Sony's FX6 is a 4K Shooter's Wet Dream

The Sony FX6 has arrived with specs videographers have grown to expect in 2020. 

When Sony initially teased the FX6, they also introduced the Cinema Line, a moniker that includes products across its Alpha and CineAlta series.

The ethos behind the branding is for them to design products that combine the Sony look with features that go beyond basic cinema cameras and camcorders. For now, the Cinema Line journey starts with the VENICE, FX9, and the newly released FX6, a full-frame camcorder that combines the best of the FX9 and a7S III mirrorless camera at a respectable price point. 

No Film School briefly got hands-on with the FX6, which was provided by Sony, before its release. Here's what you should know about it. 

Key Features

  • Exmor R Full-Frame 10.2MP Back-illuminated Sensor
  • BIONZ XR Processor
  • Frame Rates up 4K UHD 120p, FHD up to 240p, 4K DCI 24p
  • XAVC Long GOP and XAVC-I All Intra 4:2:2 10-bit 
  • 16-bit RAW output via SDI
  • S-Log 3 / S Cinetone, Preset and User Scene files with User LUTs
  • 15+ Stops Dynamic Range with S-Log 3 in Cine El mode
  • Phase Detection AF w/ Face Tracking and Real-time Eye AF
  • Base ISO 800 / High sensitivity ISO 12,800 / Max ISO 409,600 
  • Electronically Controlled ND filter (adjustable 1/4 > 1/128)
  • 2 XLR audio inputs, 2ch/4ch recording options
  • TC in/out
  • 12/6/3-G SDI Output
  • Metadata w/ Catalyst Browse for Stabilization

Sensor 

The FX6 features a Exmor 10.2MP (12.1MP total) back-illuminated sensor alongside a next-gen BIONZ XR processor which is said to offer 4x faster processing performance than the FS5. We asked Sony if its the same sensor as the a7s III and they declined to comment, but based on the video formats and autofocus performance, it could be a similar version that's been re-engineered for video specifically. But to be clear, that's just speculation. 

 

Shooting Modes

The FX6 has system frequencies of 59.94/50/29.97/25/24/23.98 respectively where you can select to shoot in either full-frame or Super 35mm mode. 

You can also switch between Custom mode, which is ideal for workflows that require images straight from camera, and Cine EI mode, that's going to provide you the most flexibility in terms of dynamic range and color grade.

In Cine EI with the SLog3 gamma selected, Sony says it will give you 15+ stops of dynamic range. Additionally, the base ISO is 800 and there's also a High Base sensitivity ISO option at 12,800 when in Cine EI mode. In Custom mode you can set the base sensitivity to High or Low using the Base ISO/Sensitivity menu on the main screen. 

EI Cine has options for S-Gamut3.Cine/SLog3 which allows you to grade for DCI-P3, and S-Gamut3/SLog3 which covers BT.2020 color space. In Custom mode, there are options for BT.709 and HDR (HLG) broadcast standards. 

So if you need a quality image straight from camera, or want to push the image in the color grade, the FX6 has an option for you. 

Video Formats 

The FX6 offers a number of codecs, including RAW, RAW and XAVC-I, XAVC-I, and XAVC-L with options in either full-frame or Super 35.

The headline is that 16-bit RAW is available via the SDI output. If you're an Atomos user, expect Shogun to get an ProRes RAW update. Outside of RAW, the FX6 can record 4K DCI up to 60p and as with other Sony cameras, the FX6 has Slow & Quick modes that offer up to 4K UHD at 120p. When shooting faster frame rates in full-frame like 4K 120p, there will be a slight 10% crop. 

Below are the available video formats which includes Slow & Quick modes.  

Full-Frame (System Frequency 59.94/50/29.97/25/23.98)

  • RAW 4096×2160 
  • RAW 4K UHD 3840×2160 1–60p
  • RAW & XAVC-I 4096×2160 
  • RAW & XAVC-I 4K UHD 3840×2160 1–60p
  • XAVC-I
    • 4096×2160 1–60p
    • 3840×2160 1–60, 100, 120p
    • 1920×1080 1–60, 100, 120, 150, 180, 200, 240p 
  • XAVC-L
    • 3840×2160 1–60, 100, 120p
    • 1920×1080 1–60, 100, 120, 150, 180, 200, 240p​

Full-frame (System Frequency 24p)

  • RAW 4096×2160 
  • RAW & XAVC-I 4096×2160 
  • XAVC-I 4096×2160 1–60p

Super 35  (System Frequency 59.94/50/29.97/25/23.98)

  • XAVC-I 1920×1080 1–60, 100, 120p
  • XAVC-L 1920×1080 1–60, 100, 120p

Build 

If you're familiar with the FS5 or FS5 Mark II camcorders, you'll feel right at home with the FX6. The FX6 is a "replacement" for the two Super 35 cameras and features a homogeneous form factor. 

FX6

  • Dimensions: 4.6" H (116mm) x 6" L (153mm) x 4.5 W (114mm)
  • Weight 1.96lb (889g)

FS5

  • Dimensions: 5.1" H (128.7mm) x 6.8" L (172.4mm) x 4.4mm W (111.3mm) 
  • Weight: 1.83lb (830g)

What stands out about the FX6 is that it's a modular box that can be setup or rigged how you see fit. Sony has removed the rear viewfinder/eyecup found on the FS5, and instead of built-in XLR inputs like you'd find on the FX9, two XLR inputs are part of the the top handle. This is to keep the FX6 light as possible, so if you wanted to mount it to a drone or gimbal, you could. 

The removable LCD that does comes with the FX6 can be mounted to a number of 1/4-20" inputs found on the top of the camera and the communication wire plugs into the side where the handgrip is located. Sony took the LCD one step further and added quick buttons on the side for zebra and focus peaking. On the button there's also a switch that allows you to rotate the viewing angle or mirror it. This comes in handy if you mount the LCD in selfie mode. 

As you'd expect the LCD shows all the necessary shooting information. It's also touchscreen which allows you navigate certain menu functions. Not all menu options are selectable through touchscreen so it's something you'll have to get used to. Additionally, the LCD does come with a hood to attach when in sunny conditions. It's not world-changing, but it's something. 

Like the FS5, the handgrip can be quickly attached to the camera by lining up the white marks and turning it to lock it in place. There's also a 3.5mm connector that needs to be inserted into the camera body to allow it to communicate functionally like record/stop. Once mounted, the grip position can be rotated in four different positions based on your operating modes or preference. 

The handle takes center stage on top and is tightened down by two hand-cranking nuts. It has two XLR inputs with selectable line/mic/48v options. There are also multiple 1/4-20" connections to mount the LCD or other accessories. Additoinally, a shotgun holder is located on the handle which can hold any standard boom mic. The build quality of the shotgun holder was a bit flimsy, so if you do plan on using it a lot, it's something to keep an eye on. 

The main side panel of the FX6 has plenty of quick access buttons for the menu, ISO/Gain, white balance, shutter, iris, 9 programmable buttons, adjustable ND, memory card selection, audio selection, and playback. A setup pretty typical  from Sony. The font of the camera is where you can set your white balance, switch from manual to autofocus, or perform a quick push of autofocus if your lens is capable of autofocus. The back is where the memory cards slots are found along with the battery slot, a full-sized HDMI output connection, 12G/6G/3G SDI output, TC in/out, remote, and AC power.

As for batteries, the FX6 accepts a variety of options including the BP-U35, BP-U60, BP‑U60T, BP-U70, BP‑U90, BP-U100. The larger BP-U100 batteries are going to provide you with the longest run time. We tested the camera with a BP-U60 and got around 3 hours of recording time. 

What's stands out about the FX6 is its modularity. If you only want to attach the LCD and go, you can. If you want to put it on a car rig and strip everything down after setting your shot, it's possible. If you're not worried about audio, Sony still included an internal microphone on the camera body as a scratch track. And when the top handle is attached, its omnidirectional stereo electret condenser microphone takes over. 

The body alone is light and small but the magnesium alloy chassis is robust enough so it doesn't feel like you're holding a piece of plastic. With Sony's professional camcorders you're going to get a lot of those smaller details not found on mirrorless cameras that go unnoticed until you need to use them. Things like a tape measure hook, NFC support that allows you to quickly connection smartphones or wireless devices, a stronger WiFi antenna, multiple accessory shoes, multiple 1/4-20" mounting points, SDI and HDMI outputs, a dedicated USB-C output, timecode, different screw holes for accessories, and the biggest division among creators, the need for built-in ND filters. 

On top of all that, you won't have to worry about overheating. The FX6 has plenty of heat dissipation so that you can keep on recording until your media card is full or your battery runs out. Overall, the FX6 body feels right at home for Sony and nothing out of the ordinary. 

ND Filters 

The FX6 features two ND filter modes. You can switch between them using the ND preset/variable switch found on the side panel. With preset ND filters, you can set 3 different filters in the menu system. When the variable ND filter is selected, it's adjustable from 1/4 > 1/128. There is also Auto ND filter option that can be activated via switch.

It's important to note that when triggering the ND filter, the ND filter frame is displayed on the image with a sound. The same for when you clear the ND filter. But once the ND filter is activated, it no longer displays the frame or plays the sound when cycling through filter options. 

Autofocus 

Sony brings a very fast hybrid autofocus system to the FX6. The FX6 autofocus system is based on technologies from both FX9 and a7S III. However, the AF algorithms in FX6 is optimized for movie shooting, whereas in the a7S III they're implemented for overall performance.

The FX6 autofocus combines phase-detection and contrast detection for precision focus. It features 627 phase-detection points that cover 89% of the sensor (94% vertical, 95% horizontal). We asked Sony about the number of contrast detection points, but they did not disclose that information. 

It also has Face Detection and Real-Time Eye AF that easily tracks multiple subjects in the frame. The FX6 autofocus is compatible with over 50 different native E-mount lenses, including Sony's new FE C 16-35mm T3.1 G cine zoom

The autofocus can be set to automatic on the lens and the camera body and the autotfocus will adjust based on the focus area: flexible spot, zone, or wide. You can also turn the autofocus off on the camera body and keep it on the lens and use the "push autofocus" button located on the front of the camera to trigger the autofocus. 

Like the FX9, Sony has included the ability to adjust the autofocus transition speed. This will set how fast the focus drive focuses on a subject or object. It can be adjusted from 1, which is the slowest, to 7 which is the fastest. Additionally, you can adjust the speed at which it changes focus between two subjects. Think of it as how fast you want to rack focus between two subjects. When it's set to a low sensitivity, the focus does not readily shift even if another subject moves in front of the in-focus subject. When set to a high sensitivity, the focus shifts to give priority to the subject that moves in front. The sensitivity can be adjusted from 1-5. 

The FX6 does have touchscreen autofocus but it works a little differently than simply touching the screen. It first must be activated by pressing the Focus Setting assignable button and then touching the screen. Sony does it this way so you don't inadvertently touch the LCD and adjust the focus. If the extra step is a hassle, you can shift from one recognized face to another recognized face by operating the multi-selector in the grip.

In our hands-on tests the FX6 autofocus worked exceptionally well when there was ample light. The transition speeds did show noticeable difference in performance, and while that will boil down to personal preference, a transitions speed of 3 felt the most natural and less digital. The Face Detection and Eye AF performed very well too. We did notice that if you wore a mask it did have some trouble locking on to a face initially, but once it did, it didn't have too much problem trackign the subject. 

The one area the FX6 can improve on is low light autofocus as we found ourselves manually adjusting for precise focus. In one test, we shot moving cars at night and the FX6 had trouble locking on to the front and rear of cars. Sometimes the autofocus was a bit jerky and not as smooth. This is more of an extreme example since light sources are shining directly at the sensor. But we did the same test on the FX9 and it found focus no problem. When it came to the majority of subjects and objects in low light, the FX6 did find focus very well. It was mainly this one area that the FX6 had a roadblock. 

Audio 

Surprisingly, the FX6 includes up to four channels of LPCM 24-bit, 48 kHz recorded audio. Sweet. Each input can be configured an routed in the menu. 

Channel 1: Input 1, Internal mic or Shoe Channel 1 
Channel 2: Input 1, Input 2, Internal mic, or Shoe Channel 2
Channel 3: Off, Input 1, Internal mic, Shoe Channel 1
Channel 4: Off, Input 1, Input 2, Inernal Mic, Shoe Channel 2 

The XLR inputs can be selected for mic, line or 48v phantom power. Sony also added a wind filter option and a limiter mode with a selectable limiter up to -17 dB. Additionally, the FX6 has the multi-interface shoe that allows you to attach different accessories to the camera. And as you might expect there is a dedicated headphone jack for monitoring. 

Media Cards

Two media card slots are on the FX6. Both support UHS-II/UHS-I SDXC cards as well as CFexpress Type A cards. CFexpress Type A cards are required to record XAVC-I QFHD 100/120fps and XAVC-I FHD 150/180/200/240fps. 

Remote App & Catalyst 

The FX6 works with Sony's Content Browser Mobile (CBM) app that's available for iOS and Android devices. The app allows you to control iris, focus, and zoom from a smartphone.

The camera also has embedded metadata that's compatible with Catalyst Prepare and Catalyst Browse. We've reported on how great having gyro data on the a7S III is in stabilizing footage, now that feature is available on the FX6. The metadata maps the rotating data of the gyro sensor and allows you to freely adjust the shake compensation and trim the area size without any processing time. 

Shooting with the FX6

Out of the box, the FX6 was quick to put together and fire up. Fully rigged, the camera is going to be heavier than Sony mirrorless cameras, but that's expected. That said, the FX6 is geared more towards handheld operation with a natural tendency to shoot from the hip or put it on a tripod. Think run-n-gun shooting, ENG, documentaries, skateboarding videos, red carpets, lower budgeted music videos, and alike. This camera is small enough to go just about anywhere but still robust enough for larger shooters. 

If you want to use it for shoulder mount work, you'll need an additional rig to accommodate the smaller form factor. Mounting it to a gimbal should be no problem either. Depending on the lens, you're looking at around a 5lb dynamic payload capacity. Sony sent us the FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS lens with the camera so we couldn't test out the servo function of the FX6, but if works anything like the FX9, you'll be in good shape. 

That aside, the Rec.709 image quality is what you expect from Sony as it mirrors the a7S III and FX9 cameras. Shooting Cine EI in SLog3, you're going to get the most latitude, which we'll share the results in a future article. In hand it was nimble enough to not too feel heavy after operating for some time. If you don't find yourself shooting a lot of on-the-shoulder work, the FX6 might be a better option than the FX9 in terms of mobility. Speaking of the FX9, you can read our full comparison of the FX6 and FX9 here

Overall, the form factor of the FX6 is more appealing than the Canon C70, but you may feel differently once you get them in hand. 

The Competition 

Price

The FX6 available for pre-order now and is priced at $5,999 USD for the body only. It's available in kit form with the FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS lens for $7,199 USD. Expect it to ship this December. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, the FX6 is a fantastic option for those looking for a high quality quality 4K camera that's dedicated for video. It's autofocus is reliable, the low light performance is exceptional, the additional features like XLR inputs, timecode, HDMI and SDI outputs, ND filters, dual card slots, and WiFi control are all a must for anyone working outside the comfort of a at-home studio when footprint is important.  

If you're looking to replace your FS5 or FS5 MK II with a full-frame option, the FX6 is a no-brainer. Who Sony may have trouble convincing is lifelong DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The price point of the FX6 is a few thousand dollars more than the mirrorless models that can shoot 4K UHD 60p/120p.  

And while we're seeing mirrorless cameras start to creep up in price towards $4,000, it's hard to convince someone to change their habits. Either way, there's only so much mirrorless cameras can do with the footprint. They'll overheat (for now) or lack features compared to dedicated to video. 

Sony understands this and it's why it has shifted to the Cinema Line branding. To offer creators more options. And that's what it's about. No camera is perfect for everyone, but there may be a perfect camera out there for you.      

Your Comment

11 Comments

I'm confused. If this is a cinema camera, WTH are they doing shooting their sample footage in 25p/30p? Not to mention the ugly over exposed clipping.

November 17, 2020 at 9:06AM

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Dean
253

I guess it's internal competition because they cant show that this camera is actually as good as Venice. haha

November 17, 2020 at 11:00AM

2
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Thales Banzai
Director; Screenwriter
443

What are you looking at? Where is this?

Either way, the only reason to show clipping is for testing highlight roll off.

I have no idea where you see 25p or 30p being used.

November 19, 2020 at 11:31AM

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Justin Gladden
Producer
652

If Sony's not even going to offer 4K on Super 35 mode, why even support Super 35 at all? I may be in the minority on this, but the lower megapixel sensor is pretty disappointing.

November 17, 2020 at 3:00PM

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Brandon Walsh
Indie & Commercial Director
99

100% in agreement about that, super 35 mode is a must have. This camera isn't a replacement for the FS5 without that. Why doesn't NFS talk about this huge omission in its coverage?

November 20, 2020 at 10:09AM, Edited November 20, 10:11AM

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My "wet dream" camera... would include a choice of interchangeable lens mounts.
PL, EF, etc. would make this a "real" cinema camera.

November 18, 2020 at 1:44AM, Edited November 18, 1:44AM

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Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker
1411

Well, this is the Sony mount. Name a more versatile, open mount in the industry for attaching lens adaptors?

Besides, this is the FX6 not the Venice or even an FX9. It's the most baby of the bunch so why add more to the price for an option few would use in use cases that won't warrant PL mount glass?

November 19, 2020 at 11:28AM

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Justin Gladden
Producer
652

The article states "XAVC Long GOP and XAVC-I All Intra 4:2:2 10-bit," and I feel this could be interpreted in multiple ways. It is important to point out that this camera cannot record 4:2:2 10-bit in XAVC Long GOP.

November 18, 2020 at 12:44PM, Edited November 18, 12:44PM

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would love a good evf. or any evf. A7Siii has a very good evf. as do most canon.
always something. don't @ me.

November 19, 2020 at 1:39PM, Edited November 19, 1:39PM

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PS - personally hate 'wet dream' as a headline.

November 20, 2020 at 7:22AM

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Huge step up from the POS Fs5

November 19, 2020 at 1:46PM

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Aaron Harper
Rental House Manager
507