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A Really Cool Camera Sony Made in the '80s

Top Contributor


This is my Sony DXC-M3A, a broadcast camera from the mid-1980s. You might wonder why anyone would own such a dinosaur in an age of 8k resolution and 15-stops of dynamic range. But I think it has a certain aesthetic quality that's lost to today's lifeless digital sensors.






The DXC-M3A doesn't have an image sensor; instead it has 3 pickup tubes that work like a CRT television to turn light into an analog signal. The beauty of these tubes is what drew me to this camera. The colors, the light trails, the chromatic aberration. It gives a look that lies somewhere in between film and digital, and is unlike anything else.

After months of trial-and-error trying to get the RGB signal out of the camera (sourcing three different converter boxes and making my own wiring looms to connect it all), I finally have a usable camera that records straight to my laptop without having to degrade the quality by recording to tape (as was done in the day).

My friend and I are planning to shoot a short film with this camera. I will post more as our progress unfolds.


Leading Creator

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.  My very first professional camera was a M3A with a VO-4800 U-matic recorder attached via a multi-pin umbilical that I got in 1984.  It put me on the map and I don't know if I'd be where I am today if it hadn't been for that camera.  I traveled with it all over the country and world.  Like you say, it doesn't meet today's specifications, but it was a very reliable camera that looked very good for its day.  In fact, I still recall how disappointed I was when I sold my M3A and moved "up" to a Hitachi CCD camera.  The aliasing on that first generation CCD was awful but it was too late to go back to the Sony.

It's cool to hear you like the look of it, and I'm looking forward to seeing the short film you make. Good luck.

PS.  Don't ever point those tubes at the sun!!

I’m glad I could provide some nostalgia. 

When others operate the camera, they instinctively treat it like a modern cinema camera and point it at the sun, and it causes me a great deal of stress! 

Leading Creator

Dang, I'm laughing thinking of what this camera->converters->wires-> laptop is going to look like on set. Really keen to see what the short film looks like with your 80s Sony-frankencam.

Haha it’s pretty awful really—50 ft of wires and boxes dragging behind the camera. I’m trying to consolidate the setup, but the DXC-M3A will always be dragging around some form of ball and chain