Sony announces FDR-AX100, world’s smallest & lightest 4K camcorder

January 7th, 2014
Sony announces FDR-AX100, world's smallest & lightest 4K camcorder

As part of their CES 2014 product announcements, Sony just launched a new 4K camcorder (it’s actually UltraHD at 3840 x 2160 pixels, but it seems that manufacturers have decided that simply “4K” sounds sexier even for UltraHD devices – cinema 4K, delivered by pro cameras, is 4096 x 2160 pixels).

It’s called FDR-AX100 (or FDR-AX100E in Europe … yes, there will be two different models, unfortunately), and according to Sony it’s the world’s smallest and lightest 4K camcorder. Sony was kind enough to give us a personal presentation of a preproduction prototype at our cinema5D headquarters here in Vienna a few weeks ago – and I have to say that the size and weight of the FDR-AX100 is mighty impressive, considering it delivers a quite spectacularly detailed UltraHD image. (More on that further down.)

There’s a caveat – it’s only a 1 inch EXMOR R CMOS sensor which means the footage won’t really look filmic – deep focus like we are used to from traditional camcorders. However, it will be recorded in great 4K detail, and in Sony’s quite impressive XAVC S codec, which was first introduced at NAB 2013 with the FDR-AX1 (post here). Their new BIONZ X image processor enables 4K image processing within the tiny body of the camera (it weighs only 790g or 1.74 pounds).

Tiny: the Sony FDR-AX100 4K camcorder with XAVC S recording

Tiny: the Sony FDR-AX100 4K camcorder with XAVC S recording

The zoom range of the built-in lens equals 29-348mm in 35mm terms, which is very impressive. Of course this comes at a massive price: the camera loses a lot of light when zooming in, if I recall correctly the prototype goes down all the way to f/6.7 at the far end of the lens (while starting at a very fast f-stop which I can’t recall exactly – and the PR info seems to be lacking about the speed of the lens). It comes with three steps of built-in ND filters, a must-have, so that’s great to see implemented.

The Sony engineer showed us very, very impressive footage which was shot with a prototype of the FDR-AX100. It is true UltraHD with tons of detail and the XAVC S codec performs beautifully. The production camera will also be able to record AVCHD in 1080p.

One very cool feature of the camera is the possibility to connect a TV via HDMI. When you attach it to a 1080p TV set, the image is downscaled to 1080p by the camera, resulting in extremely detailed Full HD images. But the cool feature is the fact that you can show parts of the 4K image and move around the image by tapping onto the touch screen panel of the AX1 in a 1080p “window”. Mighty impressive and great for checking focus – something similar would be nice to have on Sony’s pro 4K offerings, the F5 and F55 as well (yes I know they don’t have touch screens – luckily – but I hope there will be other ways to implement this feature).

In 720p mode, the AX100 will be able to record up to 120 frames per second – mighty impressive. Canon has a lot of catching up to do in the high frame rate department!!

It’s also great to see that the AX100 comes with a very impressive OLED viewfinder which I expect to perform just as well as it does on the A7 and A7R (watch Johnnie’s review here).

Unfortunately the camera doesn’t come with built-in XLR ports, but Sony have confirmed that there will be an optional add-on. However, it doesn’t seem like it will be the same add-on as the one for the A7 and A7R … a real bummer as this accessory isn’t cheap at all. But let’s see if Sony changed their minds after we saw the prototype – let’s hope so!

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As expected (again, this is based on prototype footage that we were shown, which is subject to enhancements until released), the low-light ability of the camera was lacking, which is down to the high pixel density on such a small sensor. Noticeable grain was introduced into the image once underexposed.

There was no visible grain on properly exposed shots and I think that’s what makes this camera relevant for pro shooters as well – the massive zoom range coupled with a sharp Zeiss lens and the 4K resolution makes it a good B camera for larger sensor 4K cameras, and a go-anywhere-4K camera for documentary purposes.

More importantly, the FDR-AX100 underlines Sony’s focus on 4K even for consumers and semi-professionals and unlike 3D, it doesn’t look like a temporary fad. Like it or not – 4K is here to stay. And the implementation of the XAVC S codec gives me hope that this superior codec will find its way into most of Sony’s future lower end market entries.

We are trying to get our hands on a review unit (pre-production or not) as soon as possible. I am looking forward to testing this one out.

Availability: May, price: $1,999 / € 1,999

The Sony FDR-AX100 can be preordered from B&H for $1,999 starting now.

 

The BIONZ X chip powers the FDR-AX100's image processing and enables XAVC S 4K recording

The BIONZ X chip powers the AX100’s image processing & enables XAVC S 4K recording

 

FDR-AX100E 4K camcorder – key specifications

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1.0-type back-illuminated Exmor RTM CMOS Sensor with approximately 14.2 effective megapixels

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Image sensor

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Image processor

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BIONZ X

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Still image resolution

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Max. 20.0 effective megapixels

XAVC S format: MPEG4-AVC/H264
AVCHD format; MPEG4-AVC/H264 AVCHD 2.0 MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

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Video recording format

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Video resolution (4K record)

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XAVC S 4K : 3840×2160/30P, 24P

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XAVC S HD : 1920×1080/60P, 30P, 24P AVCHD:1920×1080/60p(PS),24p(FX,FH),50i(FX,FH), 1440×1080/50i(HQ,LP) MP4: 1280×720 30p

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Video resolution (HD record)

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XAVC S/MP4 or AVCHD/MP4*
*not in XAVC S 60p,120p and AVCHD PS mode

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Dual video recording

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Lens type

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ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T*, focal length 29.0mm (35mm equivalent)

Optical zoom: 12x
Clear Image Zoom: 18x (4K), 24x (2K)

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Zoom range

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Focal Length (35mm equivalent) (Movie Mode)

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F = 29.0-348.0mm (16:9) with SteadyShot Active mode OFF

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Focusing system

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Contrast AF

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White Balance Mode

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Auto/One-push/Outdoor/Indoor/Colour temp

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Image stabilisation

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Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation with Active mode

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Electronic viewfinder

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OLED Tru-Finder

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LCD display

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3.5-type Xtra Fine LCDTM display (921k dot) Wide (16:9)

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MPEG-4 Linear PCM 2ch (48kHz/16bit) [XAVC S 4K only]
Dolby Digital 5.1ch, Dolby Digital 5.1Creator [AVCHD only]
Dolby Digital 2ch Stereo, Dolby Digital Stereo Creator [AVCHD only] MPEG-4 AAC-LC 2ch (MP4)

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Audio record format

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Microphone/speaker

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Built-in 5.1ch microphone/ monaural speaker

SDXC Memory Card (Class 10) for XAVC S;
Memory Stick PRO Duo (Mark 2), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card (Class 4 or Higher) for AVCHD

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Media card slots

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Headphone (stereo minijack); Mic Input stereo minijack ); USB Type A (built-in) ; Multi/Micro USB Terminal*; Remote Terminal (integrated into Multi/Micro USB Terminal*); HDMI out (micro, output only); Accessory shoe (Multi Interface Shoe); Composite video out; DC In

* Supports Micro USB compatible device.

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Interfaces

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Other features

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BRAVIA Sync; PhotoTV HD; Direct Copy (AVCHD only)

Approx.81mm x 83.5mm x 196.5mm(Approx.90mm x 83.5mm x 223.5m m(including Lens Hood))

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Dimensions (WxHxD)

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Weight (main unit only)

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Approx.790g

5

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jual baju bayi
Guest
July 11th, 2014

Remarkɑble issues here. I am very glad to seе your post.
Thanks ɑ lot and I am looking ahead to touch you.

Will you please drop me a mail?

Joe Wilson
Joe Wilson
Guest
March 22nd, 2014

No Balanced Optical SteadyShot? No thanks!

ferrywar
ferrywar
Guest
March 18th, 2014

Hello,I think to buy the Sony fdr a x100e in italy,
but I have a doubt: the output via HDMI is limited 1080 HD only, therefore to enjoy 4k recording I have to import in a PC and after editing to output via a graphic card supporting 4K, via HDMI 2 to a TV 4K.
therefore I need a workstation too.
Thank You for a reply.Ferrywar

Riccardo
Guest
March 13th, 2014

Here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJAlQaKQ1_wSpV3baH87H8bQ1K0QR3TYi I find a promotion clip of this camera. Instead here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtjRKMTcPtg a first look video in 4K UHD quality!

Jeremy
Jeremy
Guest
February 27th, 2014

That zoom lens is f/2.8 when it’s zoomed all the way out. (It’s printed on the front of the lens in the first product shot.)

Mikko Fincke
Guest
January 10th, 2014

It’s 2200€ in Finnish Sony store :) that’s almost 2900 dollars.

Oscar
Oscar
Guest
January 9th, 2014

Looks nice, but to small sensor and horrible f.stop at zoom.
Think that the Panasonic 4K with interchangable lenses look more interesting.

Henrik
Henrik
Guest
January 9th, 2014

I don’t understand that the usd and Euro price is the same, that way I would really prefere to pay in usd

Flesik
Flesik
Guest
January 8th, 2014

I see the 4k as advantage in this 1080p age as you can zoom-in in post and do some magic tricks which may look as you have dolly or crane and still produce decent image in native 1080p. (obviously on day light as in low light this camera will be crap considering pixel count)

Tyler
Tyler
Guest
January 8th, 2014

I do have to say, I am most interested in the 120fps! At this time I have no use for 4K. 1080p is just now starting to become handy. Most of my work is web based, so on average at most, people are potentially watching full screen on their monitors. I am saddened to hear that it only comes in a low quality format such as MP4. Regardless, this is a step in the right direction! I hope Canon takes note, and we see 1080p 120fps in a DSLR! I can only wait and see…

Nick
Guest
January 8th, 2014

I find it impressive in many ways but I understand that it has a 29mm lens. As this will not give me the kind of wide-angle shots that I need, I would like to know if this camera will have its own lens accessories that I will be able to attach on it so that I can have a 16mm to 20mm wide-angle view lens experience?

B Saxby
B Saxby
Guest
January 7th, 2014

No balanced optical steady shot?

Philip C.
Guest
January 7th, 2014

may be a very good cam to put on a Drone, to have nice detailed picture !

V. Anand
V. Anand
Guest
January 7th, 2014

Wow! Whatever you say this IS a game-changer for camcorders! Unless as in the RX10, the zoom and focus ring are the same and the zoom slows down too much during filming. Hope not! Otherwise kudos to Sony!

Derek McCabe
Guest
January 7th, 2014

Kinda of makes EVERY camcorder in the current market that is in the “under $2K price range” obsolete. This cam could be a game changer product – I don’t see anything like this coming from Canon or Panasonic. Sony is really pushing 4K and I am ready to jump in. But I need a new Mac Pro to edit the files…

sokar80
sokar80
Guest
June 10th, 2014
Reply to  Derek McCabe

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fom-ZWIeAo

1h30min long 4k samba video

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