While Sony Action Cams have been popular in Japan, they have less visible distribution channels in the US where the GoPro brand is very strong. Still, the Sony FDR-X3000 is worth a look given Sony's long history in camera technology and control of its own key chip technology using Sony's BIONZ X image processing chip and Exmor R CMOS 1/2.5 inch, 12MP backside illumination based image sensor. By contrast, the GoPro HERO5 Black uses the Ambarella A9SE7 and a similar Sony's Exmor R IMX117 12MP image sensor (see teardown here).
By having to rely on chips that other camera companies can also use, GoPro has to deal with competition that can use the same and even more advanced chips like the more advanced Ambarella H2 which is used by the Yi 4K+ Action Camera. By using the Ambarella H2, the Yi 4K+ Action Camera is capable of capturing 4K@60fps and supports USB 3.1 Gen 1 while the GoPro HERO5 Black only supports 4K@30fps and USB 2.0 performance.
By using its own chipsets, Sony can advance its own promoted technology differentiators in the Sony FDR-X3000 like NFC pairing and Memory Stick Micro (M2).
The Sony FDR-X3000 also uses mechanical stabilization which creates steadier videos compared to the GoPro HERO5 Black. The Sony FDR-X3000, showing its traditional camcorder legacy, also supports 3X optical zoom and Zeiss Tessar lens while the GoPro HERO5 Black is a pure action camera with no zoom support and no promotion of a famous lens company.
To take a closer look, we purchased from Best Buy the FDR-X3000R/W 4K Action Cam with RM-LVR3 Live-View Remote Kit which includes the Sony FDR-X3000 camera, the Live View Remote, and waterproof casing.
Opening up the box, we can see the accessories that come with the FDR-X3000R/W 4K Action Cam with RM-LVR3 Live-View Remote Kit which includes the Live Remote View, watch band and battery charger for the Live Remote View, camera battery, camera mounting attachment, and USB micro-B to Type-A cable. The camera's waterproof case was already attached to the camera.
One of the big differences between the Sony FDR-X3000 and the GoPro HERO5 Black is the Sony FDR-X3000's use of a separate Remote Live View accessory to watch and control video recording. The GoPro HERO5 Black has its own touch display screen which is more convenient to use. The Sony FDR-X3000's Remote Live View is useful if you are not near the camera but its design is horribly chunky, attracts dust easily, and not female fashion friendly. The buttons are generally also harder to press and the accessory size seems to be made just for a larger male user.
The Remote Live View can snap into the watch band and can be removed by moving a grey latch on the band.
You can clip the Live Remote View into the charging stand and charge it using the USB micro-B to Type-A cable.
Another major difference between the Sony FDR-X3000 and the GoPro HERO5 Black is that the GoPro HERO5 Black is already waterproof while the Sony FDR-X3000 requires the waterproof case if you want to take it anywhere wet. Though less convenient, the waterproof case allows the Sony FDR-X3000 to go down to 197 feet while the GoPro HERO5 Black can go down to 33 feet without being put in a separate housing.
The waterproof housing feels very rugged and you need to move the latch on the bottom in order to open the housing and remove the camera.
One of the big differences between the Sony FDR-X3000 and the GoPro HERO5 Black shows regional preferences in the looks and feel of the cameras. The Sony FDR-X3000 uses light plastic material which feels almost cheap and less durable. You can easily open up a lot of the compartment doors and trying to snap back the doors into the camera reminds you of using a toy.
The GoPro HERO5 Black on the other hand feels a lot more solid and battle ready, with latches that lock its compartment doors in place to be waterproof.
The bottom compartment opens up to allow you to insert a microSD or a Memory Stick Micro (M2) card. The Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards are available from Sony and SanDisk but generally it's easier to find and use larger capacity, cheaper microSD cards.
By sliding the camera's back lock slider to open, the side compartment opens up for you to insert the camera's battery.
The back compartment opens up to reveal the micro HDMI (Type D), micro-USB, and proprietary multi-use ports.
There is also an LED to show you if the camera is charging over USB.
The bottom of the camera also has screw grooves to lock the camera into stands and locking mounts.
The Sony FDR-X3000 doesn't have a touch screen so you need to use the various buttons to navigate during the initial startup screens.
The menus and screens of the Sony FDR-X3000 can make the small screen very busy and while perhaps appealing to a Japanese audience, can be harder to navigate for a US audience.
The Live Remote View uses WI-FI to connect to the Sony FDR-X3000. Once you turn on the Live Remote View, it will automatically connect to the camera. It's important not to turn on the Sony FDR-X3000 by itself first since we found the Live Remote View has problems connecting to the camera. This is not such a great user experience since many users would not know to keep the camera turned off before turning on the Live Remote View.