If you've used a palm-style camcorder to try and film action at any point over the past several years, you've probably noticed an issue: most of these camcorders are god awful at finding and holding focus, usually relying exclusively on contrast detect AF or simply the deep depth-of-field their small sensors made requisite. Well, not anymore.

Sony has just debuted three new 4K camcorders with advanced, relatively large sensors aimed at three different tiers of users. But all of them have one thing in common: blazing fast, 273-point phase detect autofocus systems similar to (and, in fact, a bit more advanced than) the system found in Sony's new RX10 IV. More advanced because the camera allows you to further customize features like AF Drive Speed, Tracking Depth Range and Subject Switching Sensitivity to make sure you nail every shot. We're also told the focus ramping is more sophisticated, if you ask the autofocus to rack between two subjects. The hi-res touchscreen LCD should make focus easy and intuitive as well.

All three palm-style camcorders feature this same autofocus system, a 1-inch type stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor, and support 4K 'Instant HDR' recording using Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) technology. However, not all three are meant for the same user. The AX700 is for serious amateurs, the NX80 for semi-pro video shooters, and the Z90V packs in some interesting broadcast capabilities such as XAVC L format recording, 3G SDI connectivity, and other features the support news reporting.

Of course, at $1,900 for the 'cheapest' model, it was obvious from the get-go that Sony wan't aiming for the entry-level crowd with this release.

The most beginner-friendly model, the FDR-AX700, arrives in October for the aforementioned price of $1,900. The two higher-end models, the HXR-NX80 and PXW-Z90V, both arrive in December for $2,300 and $2,800 respectively. To find out more about any of these camcorders, read the press release below or visit the Sony 4K Palm website.

Press Release

Sony Unveils First Camcorders with Phase-detection AF

Sony’s newest camcorders are its first to feature phase detection Auto Focus (AF), and expand its line of 4K and HDR-capable tools for shooting applications ranging from video enthusiasts to corporate and events to broadcast news and TV production.

The three new palm-style models are the XDCAM PXW-Z90, the NXCAM HXR-NX80 and the Handycam FDR-AX700. The camcorders’ Fast Hybrid AF system ensures highly accurate focusing and tracking — especially useful during 4K shooting — delivered by 273 phase-detection AF points that cover approximately 84% of the shooting area, high-density placement of autofocus points and a newly developed AF algorithm. In movie recording mode, the appearance of phase-detection AF frames indicates the focused area and easily allows users to monitor a subject that is in focus.

Each camcorder combines fast and reliable AF adapted for video shooting with a 1.0-type stacked Exmor RS CMOS image sensor. The new camcorders support 4K HDR recording with Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) offering an Instant HDR workflow to produce high-quality HDR content smoothly. The Instant HDR Workflow enables simple shooting, editing and viewing of HDR content in HLG, without the need for color grading during post production.

The new camcorders feature a high-resolution OLED viewfinder (0.39-type OLED, 2,359k dots) and advanced touch screen operation, on the 3.5-type large LCD screen (1,555k dots), to allow users to quickly switch focus from one subject to another, while the AF Drive Speed, Tracking Depth Range and Subject Switching Sensitivity can all be configured as required for different subjects and content styles.

Simple, multi-camera live production

The PXW-Z90, HXR-NX80 and FDR-AX700 camcorders all work seamlessly with Sony’s MCX-500 live producer, a compact, cost-effective switcher that makes it easy for one operator to run a multi-camera live event. With the switcher and Sony’s RM-30BP controller, a Tally icon appears on each camera’s LCD panel and viewfinder. A red icon indicates when the shot is live (PGM) while Green indicates preview mode (NEXT).

The MCX-500 supports mixing between eight video sources, four stereo embedded audio channels plus two XLR Inputs, and a dedicated Title Input, up to nine video inputs, and five stereo inputs including XLR. Internal recording and live streaming is also possible via Ustream, Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

Users can also synchronize timecode among multiple camcorders using Sony’s free Content Browser Mobile 3.0 app with optional CBKZ-WTCL upgrade and devices running iOS® (9.0 – 10.3) or Android® (4.4 – 7.1) operating systems.

Versatile Shooting Capabilities

The new camcorders enable the following key technology and features to support versatile shooting, including:

  • 4K full-pixel readout without pixel binning using an enhanced BIONZ X™ image processing engine
  • Super Slow Motion recording up to 960fps, which is industry leading among palm categories and Slow & Quick Motion Full HD recording up to 120fps.
  • S-Log3/S-Gamut3 capabilities for users to create and work with images as they desire.
  • 29mm wide-angle ZEISS® Vario-Sonnar T* 12x optical zoom lens and 18x Clear Image Zoom
  • Less image distortion (rolling shutter phenomenon), in comparison to conventional models, when shooting moving subjects in motion

Workflow efficiency benefits such as proxy recording, relay recording and simultaneous backup recording are also delivered thanks to the new camcorders’ dual memory card slots and multi-camera operation capabilities supported by TC (time code)/UB (user bit). The new camcorders also have REMOTE terminals, Multi-Interface Shoe™, and HDMI Type A for enhanced operability.

The new models also feature dual XLR audio input, a detachable handle, and access to Content Browser Mobile a supporting smartphone application to enable Wi-Fi® monitoring, Camcorder remote control and wireless timecode sync between multiple cameras.

The PXW-Z90 also includes several features to suit broadcast-specific production requirements: XAVC L format recording, which provides high-quality images at 4:2:2 10 bit (HD) and 4:2:0 8 bit (QFHD) in addition to conventional broadcasting MPEG2HD format recording; 3G SDI connectivity for compatibility with existing broadcasting equipment; and networking functions to support news reporting, such as compatibility with XDCAM® air, Sony’s cloud-based ENG subscription service. The HXR-NX80 and FDR-AX700 adopt XAVC S, an extended format of XAVC for consumer use.

The following is planned availability and suggested list pricing for the new models:

  • FDR-AX700 – October 2017, $1,899 USD
  • HXR-NX80 – December 2017, $2,299 USD
  • PXW-Z90V – December 2017, $2,799 USD