Sony is upping the ante on its commitment to 4K, particularly 4K acquisition. The company has recently introduced its 4K camcorder “for the masses” — at least for the masses of pros, especially those working for the corporate and event markets.
The FDR-AX1 camera features a full-4K image processor that Sony claims is identical to the high-performance processors found in pricier Sony pro video cameras, possibly including the FS-700 that lists for $7,500. Since the FS-700 can’t actually record 4K without an additional 4K recorder, Sony offers the AXS-RF5 dock-able recorder for an additional $5,350. In addition, you’ll need at least one AXS data card, and a 512GB card will set you back $1,800. Hence, you’ll spend over $15K before you’re ready to shoot a frame of 4K with the FS-700 — meanwhile, the FDR-AX1 camcorder with media retails under $5K.
While the pricing sounds great, the FDR-AX1 tops out at 60 fps whereas the FS-700 can capture 4K at up to 120 fps and 2K at up to 240 fps. The bottom line is that if your need for speed doesn’t require capturing at frame rates above 60 fps (the max frame rate of the Panasonic VariCam), then the Sony FDR-AX1 may be an excellent solution, particularly if you only plan to capture in 4K periodically. There’s actually no reason that you couldn’t make the FDR-AX1 your dedicated 4K camera. Its native 3840x2160 4K resolution enables the capture of digital images with four times the detail and image quality of a full-HD 1080p camcorder. The only drawback is that its native codec is the consumer XAVC-S format and not the professional XAVC 4K/HD codec. This is an issue for some pros, particularly those planning to distribute on TV or in theaters. On the brighter side, the XAVC-S format affords longer recording times, which eases the storage burden of 4K acquisition. This is further bolstered by the camera’s dual slots for XQD media cards that record at up to 150Mbps.
At press time, the pre-order price of the Sony FDR-AX1 camcorder at B&H Photo Video was $4,498. There’s currently no word on whether the FDR-AX1 will ship before year’s end or in the first quarter of 2014.