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Sony FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera with 3.5-Inch LCD (Black)
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- Capture 4k/30p video that far exceeds HD resolution, High-frame-rate shooting at 120p
- 1" Exmor R CMOS sensor with Direct Pixel Read Out
- 14MP resolution video and 20MP still image capture
- Advanced BIONZ X image processing engine for higher speed and peerless quality
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|Price||See price in cart||See price in cart||$1,898.00||$1,419.99||$3,495.00||$797.99|
|Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping|
|Sold By||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Amazon.com||Cameta Camera||ThePixelConnection||Amazon.com|
|Screen Size||3.5 in||3 in||3.5 in||3.5 in||3 in||3 in|
|Optical Sensor Technology||CMOS||CMOS||CMOS||CMOS||MOS||CMOS|
|Video Capture Resolution||4K||other||4k||4k||4k||other|
The Sony Handycam FDR-AX100 Wi-Fi 4K HD Camcorder records video on a large 1" Exmor R CMOS sensor with direct pixel read out. It captures 4K/30p video that far exceeds HD resolution. Create 14MP videos and 20MP still images that are sharp and saturated thanks to the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with 12x optical zoom. Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization with Active Mode will keep your video and pictures blur-free. See everything clearly on the large 3.5" XtraFine LCD (921K) screen. Share your memories instantly with Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity. Get the best quality possible with the BIONZ X Processor for 120 fps recording, high contrast 0.39" OLED EVF, and multi-interface accessory shoe.
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It's menus are very Sony traditional, just like the previous three generations of top quality Sony camcorders, so if you have used one before, navigation is the same. It offers far more manual shooting control then any of the previous Sony's I have owned, Sony finally got this right for manual shooting "Pro Style". It uses the same camera batteries as the previous Sony's I own, believe it or not really the same battery in at least three generations, again bravo SONY.
The camera is made in China, I have never owned a flagship Sony camera made in China before, don't particularly know if that matters these days, but it's different to see made in China.
The lens is not as wide as my previous Sony's, it's close to 30mm the wide side. I think this is the most major flaw for my taste, thus the 4 instead of 5 star for me. Others may be fine without going so wide, but for me I find it limiting. The camera does have a 62mm threaded filter front ring, excellent for adapting lenses (more on that later). There are also several buttons and slider controls, yes tactile control for human interface, again bravo Sony.
The camera ships with a micro to HDMI cable. Yes that's micro not mini HDMI, so if you do some external monitoring be prepared for new cables or adapters if the supplied shortie won't do. Also to feed SD out of this, IE using it with projectors and real time mixers for live events, yes some things live are still SD, you will need a Sony multi AV cable sold separately.
I like that there is still a small USB cable attached to the camera, riding on the handgrip, just like the previous Sony"s, another bravo. Basically it's just another in the fine line of Sony products I trust, appears high quality, and no BS. I like Sony, I have never had one fail yet, I currently own 8 of the previous models, none has ever failed.
Back to the tight lens, I own a great piece of glass called a REDEYE .65x wide angle lens, I use it all the time for wider shots. It's made in Canada, and really augments the lack of wide angle on this camera. It's glass, and high quality, in my test I see no noticeable reduction in resolution, it just lets the camera see a larger field of view. I don't think they are still being made, but I bought a brand new one on an auction site, and it looks beautiful on the front of this camera. Make sure it has a 62mm threaded adapter. It has an anodized RED front metal ring, which just screams out I'm a mini RED camera, your screaming may vary. If you can find a REDEYE, it's dope much better then the Century lens I also own.
I will have further comments as I get to know more about this wonderful new tool. My initial impression is Bravo Sony!
Update 3/28/14 Yes the camera has higher rolling shutter then others I have used. Not to beat the drum, but since the REDEYE adapter allows for a wider field of view, it does help to minimize this. The wider you can go the better. I do really like the manual exposure and built in ND filters. This might not be the best cam for shooting trains going by, but if your subject is straight on like a landscape, or people, it's not an issue. The rolling shutter is very apparent in moderate to fast pans. If there is something this won't work with, I can always use my also excellent Sony HDR-PJ760. This camera is just another tool for a production. GH4 looks great on paper too, but I don't want to deal with sensor dirt in the field, and I like camcorder bodies better, as for me they are faster to work with. Also GH4 gets pricey with added lenses, higher bit rates eating more storage and so on. Use these until the next best thing. Just be sure to get some sort of wide lens for it.
Update 3/30/14 Heres more of what I know. I like the built in ND filters and full manual exposure control a lot. It's camcorder style, but finally easy buttons and knobs. I like buttons and knobs. The REDEYE wide lens adapter lets me zoom in about half way and still autofocus sharp. Again it has built in ND filters, so I can shoot with some depth of field, use a f2.8 in shade. The .mp4 files open in Quicktime, they play at 1080, but inspector shows that it is a 4k file size.
When you think of the GH4, it sounds great, but I live in a dry dusty climate, so changing lenses without sensor dirt would be hard to do. The current REDEYE adapter goes on the front of the lens, so no dust on the sensor. I like easy exposure control and the tilt able viewfinder, very good for daylight. It's heavier then other cameras, but the ergonomics for the most part are fine. I don't like to have to carry filters and clean and mount them to a lens, so again the built in ND is great. With a GH4, I would have to mount filters for ND, and change them with the light dropping, so this is better. The GH4 specs are excellent, I have no doubt it will look great. If I had the money, I would use both, for the best use of image capture for what the scene calls for. Also with the GH4 I would want one of those lens speed adapters, but I am concerned about the ghosting and flare it might introduce. By the time I bought an adapter to use my Nikon lenses, and a dedicated Panasonic lens or two, the total price of the GH4 would increase significantly over the Sony. I don't consider myself a "Kool Aide" drinking camera geek, dedicated to one brand like religion, I just want a fast, reliable package with good image quality. Is the Sony perfect? No, nothing in this size would be. Are there better cameras out there? Yes on paper and in quality, I'm sure, but every tool has it's merits, people rave about GoPro's, they can all do something with the right operator and good content.
It comes down to content, content is king, go out use the tools you have, worry about your safety, treat people well, focus on your shooting, be good to your knees. Let other people discuss camera details and deliver the best you can.
AT A GLANCE:
I have a mixed impression about it as the optical quality of the recorded video is astounding when set correctly, but it can be a bit cumbersome to operate and suffers a bit from image stabilization, low focusing speed, and rolling shutter artifacts that are sadly surpassed by some smartphones these days. In short: In a tripod (or similarly stabilized) the camera is great, and it works best in scenarios that are not changing fast. Takes great shots of landscapes, skylines, interviews, close-ups, sunset, theater, etc. (does not mean it will be bad for other situations, it will simply not be as good). Definitely not good to shoot fast moving objects at close range or close subjects from a moving car, boat, etc. Panning should be done rather slowly, otherwise rolling shutter artifacts will appear. It may disappoint the average person hand-holding it to record their kids playing in the yard during sunset, or the vacationist recording the ride-of-a-lifetime in that fast boat and logically expecting to obtain sharp and adequately exposed and focused 4K video. Manuals can be set to full auto, but the recording quality is best when manually operated, and it takes precious minutes to setup the recording settings (LCD menu navigation, press buttons, move dials), you may miss the shot while looking for all the fine-adjusting controls.
The most prominent feature of this camera is its capability to record 4K video at 30 fps, and the most prominent characteristic of 4K video is its unmistakable ultrahigh resolution, which translates into focusing the camera as best as possible. The AX100 has an integrated autofocus system that works by contrast so it will work best when the light conditions introduce contrasts in the scene such as immediately after the rain, sunsets, light shows/fireworks at dusk, etc. The lower the contrast, the lower its capacity to obtain tack-sharp autofocus, shots with the AX100 at dusk, for example, will usually require manual focus. Same goes with its autofocus tracking, it tracks better objects with better contrast. Also at night autofocus will set on those lights or illuminated areas that give the best contrast. Although useful, autofocus in the AX100 is slow and can be painful in low light (in a museum for example). Manual focus is best, but the LCD screen can be too small to tell if the object is actually in critical focus or not, to assist with it, the camera has focusing and exposition assists, such as LCD focus magnification and focus highlight (will highlight focused areas in a given color). There is a function to focus by simply touching the LCD, and another one, to automatically adjust exposition and focus to the object that is selected in the LCD. Accessing these functions is not exactly straight forward, the focus magnifier button is in the right side, next to the focusing ring (if the camera is handheld, this becomes cumbersome as the left hand has to reach for the button in an unnatural position).
The camera can be operated in full auto, semi-auto (Iris, iso, gain, sutter speed, focus can be manually operated while leaving the rest in auto), and manual. Recording video in low light produces acceptable results. The camera is built for low-light recording and does a very good job, but as expected, it also introduces noise in the shot. There is a dedicated physical button that will automatically allow the camera to increase the light gain to the maximum if needed be, and there is an integrated infrared lamp and the camera records very good video (although a bit noisy) in blacked out environments. The camera also integrates a neutral density filter for bright environments with 3 settings that can be operated automatically or manually.
Setting up the camera could be cumbersome sometimes, specially to fine-tune the shot. Many adjustment tools are hidden behind different menu layers. The manual buttons, although very useful, require to rotate a small dial that gives a lot of precision, but is very slow. So getting that awesome 4K shot, properly exposed and focused, of that exotic lizard running 20 feet ahead of you in the jungle, will be factored more by luck, as getting the right settings for it would take too long. Sometimes when I am following a small insect, I have to move my eyes to navigate through the menus, just to find out that when I find the setting I need, the insect is gone. To partially alleviate this, there is the possibility to set three controls to be directly accessible with one-touch from the LCD, and and extra function can be mapped to the physical adjustment ring that also controls the aperture, gain and shutter speed.
Optical zoom is very good. Digital clear zoom is also good and can extend the magnification to 160x. The camera lens is Zeiss, and sports a 62mm thread that accepts a large variety of filters, threaded converters, telephotos and macro lenses. Main lens is not interchangeable.
Camera has WiFi and NFC, and can be controlled with a smartphone. Output to TV, computer or smartphone is very easy. If connected to a non 4K TV, it will automatically output video in supersampled 1080p, which make it look rich and extra-sharp. There is no support for external 4K recording, and while recording in 4K, the camera will only deliver an image to its own LCD and viewfinder. LCD screen is bright enough to be seen in a sunny day, but not enough to show lots of contrast and details. However, visualizing with the viewfinder and controlling with the LCD make it a breeze to work with in very bright conditions. View finder position is adjustable, and once activated will only turn on if something (your face/eye but can also be accidentally something else) gets very close to it. It has a focusing ring to keep it sharp, so it can be viewed without wearing glasses.
There are two main recording modes: Video or Photo, and has a number of options available for each of them, e.g. video in 4K at 60 or 100 Mbps, or dual video recording (records 4K as it would normally do, but it will simultaneously record the video as MP4, so videos can be reproduced directly in many video players without converting them). Maximum photo size is 20 megapixels, it can focus and track a subject and operates in full auto/ semi auto/ and manual modes similar to any DSLR. Shutter speed for photographs, however cannot be set slower than 1/8th of a second, so if you are after some awesome night photographs, long exposition shots, stars, etc... this is not the camera to go for. It also lacks the capability to do time-lapse photography. Camera has a delayed timer function to take selfies, etc, but it has to be activated every time, the time is always 10 seconds, and the function lies somewhere under different menu layers. Furthermore, captured photographs are not as sharp and have more noise than a still taken in postproduction directly from 4K video (of course, they are way bigger than 4K stills). In my opinion, the photograph mode does not match the 4K quality.
IN MY EXPERIENCE:
The camera delivers its best when set in a tripod to record a set scenario with good contrasting illumination: skyline, landscape, sunset, close ups, interviews, theater, etc. It delivers slightly less quality when recording those scenarios in low light conditions. There are many tools to control the recording in almost every aspect, but accessing many of these controls is a bit cumbersome and takes time. Controlling the camera with the supplied remote is easy, to zoom in/out, focus, start shooting, etc. however, navigating the menus with that control is a clicking nightmare of up/down/left/right arrows. Controlling the camera with a smartphone is also limited to basic functions, but from what I have tried, does not allow full access to the menu structure. Videos and pictures can be transferred directly to a smartphone, or computer via WiFi and LAN.
Low light recording is very good, but introduces noise (which also happens with many other cameras), in a practical setting there is much more to see in low-light mode than with other cameras, but the noise is still there. The camera is light enough to be carried around by hand, and it has a nice strap to secure it better to the right hand, however is heavy enough to be felt in the arm after two or three hours. A half-day visit to the zoo and it will tire your arm.
Battery life is reasonable, but not impressive. With the supplied NP FV-70, I get between 1.5 and 2 hours of 4K recording (on and off) using the LCD. with the FV-100 (sold separately) I get close to 3 hours. Continuous recording drains the FV-70 in an hour, and the FV-100 in 1.5-2 hours, using the LCD. Two aftermarket FV-100's and the FV-70 that came with the camera keep me shooting on and off the whole day. I read others have claimed 6 hours, this is true for the camera I have if I leave it just on, operating from the viewfinder and only recording occasionally.
Although the manufacturer recommends to use SD cards with a max capacity of 64 Gb (as that is what they tested back in 2014), I have been using a 128 Gb card without problems.
The AX100 is a very good camera that works best while recording well illuminated scenes and fixed in a tripod. Image stabilization is good, but not as good as other cameras in the market or even some smartphones. Low light capability is good, but there is still room for improvement. Love the image quality and optics. Dislike the menu structure and where the controls are located.