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Check Out Some of the First 4K Footage from Sony's FDR-AX1

Sony Consumer 4K FDR-AX1In what was a bit of a surprise, Sony announced not one, but two 4K 1/2″ sensor size cameras back in early September — the $4,500 FDR-AX1 and the $5,500 PXW-Z100. The industry has been moving forward with large sensor 4K cameras for a little while now, but we haven’t really seen small sensor 4K cameras until now (the one exception being JVC’s camera). Event and doc shooters still have a use for small sensor cameras, and we’ve got some of the first footage now out there from the AX1 courtesy of cinema5D.

The major specs just as a refresher:

  • Record 4K 3840 x 2160p Video at 60 fps
  • 1/2.3″ Exmor R 8.3MP CMOS Image Sensor
  • Sony G Lens with 20x Optical Zoom
  • Built-In Microphone & Dual Pro XLR Jacks
  • Dual XQD Card Slots for 4K Recording
  • XAVC-S Format for 150 Mbps 4K Recording
  • Three ND Filters & Five Paint Functions
  • Independent Zoom, Focus & Iris Rings
  • Seven Assignable Buttons & HDMI Output

Here is the footage from Johnnie Behiri, which is available to download in 4K if you log into Vimeo and go here (password is J). These are the settings for the videos:

All was recorded in the following settings:
Resolution: 4K (3840X2160)
Codec: XAVC-S
Frame rate: 25p 100 (the 100 stands for Mbps, the maximum this camera can record in this mode)
Picture profile: Cinematone 1
Gama category: Cine
Gama select: Cine1
Matrix preset select: Cinema

The XAVC-S codec will save as an MP4 wrapper. I was able to edit natively and fluently the footage on my Retina Macbook pro laptop using Adobe Premiere CC.

No colour correction or sharpness was added in this post.

Some of his thoughts:

The combination of a small sensor packed with a great amount of tiny pixels does not do well to the low light capability of this camera. As you can see in the various sample footage I took, even using the gain control did not help much improving the overall dark images the camera produces. (see Oriental flavor-Night video). Instead, noise was added to the picture. (all in all I’ve used gain 3db, 6db, 9db up to 12db).

Check out some of the other videos:

While Johnny had some issues getting the camera to expose that well, the look is actually very interesting to me. We often see so much footage that overly bright for what film would have been capable of, so most of us forget what small sensors really look like in lower light environments. 4K with a small sensor is just as useful for the same reasons that it would be with a large sensor, but it will probably be a very small niche for a few years, since even event people are making “cinematic” videos with large sensor cameras.

I think the higher end Z100 has some more interesting features, and records at a higher bit rate, so it’s quality should be a bit better. Either way, for the people who use these cameras, 4K can be good for cropping or stabilizing, especially when you’re shooting something that is unpredictable.

Read more about his experiences over on cinema5D.

Link: Sony FDR-AX1 4K camera-First look — cinema5D


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Description image 31 COMMENTS

  • Sorry that looks bad…..

  • Yeah I get the whole practicality of 1/2″ and all – but when you’ve been spoiled by the beauty of what 35mm can deliver – there is simply no turning back.

  • mikko löppönen on 10.31.13 @ 7:59AM

    This is actually less than 1/2.3″. The sensor is bigger than the lens coverage so it’s more like 1/3″. But smart marketing.

  • XAVC-S: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, 4:2:0 = Still all equals compressed-crap-color.

  • Some readers don’t seem very impressed; is this due to what the eyes perceive or just a reaction to the specs ? Presumably the pro version would be better ?

  • I could be wrong, but wouldn’t we need to watch it in 4k to appreciate its stregths?

  • Sorry, I missed the apart about downloading the 4k version. Even still, I don’t have a 4k screen to watch it on.

  • You’re just catching up on stuff that’s been all over the other blogs over the last 2 weeks aren’t you Joe? :-)

    PS: I can’t even see reality/news liking this camera.

  • Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape has a “hands on” article off a pre-prod piece he was given by Sony Canada. Comparing his 1080p Vimeo clips, graded BMD Pocket Cam footage looks far superior. On the other hand, Z-100 clips uploaded to YouTube in 4K by others look tons sharper. His own opinion is – “I have no reservation in saying that this is the most exciting video camera that I’ve yet seen. It raises the bar in terms of image quality, at least when it comes to resolution, by a significant increment – even when displayed in HD format.” –

  • “Movie and television producers are beginning to shoot more shows in 4K, helping to grow the stock of ultra-HD content that could help spur the market for the latest and greatest television technology. … TV shows like The Blacklist, The Michael J. Fox Show and movies like the Tom Cruise space drama Oblivion were all shot in 4K and more importantly archived in the technology” – from

  • Small sensor 4k is a mistake. Here Sony is playing to what they can do rather than to what audiences, clients and shooters need.

    Is 1080 really really that big a bummer? To me, 4K is a headache.

  • After using a 5DM2 and a FS100, this shallow depth of field is begging to drive me nuts. Focus is a pain in the ass. Sure it adds some warmth at times, but the small sensor has a place for deep focus and these examples prove it well. All TV cameras are small chips and for a good reason. I always have to add contrast and make adjustments right from the raw footage and I always get stellar results after the tweaks. What Sony gives here is a great stock to work with, a 20X Gold rated lens, super sharp images all in a compact case – a hell of a lot easier than 5 lenses, matte boxes, rigs, big batteries, Ki-Pro minis etc. This makes sense for what it gives. Well done Sony. I’m in!

    • High end tv cameras are all 2/3″, which is a very good sensor format in my opinion, it is right between “small sensor” and “big sensor” (when I learned to shoot on a 2/3″ camera, it was considered a big sensor… times are changing!)

      But no matter if you like smaller sensors or not, nobody will ever be able to pack a 15x optical zoom lens with a constant f-stop of 1.8 into a small camera, when the sensor is Super 35 sized. It is just physically not possible.
      So, whenever you need a camera like that, you’ll have to use a smaller sensor size, be it 2/3″ or 1/2″

  • Simply beautiful. The higher resolution is fascinating, clearly better to look at than HD. At the same time I am not a fan of Sony image characteristics. I am in anticipation of the Panasonic 4K due out in the next month.

    I was looking at 4K content on a Panasonic 4K tv today. Glorious!

    • Funny, I feel exactly the opposite, at least when it’s about Sony and Panasonic broadcast cameras. Panasonic can deliver vibrant colors. So vibrant, everything looks like in an Andy Warhol painting. Sony’s broadcast cameras on the other hand just look natural to me…

  • A low light test [ ]
    Day light, in and out of the shade [ ]
    Day light and mostly wide [ ]

    Day light and a lot of closeups [ ]

    So, it seems that, with its small sensor, AX1 needs a lot of light. But, when it does get it, the footage is spectacular even at 100 Mbps.

  • Nice detail but it’s video. There’s no depth field to really take advantage of a beautiful 4k closeup or flexibility to crate a beautiful 4k shot. It’s marketing taking advantage of the 4k hype. I will wait for the BMPC where I can pick my own lenses and have full control over how I use the 4k ability. Even though it will probably be a long wait.

    • You can probably find a few adapters if you must have the shallow/er DOF. That said, cams in this price range, including the entire BMD line, have to make compromises. The next step up is FS 700 with the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q for about $12K but those guys haven’t worked out their software licensing deals yet, so their 4K combo is (one hopes) still a few months away.

    • It is clearly a docu camera with a high optical zoom range – something you will never have on a BMCC, so don’t compare apples and oranges.

      • Yes, while it’s not geared toward filmmakers, anyone desiring a shallow DOF can create it in post by blurring the unnecessary parts. FS-700 is oriented more toward a narrative and should be able to get you a 4K footage soon with the Convergent Design Odyssey 7 (once their licensing deals are in place) for about $12K. FS-700 Sony package can get you 4K at ~ $20K-25K range. Yet to be seen – maybe around CES’14 – what happens with their full sensor VG-900 (currently discounted almost everywhere due to lackluster sales) and FS-100 (a $5K 1080p unit that has been around for a couple of years and is due for an update). Then, of course, you have the “usual suspects” of Canon, Panasonic, JVC, Samsung, which more likely come out with the smaller sensor models, at least, in the consumer and prosumer levels.

  • 1. Wrapper Mp4. will be a problem for industry.
    2. Motion trail also like other DSLR.

  • What about editing this stuff. The 4k file stuttered like crazy in my nle, especially after adding even a bit of color grade.

  • XAVC-S files???

  • Doesn’t the gh2 already do 4k raw at 120fps to internal sd cards, while curing cancer and discovering the meaning of life?

  • WOW! hold on!
    I had prostate cancer, one day shooting with a GH2 at a raining outdoor it TILT and gave me an electroshock that knock me down. I saw dancing plasma with the super ionization of the piezoelectric crystals inside my pineal gland!

    The next day I woke up in the hospital and the doctor said I was cured from one day to the other and he could not explain. I just looked at my mighty GH2 and smiled at it. THANKS PANASONIC FOR THE HEALING! <3

    Yes, sometimes GH2 can cure cancer too! ;)

  • No, but it shoots better footage than that camera….

  • LOOOL! YOU can come again :)

  • I think 5Diii walks on water. Dig Bolex makes you better at hula hoop.

  • Norm Rasnr on 11.1.13 @ 7:17AM

    I knew it!