With the latest firmware update for the Sony FX3 and FX30, Sony brings powerful new cinematic shooting options to these compact and affordable cinema cameras. Let’s take a look at what the update delivers and how these new features can enhance your productions.
With the latest firmware update, the Sony FX3 full-frame digital cinema camera and FX30 Super 35 digital cinema camera now offer DCI 4K and true 24 frames per second recording with a 1/48 shutter speed option to match. Plus, there is even an option for 1/24 and 1/96 shutter speed. The update also brings intra-frame compression, anamorphic de-squeeze and several quality-of-life improvements to both cinema cameras. The FX3 also gets in-camera focus breathing compensation.
With these updates, Sony integrates feedback from the community to enable more cinematic shooting options and further unify the Sony cinema camera lineup. For cinematographers looking for an accessible way to capture their creative vision, the Sony FX3 and FX30 just got way more appealing. Here’s why.
Both the Sony FX3 and FX30 offered UHD 4K video before this update. With a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, UHD 4K is exactly four times larger than 1080 full HD and uses the same familiar 16:9 aspect ratio. DCI 4K has a resolution of 4096 x 2160, giving it an approximate aspect ratio of 1.90∶1. That means it is slightly wider than UHD 4K, though both standards are the same height.
While UHD 4K is a common resolution for computer monitors and televisions, DCI 4K is the standard in cinema production. It’s the native resolution for 4K digital cinema projectors. If you’re shooting a short or feature film that will screen in a theater, it’s smart to shoot and edit in DCI 4K.
True 24 fps
Along with DCI 4K, the newest firmware introduces true 24 fps recording to the Sony FX3 and FX30. Previously, the cameras offered only 23.976 fps. It might not seem like a big change, but upgrading these cameras to shoot 24p video further aligns them with the cinematic standard.
The option to shoot true 24 fps also makes it easier to match footage from the FX3 and FX30 with other cinema cameras that offer 24p, such as the Sony FX6 and the Sony VENICE. This is especially true when it comes to synchronizing audio.
New shutter speed options
Complementing the 24p frame rate option, the new firmware update adds new shutter speed options to better match cinema production standards. These include 1/24, 1/48 and 1/96.
The shutter controls how long light is allowed to pass through to the image sensor, but it also influences the amount of motion blur visible in the resulting image. Though filmmakers sometimes adjust the shutter for creative effect, the most cinematic and natural-looking motion blur is produced using the traditional shutter angle of 180 degrees.
Motion picture cameras with a global shutter use shutter angle rather than shutter speed to describe shutter settings. A shutter angle of 180 degrees means that each frame is exposed for half of one revolution of the shutter. Since the shutter rotates once per frame, this works out to an equivalent shutter speed of 1/double the frame rate. So, if you’re shooting video at 24 fps, a shutter speed of 1/48 will produce the most cinematic motion blur. And after this update, you have that option with the FX3 and FX30.
To support these new shooting options, the latest firmware also adds a new recording format: XAVC S-I DCI 4K. This iteration of the familiar XAVC standard uses intra-frame compression to compress each movie file frame by frame.
Some compression formats, like long-GOP, save space by encoding groups of frames together as a unit. With intra-frame compression, the information needed to reconstruct each frame is stored independently. This means you can fully decode each frame without pulling information from any other frame. Therefore, intra-frame compression is more suitable for editing since the resulting files require less computing power to decode and manipulate. Another benefit of Intra-frame is when shooting “fast-moving scenes” or scenes with a lot of patterns or colors. Shooting in Intra-frame will increase the quality of your video.
In-camera anamorphic de-squeeze
All of these new features allow the FX3 and FX30 to capture cinematic images more easily. However, if you want even more movie magic, look to anamorphic lenses. After all, it’s the only way to get that iconic horizontal lens flare. The downside is the squeezed look of the raw anamorphic image. Fortunately, this firmware update makes anamorphic de-squeeze available right inside the Sony FX3 and FX30.
Both cinema cameras now offer 1.3x and 2.0x de-squeeze to match the anamorphic compression of the lens you’re using. This lets you accurately preview anamorphic images during production.
Ease of use updates
Rounding out the FX3 Version 3.00 and FX30 Version 2.00 firmware updates, we have some updates aimed at making these cameras easier to use.
First up, you can now switch between Standard Movie and S&Q Motion modes with just one button. Next, to streamline the ingest workflow, the file naming system in the FX3 and FX30 now matches Sony’s high-end CineAlta cameras. The ‘Camera ID+Reel number+Cameraposition+File number+Date+Random’ format also makes it easier to identify specific camera angles in multicamera productions.
Additionally, the cameras now offer improved smartphone connectivity to complement Sony’s Creators’ App, which you can use to transfer images and control the camera remotely. The app also integrates with Sony’s new Creators’ Cloud platform.
FX3 Version 3.00: focus breathing compensation
Finally, on top of the previously mentioned updates, firmware FX3 Version 3.00 also adds focus breathing compensation. This feature reduces unwanted changes in the angle of view as the focal point shifts, such as during a rack focus. While this feature is new to the FX3, it was already offered in the FX30. The feature only works with compatible lenses. If you need additional compensation, it’s available with Catalyst Prepare and Browse as well as the Catalyst Prepare Plugin.
How to install the new firmware
Before updating your camera, read all instructions to ensure the update proceeds smoothly. Use a fully charged battery and a freshly formatted media card, and make note of all custom camera settings before proceeding. Note that updated cameras will no longer be able to connect to the Imaging Edge Mobile app. After updating the camera, install the Creators’ App. Likewise, S-Log2 is no longer included; you will need to use S-Log3.
For the FX30 in particular, make sure your camera is fully up to date before installing the firmware. You’ll need to update to Ver. 1.05 before proceeding with the Ver. 2.00 update. Open the menu, select Setup, then Setup Option and finally Version to see if you’re camera is up to date.
When you’re ready, follow the steps below to complete the update.
- Download the new firmware for your camera from sonycine.com
- Use an empty SD card to transfer the firmware to the camera
- Select Menu → Setup → Setup Option → Version
- Select Software Update
The update will take approximately six minutes to execute, and the camera will restart once the update is complete. And with that, you’re ready to enjoy your camera’s new features.