Sony's 4K Handycam provides a pro-style body and 4K shooting capability at an attractive sub-$5000 price.
By clicking one of our links you're supporting our labs and our independence, as we may earn a small share of revenue. Recommendations are separate from any business incentives.
In addition to its new QX line of smartphone-grasping camera/lenses, Sony revealed its fall lineup of video products today. The list includes the official unveiling of the 4K Handycam, a new action camera with optional LCD remote, as well as a video recorder designed for concerts and other audio-centric applications.
The 4K Handycam's official model designation is FDR-AX1, with a body that is very similar to Sony's existing AX2000. It will feature an Exmor R sensor, utilizing a single 1/2.3'' chip with a pro-grade processor capable of recording 1080/60p as well as 4K (3840 × 2160 QFHD) video utilizing the XAVC S format it announced at NAB 2013.
Information on the XAVC S codec is still pretty sparse. It looks as though the AX1's maximum bitrate will be 150Mbps at 4K/60p, with Linear PCM audio recording, all wrapped up in the MP4 container for easier playback and editing on consumer devices. The FDR-AX1 will also utilize Sony's proprietary XQD memory cards, with dual XQD slots as well as a spare SD slot that will be limited to 1080p recording.
Though the FDR-AX1 is branded as a Handycam—typically Sony's consumer-oriented brand—it is plainly geared towards the prosumer market, with three manual control rings, heaps of customizable controls, an XLR mic terminal, and no onboard memory. The AX1 is paired with an integrated 20x optical zoom lens with a maximum aperture range of f/1.6-3.4, built-in 3-stop ND filter, optical stabilization, and a 35mm equivalent focal range of 31.5-630mm.
The FDR-AX1 will hit retail beginning at $4,499, which is a significant value compared to most 4K-capable cameras. Sony is also including a copy of Vegas Pro 12 and a 32GB XQD card with the FDR-AX1 at launch, an additional value of around $600. At under $5,000, the FDR-AX1 is one of the cheapest 4K solutions on the market.
Also announced today is Sony's latest action cam, the updated AS30V, which features a 16-megapixel Exmor R sensor, 170-degree angle of view, 1080/60p recording, as well as GPS and NFC and a waterproof housing. The AS30V will still have the same slim design, eschewing a built-in LCD in the name of focusing on durability and size.
The AS30V will hit the market accompanied by a load of optional accessories, perhaps none more exciting than the optional LCD remote. Available for an extra $150, the LCD remote will offer AS30V users the ability to see their shot on the fly with a small screen strapped to their wrist. The remote will let you make settings adjustments as well as start and stop recording—perfect for when your action cam is mounted out of reach.
Sony also revealed a rather unique option for capturing audio-centric events on video. The HDR-MV1 video music recorder will capture uncompressed Linear PCM audio through its 120-degree, unidirectional stereo microphone, pairing the audio up with 1080/30p video from its 1/2.3'' Exmor R CMOS sensor.
The HDR-MV1 will capture concerts with a 120-degree angle of view and a maximum aperture of f/2.8, which should do just fine in sparsely-lit clubs and concert halls. The MV1 can capture audio at up to 120 decibels with 31 steps of mic control with either the built-in mic or via the included 3.5mm mic jack. The footage can be recorded to an optional SD card and then sent straight to a smartphone via built-in WiFi and NFC.
While the audio features and capability are great on paper, the MV1 is something of a one-trick pony, as it lacks optical zoom, manual video controls, or the ability to capture still images. Both the MV1 and the AS30V come with Sony's NP-BX1 rechargeable battery, though recording times aren't yet known.
The FDR-AX1 4K Handycam is slated to begin shipping mid-October for the aforementioned $4,499. The AS30V will be released in late September, at a retail price of $299.99. The current HDR-AS15 will get a price reduction down to $199.99 as a result. The HDR-MV1 should start shipping sometime in December for $299.99. For more on today's camcorder announcements, you can head on over to Sony's press center.