The Sony NEX-VG900 Full-Frame Camcorder
Sony is expected to start shipping the NEX-VG900 camcorder in November 2012, and with no shortage of competitive options out there, it may be helpful to take a closer look at what sets the VG900 apart. The new camera includes some significant advancements for the VG line. Most notably, the VG900 will be the first camera to pair the camcorder form factor with a full-frame sensor.
Before now, the largest, mass market camcorder sensor was Super 35mm, a format that approximates the size of 3-perf motion picture film. The 35mm full-frame format was historically reserved for still photography. Is there a significant difference? Let’s compare their physical dimensions.
The NEX-FS100U has a Super 35mm Sensor. It measures: 23.6 x 13.3mm.
The NEX-VG900’s 35mm full-frame sensor measures: 35.8 x 23.9mm.
Even a professional cinematographer would be hard pressed to describe—in no uncertain terms—the relative aesthetic merits of the two formats. Nevertheless, there is a certain breed of cinematographer that will slip into a glassy-eyed reverie as they contemplate the mysterious beauty of the “full-frame look.” In practical terms, there are a few objective benefits.
Consider a 28mm lens mounted on either of two cameras, for example, the full-frame VG900 and “Camera B,” which has a Super 35mm sensor. The size of Camera B’s sensor gives it a 1.4x crop factor, which means tha t your 28mm lens renders a normal angle of view. The VG900’s full-frame sensor has a 1.0x crop factor, which means that your 28mm lens renders a wide angle of view.
If you are interested in the large-sensor look and you want to shoot very wide, especially very wide with no distortion, there is no substitute for a full-frame sensor. Moreover, if you want to shoot telephoto, the VG900’s APS-C mode, which applies a sensor crop, effectively provides the telephoto benefit of smaller sensors. For discriminating videographers, these considerations have a significant bearing on the look and feel that a given camera is capable of achieving.
Having established the benefits of a full-frame sensor and the fact that they are a rarity among camcorders, what are the benefits of the VG900’s camcorder form factor? While full-frame sensors are rare among camcorders, articulated screens are likewise rare among full-frame DSLRs.
Say you want to shoot from a very low perspective, and you want to put the camera at floor level. Well, if your camera does not have a multi-angle display you’ll have to put yourself down on the ground as well, in order to see what you are doing. Moreover, certain high-angle shots may be all but impossible. A multi-angle screen allows you to monitor your framing when shooting at extremely high or low angles.
Other key features of the VG900’s camcorder form factor are the top handle and the hand grip. Not only are these ergonomic designs familiar to long-time video shooters, the hand grip also incorporates a zoom rocker switch. The VG900 will use this switch to perform a powered zoom with Sony’s new 18-200mm Servo Zoom Lens. In addition, when used with virtually any lens, zoom or prime, the rocker switch will facilitate a lossless, sensor crop zoom.
The VG900’s Multi-Interface Shoe is another rather unconventional attribute. Many still cameras use a hot shoe for flash, and video cameras often use a cold shoe for accessories. However, Sony’s newly developed Multi-Interface Shoe further expands the VG900’s compatibility with Handycam accessories, such as the XLR-K1M Adapter and Microphone Kit.
Of course, we should be careful not to define the VG900 purely by its ability to defy convention. This camera also features many long-time camcorder staples, several of which have been improved in various ways. For example, the electronic viewfinder is a type that Sony calls the XGA OLED Tru-Finder. With 2,359k-dot resolution, the EVF provides a display that upholds the quality of an optical viewfinder.
Regardless of form factor, most video cameras will feature a built-in microphone. Of course, DSLRs are well known for their less than ideal built-in microphones, which as far as professionals are concerned, are good for little more than reference audio. On the far end of the spectrum, the VG900’s Quad Capsule Spatial Array Stereo Microphone utilizes four microphone capsules that are angled at 45° to record sound with a front-side directivity and stereo separation. Additionally, dedicated mic and headphone inputs allow for attachment of external microphones and headphones to further ensure the highest audio quality.
The VG900 can record Full HD 1920 x 1080 video at up to 60 progressive frames per second in the AVCHD format. 1080/60p offers exceptionally smooth motion rendering and slow motion, but the VG900 also has a 24p mode. 24 fps is a long-time motion picture standard and one of the keys to the “film look.” Full 1080 HD uncompressed clean-screen video files can also be recorded easily to external recording devices via an uncompressed HDMI connection in 24p, 60p and 60i frame rates. Not to be overlooked, the VG900 is also capable of shooting 24MP JPEG and RAW still photographs.
Among the camera’s defining traits, the VG900 employs Sony’s E lens mount. In addition to the growing family of E-mount lenses, the VG900 will benefit from the mount’s short flange focal distance by offering compatibility with a wide range of lens adapters. The VG900 even includes an A-mount adapter, LA-EA3, with electronic connections for focus and iris. The LA-EA3 adapter enables dozens of A-mount lenses, including many excellent Minolta AF lenses. Finally, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization with lenses featuring built-in Active Mode, compensates for greater degrees of camera shake to deliver smooth video.
|Sensor Type||35mm full-frame Exmor HD CMOS (35.8 x 23.9mm)|
|Effective Pixels||24MP (3:2 still) / 20.3MP (16:9 movie)|
|Image Processor||BIONZ Image processor|
|APS-C compatible Mode||Yes (Auto/On/Off)|
|Minimum Illumination||8 Lux|
|Anti Dust||Charge protection coating on filter|
|Crop Factor||Full-Frame: x1.0
APSC mode: x1.5
|Color Filter System||RGB Primary color filters|
|Recording Media||Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC|
|Video Format||HD: AVCHD (MPEG4)
|Recording Modes||HD: PS (28 Mbps), FX (24 Mbps), FH (17 Mbps), HQ (9 Mbps), LP (5 Mbps)
SD: HQ (9 Mbps)
|Video Resolution||HD: 1920 x 1080, 1440 x 1080
SD: 720 x 480
|Frame Rates||1080/60p, 1080/60i, 1080/24p, 480/24i|
|Still Image Mode||JPEG, RAW, JPEG+RAW|
|Still Image File Format||DCF Ver.2.0 compatible, Exif Ver.2.3 compatible,
MPF Baseline compatible
|Still Image Resolution||RAW: 24.0 MP, 6000 x 4000
RAW: 10.3 MP, 3936 x 2624
RAW: 4.6 MP, 2640 x 1760
|Shutter Type||Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type|
|Shutter Speed||1/48-1/10000 sec. (movie_24p)
1/60-1/10000 sec. (movie_other)
1/4-1/10000 sec. (manual movie)
30-1/8000 sec. (still)
|Drive Mode||Single-shot/Continuous/Bracket 0.3 EV/Bracket 0.7 EV|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||6 fps|
|Audio Channels||2-Channel Stereo|
|Audio Format||Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1 Creator
Dolby Digital 2ch
|Outputs||HDMI Mini (x1)
Composite Video output (1x)
Component Video output (1x)
S-Video Output (1x)
USB Mini-B (1x)
|Inputs||Microphone (stereo minijack)
Headphone (stereo minijack)
|Memory Card Slot||Combination Memory Stick and SD card (x1)|
|USB||mini-AB/USB2.0 Hi-speed (x1)|
|Accessory Shoe||Multi Interface Shoe|
|A/V Remote Terminal||Video/S Video/Audio/Component Out/Remote|
|Display Type (LCD)||3" Xtra Fine LCD touch-screen display|
|Display Type (EVF)||1.3 cm (0.5 type) Tru-Finder OLED swivel electronic viewfinder|
|LCD Angle Adjustment||Max Opening Angle: 90°
Max Turning Angle: 270°
|Focus System||Contrast AF
Focal plane phase detection AF
|Focus Area||Multi Point AF (25 points)|
|Flash Metering System||Pre-flash TTL|
|Flash Modes||Auto/Forced/Slow Sync./Rear Sync./Prohibited|
|Flash Compensation||Yes (+/-2EV in 1/3 EV steps)|
|Self-Timer||Approx. 10 seconds|
|Digital Zoom||x2 (power zoom control with zoom lever; Variable/Fix speed
max. 32 steps)
|Gain Control||Auto/Manual (0 - 30 dB)|
|Exposure Compensation||AE Shift (Dial/Touch Panel)|
|Exposure Settings||Auto; Flexible Spot(Touch Panel); Manual(Dial)|
|ISO||Still Mode Only: Auto, Manual(100 to 25600)|
|Metering||99 Segment metering from CMOS image sensor (still mode only)|
|Metering Sensitivity||2 - 17 EV at ISO 100 with f/1.4 lens (still mode only)|
|White Balance Mode||Auto, Onepush, Outdoor, Indoor, WB Temp|
|Picture Effects (Movie/Still)||Posterization, Pop color, Retro Photo, Partial Color, High contrast,Monochrome, Toy Camera (Still Only: Soft Focus, Miniature)|
|Built-in Microphone||Yes, Quad Capsule Spatial Array stereo microphone|
|Shutter Type||Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type|
|Battery Type||InfoLITHIUM with AccuPower Meter System (V Series) NP-FV70/FV100|
|Charging Time||3.25 hr|
|Power Consumption||In operation: 4.7W (HD), 4.5W (SD)
with view finder: 5.2W (HD), 5.0W (SD)
|Power Requirements||7.2 V (battery pack), 8.4 V (AC adapter)|
|Dimensions||4.2 x 5.1 x 8.9" (106.7 x 129.5 x 226.1 mm)|
|Weight||1.8 lb (825 g)|