Sony has been at the forefront of prosumer camcorders for a while. We've known many a lower-budget TV show to use a three-chip VX1000 in the past and, more recently, Full HD and, even, 4K equivalents. Now it's about to shake up the industry again, with a camera that will particularly help all of the channels that you find the further you go down an EPG. Thanks to the HandyCam FDR-AX100E, they too can ensure that they record in future-proofed Ultra High Definition.
Many prosumers have turned to the FDR-AX1 in recent times, but at around £4,000, it could be out of reach financially to many. It is also a hefty beast of a camera - more pro than 'sumer - and not exactly portable. The AX100E tackles both of those concerns, with a far smaller, normal HandyCam-style body and a price tag of around £1,800. In terms of picture performance though, it competes on a similar playing field.
Because of those two major factors, the AX100E is more attractive to home users too, albeit those who don't mind paying out to be a (fairly) first adopter. It's certainly easy enough to use, and is an ideal way to source native 4K content while manufacturers work out other ways to deliver UHD video.
The camera works much the same way as any touchscreen camcorder, but with a much higher resolution to show at the end of it. It is capable of recording 3840 x 2160 footage at 25 frames per second (25p) or 24fps (24p). Unfortunately, it cannot record progressive video at 50 or 60fps, but can record stable 1080p video at those super frame rates.
An Exmor R CMOS sensor and Bionz X image processing do the hard work with picture quality, and the camera is also capable of taking stills at the equivalent of 20-megapixels for 16:9 images (5968 x 3352).
Footage is recording in XAVC S format on to a wide selection of storage options, including Memory Stick Pro Duo, Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo and SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. Pocket-lint was told that roughly an hour will fit on to a 16GB card. Class 10 SD cards are required as minimum.
The lens uses Carl Zeiss optics and features a 12x optical zoom, 160x digital. And while we got only a brief playtime with the HandyCam, it was clear that it is capable of good colour saturation. We would have to see the footage outputted to a compatible display through the HDMI 2.0 port to comment on crispness, having been restricted to use of the manoeuvrable Xtra Fine LCD display as the final software is yet to be implemented.
We'll give the HandyCam FDR-AX100E a full test when we get one into the Pocket-lint labs before its April street date. Until then, our initial thoughts are that this is exactly what the market needs to kickstart the 4K content onslaught. Let it begin.