July 14, 2010

Sony Brings a Knife to a Gunfight with the NEX-VG10 (With Footage)

The Sony DSLR-killer we heard rumblings about before now has a model name, full specs, and a release date. The internet is already lauding Sony's announced of the NEX-VG10 as a game changer, and in many ways it is: after all, it's an interchangeable lens camcorder from a major manufacturer that will ship with a host of features missing from today's DSLRs. The camera utilizes the same Micro Four Thirds APS-C sensor found in Sony's new NEX cameras -- presumably without employing the same line-skipping tricks as Canon's current crop of DSLRs. It includes full manual control over video features, has a swivel LCD screen (and a viewfinder), comes with a legitimate built-in microphone, accepts E and A-mount Sony SLR lenses, and will actually record to SDXC and SDHC cards (in addition to Sony proprietary Memory Stick Duo cards). Furthermore, the camera will arrive very soon (September) with a very aggressive street price ($2,000). However, it's missing one crucial feature that immediately knocks it off my list.

First up, let's take a look at Sony's press release:

Coupled with Sony's powerful BIONZ® processor, the camcorder's Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor realizes high resolution video and 14 megapixel still images. Approximately 19.5 times bigger than the standard sensor found in conventional camcorders, the APS HD CMOS sensor enables an extremely shallow depth of field. This allows videographers to achieve cinematic results with stunning background defocus (bokeh). Users can also enjoy DSLR-quality photo capture with features like Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur, as well as catch fast action sequences with a continuous burst rate of up to seven fps.

The NEX-VG10 can capture full 1920x1080 high definition video at up to 24Mbps for amazing clarity and detail, ideal for recording on to Blu-ray Disc™ media. It also comes with an E-mount 18-200mm lens optimized for video shooting that offers a powerful 11x optical zoom in addition to a silent auto-focus system and Optical Steadyshot™ image stabilization with Active Mode for superior versatility.

So far so good, right? Along these same lines, the footage from the camera looks beautiful, exhibiting a shallow depth-of-field and smooth gamma curves:

It looks like a reasonable piece of hardware, too, with a swivel LCD that will alleviate many of the problems we have with fixed DSLR viewfinders:

Hell, the camera even has very similar specs to Panasonic's forthcoming $6,000 AG-AF100, which will debut for $4,000 more. The two cameras have the same size sensor -- both the Sony and Panasonic have a sensor the size of the GH1's, seen at left in red The Sony even has a larger sensor than the Panasonic. While the Panasonic camera has similar features and records to the same medium as the Sony, it adds three crucial features: uncompressed HD-SDI-out, XLR audio inputs, and -- this is the one that caused me to choose my headline -- 24p! Sony's press release conveniently leaves out frame rates, so I had to find the spec sheet to find out that the NEX-VG10 shoots 1080/60i. Not only does it leave out 24p, it leaves out any kind of progressive recording whatsoever. As a filmmaker, this immediately nixes the camera from my list. For news applications and wedding videography, I can still see the NEX-VG10 being viable. But it's not like it would cost Sony anything to include 24p -- the camera's CPU is surely capable of processing 24p footage. This "oversight" indicates to me that they're saving 24p and XLR audio (not to mention higher bitrate XDCAM codecs) for a forthcoming Pro version (which you can catch a glimpse of in the bottom of this post).

Still, I'm viewing things from the narrow perspective of someone looking to shoot an indie feature. This is undeniably an aggressive move by Sony, surely based on their recognition of the DSLR cinematography movement. They're leaving out a lot of features, but for $2,000 (which includes a bundled 18-200mm lens), it will still be an appealing package for many.

What do you think of the NEX-VG10 specs and footage? Am I being too harsh by saying Sony is "bringing a knife to a gunfight" simply because of its lack of 24p? Would you spend $2k on the camera despite it missing any progressive recording options?

[via Sony PR]

Your Comment


Agreed, lack of XLR inputs, 24p and HD-SDI out sucks. They lost an opportunity to suck the wind out of Canon's sails right now by improving on Canon's offerings. Also, why only Sony Alpha lens adaptor? People have tons of Canon and Nikon lenses, they are not going to jump ship if they have zero Sony lenses and tons of the other brand. I guess someone else can make it but I like adaptors from the camera manufacturer.

July 14, 2010 at 11:59AM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM


This is a great camera hurt by the exclusion of 24p, it is a consumer cam and 24p wouldn't hit professional sales options as the codec sucks, no XLR, no HD-SDI out, etc. I noticed on the Sony UK site they have no preorder or detailed specs just that is shoots 1080, so I assume that it is going to be 50i there, so you can pulldown a good 25p image, which ain't prefect but closer to creative needs.

But I get a feeling that Sony are doing this with intention of updating it, look at the 5D this Camera was thrown around the internet twice, firstly for now having the right shooting formats and protests of that, then it was throw around the net for getting a firmware update that resolved the issues, which in real terms becomes $1m's of free PR, and Canon seen as a progressive company that listens to user demand, and I think Sony what that kudos and are hoodwinking us into doing massive online advertising campaign for them for free - I'll play that game if it means I can get a nice camera that isn't crippled, everyone email Sony consumer support and mention 24P and a willingness to buy and the camera will have it already, trust me.

July 15, 2010 at 8:53AM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM


It shoots in 1080 30p, it has a 1080/60i container. i.e. it is fine (no interlacing garbage). the 24p thing is annoying yes.. but as Jivetalker said.. just buy a pal version if it is a big deal.

July 22, 2010 at 9:47PM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM

Ben Jones


There's an update about the PAL route here.

July 23, 2010 at 8:12AM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM

Ryan Koo

This may be what event videographers have been waiting for. DSLRs only record minutes and tend to overheat. For events you can't risk losing footage and interrupted multicam footage is a horror to edit (even with Pluraleyes).
The missing XLR is not an issue (I still have two Studio1productions adapters from my GL2, they're nice because the remove the audio controls from the camera).

July 26, 2010 at 9:30PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Martin Voelker

Forgive me but the lack of XLR's is no problem at all. Audio capture should be done from a another device, say a laptop running audio editing software with M66 attached (Not the best but a good "all around" mic). I believe Sony was targeting those who would like to have great image quality and don't want to spend a whole hell of a lot of money for the addition of xlr housing ect... If your really trying to shoot an indie film through a native mic on your camera you really must not care much for the audio in the first place. I believe for the price and manual function this camera is just what people on a budget were waiting for.

October 18, 2010 at 9:12AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Nicholas Sans