Sony 4K camcorder FDR-AX100 FDR-AX1

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In our last discussion about 4K Television, we talked about the technical issues surrounding 4K television, and how Sony needs to address many of these problems to make 4K television a success. Introducing new technology such as 4K is not a simple process, and is like putting together a puzzle. After placing 4K television on the puzzle board, Sony will needs to fuel the demand for such product by working with other companies, and release complimentary products that will drive the demand for 4K technology.  Sony has another piece of the puzzle ready to be deployed — Sony announced two Sony 4K camcorder FDR-AX100 FDR-AX1. It was showcased at  the Consumer Electronic Show CES 2014 and will be available March 17, 2014. This handy cam will allow the recording of 4K video at semi-affordable price points. Now the question is, where does the beauty lie in these products?

Sony 4K camcorder FDR-AX100 FDR-AX1: Technicals and Pricing

Sony 4K camcorder FDR-AX100 FDR-AX1

Sony FDR-AX100 $1999

At $1999, the main highlights of the FDR-AX100 are the following:

  • Video recording at a resolution of 3840×2160 at 30, and 24 frames per second, and 1920×1080/60, 30 frames per second
  • One inch Exmor R* Sensor with 20.9 megapixels — larger sensor equates to lessen video noise and blur.
  • Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with 12x optical zoom with apertures ranging from F2.8 to F11 — a premium lens for minimal optical vignetting other artifacts

Paradoxically as it may sound, the Sony 4K camcorder FDR-AX100 is considered a “pro-consumer” camcorder. The pro-ness of this camcorder lies in that the camcorder is fully featured with manual exposure and aperture settings, and comes equipped with a very nice Carl Zeiss lens. The consumer side of the AX100 is that there are no XLR accessory ports for professional microphone input. Why is that important? It is hard to market this to a news reporter with less flexibility in audio recording options. So is there something for the news professionals out there?

Sony 4K camcorder FDR-AX100 FDR-AX1

Sony FDR-AX1 $4499

The $4499 version — FDR-AX1 will include the following upgrades:

  • Video recording at a resolution of 3840×2160 at 50 frames per second — for smoother professional video recording
  • 3 ND filters and 6 paint functions — for lighting controls in bright areas
  • Built-in microphone with 2 additional Pro XLR ports — for more audio input controls
  • Sony G Lens with 20x (31.5-630mm) zoom with aperture of f1.6-f3.4 — a longer telephoto with better low light performance

At a price point of $4499, this camcorder may seem like a great 4k camcorder for news reporters, and professional journalists. However, the main disappointment of the FDR-AX1 is the 1/2.3 inch 8.3MP Exmor R CMOS image sensor. A $4499 camcorder without a full frame image sensor is rather difficult to believe. Considering the fact that $1999 can purchase you a 4k camcorder that has an one inch image sensor, intuitively you think you get at-least an APS-C sized sensor of the NEX series in the $4499 version. Instead they downgraded the sensor size to 1/2.3″. This may disappoint some stakeholders, but perhaps Sony had their reasons. If they released the perfect 4k video camcorder off the bat, it will be more difficult to get the early adopter to upgrade to their newer version two to three years down the road.

Sony 4K camera FDR-AX100 FDR-AX1 technical comparison

We are skeptical about how different the image quality will be. The two lenses — Sony G lens, and the Carl Zeiss lens from the FDR-AX100 are quite distinct. An aperture as large f1.6 is a huge selling point of the Sony G lens as it will certainly add more light into the videos, and provide excellent low light performance without the “Nightshot” features of the AX100. On the other hand, the quality of optics may suffer since this 20x zoom lens is not Carl Zeiss branded. In the future revision, they could equipped these camcorders with an APS-C sized image sensor and e-mount so that it allows interchangeable NEX lenses. This movement would provide incentives for these the users to shell out more money for lenses; thus, more revenue from accessories.

Regardless, of the shortcomings of the AX1, this is the start of another win for the beginning of a new era of 4k. One part of the 4K puzzle is slowly emerging, and now there are many  question still left unanswered yet. How will Sony solve the limitations of the capacity of the bluray disc, and the limitations of transfer speeds of the global internet?

Steve is a co-founder of DeviceCritique. He is a technology expert who takes a unique perspective by blending humanity, technology, and business. He visions that there are many untapped technology products that have yet to emerge, and plans to explore those ideas with you in his articles.

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