Sony’s new camcorders are compact and powerful machines for video pros

Sony announced three new 4K camcorders for professionals and advanced enthusiasts, with features and functionality geared for both filmmakers and broadcasters. Like Canon’s recently announced camcorders, all of the new Sony models are based on the same underlying platform but differ in the features they offer (and their naming schemes, which are all over the map). The Handycam FDR-AX700 will go for $1,899 and be available in October, while the higher-end NXCAM HXR-NX80 and XDCAM PXW-Z90 models will ship in December for a price of $2,299 and $2,799, respectively.

The cameras boast 1-inch sensors with full pixel readout without pixel binning for 4K shooting at 24p or 30p. The sensor uses Sony’s latest “stacked” design (also used in the RX100 V point-and-shoot), which improves readout speed, allowing the cameras to shoot at Full HD 1080p up to 120 frames per second (fps), or up to 960 fps in shorter bursts at reduced resolutions.

Another headline feature of the sensor is phase-detection autofocus, a first for a Sony camcorder. The sensor is dotted with 273 phase-detect points that cover 80 percent of the frame and work in conjunction with the standard contrast-detection system. Phase detection should mean the camera is better at subject tracking.

Each camcorder also uses the same lens with a 12x zoom and variable maximum aperture of f/2.8-4.5.

Beyond 4K, the new models take advantage of Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), a new standard that simplifies high dynamic range (HDR) production. With HLG, a single video can be displayed on either HDR or SDR televisions without having to create separate color grades for each. Television manufacturers do need to support the standard in order for it to work, but this could save significant time for video producers. HLG is still new, but is growing in popularity quickly — Panasonic recently brought it to the Lumix GH5  in a firmware update.

While all three models offer roughly equal imaging possibilities, advanced users will want to opt for either the HXR-NX80 or PXW-Z90 models, as they come with a removable top handle that includes two XLR inputs and audio level controls. The PXW-Z90 takes things a step further with a 3G-SDI terminal and support for Sony’s 5GB-per second XDCAM Air wireless production system.

You can read more about the new camcorders on Sony’s information page.


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