A detailed review of the Sony FDR X3000 after 18 months of use in every motorbike condition imaginable. Read on why this little camera is still leading the field.
18 months on since I started to use the Sony FDR-X3000 as my Motorbike Helmet Cam
Here is my rundown why is chosen this camera back then and why I still use it today.
Rewind two years, and the action camera market looked a little different from today.
GoPro is leading the field with various flavours of the GoPro range. As a motorbike fan, I was looking for a solution to combine great video with onboard audio. I already had four GoPro Hero4 Silver edition at my disposal. I used those on several projects not related to my motorbike travels.
So I was more than aware of the limitation of those cameras. At the same time, the new GoPro cameras didn't live up to expectations either. So I went back to the drawing board to find a suitable camera system for my travels as you imagine my first point of contact was the motorbike accessories store. This step turned out to be a total waste of time.
Whenever I did ask for more details, the usual response was an empty slightly bewildered mumble of some sort without any commitment or factual detail. Or even more entertaining, the Gentleman who recommended a product without hearing the specifics and after giving me all the facts could back it up with any examples
There is one thing I learned during my time in film production. If you can't buy it - make it.
I know it is not everyone's Idea of fun to fickle around trying to make something work that was never intended for the task in the first place. But stay with me on this one, please. I'm not talking about building your camera system, more like make it fit the purpose. Adapt it for the task in hand. Back to the drawing board and let's look at the main features required.
- Form factor: As small as possible and more like a standard camera
- Video quality: HD or 4k video, flat color profile
- Stabilisation: Necessary full stop!
- External Mic input: sound matters, the camera needs dedicated audio input.
- Battery life: Long batterie life is essential to use it long rips.
- External Power: That would be great but not essential.
Looking for a camera system without breaking the bank was and still is a challenge.
This is where the Sony FDR-X3000 shines and sets itself apart for the rest.
The Form factor makes it great to mount on the side of your motorbike helmet as you have less wind drag compared to a GoPro.
The video quality is outstanding. I use mostly the standard HD format for the main footage. For my B roll, I set the camera to 4k as this enables me to zoom in during edit to get more variety. The neutral colour profile is perfect to mix and match different camera systems. Even the standard colour profile is not to oversaturated in the colours.
The Stabilisation of the camera is outstanding. The footage looks very natural with a little motion left in the video, so it doesn't seem static. Mounted on the Motorbike Helmet, you still get a great sense of motion even in the widest picture settings. Using the Camera handheld is just as stable. The Balanced Optical steady shot system is miles ahead of any competition. Because it is mechanical rather the electronic, it works in any resolution and frame rate.
And yes the camera has a dedicated microphone input. This allows connecting a microphone directly to the camera. As this input is stereo, you can use a stereo mic or separate microphones in an interview. Connecting a Rode lavalier microphone into the camera gave me great results. Using these mics as a cometary microphone in my motorbike helmet or as a clip-on in a handheld scenario always delivered excellent results. I like to mention here that this statement should be seen in context. We are not talking studio-quality sound but a practical solution in a challenging environment.
Looking at battery life and external power together makes sense in this application. The Battery itself will power your camera for 2 hours of shooting. This is when you switch your Bluetooth connectivity
As with all action cameras, the Sony FDR x3000 comes with a mobile app to remote control your camera and a live view. You can also use the included RM-LVR3 remote control But more about it later.
I am coming back to battery life. If you switch all the unnecessary connectivity off, you get a fair amount of video recording time out of your batteries.
The FDR X3000 has another trick up his sleeves.
The USB charging facility. This is an absolute game-changer. USB charging as such is nothing special. What makes it stand out from the crowd is the camera allows charging during filming extending your readiness and video time indefinite.
Fantastic ......but not so fast.
As mentioned the camera charges during operation what doesn't mean it is running on USB power alone.
What I try to get across is the camera uses more power than the USB port can deliver using power from the batteries as well as from the USB port during use. This will eventually deplete the batteries within about 3 hours if you are continuously recording.
However and that is key to our motorbike application, you do not have your camera recording all the time. So as soon as you stop recording the battery is recharging.
In a normal motorbike riding situation, you can have the camera in use all day on one battery and one or two USB power packs.
Mounting the camera to a motorbike helmet comes with its challenges.
My personal choice is to have the camera mounted on the right side of my motorbike helmet.
The best way to do this was to modify the waterproof housing and to stick the camera with some heavy-duty Velcro onto a GoPro mount what I also a knocked into place. As I said before If you can't buy it ...make it.
All necessary cable runs inside the Helmet and are out of the way tucked under the foam lining.
Apparently, drilling holes into the waterproof housing make the camera somewhat not waterproof anymore but even driving in the rain for hours was not an issue.
I did have once a camera dropping out on me because there was just too much moisture in the case, but after giving the camera two days to dry out in my panniers, the camera started functioning again. A statement of the quality of the Hardware.
So what is my overall opinion about the Sony FDR X3000
I can give this little camera an absolute thumbs up.
The camera delivered every single time on any location. The image quality is outstanding, and the sound with the use of the lav mic's delivers just as well.
The Battery life together with the USB charging facility makes the set up a no-brainer.
Yes, you have to fickle a little to make it all work, but we are motorbike riders, so that's not much of a challenge.
So far I did not find anything better fitting my requirements, and I'm confident this setup will be my go to for the years to come.
So what're the cons.
There is one situation the camera could do better, and that is low light conditions. Low light applications are not for this camera, however during day to day use under normal travel conditions; this is not much of an issue. If you feel the footage is getting a tad noisy, the de-noise function in your editing software takes care of this in no time.
For more details about the spec of the Sony FDR x3000 see my other post
Check out my video on my camera setup.
This is a personal review based on using this helmet over a 6-month period. All content is based on my personal experience with the product and no marketing of any kind by manufacturer, supplier, retailer, online media had any impact on my opinion.