Sony announced that it will introduce two new camcorders similar to their small-chip PMW-100 (EX1R/EX3 successor), but with 4K recording. The two versions will be called PXW-Z100 (pro version) and FDR-AX1 (consumer version) … seriously, who comes up with these names?
The sensor is a 1/2.3″ Exmor R, that’s about the size of 8mm film – which means there won’t be much shallow depth of film look possible with these cameras, but that’s not what they are targeted at. These are made for documentary, news and event filmmakers.
The maximum resolution of the AX1 is QFHD with 3840 x 2160 pixels, and the Z100 can record real 4K at 4096 x 2160 pixels, with up to 50 or 60 fps, respectively.
I can’t yet wrap my head around why these folks need 4K for anything else than image stabilization or reframing in 1080p, but hey, 4K is clearly where the industry is headed (even though I have doubts it will ever be the standard in our own four walls, but it will no doubt be the standard for cinema projection).
It will be interesting to see how the high resolution of the chips affects low-light performance of these cameras – like with photo cameras, more pixels mean less light for each pixel, making it less light sensitive than a lower resolution camera with the same chip size (in the same camera generation, of course). But with sensors becoming more and more light sensitive all the time, this might not be an issue at all. Let’s wait and see.
XAVC, the powerful new codec that Sony first employed in the F55 Cinema Alta camera (my review here), makes a debut in these lower end models as well – in the form of the lower end version of the codec – XAVC S in the AX1, with a lower bit-rate than “the real” XAVC, which goes all the way up to 600 Mbps.
Sony wouldn’t be Sony if they didn’t want us to invest in a new kind of memory standard, this time it’s called XQD.
The cameras will come in at a price of $4,500 (FDR-AX1) and $6,500 (PXW-Z100), respectively.