Sony’s FX6 is a wonderful camera. It is nearly ideal for independent filmmakers and solo operators due to its size and feature set.
It’s price, while relatively affordable in the world of cinema cameras, does mean it won’t find its way into everyone’s hands. Some of us are likely going to be using the smaller and cheaper Sony a7S III or FX3 to get the job done.
These smaller cameras do come very close in functionality to the bigger FX6 – they even feature the same full-frame sensor. They can get even closer if you use these four hacks from filmmaker Jonathan Richey.
1. Top Handle
Part of what makes a true cinema camera great is its usability. The larger bodies usually offer additional controls and connectivity that make them more functional on set.
The FX6 is no different and has an array of customizable buttons and controls. One big thing of note is the top handle. This really makes it a pick-up-and-go camera.
The FX3 does come with a removable handle, but the a7S III doesn’t have a handle at all. Also, the FX3’s handle doesn’t have much for controls beyond audio.
SmallRig makes a nice top handle complete with start/stop recording button. There are also plenty of threads for attaching accessories.
Considering how most people are going to hold the camera with the handle having the record button there is incredibly useful and intuitive. And, it makes it work more like an FX6.
For the a7S III you’ll need a cage to get it mounted up. Adding a NATO rail up top will make it a breeze to attach and remove the handle.
2. XLR Audio
Things you are still missing compared to the FX6 or FX3 are the audio inputs and controls. For a7S III users you can pick up the XLR-K3M XLR Audio Adapter which adds a couple XLR inputs just like the Cinema Line cameras.
You can mount a shotgun mic directly to this adapter as well. If you want to use the top handle from before the adapter actually comes with a cable that let’s you mount the XLR adapter elsewhere on your rig.
3. Side Handle
Another ergonomic advantage of the FX6 is the side handle. Feels good and has a variety of controls for the camera. Another option you can pick up is the SmallRig Side Handle. It feels great and has a start/stop rec button on it.
The main downside here is that you can’t have both the top handle and side handle with functioning start/stop record buttons at the same time. You will have to choose one to be plugged into the camera.
4. ND Filter
Perhaps the last great feature separating the FX6 from the smaller cameras is the built-in ND filter system. You really can’t perfectly replicate the electronic ND system in the FX6, but you can achieve the same end result by picking up a screw-on variable ND filter.
While not as nice as a fully integrated system, the screw-on filter will give you a good range and allow you to make smooth adjustments while you are shooting.
Jonathan recommends the PolarPro Peter McKinnon Edition. And, if you have multiple lenses you should pick up the largest size and then use step-up rings to adapt it to work with all of them.
The Cost Savings
All of these parts will add some cost to your camera kit, bringing it closer to the FX6. It is worth seeing if it is still worth it.
Well, an a7S III would take another $1,000 in accessories and the FX3 would be less than $500 extra. That’s still saving you a lot of money over getting an FX6.
Seems worth it to me, since you’ll likely be spending more on the FX6, too.
[source: Jonathan Richey]
- Sony a7S III Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
- Sony FX3 Cinema Camera (B&H, Amazon)
- Sony FX6 Cinema Camera (B&H, Amazon)
- SmallRig Camera Cage for Sony a7S III (B&H, Amazon)
- SmallRig NATO Top Handle with Rec Trigger (B&H, Amazon)
- Sony XLR-K3M XLR Audio Adapter (B&H, Amazon)
- SmallRig Right-Side Wooden Handgrip Kit (B&H, Amazon)
- PolarPro 82mm Peter McKinnon Signature Edition II Variable ND Filter (B&H, Amazon)
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