Prepping for the new year, Sony's Camcorder team brought its A-game to CES 2014. Not only are its mid- and low-end camcorders refreshed, but it's got a new flagship 4K Handycam that's finally more like a consumer camcorder than a rebadged professional video camera.
The AX100 is that new 4K flagship. Even though we saw Sony release its first "consumer" 4K camcorder last year in the guise of the FDR-AX1, we were definitely left wanting.
The bulky AX1 was definitely geared toward working pros, featuring a complicated button layout, a fixed top handle, and even XLR inputs. The AX100, on the other hand, is about 70% smaller, meaning it's finally suitable for comfortable one-handed shooting. It's also noticeably simplified, making it more approachable for well-heeled enthusiasts that want to jump on the 4K bandwagon ASAP.
Sony's gone with a sensor type it knows well, packing a 1-inch, 14.2-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and f/2.8-4.5 12x optical zoom into the AX100's compact chassis. That means you'll be able to get pleasingly shallow depth-of-field and solid low-light performance. Recording in both 30p and native 24p, as well as a range of HD resolutions makes the AX100 flexible and futureproof—for the time being, at least.
But, as they say on TV, that's not all! There's a new flagship action cam coming, too. Dubbed the AS100V, this new model can shoot high-quality XAVC-S HD video (up to 50 Mbps), and it shoots 1080/24p, 720/120p and 720/240p for extra slow motion.
A new Zeiss Tessar lens with improved SteadyShot takes in a 170-degree field of view with less chromatic aberration and better resistance to vibrations. Wrapped in a white plastic splashproof case, this model is mountable even without the included waterproof housing thanks to a tripod mount attachment.
Other camcorders announced include the PJ810 (a new high-end projector camcorder at $1,499.99), PJ540 and PJ340 (the new mid-range options, $700 and $480), and the PJ275 (the new entry-level, $400).
Across the board, the projector camcorders have been blessed with some solid improvements. Projector brightness has increased by as much as 50 lumens in the case of the PJ810, and all the PJ-series camcorders can now project content from external sources via HDMI input. Finally, improved automatic keystone correction should make setting up the camcorders for projector playback even easier than before.
By the looks of it, Sony has iterated extremely quickly on its push into 4K videography and kept its HD offerings fresh at the same time. The AS100V Action Cam will be available in March from $299.99, with a $399.99 version including Sony's new Live View Remote wrist-mounted control. Slicing the AX1 Handycam's price in twain, the AX100 will be available in March for $1,999.99. If 4K isn't important to you, the CX900 will offer the same user experience as the AX100 for $500 less.