Sony FDR-AX1 4K camera-First look

**Please be aware that from some reason videos uploaded to Vimeo are tend to be a bit darker then the original**

UPDATE: The 4K mp4 version can be downloaded from here. Password: J

Sony was kind enough letting me spend some time with its new 4K handheld 1/2 inch CMOS sensor video camera the FDR-AX1. You can read all the technical specification of the new camera here Specs aside, let me  share with you my thoughts concerning this camera. The FDR-AX1 left me a bit confused as I would expect this kind of high resolution small sensor handheld camera to be a great working tool for anyone who is doing “run&gun” events, documentary style shooting and even covering sport. I would expect such a camera to perform well in all lighting situations but unfortunately this is not the case with the new Sony FDR-AX1. The combination of a small sensor packed with a great amount of tiny pixels doest not do well to the low light capability of this camera. As you can see in the various sample footage I took, even using the gain control did not help much improving the overall dark images the camera produces. (see Oriental flavor-Night video). Instead, noise was added to the picture. (all in all I’ve used gain 3db, 6db, 9db up to 12db).

If this is not enough, the camera lens does not hold constant aperture through its range, meaning, If you can get away in low light situations with its fast 1.6f lens (on the wider side) you will quickly find yourself “in the dark” when zooming in. That’s where the lens aperture will close all the way down to 3.4f.

The EVF in this camera is average and certainly not good enough to judge crucial 4K focusing especially in low light when it all gets muddy in the frame.

Contrary to my experience in low light, when there is sufficient light the picture quality this camera produces is very nice!.

Other positive features to mention are:
-Build in XLR connectors (remember, this is the consumer version of  the professional  Sony PXW-Z100 and as such, having XLR connectors on board is great)!
-7 assignable customisable buttons
-Dual XQD card slots (Sony is including a 32GB card in the package).
-High resolution LCD screen
-Up to 60fps at 4K resolution
-Full HD at 50Mbps which is industry broadcast standard.
-Focus magnifying while recording.

-The camera tend to get heavy for an handheld device very quickly. It is simply heavy.
-Colour sampling in all recording modes is 4:2:0
-Maximum 100 Mbps in 24/25p mode
-Maximum 150 Mbps in 50/60 mode
-“Flyby wire” lens controls

All was recorded in the following settings:
Resolution: 4K (3840X2160)
Codec: XAVC-S
Frame rate: 25p 100 (the 100 stands for Mbps, the maximum this camera can record in this mode)
Picture profile: Cinematone 1
Gama category: Cine
Gama select: Cine1
Matrix preset select: Cinema

The XAVC-S codec will save as an MP4 wrapper. I was able to edit natively and fluently the footage on my Retina Macbook pro laptop using Adobe Premiere CC.

No colour correction or sharpness was added in this post.

Music: The
Indoor test footage music
Daytime test footage music
Nighttime test footage music

A special thank you for the kind people at Abraham hostel:

Johnnie Behiri is a freelance documentary cameraman/editor/producer working mostly for the BBC and other respected broadcasters. He is also a co-owner of cinema5d

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Derek McCabe Reply
Derek McCabe October 25, 2013

So the “pro version” Sony PXW-Z100 is only $1k more, and at this price range, does it make sense to get the more expensive unit? I really like the look of the footage, and the specs are just about everything you need for broadcast.. but low light is poor. I shoot mostly studio and when I shoot outdoor it is usually in good light — so for me low light features don’t matter much. I will take all the dynamic range I can get, but I can work with good light. Sony seems to be taking over the camcorder market.

Derek McCabe Reply
Derek McCabe October 25, 2013

one more comment… the colour sampling in all recording modes a 4:2:0 is the major weakness. Am I correct to state all the Vimeo footage was NOT graded?

Johnnie Behiri October 25, 2013

Dear Derek.

Here are the main differences between the pro and consumer model. I hope to get the pro model for a review so I can give a valid answer if $1000 worth spending…

In the PXW-Z100 you will find:
-4096×2160 resolution (in practice it is 1.5mm more in the wide angle side from 31.5mm in the FDR-AX1 to 30mm in the Z100

-4:2:2 10 bit colour sampling and a much higher bit rate (500/600 Mbps in oppose to the 100/150 of the AX1)

-In HD mode, 223 Mbps in oppose to 50 Mbps in the AX1

-Supplied wifi adapter to control Focus, zoom, aperture settings and ‘record start/stop from a smartphone/tablet

And, you are correct. Footage in all clips was NOT graded.

Thank you!


Francis Carver January 21, 2014

Also, Z100 has 3G SDI ouyput and SMPTE TC IN/OUT interfaces. AX10 is HDMI only. Huge difference, and one worthy of the $1,000 right then and there.

Mark Morris October 25, 2013

Ooer.. That’s gone a bit so far into crippled territory will it have legs?

billy chiu October 30, 2013


If you were to grade the footage with your macbook pro using premier, how much time per minute or hour of footage would you estimate?

Johnnie Behiri October 30, 2013

Hi Billy.

Very hard answering your question as here are so many parameters that will affect the rendering time.

What I suggest is downloading the 4K mp.4 file I’ve exported from Premiere and as a rough guideline try grading it. Password: J

Thank you!


eko nobel October 31, 2013

What is the difference between XAVC and XAVC-S codec? Have you tried to import the footage to FCPX ?

Well, for that price, having 4K footage (4:2:2 10 bit on Z100) in good enough. If only it could have interchangeable lens, competing with Black Magic Production Camera

Johnnie Behiri October 31, 2013

Hi eko.

This good article from nofilmschool is covering well the differences between XAVC and XAVC-S (

I’m not on FCPX. Will ask my colleague to do this and write you back.

The Z100 and BMCC are catering different markets.



Johnnie Behiri October 31, 2013

Hi again.
No problem importing the 4K file to FCPX.
Playing it was choppy as it is 4K….

Francis Carver January 21, 2014

Badmagic Cinema Cameras are not serious products, but more akin to the Digital Bolex garage-built D16. I doubt seriously anyone at Sony is paying any never mind to what Badmagic is claiming their strange bird “cinema” cameras will do. BMD is just not a very reputable company, as you may know. The also do not have the financial and technical resources and track records that the established major players in the video sector have.

Raphie November 5, 2013

Hi Johnnie:
Can you shoot at 4K, import the file and render it at 1080p in Premiere? Do you really have to shoot at 4K to obtain much detail in the 1080p output?

Thank you

 Kalogeris George Reply
GfK November 11, 2013

What’s the best run-n-gun camcorder out there that would let me film during night ?
This sensor would be more sensible if being 1080p instead ?

Dragan Bozorovic January 19, 2014

Answer to your question is JVC GY HM650

martin November 12, 2013

Wuaw… the lowlight footage really su**s. But that was to be expected… a sensor that size with such a high amount of pixels couldn’t be a low light expert.
Looks like an upscaled HVX200 or smth like that – not very pleasent to my eyes compared to other sony’s like the EX Series or even the older ones.

Ed Clark January 2, 2014

I tried the sit to download the footage. It is not allowing me to download the 4k footage.Have you chagnged the password. please send me the new password. I am interested in purchase the pxw z 100

Johnnie Behiri January 3, 2014

Hi Ed.

The Vimeo address ( and password (J) hasn’t been changed.

Please try again and if not able to download I’ll do my best to find another way to send you the file.

Thank you!


scott June 6, 2014

Hi all. great read so far.. was wondering now its been sometime if those who commented have actually bought or any other updates.. Ive been looking at this camera as i shoot stage productions so varying lighting can happen but am over the dslr look.
I’ve used ex3 and only thing so far decent I’ve seen is the pmw 200 and even nicer into a ninja.. will this ax1 i to a ninja be any different to onto the cards??
is it worth the $4500 i can get it for atm??