Sony’s action cam line has long played second fiddle to popular options from GoPro in the hearts and minds of consumers. Its top-end model, the FDR-X3000 ($399.99), offers optical image stabilization, something you do not get with this Editors’ Choice Hero5 Black. You can’t argue using its video quality, as the 100Mbps 4K footage looks great, however the lack of a built-in viewfinder LCD and a non-traditional form factor hold it back. It’s a good option to a GoPro for occasions when stabilization is key, however, not as simple to use or squeeze into small places as the Hero5 Black.

The FDR-X3000 breaks the mold with regards to action cam design. Most models follow the GoPro motif, a tiny box with a lens, however the X3000 is similar to a sized-down camcorder. It measures 1.9 by 1.2 by 3.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.1 ounces. Its body, finished in white, is protected from dust and splashes, but can not be submerged without first going in the included underwater housing. The housing is rated to depths around 200 feet (60 meters).

Sony’s method of doing things isn’t good or bad-it’s just different. You might find that the X3000’s form factor doesn’t match your workflow, since it simply can’t squeeze into some tight spots the same manner a Hero5 Black can. Alternatively, you might appreciate that it offers a typical tripod mount on both body and external housing, and that means you don’t have to choose ton of accessory mounts. Of course, if you already have a couple of GoPro mounts readily available you can still utilize them, you’ll simply need to spend money on a little adapter.

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The X3000’s body puts the lens and stereo microphone in advance, with Record/Enter and Power buttons at the top. The proper side features a tiny monochrome LCD that presents menus and settings, along with Up, Down, and Menu buttons for navigation. I could get the camera create to my liking via the menu, though it isn’t as intuitive as the touch interface you get with the most recent GoPro Hero5 Black. My initial batch of test footage recorded without audio, due to the fact I didn’t know that the sound was switched off on the camera. That isn’t a mistake you might make with an impression screen.

A rear flap opens to reveal three ports-micro USB for data transfer and battery charging, micro HDMI to hook up to a TV, and a 3.5mm microphone input. The memory card slot, also protected by a flap, is on underneath. It accepts microSD and Sony’s Memory Stick Micro formats. Because it’s a dual-format slot, it’s much too simple to put a microSD card in backwards.

The battery compartment is on the left side. It locks set up with a toggle switch. The FDR-X3000 netted about 45 minutes of 4K recording inside our tests, which is on the reduced side. The YI 4K+ can go longer, for approximately 70 minutes.

There’s built-in Wi-Fi; the SSID and password are printed on a sticker located inside battery compartment. You need to use the free Sony PlayMemories Mobile app, designed for Android and iOS, to preview your shot, adapt settings, initiate recording, and transfer files to your smartphone.

The camera can even be used in combination with the RM-LVR3, a wristwatch-style handy remote control, currently only available with the camera in a $549.99 bundle; the older RM-LVR2 also works, and is on its for $149.99. Both versions of the remote have an LCD that presents the view through the camera’s lens, and that means you have a wearable, waterproof option to making use of your smartphone as a viewfinder.

Video Quality and Features
The FDR-X3000 captures 4K video with XAVC S compression at an extremely high 100Mbps bit rate. Video is crisp, with strong details, and a low-contrast look that’s simple to color grade, like the ProTune option offered on GoPro cameras. Dynamic range can be along with the lower contrast, as the camera has the ability to better capture detail in both highlights and shadows.

Because stabilization is optical, instead of digital, you’ll reap the benefits of its steady effect at full resolution and field of view. Our handheld test footage looked much smoother than unstabilized footage, and more natural than other cameras that steady video using digital means. It isn’t flawlessly smooth such as a gimbal or steadicam-you still get the casual jostle-but it’s quite good as possible plainly see from our test video.

The camera can roll 4K at 30 or 24fps, and will crank 1080p at 120 or 100fps at the selection of 60 or 100Mbps. That provides you some versatile, high-quality HD video which can be slowed up to quarter-speed when played back at 30 or 24fps, respectively. If you are ready to live with 720p resolution you can choose 240 or 200fps for one-eighth speed playback at 60 or 100Mbps.

You can even record 1080p footage at more modest frame rates at 50Mbps. Options include 60, 50, 30, 25, or 24fps, covering all the standards except 48fps. You can even record in MP4 format, but quality isn’t as effective as XAVC S-the top bit rate is 28Mbps, and resolution tops out at 1080p.

Furthermore to standard video capture, the X3000 supports time-lapse, looping, and live streaming video, together with burst image capture. There are three fields of view available. At its widest the lens captures a 17mm (full-frame equivalent) view, and may be narrowed to 23mm or 32mm if you need a tighter angle. There’s definitely some barrel distortion obvious at the widest angle, but it isn’t as extreme as what I’m used to seeing with a GoPro Hero5 Black, which means you might not wish to process the video to pay for distortion.

Despite the fact that I had the microphone switched off when recording our standard test footage, I turned it on later to check on the sound quality. The stereo mic accumulates my voice clearly, and if you are planning to utilize the X3000 for a significant project, it sports a 3.5mm microphone input.

As effective as video is, it’s disappointing to see that image quality doesn’t endure. Despite boasting an satisfactory 12MP resolution, details are fuzzy, and the photography aspect ratio is 16:9, not the more prevalent 4:3 or 3:2. Images from the Sony aren’t as effective as those from the less costly Sjcam SJ7 Star. The X3000 is a video camera first and foremost.

There are some what to love about the Sony FDR-X3000. It offers excellent, ultra-wide angle video with optical stabilization, very little distortion, 4K resolution, and strong music quality. I’m also a major fan of having a typical tripod socket, as it’s still simple to add an adapter for GoPro mounts and enables you to utilize the camera with standard photographic equipment easily. But there are a few things that hold it back. Battery life is bound, and its own larger form factor means it can’t squeeze in to the same tight spots as a GoPro. In addition, it can’t go underwater with out a case, and lacks the convenient touch-screen interface made available from the Hero5 Black. The Hero5 sells for the same price, and remains our Editors’ Choice in the premium action camera category.