Sony’s new 4K Handycam not only costs half of last year’s model, it’s smaller too

In digital imaging, CES 2015 could be remembered as the year of 4K camcorders. Panasonic introduced two new consumer models on January 5, followed by Sony’s latest 4K Handycam, the FDR-AX33.

This isn’t Sony’s first 4K Handycam, of course. The company unveiled the FDR-AX100 at CES last year – garnering a “best of” award from Digital Trends – and it has other prosumer 4K models. But the AX33 is smaller and lighter, making the look and feel of it more consumer-friendly. Yet, it has a high-bitrate 4K recording (100Mbps) and incorporates Sony’s more advanced Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS) image stabilization system.

At $999, it’s in-line with Panasonic’s new WX970 4K camcorder in price; it also represents a 50-percent drop in price, in just a year since the AX100 was introduced. The WX970 (and VX870) records 4K at 50p, versus 30p for Sony’s AX33. But Sony’s XAVC S compression format allows for a high 100Mbps bitrate.

While Panasonic touts its camcorders’ 5-axis image stabilization system, Sony talks about its BOSS system, which stabilizes the entire lens unit, not just the sensor. Image stabilization, whether it’s Panasonic or Sony’s approach, is crucial in 4K video recording because of all the data that’s being processed. Advanced users will appreciate the manual ring and buttons, which mimic pro-level camcorders.

Like Panasonic, Sony touts 4K Photos as one of the benefits, which lets you grab 8.3-megapixel stills from a 4K screen grab. Even 4K videos down-converted to 2K or Full HD 1080 should look pretty good on those displays. The Zeiss lens has a 15x magnification in 4K, and 20x in 2K.

At half of what Sony’s last 4K Handycam cost at launch, the AX33 shows that prices for 4K gear are starting to come down. The AX33 is scheduled for a February 2015 release.

Photo credit: Digital Trends / Bill Roberson
Photo credit: Digital Trends / Bill Roberson

Besides the AX33, Sony introduced four other Full HD camcorders. The HDR-PJ670 ($700, January) records 1080 at 60p, at 50Mbps in XAVC S. The PJ670 also uses BOSS stabilization. What it has is a built-in projector, a feature Sony has built into many of its Handycams.

Like the AX33, Wi-Fi can be used to control up to five cameras at once (including the new 4K Action Cam Mini, also announced at CES), and it has Sony’s Highlight Movie Maker for creating quick, sharable movies on the fly. Both camcorders can also live-stream video via Ustream. But it uses a Sony G lens instead of a Zeiss variant.

The HDR-PJ440, available in January for $400, has the same specs as the PJ670 except that it uses regular Optical SteadyShot. The HDR-CX4r0, scheduled for January at $300, is similar to the PJ440, but it uses Sony’s regular Optical SteadyShot and lacks the built-in projector. Finally, Sony’s budget model is the CX405. For $230 (out in January) has a 30x optical Zeiss lens, but lacks the multi-camera control and Ustream support. These models use Zeiss lenses.

Product Review

What do you do with 187 megapixels? The Lumix S1R is glorious overkill

The Lumix S1R is one of the most capable cameras ever made, from its robust build to extensive feature set. But its key feature, a 187MP high resolution mode, is something few customers will have use for.
Mobile

Sony's Xperia 10 smartphone boasts a 6-inch screen and is now available

Sony took the wraps off of three new phones at Mobile World Congress 2019, including the new Xperia 1, which is the company's new flagship phone and the first with a 4K OLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio.
Product Review

Sony's Xperia 10 falls frustratingly short of budget brilliance

Better know for premium products, Sony does also have a budget smartphone range, but can the Sony Xperia 10 compete with great cheap phones from Nokia and Motorola? We put it through its paces to find out how it measures up.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Photography

Loupedeck Plus can now edit video, audio with Final Cut Pro

The list of Loupedeck Plus-compatible software is growing. The photo-editing console now works with Final Cut Pro and Adobe Audition for video and audio editing. The controls can be configured to be used on either platform.
Photography

Photography News: Taking a smartphone photo probably saved this guy’s life

A man was snapping a photo in Australia when the smartphone stopped an arrow shot at his face. In this week's photography news, see Canon's plans for a stabilized mirrorless, Hasselblad's newest accessories, Samyang's latest lens, and more.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Photography

Paper designs digitize in real time using an Illustrator-connected paper tablet

Love graphic design, but prefer the feel of real paper? The new Moleskine Paper Tablet - Creative Cloud Connected syncs with Adobe Illustrator in real time, turning paper sketches into digital drawings.
Photography

Insta-checkout? New Instagram service lets you shop without leaving the platform

Shopping on Instagram no longer means leaving the platform to checkout in a web browser. Instagram checkout launched in beta today with a handful of retailers, allowing users to checkout without leaving the app.
Computing

Make the most of your toner with our five favorite color laser printers

Color laser printers have improved dramatically over the years, and today's models offer both blazing print speeds and great image quality. Here are our favorite color laser printers, from massive all-in-ones to smaller budget options.
Photography

Sony’s latest sensor is stacked, backlit, and equipped with a global shutter

Say this five times fast: Backlit, stacked, global shutter sensor. Sony managed to cram all three technologies into one sensor. The result is a high-speed sensor with a higher resolution without sacrificing low-light quality.
Mobile

You can now use the innovative Red Hydrogen One on Google Fi

The Red Hydrogen One was first announced in 2017 and has been delayed a few times since then. Now, the Red Hydrogen One is finally available, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
Photography

Looking to keep prying eyes at bay? Here's how to hide photos on your iPhone

People take tons of photos using their smartphones, but not all are meant to be shared or seen. Luckily, hiding photos on your iOS device is easy, whether you want to use built-in utilities or apps with added security.