[CES 2014] Ever since the FDR-AX1 4K (3840×2160) camcorder was announced, we knew that Sony would eventually put a high-performance 4K recorder in the palm of your hand. The question was “when”, and now we have the answer: “now” (almost). The Sony FDR-AX100 is a compact 4K camcorder that supplements the 4K line up from Sony. The AX1 will continue to exist because its form-factor can cater to professionals, but the AX100 bring many of the same features down to a size (66% smaller), and a price ($1999) that is much more approachable for semi-pros, enthusiasts and consumers.
Inside, there is a 14.2 Megapixel BSI (backside illuminated) Sony EXMOR CMOS Sensor, which is much bigger than what most camcorders have. The BSI nature of the sensor makes it more sensitive to light, which means that low-light filming will be brighter and less grainy/noisy. The footage is also processed for noise removal and other image-enhancing algorithms thanks to the BIONZ X chip which is powerful enough to capture at 120FPS if the film creator wants to create 5X slow motion footage at 24FPs. The AX100 has a ZEISS 29mm lens (non-interchangeable) and an optical zoom of 12X.
To remain friendly with existing video-editing software, the AX100 records in XAVC S, which is an AVC/H.264 video (+linear PCM audio) stream in an MP4 container. Since it has a lot of processing power, the Sony FDR-AX100 can also record simultaneously in AVCHD and MP4 to spare you a transcoding session in case you want to upload the MP4 footage right away, while keeping the AVCHD one for later editing. Interestingly enough “heat dissipation” from the video encoding engine was one of the main challenge when it came to reducing the size of Sony’s 4K camcorder.
To see what you are doing, it is possible to use the OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) or the LCD screen (921k pixels) depending on what’s most comfortable at the time. If you want to get a little fancy, it is possible to use the external show accessory port to connect light or microphone equipment. As many recent Sony imaging devices, the AX100 has WiFi connectivity and can also interact with an Android device after a quick NFC pairing. The camcorder can also turn into a wireless DLNA server if you want to stream its content directly to a DLNA TV or media box. If your TV is not 4K, fret not: the content can be down-sampled intelligently to 2K (1080p) to preserve as much quality as possible. To get your hands on this camcorder, you will have to wait until March 2014.