Sony FDR-AX1 4K camera-First look

October 24th, 2013 Jump to Comment Section 19

**Please be aware that from some reason videos uploaded to Vimeo are tend to be a bit darker then the original**

UPDATE: The 4K mp4 version can be downloaded from here. Password: J

Sony was kind enough letting me spend some time with its new 4K handheld 1/2 inch CMOS sensor video camera the FDR-AX1. You can read all the technical specification of the new camera here Specs aside, let me  share with you my thoughts concerning this camera. The FDR-AX1 left me a bit confused as I would expect this kind of high resolution small sensor handheld camera to be a great working tool for anyone who is doing “run&gun” events, documentary style shooting and even covering sport. I would expect such a camera to perform well in all lighting situations but unfortunately this is not the case with the new Sony FDR-AX1. The combination of a small sensor packed with a great amount of tiny pixels doest not do well to the low light capability of this camera. As you can see in the various sample footage I took, even using the gain control did not help much improving the overall dark images the camera produces. (see Oriental flavor-Night video). Instead, noise was added to the picture. (all in all I’ve used gain 3db, 6db, 9db up to 12db).

If this is not enough, the camera lens does not hold constant aperture through its range, meaning, If you can get away in low light situations with its fast 1.6f lens (on the wider side) you will quickly find yourself “in the dark” when zooming in. That’s where the lens aperture will close all the way down to 3.4f.

The EVF in this camera is average and certainly not good enough to judge crucial 4K focusing especially in low light when it all gets muddy in the frame.

Contrary to my experience in low light, when there is sufficient light the picture quality this camera produces is very nice!.

Other positive features to mention are:
-Build in XLR connectors (remember, this is the consumer version of  the professional  Sony PXW-Z100 and as such, having XLR connectors on board is great)!
-7 assignable customisable buttons
-Dual XQD card slots (Sony is including a 32GB card in the package).
-High resolution LCD screen
-Up to 60fps at 4K resolution
-Full HD at 50Mbps which is industry broadcast standard.
-Focus magnifying while recording.

-The camera tend to get heavy for an handheld device very quickly. It is simply heavy.
-Colour sampling in all recording modes is 4:2:0
-Maximum 100 Mbps in 24/25p mode
-Maximum 150 Mbps in 50/60 mode
-“Flyby wire” lens controls

All was recorded in the following settings:
Resolution: 4K (3840X2160)
Codec: XAVC-S
Frame rate: 25p 100 (the 100 stands for Mbps, the maximum this camera can record in this mode)
Picture profile: Cinematone 1
Gama category: Cine
Gama select: Cine1
Matrix preset select: Cinema

The XAVC-S codec will save as an MP4 wrapper. I was able to edit natively and fluently the footage on my Retina Macbook pro laptop using Adobe Premiere CC.

No colour correction or sharpness was added in this post.

Music: The
Indoor test footage music
Daytime test footage music
Nighttime test footage music

A special thank you for the kind people at Abraham hostel:

Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also a co-owner of cinema5d


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