Amid the fervor of this year's CES expo, Sony brought a spate of new camcorders to the fray, including a brand-new, surprisingly affordable 4K Handycam. However, it's the tiny new Sony Action Cam FDR-X1000V that's commanding the most attention from drone and action shooters.
While we weren't able to give the tiny camcorder the full workout we'd put it through in our labs, we did get a chance to use it a bit at the Sony booth. Spoiler alert: We came away impressed.
Big 4K taste, fun-size package
Reading the X1000V's spec list, you're greeted by a laundry list of impressive features. Inside the camera is a 12.8-megapixel 1/2.3-inch sensor with full-pixel readout. It's powered by a Bionz X processor and in service of a Zeiss Tessar lens with a constant aperture of f/2.8. Said lens has a 170-degree field of view, but flipping on the stabilization means clipping the FOV to just 120 degrees.
Picking it up for the first time, you'll notice that the X1000V shares much with the ever-popular GoPro, but also sports some key differences. It's very small (like other Sony Action Cams), light, and fits within a semi-monocoque body. Unlike the boxy GoPro, the Action Cam is sleek, elongated, and has a more fleshed-out set of controls on the outside of the body. An LCD graces the side of the unit, displaying crucial settings so you don't get any nasty surprises when you edit your videos later.
This Action Cam is plastered with logos that give you an idea of what you're in for. For example, that big honkin' "4K" emblazoned on the left side is no lie—this action cam is the first in Sony's lineup to shoot UHD video (at 30fps). Other features that the FDR-X100V hits you over the head with include GPS, WiFi, forward-facing stereo microphones, and NFC pairing.
That's really the big story here. Beyond the new shooting options—they're great, by the way—everything that made the previous Sony Action cams interesting makes the FDR-X1000V a solid bet.
The camera itself is splashproof, you can plunk it into the included watertight case and dive to 32 feet underwater, you can pair it with the Sony Live View Remote and/or the Sony PlayMemories app, and the camera's shape (and software) make it a great tool for drone videos.
Speaking of, Sony went out of its way to tune the X1000V's SteadyShot stabilization to eliminate the low-frequency vibrations introduced by quadcopters. It's a welcome addition, and shows that Sony is working overtime to compete with GoPro for enthusiast attention.
XAVC-S video from a tiny camera
As the highest-end Action Cam, the FDR-X1000V offers a vast array of shooting resolutions, frame rates, and other options.
Much like Sony's latest point-and-shoots, it offers video shooting in the XAVC-S codec, with bitrates up to 60Mbps and framerates up to 120p in 1080p or 30p in 4K. A full list of shooting resolutions and bitrates can be found here. Should your computer or video editing software not be able to handle XAVC-S, you can always shoot in MP4—but you'll miss out on 4K if you do.
Much like its competitors, this Action Cam is quite flexible not only in terms of where it can shoot, but also with how you do it. Though the app is a little on the ugly side, PlayMemories is highly functional, controlling up to five separate WiFi-enabled camcorders at once.
It's pretty crazy what kind of shots you can get—especially from different angles—when you use several units at once. For example, if you're shooting someone diving into a pool, you could conceivably have a camera on the diver, camera outside of the pool, and a camera underwater, all shooting simultaneously, all controlled by the smartphone app.
Ultraportable camcorders have always been an attractive for action shooters, but the Sony Action Cam offers quite a bit more than its closest competitors. Its rugged design, image stabilization, and included case means it can go from dusty desert to muddy terrain, dive under the sea, survive a good whack or two, and even take to the skies with ease.
For more extreme applications, the FDR-X1000V also works with a separate accessory: Sony's Live View Remote. This rather simple wrist-mounted device lets you control the camera without actually touching it or fumbling with your phone—perfect when you're riding a bike, hang-gliding, skiing, etc. You can grab it in a bundle with the FDR-X1000V for an extra hundo, or separately for $149.99.
Ready to rock
Though the Action Cam is an interesting iteration of this design, we haven't been able to run it through our labs to pin down its precise performance metrics. Still, all the right ingredients are in place for a truly special video camera.
Though GoPro might be the household name, it would be a mistake to count out Sony when it comes to delivering high-quality 4K footage. It doesn't come cheap at $499 (or $599 with Live View Remote bundle), but then again neither does the GoPro Hero Black, which offers similar 4K capabilities but more limited features.
If you're looking for a flexible, capable, rugged camcorder, definitely keep the FDR-X1000V on your radar. While our hands-on time was limited to what could be done on the CES 2015 show floor, its feature list is solid, and it has a lot to offer to a wide range of action shooters.
Be sure to check back with us once we get a unit in for testing. Until then, we're confident in asserting that the Action Cam FDR-X1000V is certainly among the most exciting imaging announcements at CES 2015.