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For those on the leading edge, Sony announces enthusiast 4K Handycam

By dpreview staff on Sep 4, 2013 at 22:14 GMT

Sony has announced a consumer 4K camcorder, the FDR-AX1 Handycam, which gives enthusiast videographers a way to capture four times the resolution of a Full HD camera. The AX1 is able to save the massive amounts of data gathered by a 4K, 60fps camera thanks to its XQD memory card. Its G lens covers a 20x zoom range equivalent to a 31.5 - 630mm, and includes Optical Steady Shot.

Three ND (neutral density) filters are available to adjust the amount of light, while allowing the user to retain slower shutter speeds and wider apertures as needed. Filters include 1/4, 1/16, and 1/64. Two XLR connectors are built in, and the AX1 includes a high-performance internal mic.

Since it's so new, playback of 4K content requires connecting the camcorder to a compatible 4K TV, with Sony recommending its own BRAVIA TVs for maximum effect. As the first camera to support HDMI 2.0, the AX1 can transmit 4K 60p using a single HDMI cable. The AX1 is also the first camera to use the XAVC S format, which can store nearly an hour of video on a 32GB XQD card. 

A 32GB XQD card will be bundled for free, as well as VEGAS PRO 12 EDIT software, for the $4500 price. The AX1 is expected to ship in October.

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Press Release:

SONY ADDS MUCH-ANTICIPATED 4K CONSUMER CAMCORDER
TO ITS HANDYCAM® PORTFOLIO

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 4, 2013 – Today Sony Electronics unveiled its first 4K consumer camcorder - the new FDR-AX1 4K Handycam. Now video enthusiasts can capture 4K content for expressive, powerful imaging with incomparable levels of clarity and exquisite color in every scene.

"Introducing a consumer level 4K camcorder offers budding filmmakers cutting-edge technology and imaging quality from Sony they haven’t been able to experience until now,” said Hidenori Toyoda, director of the camcorder business at Sony Electronics. “The FDR-AX1 camcorder is an exciting addition to our 4K ecosystem as we’re bringing personal content creation to the masses, dramatically expanding Ultra HD viewing."

BRILLIANCE, TIMES FOUR

The FDR-AX1 camcorder records 4K and HD movies in the XAVC S format, which uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 Long GOP for video and Linear PCM for audio compression, while saving files in an MP4 wrapper. The XAVC S format allows longer recording times, storing almost two hours of 4K video on a 64GB XQD memory card, making 4K recording easier and more convenient. Switching to Full HD recording can store almost 3 hours of 1920x1080 60p footage on a single card.

Sony’s FDR-AX1 camcorder features a 4K image sensor that is essential to the stunning image quality it can achieve. The 1/2.3-type Exmor R® CMOS sensor captures true 4K resolution (3840x2160) images, containing four times the picture detail of Full HD, and has the output speed required by the massive 4K 60 fps data stream. An extraordinary image processor, identical to those found in professional 4K camcorders, rapidly processes signals transmitted from the CMOS sensor and finalizes images in real time at 60p.

Pristine imagery is also assured by Sony’s quality G Lens™ which redefines what an aspheric lens and special low-dispersion glass combination can reproduce. The G Lens is specially tuned to capture qualities of definition and color that put this ground-breaking Handycam® camcorder in a class of its own. In addition, the lens offers a broad zooming range from wide-angle to 20x optical (31.5-630mm 35mm equivalent) while Optical SteadyShot keeps footage crisp and stable, even at telephoto mode.

CREATIVE CONTROL & ERGONOMICS

The FDR-AX1 camcorder can achieve beautiful, film-like results with three ND filters for adjusting the amount of light entering the image sensor from the lens. Four filter settings - Off (Clear), ? filter, 1/16 filter and 1/64 filter - give users the ability to modify light conditions, while maintaining desired shutter angle and aperture even on bright sunny days. Five paint functions (white balance, gamma, detail, skin detail and matrix) can be combined and altered to create expressive movie styling and cinematic looks.

Matching its impressive 4K picture quality, the camcorder features two external pro-style XLR connectors to complement its high-performance internal microphone for premium sound. These XLR jacks allow the addition of stereo microphones to capture balanced audio synchronized to the video for clearer ambient sounds and dialogue, which can be mixed with recordings made using the internal mic.

For ease of use during filming, the FDR-AX1 camcorder was designed with two strategically placed start/stop buttons and a zoom lever on the handle for convenient access from low angles. While dedicated controls are also provided for auto/manual focus, seven custom buttons can be reassigned to a user’s preferred function. Assigned functions for adjustments on the fly include Marker, Zebra, Peaking, Focus Magnifier, Auto Exposure Level, Steadyshot, Color Bars, and Rec Lamp.

AMPLE STORAGE

The FDR-AX1camcorder uses an XQD memory card for smooth, high-speed reading and writing of 4K video and features two XQD media slots. As seen on Sony professional camcorders, relay shooting seamlessly switches recording between two media cards so there’s no need to worry about running out of storage mid-scene. Videomakers can even ‘hot swap’ cards, removing a full card from one of the camcorder’s two slots and slipping in fresh storage while shooting continues uninterrupted.

ULTIMATE VIEWING EXPERIENCE

Playing back 4K content captured on the FDR-AX1 camcorder is simple - just connect the camcorder to a compatible 4K TV with the single HDMI cable. Sony BRAVIA® TVs especially bring out the full quality of 4K/60p recordings, with TRILUMINOS Display™ to deliver an even more vibrant palette of rich colors that are closer than ever to real life. For those without a 4K TV, the FDR-AX1 camcorder can output 1920x1080 images to a Full HD TV, by simply changing the output settings on the camcorder.

And a growing choice of 4K-capable editing software packages makes it easy to “trim” HD images from original footage with huge amounts of picture detail.

HDMI 2.0 INDUSTRY STANDARD

Sony is prepared to support the HDMI 2.0 specification on its 4K Handycam camcorder with an easy firmware update to be available over the Internet. Just released by the HDMI Forum, the HDMI 2.0 industry standard offers an option to transmit 4K/60p signal using a single HDMI cable.

With this HDMI 2.0 update, FDR-AX1 will be able to output 4K 60p images not only to 4K BRAVIA TVs, but to other HDMI 2.0 compatible TVs and devices.

AVAILABILITY

The Handycam FDR-AX1 will be available in October for a suggested retail price of $4,499.99. In order to ensure the 4K experience, VEGAS™ PRO 12 EDIT software and a 32GB XQD memory card will be included in the box as a free offer. The camcorder and its accessories will be sold at Sony retail stores (www.store.sony.com) as well as other authorized retailers throughout the Sony dealer network. For images and information, please visit www.sony.com/news. Find out more through http://blog.sony.com and make sure to catch what people are saying about #Sony4K online.


Additional images

Comments

Total comments: 36
shutterhappens
By shutterhappens (7 months ago)

If this camcorder has high bandwidth memory cards, it is a shame they don't also offer a slow motion/high frame rate feature.

0 upvotes
PrebenR
By PrebenR (7 months ago)

I remember the comments when D4 came with XQD support that XQD didn't have a future. I guess the opinion is turning now with RAW video and 4K video?

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

Pretty promising effort overall, of course $4,500 is still quite a lot of dough for a consumer video camcorder. Unfortunately, sensor is only a 1/2.3-incher, that's not too fortunate. And as is always the case with Sony lately, the main thing being advertised w. a Sony camera at launch will come later, down the line. In this case, HDMI ver. 2.0 compatibility. No telling when that shall happen, either. Until then, you cannot watch from it the stuff you record in 4K/60p. There is always some little things to spoil the fun, it seems.

1 upvote
Ivan Lietaert
By Ivan Lietaert (7 months ago)

The specs here are amazing! It seems Sony hit the right spot: sound OK, ND filter OK, many buttons OK.
I'm pleasantly surprised that Sony seems to super charge their new Vegas Pro software, and give it away.
What a bargain!

0 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

Since few folks will have a PC with the spec to edit 4k video, it would be nice if the camera came equipped with basic on-board editing software one could operate, using an ordinary PC or tablet as the interface, as well as a 4k screen. Existing PCs with 4k displays probably have a hard time processing or rendering anything beyond 4k still images.

0 upvotes
PrebenR
By PrebenR (7 months ago)

Why would you get a 4K camera if you cannot edit it afterwards? Better get a 2.5K or less camera if you cannot handle 4K. This is not for hobbyists.

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (7 months ago)

"Filters include 1/4, 1/16, and 1/64."

I doubt that. Probably 1/64 (6 stop) setting is achieved by engaging 1/4 and 1/16 simultaneously.

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

Good one to spot that!

0 upvotes
David Elliott Lewis
By David Elliott Lewis (7 months ago)

The real compromise in this camera is not so much in its small sensor size but in it's huge data compression rates. Based on the announced recording time of a half hour on a 32gb memory card, this camera is only processing 17gb per second. Given that professional video records at 30gb to 50gb a second and cinematic (e.g. Red, Alexa) record at data rates from 120gb to 250gb (Gigabytes per second), this camera is forcing some severe compromises on video quality. I would expect to see many visual artifacts from this high video compression rate.

1 upvote
Jogger
By Jogger (7 months ago)

You can take the output from the HDMI 2.0 stream and capture it on an external recorder like the pros... good luck!

1 upvote
Andy Moreton
By Andy Moreton (7 months ago)

David, you need to check your math, those figures are nonsense.

2 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

So the purist accepts only the unaffordable (aka impossible)?

All video must be compressed to be watchable. Most people simply won't have the budget to shoot RAW or any reason to think they can compress more efficiently than what the FDR does on-board.

The FDR AX1 bitrate is up to 150MB+bps at 3840 x 2160p at 60 fps. That is plenty more than anyone can stream over the web and 3X what one gets with a high-end DSLR in h.264 MOV at 1920x1080.

To compare against RAW capture on commercial gear is a bit irrelevant, if you consider the huge difference in overall production costs and tech requirements.

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

These are the Sony developed XQD memory cards that you can use with the camera:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=sony+xqd+memory+cards&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ta

Note that when it says on it that the WRITE SPEED is 168MB/sec, that actually means that the card is an app. 1344Mb/second bitrate capable recording media, which also means that it can handle a bitrate of up to app. 1.34Gb/sec maximum.

So yeah... the 150Mb/sec Sony XAVC-S 4K codec is easily recordable even w. the slower XQD cards. And yeah, 150Mbit/sec is probably plenty enough in Consumerland to record even 4K video with. If you need something with a higher bitrate, go for a Sony PMW-F5, F55, or F65 camera. The bitrates they use for 4K recordings are much faster.

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

Wow, I just love how folks throw around gb and GB and MB and apparently be clueless as to what is aht and why w. the FDR-AX1. Need to check into what gB and Gb and GB mean and how that compares to mB and MB and Mb, perhaps?

Anyhow, this is from the B&H product page for the Sony FDR-AX1:

"XAVC-S 150 Mbps 4K Video & 50 Mbps HD Video
With the FDR-AX1, high-quality XAVC-S video can be recorded at up to 150 Mbps. Additionally, there is also an option to record high-quality Full HD 1080p video at 50 Mbps."

2 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (7 months ago)

What is the focal ratio of this camera's lens?

1 upvote
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (7 months ago)

Looks like it is a 20x 31.5-630mm f1.6-f3.4 zoom.

1 upvote
yabokkie
By yabokkie (7 months ago)

it's 4.1-82.0mm f/1.6-3.4
or 29.5-590mm f/12-25 equiv.
may change a little bit for different aspect ratios.

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

What's a "focal ratio" exactly? Anyhow, based on the submitted answers, it looks like it could be 4.1 over F12 and/or 82 over f/25, no? :-))

0 upvotes
orfeas76
By orfeas76 (7 months ago)

I wonder if there will be a DIFFERENT model for the european countries.
I need 1080/50p straight out of the camera

0 upvotes
ET2
By ET2 (7 months ago)

the camera has menu option to switch from PAL to NTSC and vice versa

0 upvotes
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

This is what the Sony FDR-AX1 will be able to record video in:

XAVC-S: MP4 (4:2:0, 150 Mbps, 4K 3840 x 2160/60p)
XAVC-S: MP4 (4:2:0, 150 Mbps, 4K 3840 x 2160/50p)

XAVC-S: MP4 (4:2:0, 60 or 100 Mbps, 4K 3840 x 2160/30p)
XAVC-S: MP4 (4:2:0, 60 or 100 Mbps, 4K 3840 x 2160/25p)
XAVC-S: MP4 (4:2:0, 60 or 100 Mbps, 4K 3840 x 2160/24p)

XAVC-S: MP4 (4:2:0, 50 Mbps, HD 1920 x 1080)

AVCHD: m2ts (4:2:0, up to 28 Mbps, HD 1920 x 1080)

Sounds pretty much universal, doesn't it? Kudos to Sony for doing that. Biggest problem here is, codec is only 4:2:0 for chroma and 8-bit for color quality, so not exactly ready for prime time. Like Sony said, this is for CONSUMERS and PROSUMERS mostly.

So, camera can handle 50p and 60p, but of course if you want that coveted "film look, "you'd be much better off shooting at 24p or 25p with the 100Mbit/sec (or the lower quality 60Mbit/sec) XAVC-S codec.

0 upvotes
Mistur
By Mistur (7 months ago)

Looks like a great camcorder for the money.

1 upvote
Reilly Diefenbach
By Reilly Diefenbach (7 months ago)

Wouldn't mind one!

0 upvotes
Benarm
By Benarm (7 months ago)

I rather do RAW with 5DM3 and Magic Lantern :)

5 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (7 months ago)

I would rather have Ultra HD video than SD RAW video with a lot of scaling artifacts like moire and aliasing.

5 upvotes
CarVac
By CarVac (7 months ago)

Umm, the 5d3 does Full HD RAW with no artifacts.

You may be thinking of the other cameras which have tons of aliasing and lower write speeds.

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

Yeap, no matter what the codec being used is, DSLRs are just not all that great for video. But if you do not mind the aliasing, moire and the like, they are supercool.

1 upvote
SHood
By SHood (7 months ago)

Who would pay $5k for a pin head sensor (1/2.3").

1 upvote
Beckler8
By Beckler8 (7 months ago)

Someone who doesn't have *$30k* for a Sony F55, I guess.

15 upvotes
Joe Ogiba
By Joe Ogiba (7 months ago)

Did you think they were going to have a full frame sensor in a 4K camcorder for $4,500 with 20x 31.5-630mm f1.6-f3.4 zoom ?

9 upvotes
Gionni Dorelli
By Gionni Dorelli (7 months ago)

first is not 5k but 4500$.
they will sell truck loads of these cameras to rentals houses around the world.

the small sensor is not for me, but there are plenty of videographers who need as much DOF as they can get, for their kind of work
some commercial shooting in studio environment needs a lot of DOF, with a small sensor you can get it at wide apertures that do not not require a lot of lighting.
try of working at f16 with a dslr in studio or interior. with a dslr and the bill of lighting rental will easily get in the thousands instead of few hundreds that you would need for working at 5.6 with a small sensor.

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
14 upvotes
marcio_napoli
By marcio_napoli (7 months ago)

I've been involved in pro video business a while ago.

As an indie, amateur filmmaker, I've welcomed the large sensor video from DSLRs as Heaven sent.

And it is! For those shooting indie films, it REALLY is. It looks as cinematic as it can gets, for budgets under Hollywood level.

So where in the World does the pin head sensor belong?

It belongs everywhere else whenever artistic DOF is not necessary, not even desirable.

That is: documentaries, news, talkshows... whenever viewing all the content in focus is more important than shallow, artistic DOF.

So, that's where the pin head sensor is demanded, and all that talk is coming from a suck#r for shallow DOF :)

11 upvotes
StevenE
By StevenE (7 months ago)

Cinema uses a lot of deep DOF shots too. Shallow DOF is only really needed to create a sense of intimacy, which is quite a lot in film making, but not all of it.

5 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (7 months ago)

I bet in a year or 2 4k video will be available in Panasonic point-and-shoots for a few hundred dollars. :) And then in smartphones.

0 upvotes
jkoch2
By jkoch2 (7 months ago)

A 1/2.3" sensor is optimum for 4k resolution, since ultra-high-definition is an oxymoron unless you have deep focus. The 20x zoom would not be possible, either, with a large sensor, which would incur heat problems anyway, given the heavy processing requirements. Yes, a small sensor needs good light, but nocturnal 4k is also an oxymoron, except perhaps for certain owls, who don't mind monochrome.

1 upvote
Francis Carver
By Francis Carver (7 months ago)

"Who would pay $5k for a pin head sensor (1/2.3")."

They are coming out of the woodworks, apparently. These pinheads and pinhead sensor cameras, I meant. :-))

Canikon, Panasonic, etc. have missed the boat here already, big time. Sony had relegated them to the proverbial outhouse. Sony now has 4 or 5 4K cameras out there to choose from -- FDR-AX1, FS700, F5, F55, F65, wow!! Now, JVS does have a similar 4K camcorder for a couple of years now, but really, it is day to night compared to Sony's new FDR-AX1.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 36