When Sony finally released the a7S III there were a lot of videographers celebrating – myself included. We had waited so long and it looked like Sony did a lot of the things that we were asking for. Then, a few months later, they show up with the FX3 as part of the Cinema Line. Essentially an a7S III, but designed explicitly for video. This made an easy choice a bit more difficult.
If you are still trying to decide which to get and need some help, filmmaker Chris Brockhurst put together a nice video breaking down the differences. How easy the final decision is will still come down to your particular needs and workflow.
Right up front Chris calls out that the FX3 is a better camera for video than the a7S III – even though the actual image quality and specs are exactly the same. The FX3 does have to justify the slight price bump over the a7S.
The big changes are all to the physical design. The FX3 is designed for video first while the a7S III is clearly still a mirrorless hybrid camera with stills-focused ergonomics. A quick thing you can see is the addition of tally lights on the FX3 in multiple spots so you know for certain when you are recording. You can see these from all angles so you don’t always have to see the back of the camera like you do on the a7S III.
Another significant change with the FX3 is a fan for active cooling. The a7S III doesn’t exactly have problems with overheating, but the fan on the FX3 should make any issues practically non-existent.
Something that is harder to see is that the on/off switch on the a7S III became a zoom rocker on the FX3. Now, you can control any PZ lenses with a physical control, or, if you are using non-Power Zoom lenses, you can use the zoom rocker to use features like Clear Image Zoom for a digital punch-in without digging into settings.
For users looking to continue to use the FX3 handheld, the camera does have a slightly better design for throwing on a proper hand strap. The strap lug is a solid one integrated into the body and with a simple L-bracket with a lug on the bottom you can use a standard hand strap.
Building on this feature, the FX3 is designed for cage-free use. It has five built-in 1/4”-20 mounting threads around the body. One on each side and three on the top. The two on the top will support a NATO rail quite nicely.
Button layout has been optimized for video as well. While the a7S III is very customizable, the FX3 comes ready for video right out of the box – and the buttons are nicer. At the top, you have buttons 1, 2, and 3 which will control iris, white balance, and ISO, respectively. Each control even has shortcuts for quick presses and long holds that will make things even faster. On the back is 5 for focus magnification and 4 is at the bottom and is great for customization. The D-pad has some pre-assigned functions which are useful, too.
As for other tweaks, the grip is a different shape. It extends out a touch farther and has a more triangular shape. The depth could feel nicer.
Finally, the FX3 comes with an XLR top handle. This is honestly where the price difference starts making a lot of sense. It screws into the top of the camera directly and gives you true XLR audio straight into the camera. There is the optional XLR adapter for the a7 series, but that actually would make the a7S III kit cost more than the base FX3. You’ll make your money back right there if you are a video shooter mainly.
I think that if you are shooting almost exclusively video the FX3 makes a lot more sense. The a7S III is great if you need a more hybrid camera and shoot some stills as well. There is an argument to be made about having an EVF, for video, you might miss it not being on the FX3 but the other benefits I think put it ahead anyway.
What are your thoughts? Would you get the FX3 or a7S III?
[source: Chris Brockhurst]