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Sony NX30: currently best in its class, yet improvable

The NX30 beats its bigger sister the NX70 in a few areas, but is yet to be upgraded to Beyond AVCHD.

By Allan Tépper | May 20, 2013

Thanks to Miami dealer and rental house Midtown Video and later to PRODU.com, I had a brief opportunity to test the Sony NX30, the NXCAM camcorder I’ve come to call the “little sister” of the NX70, which I covered in detail last year. Officially called the HXR-NX30 followed by a regional suffix, this camera shares the same sensor, a similar lens, and the same segregated status. Ahead you’ll learn all about how it compares to its bigger sister the NX70 and to competitive models like the Canon XA10 and the Panasonic AG-HMC40.

What I mean by “best in class”

I mean the market space of cameras which are under US$2500 list price (under US$2000 street price) and offer the combination of:

  • Progressive recording
  • Balanced microphone inputs
  • Electrically-controlled zoom lens

Cameras compared in this article

In this article, the cameras compared are the Canon XA10, Sony NX30, and Sony NX70. I have left the Canon XA20 and Canon XA25 out of this article since they aren’t shipping yet. However, I will publish more articles covering them soon.

Link to my NX70 article

Here is the link to you NX70 article from 2012: Sony NX70: the rainproof HD camera that may leave you with drops in your eyes

Basic specs of the NX30

image The NX30 is a segregated professional AVCHD camcorder which features a larger-than-typical sensor for its market space (as described above). While the Panasonic AG-HMC40 has a very small 1/4.1-inch sensor, the Canon XA10 has a larger 1/3-inch sensor, and the NX30 has an even larger 1/2.88-inch Exmor R sensor. The sensor in all three is some type of CMOS. Although the AG-HMC40 (the oldest of the three referenced cameras) uses a 3MOS sensor and the other two cameras use a single CMOS sensor, having a sensor per primary color is no longer considered a must-have to achieve high-quality, and some cameras that are multiple times more expensive use this approach nowadays.

Advantages of this larger sensor: Beyond the potential better sensitivity and other benefits (including making it easier to reduce depth-of-field when desired, although not nearly as much as even larger ones in other cameras), the larger sensor can offer a wider widest angle with the same lens (without having to resort to the cost and complication of a wide angle adapter or converter). At their respective 35mm equivalents:

  • The Panasonic AG-HMC40 (with the smallest sensor at 1/4.1-inch) offers a widest wide angle of 40.8mm (35mm equivalent).
  • The Canon XA10 (with a larger sensor at 1/3-inch sensor) offers a widest wide angle of 30.4mm (35mm equivalent).
  • The Sony NX30 (with an even larger 1/2.88-inch sensor) offers a widest wide angle of 26mm (35mm equivalent).

So if you value very wide angle shooting, the NX30 is the strongest of the three referenced cameras. Of course, if you favor telephoto, the advantage is in the opposite direction, since the maximum telephoto at their respective 35mm equivalents are:

  • The Sony NX30 offers a maximum telephoto of 260mm (35mm equivalent).
  • The Canon XA10 offers a maximum telephoto of 305mm (35mm equivalent).
  • The Panasonic AG-HMC40 offers a maximum telephoto of 490mm (35mm equivalent).

However, most people I know prefer to favor the wider wide angle in this type of a camera for several reasons.

In versions typically sold in 60Hz countries, the NX30 offers the same framerates as its bigger sister the NX70 in those areas (after the NX70 received its 2012 firmware update):

  • 1080/23.976p (native)
  • 1080/29.97p (I confirmed it to be benign PsF)
  • 1080/59.94p (not very distributable, but great for natural slow motion when later conformed to 23.976p or 29.97p)
  • 1080/29.97i (previously called 59.94i)
  • 720/59.94p

On the other hand, versions typically sold in 50Hz countries will offer the same framerates as its bigger sister the NX70 in those areas:

  • 1080/25p (presumably benign PsF)
  • 1080/50p (not very distributable, but great for natural slow motion when later conformed to 25p)
  • 1080/25i (previously called 50i)
  • 720/50p

The ones I marked presumably is based upon prior experience with other NXCAM models.

The terms benign PsF and malignant PsF were defined in part 1 of the PsF’s missing workflow series, which as of today has reached part 10 and continues…

Ed Moore gives his first impressions of the NX30

 

Interesting features of the NX30

  • 96GB internal memory
  • Slot for either SD card or Sony Memory Stick
  • Permanently attached USB cable (yet hidden when not in use)
  • Balanced Optical SteadyShot w/FIXED SHOT mode (SteadyShot is a Sony trademark for an integrated video camera image stabilization technology developed by Sony for its range of consumer and prosumer video camcorders.)
  • Nightshot mode
  • Built-in light to illuminate your subject
  • Built-in projector

 

Sony’s musical video promoting the 59.94Hz version of the NX30

It’s not my style of music, but it shows the camera’s features well.

What the NX30 has in common with the NX70

  • Same sensor
  • Same 96GB internal memory
  • Same SD or MemoryStick slot
  • Nearly identical focal length
  • Same recording modes in HD
  • Same removable handle with balanced XLR audio inputs

How the NX30 differs from the NX70

  • The NX30 costs about US$1000 less street price.
  • The NX30 is both smaller and lighter.
  • The NX30 has awesome mechanical stabilization.
  • The NX30 has no lens ring: Instead manual adjustments are done via the small knob.
  • The NX30 has a built-in LED light: In addition to the infrared NightShot available with both the NX70 and the NX30, the NX30 also has a standard LED light.
  • The NX30 has a built-in projector: Very nice, but I must clarify that it’s not HD.
  • The NX30 zoom is truly variable, (unlike the zoom issues described in my recent NX70 article)
  • The NX30 has an A/V port instead of a LANC port, yet is still compatible with LANC via an adapter.
  • The NX30 can also record SD (standard definition) DTV. In case of the 59.94 Hz segregated versions I tested, it naturally offers NTSC-derived 720x480/59.94i recording. On the other hand, the 50Hz segregated versions naturally offers 720x576/50i recording.
  • The NX30 offers a few additional shutter speeds in HD compared with the NX70.

The following are extra shutter speeds that I found in the NX30 that I didn’t find in the NX70:

  • 23.976p: 1/40
  • 29.97p: 1/6000 and 1/10000
  • 59.94p: 1/16000 and 10000

See the original NX70 article for more info about the other shutter speeds which are in common among these two cameras.

Conclusions

Due to its additional features, better performing zoom, and its much lower price, I consider the NX30 to make much more sense than the NX70, unless you really need your camera to be rainproof.

What I hope Sony will add to the NX30 via a firmware update

I hope that Sony offers a firmware update to make it Beyond AVCHD compliant. Here is a link to a related article which includes my Beyond AVCHD Manifesto.

Upcoming articles and reviews

Stand by for upcoming articles and reviews. To make sure you continue to see my upcoming articles, sign up to my free mailing list by clicking here. Upcoming articles will include Canon’s 20 and Canon’s XA25.

Si deseas suscribirte a mi lista en castellano, visita aquí. Si prefieres, puedes suscribirte a ambas listas (castellano e inglés).

 

Upcoming articles and reviews

Stand by for upcoming articles and reviews. To make sure you continue to see my upcoming articles, sign up to my free mailing list by clicking here.

Si deseas suscribirte a mi lista en castellano, visita aquí. Si prefieres, puedes suscribirte a ambas listas (castellano e inglés).

 

Allan Tépper’s books, consulting, articles, seminars & audio programs

Contact Allan Tépper for consulting, or find a full listing of his books, articles and upcoming seminars and webinars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his TecnoTur program, which is now available both in Castilian (aka "Spanish") and in English, free of charge. Search for TecnoTur in iTunes or visit TecnoTur.us for more information.

Disclosure, to comply with the FTC’s rules

No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.

Copyright and use of this article

The articles contained in the TecnoTur channel in ProVideo Coalition magazine are copyright Allan Tépper/TecnoTur LLC, except where otherwise attributed. Unauthorized use is prohibited without prior approval, except for short quotes which link back to this page, which are encouraged!
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