*** Please note. Footage shown in this review, were taken with a prototype model camera. The final version may (or may not) behave differently and produce a different picture quality ****
We at cinema5D will usually test and review large sensor cameras but when the opportunity arise to check Sony’s new entry level 4K handycam the FDR-AX33 (AXP33 in Europe), I was not hesitating twice. The curiosity to see what $999 can buy, drove me to try and test the new camera in “real life documentary situation”.
Well, let me get strait to the point. It never happened. This camera is NOT aimed for the serious shooter. My attempt to shoot with it “a real life story” ended up after couple of hours. The reason is simple. You can not be fully creative and control every (basic) aspect of the camera functions. Instead, the camera will “control you”. There is absolutely no way of dialling Iris, shutter and gain to manual position at the same time. Just when you got one right, the other will automatically “jump” into “auto mode”.
Before I get to hear “what can you expect from an under $1000 product?”, let me explain… If it is an entry level product, then don’t include features which are there for what seems to be marketing purposes only. “Zebra” (besides living happily in protected safaris), is a feature which aimed to help the advanced shooter to properly expose his/her video. What sense there is to include such a feature if you simply can not control your exposure manually anyway? While iris CAN be controlled manually, Sony’s “exposure” feature kicks in automatically, blocking you from achieving proper accurate results. (“Exposure” is Sony’s feature that enables you to control the total EV. The camera may change gain, F No. or shutter speed automatically).
Not being able to conduct my original shooting idea, I ended up taking few sample shots which were all done in 4K 100Mbps 25p, “intelligent auto” mode . I was also testing the “Balanced Optical SteadyShot” (working very nice) and “lowlight capability” (less then satisfactory), but those shots did not make it to the final video above.
Despite of all the written above, there are some positive points in favour of Sony’s FDR AX33. (which led me to think that if Sony wanted, they could have given us a totally different level of productivity from this little camera).
Here is a short list of what I liked:
-Good autofocus in video mode
-Good Balanced Optical SteadyShot
-Nice smooth “change focus” possibility by pressing the accurate touch screen
-The ability to achieve smooth slow in/out zoom while using the variable rocker
-Long lasting battery
-Clever hidden USB cable for external charging
-Sony’s professional XLR attachment (XLR-K2M) can be attached and be used for greater audio flexibility
-Mic in and manual audio control
-“Quick camera start-up” by pulling the EVF out
-“Build in” projector which guaranty to fascinate your little kids
Above, Sony’s clever USB external charging solution
What could be (much) improved:
-Less the satisfactory lowlight video quality
-“In camera” charging
-Low quality EVF
-EVF diopter is poorly placed on the right hand side. Almost after very time of pulling the the EVF out, new eye focusing adjustment need to be done.
-Limited dynamic range
-Severe rolling shutter
-Very strong chromatic aberration
-No total manual control
-Information will disappear very quickly from the LCD screen.
-Confusing menu structure
For the occasional parents who just bought a new shiny 4K TV and wants to have the latest modestly priced 4K handycam, this camcorder might be the solution. When doing so, please take in account that this camcorder is capable of producing decent picture quality only in properly lit locations.
Edited on Adobe Premiere CC 2014. No colour correction or sharpness were added in post just a slight brightness change was done.
Export settings for 4K playback in Vimeo:
Music: (The musicbed) “For You – Instrumental” by LUKE & LAURA
Watch it on Vimeo