more “K” than the delivery resolution can bring textural benefits.

There are differences in the sensors, but these differences are not really as great as many might expect. In terms of DR they are all actually very close, close enough that in the real world it isn’t going to make a substantial difference. As far as your audience is concerned I doubt they would know or care. Of course we have all seen the tests where you greatly under expose a camera and then bring the footage back to normal, and these can show differences. But that’s not how we shoot things. If you are serious about getting the best image that you can, then you will light to get the contrast and exposure that you want. What isn’t in this test is rolling shutter, but generally I rarely see issues with rolling shutter these days. But if you are worried about RS, then the Venice 2 is excellent and the best of the group tested here.

Assuming you have shot well there is no reason why an audience should find the image quality from the $6K FX3 unacceptable, even on a big screen. And if you were to mix and FX3 with a Venice 2 or Burano, again if you have used each camera equally well I doubt the audience would spot the difference.


So this brings me back to where I started in part 1. I believe this is the age of the small camera – or at least there is no reason why you can’t use a camera like an FX3 or an A1 to shoot a movie. While many of my readers I am sure will focus on the technical details of the image quality of camera A against camera B, in reality these days it’s much more about the ergonomics and feature set as well as lens and lighting choices.

A small camera allows you to be quick and nimble, but a bigger camera may give you a lot more monitoring options as well as other things such as genlock. And….. if you can – having a better codec doesn’t hurt. So there is no – one fits all – camera that will be the right tool for every job.  

Is this the age of the small camera? Part 1.

As Sony’s new Burano camera starts to ship – a relatively small camera that  could comfortably be used to shoot a blockbuster movie we have to look at how over the last few years the size of the cameras used for film production has reduced.

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Which was shot with an 8K Venice 2 and which was shot with a 4K FX3?


Only last year we saw the use of the Sony FX3 as the principle camera for the movie the Creator. What is particularly interesting about the Creator is that the FX3 was chosen by the director Gareth Edwards for a mix of both creative and financial reasons.

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To save money or to add flexibility?

To save money, rather than building a lot of expensive sets Edwards chose to shoot on location using a wide and varied range of locations (80 different locations)  all over Asia. To make this possible he used a smaller than usual crew.  Part of the reasoning that was given was that it was cheaper to fly a small crew to all these different locations than to try to build a different set for each part of the film. The film cost $80 million to make and took $104 million in the box office, a pretty decent profit at a time when many movies take years to break even.

Creator-BTS-600x337 Is this the age of the small camera? Part 1.
FX3 on gimbal during the filming of The Creator

The FX3 was typically mounted on a gimbal and this allowed them to shoot quickly and in a very fluid manner, making use of natural light where possible.  A 2x anamorphic lens was used and the final delivery aspect ratio was a very wide 2.76:1. The film was edited first and then when the edit was locked down the VFX elements were added to the film. Modern tracking and rotoscoping techniques make it much easier to add VFX into sequences without needing to use green or blue screen techniques and this is one of those areas where AI will become a very useful and powerful tool.

You don’t NEED a big camera, but you might want one.

So, what is clear is that you don’t NEED a big camera to make a feature film and The Creator demonstrates that an FX3 (recording to an Atomos Ninja) offers sufficient image quality to stand up to big screen presentation. I don’t think this is really anything new, but we have now reached the stage where the difference in image quality between a cheap $1500 camera like the FX30 and a high end “cinema” camera like the $70K  Venice 2  is genuinely so small that an audience probably won’t notice.

There may be reasons why you might prefer to have a bigger camera body – it does make mounting accessories easier and will often have much better monitoring and viewfinder options. And you may argue that a camera like Venice can offer greater image quality (as you will see in part 2 – it technically does have a higher quality image than the FX3), but would the audience actually be able to see the difference and even if they can would they actually care? And what about post production – surely a better quality image is a big help with post – again come back for part 2 where I explore this in more depth.

which-is-which2-600x438 Is this the age of the small camera? Part 1.
Which is the Arri LF and which is the Sony A1?

And small cameras will continue to improve. If what we have now is already good enough things can only get better.

8K Benefits??

Since the launch of Burano I’ve become more and more convinced of the benefits of an 8K sensor – even if you only ever intend to deliver in 4K, the extra chroma resolution from actually having 4K of R and B pixels makes a very real difference. Venice 2 really made me much more aware of this and Burano confirms it. Because of this I’ve been shooting a lot more with the Sony A1 (which possibly shares the same sensor as Burano). There is something I really like about the textural quality in the images from the A1, Burano and Venice 2 (having said that after spending hours looking at my side by side test samples from both 4K and 8K cameras while the difference is real, I’m not sure it will always be seen in the final deliverable). In addition when using a very compressed codec such as the XAVC-HS in the A1 recording at 8K leads to smaller artefacts which then tend to be less visible in a 4K deliverable. This allows you to grade the material harder than perhaps you can with similarly compressed 4K footage. The net result is the 10 bit 8K looks fantastic in a 4K production.

A1-Face-600PC-600x317 Is this the age of the small camera? Part 1.
Sony A1 cropped and zoomed in 6x.

I have to wonder if The Creator wouldn’t have been better off being shot with an A1 rather than an FX3. You can’t get 8K raw out of an A1, but the extra resolution makes up for this and it may have been a better fit for the 2x anamorphic lens that they used.

So many choices….

And that’s the thing – we have lots of choices now. There are many really great small cameras, all capable of producing truly excellent images. A small camera allows you to be nimble. The grip and support equipment becomes smaller. This allows you to be more creative. A lot of small cameras are being used for the Formula 1 movie, small cameras are often mixed with larger cameras and these days the audience isn’t going to notice. 

Plus we are seeing a change in attitudes. A few years ago most cinematographers wouldn’t have entertained the idea of using a DSLR or pocket sized camera as the primary camera for a feature. Now it is different, a far greater number of DP’s are looking at what a small camera might allow them to do, not just as a B camera but as the A camera. When the image quality stops being an issue, then small might allow you to do more.

This doesn’t mean big cameras like Venice will go away, there will always be a place for them. But I expect we will see more and more really great theatrical releases shot with cameras like the FX3 or A1 and that makes it a really interesting time to be a cinematographer. Again, look at The Creator – this was a relatively small budget for a science fiction film packed with CGI and other effects. And it looked great. Of course there is also that middle ground, a smaller camera but with the image quality of a big one – Burano perhaps?

In Part 2……

In part 2 I’m going to take some sample clips that I grabbed at a recent workshop from a Venice 2, Burano, A1 and FX3 and show you just how close the footage from these cameras is. I’ll also throw in some footage from an Arri LF and then I’ll “break” the footage in post production to give you an idea of where the differences are and whether they are actually significant enough to worry about.


Timecode and external record run for the FX3 and FX30 from Mutiny

mutiny-fx-io2-500x500 Timecode and external record run for the FX3 and FX30 from MutinyThis is a really useful teeny tiny input/output box from the guys at Mutiny. It allows users to input timecode into the FX3 or FX30 as well as connect a remote rec run control to start or stop recording. This will be so useful for those using the camera on a crane or jib as well as many other applications where the camera needs to be controlled remotely.

mutiny-fx-io1-500x500 Timecode and external record run for the FX3 and FX30 from Mutiny

The Mutiny TC-R/S for Sony FX3 and FX30 camera, feeds Timecode IN and R/S (remote triggering) via the multi-terminal (Multiport). Works with every FIZ wireless follow focus system (Preston, Arri, C-Motion, Nucleus, Heden, etc) as well as every timecode generator (Tentacle, Deity, Deneke, Ambient, etc). Orders start shipping Monday in the order taken. https://mutiny.store/products/tcrs

Northern Lights Live Streams from Norway 2024

norway24-live-stream-600x338 Northern Lights Live Streams from Norway 2024Next week I head out to Norway for my annual trip in search of the Northern lights. Like last year I will try to stream the Aurora live from Norway. Of course this does depend on the weather and whether the Aurora comes out to play. 

The plan is to stream each evening from around 6pm CET Central European time starting from February 2nd. I will stream for as long as I can when the Aurora is visible. I have scheduled 5 YouTube live streams but there will likely be more added depending on the weather and many other variables that are out of my control. These streams may start later than planned or get interrupted if I need to move the camera position or if I run out of power. As well as the scheduled streams I intend to include additional streams where I will go over the equipment used and things like that.

To stream the Aurora I will be using various pieces of kit including my Sony FX3 camera connected to an Accsoon Seemo or an Accsson CineView. The Seemo connects to an iPhone directly via a cable and I can then stream the output of the FX3 from the phone. However the area where I will be doesn’t have the best cell phone signal so I might need to use the CineView. With the Cineview connected to the camera I can send the pictures to my phone and then stream from the phone. This way I can put the phone in a location where there is a better signal.

The livestream page of my YouTube Channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/@alisterchapman/streams

I will also try to send out notifications from my facebook feed of any streams shortly before I go live: https://www.facebook.com/alister.chapman.9

And in case you haven’t seen it before here is a little bit of behind the scenes info from last years Aurora trip. 

New Firmware Coming For The FX3, FX30 and FX6 – Shutter Angle for FX3/30.

FX-Firmware-Version5-600x470 New Firmware Coming For The FX3, FX30 and FX6 - Shutter Angle for FX3/30.

Before you get too excited – these firmware updates are not coming just yet. But they are coming.


The FX6 will get an update to Version 5  to quote Sony “in May 2024 or later” which will include:

–  The addition of 1.5x setting to the De-squeeze function

– Monitor & Control app compatibility (ex. Waveform, False colour such as FX3/30 already supported)

–  A new preset 709tone to support to colour match multiple cameras  (I assume this is to match the older Sony Rec-709 look)

– The expansion of supported lenses, such as the SEL100400GM & SEL200600G, for breathing compensation.

FX3 and FX30.

Then later in the year, in September 2024 or later the  FX3 and FX30 will get:

– A Shutter Angle option

– 709tone support

– SRT/RTMP/RTMPS support for Live streaming demand

The addition of shutter angle in the FX3 and FX30 is going to please a lot of owners of these 2 cameras.



How I shoot the Northern Lights

460x150_xdcam_150dpi How I shoot the Northern Lights

Every year as many of my regular readers will know  I run tours to the very north of Norway taking small groups of adventurers well above the arctic circle in the hope of seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I have been doing this for around 20 years and over the years as cameras have improved it’s become easier and easier to video the Aurora in real time so that what you see in the video matches what you would have seen if you had been there yourself.

In the past Aurora footage was almost always shot using long exposures and time lapse sometimes with photo cameras or with older video cameras like the Sony EX1 or EX3 which resulted in greatly sped up motion and the loss of many of the finer structures seen in the Aurora. I do still shoot time lapse of the Aurora using still photos, but in this video I give you a bit of behind the scenes look at one of my trips with details of how I shoot the Aurora with the Sony FX3 in real time and also with the FX30 using S&Q motion. The video was uploaded in HDR so if you have an HDR display you should see it in HDR, if not it will be streamed to you in normal standard dynamic range. The cameras used are Sony’s FX3 and FX30. The main lenses are the Sony 24mm f1.4 GM and 20mm f1.8 G but when out and about on the snow scooters I use the Sony 18-105 G power zoom on the FX30 for convenience.

I used the Flexible ISO mode in the cameras to shoot S-Log3 with the standard s709 LUT for monitoring. I don’t like going to crazy high ISO values as the images get too noisy, so I tend to stick to 12,800 or 25,600 ISO on the FX3 or a maximum  of 5000 ISO on the FX30 (generally on the FX30 I stay at 2500). If the images are still not bright enough I will use a 1/12th shutter speed at 24fps. This does mean that pairs of frames will be the same, but at least the motion remains real-time and true to life.

If that still isn’t enough rather than raising the ISO still further I will go to the cameras S&Q (slow and quick) mode and drop the frame rate down to perhaps 8fps with a 1/8th shutter, 4fps with a 1/4 shutter or perhaps all the way down to 1fps and a 1 second shutter.  But – once you start shooing at these low frame rates the playback will be sped up and you do start to loose many of the finer, faster moving and more fleeting structures within the aurora because of the extra motion blur. 

So much of all of this will depend on the brightness of the Aurora. Obviously a bright Aurora is easier to shoot in real time than a dim one. This is where patience and perseverance pays off. On a dark arctic night if you are sufficiently far north the Aurora will almost always be there even if very faint. And you can never be sure when it might brighten. It can go from dim and barely visible to bright and dancing all across the sky in seconds – and it can fade away again just as fast. So, you need to stay outside in order to catch the those often brief bright periods. On my trips it is not at all unusual for the group to start the evening outside watching the sky, but after a couple of hours of only a dim display most people head inside to the warm only to miss out when the Aurora brightens. Because of this we do try to have someone on aurora watch.

During 2024 we should be at the peak of the suns 11 year solar cycle, so this winter and next winter should present some of the best Aurora viewing conditions for a long time to come. My February 2024 Norway trip is sold out but I can run extra trips or bespoke tours if wanted so do get in touch if you need my help. There is more information on my tours here: https://www.xdcam-user.com/northern-lights-expeditions-to-norway/

Don’t forget I also have information on filming in cold weather here: https://www.xdcam-user.com/2023/12/filming-in-very-cold-weather/

I will be back in Norway from the 1st of February, keep an eye out for any live streams, I will be taking an Accsoon SeeMo to try to live stream the Aurora.

Do I Need To Always Overexpose S-Log3?

This is another one from Social Media and it the same question gets asked a lot. The short answer is…………


Even with Sony’s earlier S-Log3 cameras you didn’t need to ALWAYS over expose. When shooting a very bright well lit scene you could get great results without shooting extra bright. But the previous generations of Sony cameras (FS5/FS7/F5/F55 etc) were much more noisy than the current cameras. So, to get a reasonably noise free image it was normal to expose a bit brighter than the base Sony recommendation, my own preference was to shoot between 1 and 1.5 stops brighter than the Sony recommended levels (click here for the F5/F55, here for the FS7 and here for the FS5).

The latest cameras (FX30, FX3, FX6, FX9 etc) are not nearly as noisy, so for most shots you don’t need to expose extra bright, just expose well (by this I mean exposing correctly for the scene being shot). This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t expose brighter or darker if you understand how to use a brighter/darker exposure to shift your overall range up and down, perhaps exposing brighter when you want more shadow information and les noise at the expense of some highlight range or exposing darker when you must have more highlight information but can live with a bit more noise and less shadow range.

What I would say is that exposure consistency is very important. If you constantly expose to the right so every shot is near to clipping then your exposure becomes driven by the highlights in the shot rather than the all important mid range where faces, skin tones, plants and foliage etc live. As the gap between highlights and the mids varies greatly exposure based on highlights tends to result in footage where the mid range is up and down and all over the place from shot to shot and this makes grading more challenging as every shot needs a unique grade. Base the exposure on the mid range and shot to shot you will be more consistent and grading will be easier.

This is where the CineEI function really comes into its own as by choosing the most appropriate EI for the type of scene you are shooting and the level of noise you are comfortable with and basing the exposure off the image via the built in LUT will help with consistency (you could even use a light meter set to the ISO that matches the EI setting). Lower EI for scenes where you need more shadow range or less noise, higher EI for scenes where you must have a greater highlight range. And there is no -“One Fits All” setting, it depends on what you are shooting. This is the real skill, using the most appropriate exposure for the scene you are shooting (see here for CineEI with the FX6 and with the FX9)

So how do you get that skill? Experiment for yourself. No one was born knowing exactly how to expose Log, it is a skill learnt through practice and experimentation, making mistakes and learning from them. In addition different people and different clients will be happy with different noise levels. There is no right or wrong amount of noise. Footage with no noise often looks very sterile and lifeless, but that might be what is needed for a corporate shoot. A small to medium amount of noise can look great if you want a more film like look. A large amount of noise might give a grungy look for a music video. Grading also plays a part here as how much contrast you push into the grade alters the way the noise looks and how pleasing or objectionable it might be.

All anyone on here can do is provide some guidance, but really you need to determine what works for you, so go out and shoot at different EI’s or ISO’s, different brightness levels, slate each shot so you know what you did. Then grade it, look at it on a decent sized monitor and pick the exposure that works for you and the kinds of things you shoot – but then also remember different scenes may need a different approach.

Sony’s FX3 wins Time Magazine award.

FX3-time-600x401 Sony's FX3 wins Time Magazine award.The Sony FX3 has won Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2023 – accessible film making award. The FX3 won the award because it was the main camera for the Hollywood blockbuster “The Creator”. The FX3 wasn’t a B camera, it was used to shoot the vast majority of the film (I believe there was also a small amount of FX9 footage). 

And this wasn’t a Sony stunt. The director of this sci-Fi film Gareth Edwards chose the FX3 because he felt it was the best camera for the job. In various interviews Edwards has stated that one of the prime reasons for choosing the FX3 was its low light performance. The FX3 allowed him to shoot with real moonlight rather than bringing in complex and expensive lighting rigs. It allowed the DP Oren Soffer to move more freely with the actors as they could do more with the natural available light rather than artificial lights. This in turn led to them shooting longer takes which Edwards feels gives the film a more organic look.

For the film the FX3 was connected to an Atomos Ninja V and they recorded ProRes Raw.Of course – the film went through some extensive post production work and there is a lot that AI can now do to clean up an image or to rescale it. But, I think we are now at a stage where almost every cinema camera that is in the market today, from the FX30 to a Venice could be used to make a feature film and the audience is unlikely to be aware of whether you used a $3K camera or a $75K one. At the same time I do feel that there is a lot to be said for picking the right camera. A studio based film might be quicker and easier to shoot on a Venice. A location based film may benefit from a smaller and lighter package. 

Whichever camera you choose, great story telling remains the main goal. Good lenses, lighting (or the use of the available light in a pleasing way) and composition are key elements in telling that story. Your skills as a film maker are more important than the camera you choose to use, but choosing the right camera can make the job easier. It’s a wonderful time to be a film maker.

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.

Sony FX3 and FX30 get a major firmware update. Adds Anamorphic and 24p.

Sony have just released new firmware for the Sony FX3 and FX30 cameras  that adds the ability to shoot 24P DCI 4K and in addition adds 1.3x and 2x desqueeze for the LCD screen and HDMI output.

For the FX3 this is firmware version 3.00  and for the FX30 it is version 2.00.

This new firmware also makes some changes to the way the sensor in the FX3 is readout, eliminating the crop that used to occur when shooting using 4K DCI.

I have had a beta copy of the firmware for a few weeks, but unfortunately it came at a time when I have been extremely busy working on some special shooting techniques for a Warner Brothers feature film as well as running Venice workshops across the Middle East. So I didn’t really get as much time as I would have liked to play with it.

What I can say is it is a very welcome update. The 24P 4K DCI mode is a special fixed recoding mode that uses the XAVC-SI codec and the anamorphic desqueeze is found under the monitor options. There are only 1.3x and 2x desqueeze options, so it’s only going to work correctly with lenses designed for these squeeze ratios.  Because the sensor and shooting scan modes remain fixed to 16:9 or 17:9, if you use anything with more squeeze than 1.3x you will end up with an extremely wide final aspect ratio compared to the normal 2.39:1 unless you crop a lot off the sides of the image. Some might like this, but for me it really does seem to be a bit of a waste having an ultra wide aspect ratio with screens and displays that are designed for 16:9.

As well as the above the update includes support for Sony’s new “Creators App” which will replace the Imaging Edge app. In addition you can assign the ability to switch between the normal movie shooting mode and the S&Q mode to one of the custom keys.

You will find the updates here:



DO NOTE FOR THE FX30 that if the camera is on Version 1.02 or earlier that you will first need to update to version 1.05 before doing the version 2 update.

I’ll try to upload some anamorphic footage shot with my FX30 very soon. The older Sirui 1.35x anamorphic lenses are a great match for the FX30’s super35 sized sensor. The cameras 6K down sampled to 4K means that the footage is packed with texture and detail and the 1.3x squeeze gives a 2.39:1 final aspect ratio without needed additional cropping or re-sizing (although if you use the 4K DCI mode you will need to make a very small side crop if you want 2.39:1).