The Sony FDR-AX1 is new affordable 4K camera from Sony that looks and handles like a traditional 1/3” ENG style camera. The AX1 features a fixed 20x optical zoom lens housed around a single 1/2.3” 4K CMOS sensor. A 4K sensor that small has some unavoidable drawbacks. This camera will not perform well in dimly lit areas and will have less dynamic range then 4K cameras with larger image sensors. But there are advantages to this size sensor beyond the lower price. The AX1’s lens is 4.1mm-82mm (31.5mm- 630mm equivalent) and f/1.6-3.4. You will never find a zoom lens with that kind of range or that large of an aperture on a super 35mm 4K camera. Also the camera’s deep depth of field makes focusing a lot easier. There is a reason ENG cameras traditionally have been built around image sensors no larger than 2/3”. Razor thin depth of field is great in controlled environments, but in a run and gun situation it can be a hindrance. The FDR-AX1 also features dual XLR inputs with manual audio controls, built-in ND filters, a high resolution flip out LCD as well as a viewfinder. Anyone comfortable with 3 Chip ENG cameras will be right at home on this camera.
4K on the Sony FDR-AX1
The Sony FDR-AX1 records QHD 3840 x 2160 4K internally to a single QXD card. QXD cards are relatively inexpensive and currently a good bit faster than SD cards. The FDR-AX1 is also the first camera to implement Sony’s new XAVC-S video codec. XAVC-S is an 8-bit, 4:2:0 Long-GOP codec that runs at 100 Mb/s for 30P or 24P 4K content. Shooting in 100 Mb/s will take up 750 MB a minute or 45 GB an hour. It will also shoot 60P at 150 Mb/s. It is about four times the bandwidth of AVCHD which means it will handle very much like AVCHD since 4K has four times the information of 1080P. Long-GOP is great for saving space on memory cards but happens to be very processor intensive, as computers have just recently become powerful enough to edit AVCHD comfortably. This means you will most likely need to transcode XAVC-S footage into a more editing friendly codec such as ProRes or DNxHD to do more than just simple cuts for the foreseeable future. Monitoring in 4K is achieved via the FDR-AX1’s HDMI 1.4 output.
Features of Sony FDR-AX1
- Shoots QHD 4K.
- New XAVC-S recording codec
- Records internally in 24P, 30P, or 60P.
- 20x Optical Zoom Lens with OIS.
- Familiar ENG style handling.