What we liked about it:
- Great image stabilization (OIS)
- Stereo audio recording
- Minimal delay in live preview via Bluetooth
- Decent battery life
- Wearable live preview makes operation a lot easier
- Option to zoom in and out
- Good low light performance
What we didn’t like:
- Limited accessories in the bundle
- Dropped frames during playback over Wi-Fi
- Wind reduction is not that effective
- Connecting the camera to a smartphone is a hit and miss
- Picture quality needs more detail
We were using Sony’s action cam for the past few days and after our initial impressions on it, we’re now ready to give you our review.
Both shoot up to 4K video but the FDR-X3000R has been boasting about its optical image stabilization (OIS) and wind noise reduction so let’s see how those perform in real-life usage.
Design and Construction
The model itself is called FDR-X3000 but this specific variant is the FDR-X3000R which comes with a Live-View Remote Kit. It is only available as a bundle to the X3000 so if you think you need a display to view and preview your shots, you may opt for this package (which obviously costs more).
The package consists of the X3000 itself, a hard case that makes it dust, shock, and waterproof for as deep as 60m. Do take note that the camera on its own is already water-resistant to some extent and that’s a good thing. Additional items include the live view monitor, a strap to attach it to and wear on your wrist, the monitor’s charging cradle, a mount that has a 1/4-inch thread attachment at the bottom, and a snap attachment tool.
As you can see, most of the accessories included are for the live preview monitor and not for the camera itself. You also have the microUSB for charging, a couple of manuals, and a single Sony ActionCam sticker.
The live preview monitor has physical navigation buttons around it. Up front is the stop/record button while the right has the up and down buttons. Meanwhile, on the left are the power and menu buttons.
With its hard case on, the X3000’s lens looks similar to the GoPro’s with its square form factor.
Up top, we have the record button, Hold switch, and the main power button.
The FDR-X3000 is equipped with a new ZEISS Tessar lens which supposedly has significantly less lens distortion. Just below its sensor are microphones to record stereo sound with wind-noise reduction.
The right side sports a small screen for cycling through its settings and available options. Beside it are the Menu and navigation buttons. It also features NFC for quick and wireless pairing to smartphones with the same capability.
Its rear contains a flap that reveals the connectivity ports. There’s the audio input for connecting an external microphone, a microUSB port for charging and transferring files, and a microHDMI out for mirroring images to another display.
The entire left side houses its 1240mAh Li-Ion battery which is removable. This way, you can get additional battery packs that you could easily swap when the juice runs out.
Underneath is another flap that accommodates either a microSD card or a Memory Stick Micro M2 for storing your footage.
The entire body is made of glossy plastic that attracts smudges and fingerprints. Although, this is a tool that’s meant to be used during outdoor activities so you don’t really need it to be super clean and presentable all the time.
Without its case, Sony’s action cameras could slip into your pocket easier than GoPro’s Hero due to its stretched out form factor than having the boxy profile. It has a good heft to it but at the same time is still pretty light.
We like that it has its own 1/4-inch thread so users can easily mount it on certain attachments even without its case on. However, the included accessories seem to be limited unlike with the Hero5 Black that already has its own adhesive mounts which could already get you started and is more flexible than the 1/4 thread in terms of practical usability.
No mount? No problem!
During our time with it, I had to think of a way to somehow mount it on my mountain bike just to try its image stabilization. Its shape also made it extra challenging since I simply couldn’t just scotch tape it to the handlebar unlike other boxier action cams. Although, this very same shape makes it easy to just go handheld and record.
Display performance under a shade vs direct sunlight
Viewing your shots, apart from accessing its app, can be done through the live remote that’s strapped on your wrist. As long as it’s connected to the X3000, you can preview your photos and videos which provide good legibility even when outside and under direct sunlight.
As for its picture quality, it shows colors more vibrant than what it actually is when you watch the footage on your computer. So it makes you think that it just shot a lively photo/video with great contrast — but that’s just skin-deep.
An action camera is not all about the form factor since what makes it a hot product or not largely depends on its capabilities as well. Here are some of the main selling features of the X3000.
The FDR-X3000R can connect to Sony’s apps in order to transfer files wirelessly. You first need the PlayMemories Mobile to preview files, use as live feed, tweak settings on the fly, and transfer files to your local storage.
It connects using Wi-Fi and via NFC or by scanning the QR code of the unit. This didn’t work out so well for us as we experienced a lot of failed connection attempts — about 4 out of 5.
One gripe we have while watching your recorded videos through Wi-Fi is that we experience a significant amount of drop in frame rate. This somehow interrupts watching and is a bit bothersome.
Additionally, you will also need a separate app called the Sony Action Cam so you could edit and trim your videos and upload them to social media sites after. This added to our problem since going out of the PlayMemories Mobile app meant disconnection from the camera and when we open up Sony Action Cam, it would again take a couple of tries before it successfully connects.
Still, we were able to connect and edit a sample video. We’d say editing is pretty simple and straightforward while exporting is hassle-free.
Wind noise reduction
As for its noise reduction, it’s disappointing to say that it isn’t effective as we’d hope since we could still hear a lot of wind drowning out the microphone. You can check it out on the sample video later on.
Optical Image Stabilization
However, if you still haven’t noticed from the short Instagram video I uploaded, its OIS proved to be a real winner in producing smooth footage. We could say that Optical Image Stabilization trumps Electronic Image Stabilization (that the Hero5 Black has) any day.
Using its 8.2-megapixel camera and proprietary Exmor R CMOS sensor, the X3000 produces vibrant and lively colors when shooting photos. Although, we notice that the mid-tones and highlights are on the darker end of the spectrum. Details are decent but we’re not super satisfied with it as pixelization occurs at the slightest crops.
Images through the app or the live view appear really sharp and detailed. Though looking at its full resolution is somewhat of a different story.
In terms of video, the opposite happens. The footage appears to be a bit on the bright side and its colors need a bit of saturation during post production. Keep in mind that it’s already set to Vivid mode so it should be more, well, vivid. Details (in 1080p) still left us wanting more since we could still see parts of the image breaking apart. We also shot in Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160) and while picture quality improved, the image got dimmer even with the sun around.
On the other hand, low light shots are pretty impressive. There are digital noise in certain instances but overall, its F2.8 aperture was still able to get the most details out of the subject.
Below are some sample shots including the different field of views (FOVs) available on the X3000.
With its 1240mAh Li-Ion battery, we let the X3000 record a 1080p video at 25FPS with its OIS on and we were able to squeeze out 2 hours and 24 minutes of continuous recording before its juice ran out. This is a lot more compared to the GoPro with its battery carrying almost the same capacity. Meanwhile, charging it to full will take a little over an hour.
The live preview’s battery, on the other hand, lasts a lot longer than the camera itself. This is expected since it should be able to accommodate a couple of Action Cams simultaneously.
The Sony FDR-X3000R Action Cam, to us, beats the latest GoPro in a few ways. For one, Sony’s OIS is such a pleasure to have on a sports camera like this. It is indeed better than the Hero5 Black’s image stabilization and that will really be the case since OIS is a physical mechanism for producing smooth footage.
Battery life is also one advantage over its direct competitor. Lasting more than two hours of continuous recording, while not a stellar performance, is still better than the 1.5 hours of Hero5 Black.
Let’s not forget about the wearable live preview that makes controlling the camera so much easier. It really comes in handy when doing a sport like biking or when it’s connected to multiple cameras.
Although, the X3000 also isn’t perfect and falls short on picture quality when we talk about raw output. We also wanted to have more mounts that come standard with the package and maybe have a firmware update to fix the buggy connection through NFC and Wi-Fi.
The FDR-X3000 is priced at Php27,999 which comes with the Live-View Remote. There’s about Php5K difference from the Hero5 Black but it doesn’t come with a wearable controller.
Sony FDR-X3000 action camera specs:
- 8.2MP BSI 1/2.5 type (7.20 mm) f/2.8 Exmor R CMOS Sensor with full sensor readout, no pixel binning
- ZEISS Tessar lens
- Video recording at 4K resolution
- BIONZ X processor
- Stereo microphone with wind noise reduction
- Memory card slot (Memory Stick Micro, microSD)
- Micro HDMI output
- Multi/micro USB terminal
- Stereo mini jack
- 1240mAh Li-Ion battery