Pure Frickin’ Magic–the Sony HXR NX30

Urban Legend has it that buried deep in the guts of the Boeing 747 somewhere is a little black box.

A young engineer once noted that in the schematics, the box was given the cryptic designation “PFM”. It seemed no one knew what the letters stood for.

Years later he tracked down one of the original engineers and asked him.

“Pure F..ing Magic” is what the old man told him.

Sony HXR-NX30, A Cameraman’s Practical Review

(Note: For the complete review, there are SEVERAL videos as well as written notes to be found below)

Related post: Unshackled Camerawork

Some Notes

1:  Shoots in full HD 1920 X 1080 at 50p, 50i, 25p, 25i and 1280 X 720 50p.  All the test shots in this video were shot at 720/50p .

2: There’s a multi-function knob at the front which you can press to assign a key function from a drop down list in the screen (color temp, focus, exposure, etc.) which then allows you to manually control that function from the knob. Using it to manually control color temperature is pretty cool as it is an infinitely variable control. You can just roll it until the facial tones or whatever look the way you want them to.

3:  There is also a feature called “My Button” whereby on the touch screen you can assign specific functions to 3 shortcut keys.  For example, I set mine to Focus, Exposure and  Color Temperature. By touching any of those, it brings up the options on that feature directly so you can turn them on or off or make them automatic or manual.

4: It has 96gb built-in flash memory and one card slot for an SD card.

5. File format is AVCHD and is totally compatible with FCPX

6. If your NLE does not support AVCHD native files, you’ll find solutions in your user group forums. For example, “Clipwrap” does a brilliant job of transcoding to .mov (Quicktime) and other formats with amazing speed and no quality loss. From the Clipwrapper site: “Support for all the popular editing formats (ProRes, DNxHD, etc) and non-linear editors (Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple iMovie)”

7. With the audio block removed, the camera fits easily in the palm of your hand. I found that, unlike other cameras I’ve had, this one is very practical for still photographs as well (21 megapixel). Switching modes back and forth is done simply by pushing a logically placed button (unlike my last camera which required finding a slider switch which was close to another slider switch with a different function–easy to mix up when not specifically looking for it)

For full technical specs, go to Sony’s site. For best UK price and fantastic service, go here: http://www.jigsaw24.com, and mention me and ask for a deal. Hey, I asked and they knocked another £15 off what was already the lowest price for that camera–and it was on my doorstep the next morning!

PRODUCTION SHOOT: LIVE GIG

I just did a one-man-band shoot of a live performance in a Music Bar/Steak House and this bears further comment on the Face Recognition and focus tracking capability of the HXR NX30…

I did the shoot with 4 cameras: 1) the GroPro Hero 3 Black Edition (from behind band), 2) Canon 600 DSLR locked on a side angle, 3) Canon XHA1 locked on frontal angle, 4) Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

Here we have the worst combination of factors for a cameraman shooting close-ups on a live shoot: Low light level, coloured lights, moving targets.

I simply could not have done this with with either the DSLR or the XHA1–or probably many similar cameras or larger ones.

The Sony HXR NX30, however, was a dream.

By using the auto-focus feature and Face Recognition, there was little to no lag on locking onto focus of the singer, even when she was moving forward and backwards. And certainly when there was a brief lag in the worst conditions of low red or blue light, the camera got it a hell of a lot faster than I could have manually. And when it got it, it held on. The truth is, I just didn’t worry about focus and was able to put my attention on the shot to hand or thinking ahead to where I was going to go next. This was the first I was ever seeing this performance–as I was shooting it, so I was glad I wasn’t introverted into a follow-focus nightmare at the same time because these hand-held shots were the only hope of close-ups. The other three unmanned cameras had to be framed loose to account for any movement that might occur within the frame.

I’ll link to one of the three songs I edited for the singer which will illustrate my point.

Here’s the NX30 in my first actual production situation, a short promo done for a local First Aid Service.

The opening scene utilizes the Active Mode stabilization for a steadicam look.

I ran in behind the actress, then moved laterally to the side and down, then stopped–not something you can do with any camera.

Finally, after a few months of using the camera in various productions, here’s a final report which contains some valuable information:

HXR NX30 Production Report

Related Post: HXR NX30 Image Stabilisation in Perspective

3 responses

    • It’s a relatively small sensor camera, so no, you won’t get shallow depth of field. The footage in the review (and also in Part 2 of the review) should show you what you’ll get in almost any shooting circumstance. Mind you, the camera is over 4 years old now and not easily found new in box any more.

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  1. Wow, I’m really impressed. I shoot documentary footage a lot as well as church services. This seems like a great camera for both of those. I’ll have to look into one of these. Thank you for experimenting and for the discovery.

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