Today, the Sony folks brought their ultra-compact 4K-shooting action camera – the FDR-X3000 – to showcase its capabilities and ease of use. Without further ado, here are our first impressions with the device itself.
The main draw of the FDR-X3000 is its 4K video recording ability within a familiar form factor. To aid its purpose, it comes with Balanced Optical SteadyShot (Sony’s version of optical image stabilization).
Within, you’ll find a 1/2.5-inch back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor, which provides 8.2 megapixels through video and still images. It also comes with a new ZEISS Tessar lens with an aperture of f/2.8 that has less lens distortion than its predecessors. The lens requires a minimum focus distance of 50cm and has a maximum field of view of 170 degrees (without any stabilization activated) at 17mm. At its narrowest, the lens will be at 32mm.
Despite its high-res 4K capabilities, the FDR-X3000 is portable and compact. It measures approximately 29.4 x 47.0 x 83.0mm and weighs just 114g with a removable battery. That’s even lighter than many mid-sized smartphones out there. With those figures, it can certainly fit in your front or back pocket without any trouble.
The FDR-X3000 has a maximum recording bitrate of 100Mbps. At HD shooting (720p), it can record up to 240 frames per second (FPS). Recording at Full HD (1080p) can go up to 120FPS, while 4K resolution is shot at 30FPS in NSTC format.
This 4K action cam is also available in an FDR-X3000R SKU, which comes with a remote controller – specifically, the Live-View Remote. It’s a mountable little tool that allows you to preview your footage as you shoot, and it packs some core functions. You can have it on your tripod or on your wrist – it's designed to aid its users by recording footage without staying behind the lens. One plus point about the Live-View Remote is that it shares a nearly identical UI with the FDR-X3000. This allows consumers to get accustomed to both the camera and remote quickly, without having to navigate different interfaces in the heat of filming. We’d say that it’s unthinkable to buy the FDR-X3000 without the Live View Remote, given how helpful it is to preview footage while filming.
An important feature in the FDR-X3000 is the ability to create your movies from a mobile device or laptop. To use it with a smartphone, simply pair the camera with the FDR-X3000 through Wi-Fi Direct. Both the app and the desktop software go by the same name – Sony Action Cam Creator. You can finalize your videos in both programs, but note that the app version goes up to 1080p for final cuts, while the desktop version can go up to 4K resolution for the final footage. If you want to make a short 480p video, it can be done automatically using the Sony PlayMemories app instead.
Also bundled with the FDR-X3000 (and X3000R) is the MPK-UWH1 underwater housing, which allows you to submerge the device up to 60 meters for some underwater footage. On its own, the FDR-X3000 is splash-proof, but we’d recommend not letting it go near water without the housing. The Live-View Remote has water resistance too, but only up to 3 meters in depth.
The FDR-X3000 also comes with a host of other accessories that are sold separately to help the shooter across a variety of filming scenarios. The AKA-FGP1 Finger Grip allows you to slip one finger into a ring for some walk-and-talk filming, while the AKA-MCP1 MC Protector helps protect the lens from dirt and scratches, without the need for the underwater housing. As a portable camera, it’s made for easy filming in challenging situations, hence its panel of accessories. There’s also the VCT-STG1 Shooting Grip, which acts like a mini-tripod and upright hand-grip for the camera. If you need hands-free monitoring, there’s the wrist belt that lets you wear the Live-View Remote like a smartwatch. According to Sony, these accessories will cost anywhere between S$30 to S$60 each.
If you don’t need to shoot in 4K resolution, there’s also the non-4K alternative to the FDR-X3000/3000R – the HDR-AS300/300R. Physically, they look identical, except that the FDR-X3000 has a “4K” logo emblazoned on its side.
So, where does the FDR-X3000 stand? Clearly, it’s up against other 4K-capable action cameras, but Sony adopts a camcorder form factor, which may be an aesthetic and ease-of-use tie-breaker if you’re spoilt for action cam choices. If you’re stuck with smartphone recording, the FDR-X3000 is a great alternative to go beyond smartphone recording limitations, while delegating your recording work to a dedicated device without draining precious smartphone battery.
Currently, the Sony FDR-X3000 is going for S$699, and it will cost S$799 if you’re getting it with the Live-View Remote. The non-4K Sony HDR-AS300 is going at S$499, and it will cost S$599 with the Live-View Remote. These action cams will be available at all Sony Stores, Sony Centers, and selected Sony authorized dealers from mid-October 2016.