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Sony Handycam® FDR-AX1

4K/60p Ultra HD video camera with 20X zoom lens

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  • Sony Handycam®  FDR-AX1

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  • Sony Handycam®  FDR-AX1

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  • Sony Handycam®  FDR-AX1

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Our take on the Sony Handycam® FDR-AX1

by Woody Sherman
Sony

Shoot videos for posterity — or posting online

From birthday parties to YouTube™ antics, camcorders let you capture moments you can share with friends and family, or the world at large. Most newer camcorders save your videos to built-in digital memory or a removable memory card. Some models come with a built-in hard disk drive that gives you much more storage. For maximum portability, check out our smaller cams that fit into a pocket or purse. For high-def videos that look awesome on your HDTV, go for a slightly larger model with a better lens and image sensor.

The Sony FDR-AX1 4K ultra-high-definition camera puts cinema-quality image gathering in your hands

The Sony FDR-AX1 4K ultra-high-definition camera puts cinema-quality image gathering in your hands.

Welcome to the front lines

If you've dreamed of making truly cinematic moving images you should seriously consider this 4K FDR-AX1 Ultra HD video camera from Sony. Sony runs one of the world's foremost motion picture empires and has supplied global broadcasters with some of their highest-end gear for decades, so when they introduce a video camera that lives at the cutting edge of digital imaging, you're well-advised to pay attention.

Cinematic scope

Why do we say "truly cinematic?" Well, if you're lucky enough to have an up-to-date digital projection theater in your town, the big images up on the screen are likely to be coming from digital files that have a "4K" resolution. And this camera makes 4K video. What is 4K? Think of it this way: It's like you took twice the horizontal and twice the vertical resolution of 1080p high-def video, and packed it all into a single image. So now, imagine you have a camera that features the processing and resolving power to make 60 of these ultra-high-resolution images every second. Bingo. You now have an idea of the kind of image impact the Sony FDR-AX1 brings to the table.

You can go out and take sweeping panoramas of your Hawaiian volcano tour, for example, and then plug the camera back in to your Sony 4K  TV back home (note: this may involve a firmware update for HDMI 2.0 functionality — consult your manual). In seconds you'll be looking at scenes so sharp and real that you'll be tempted to walk directly into the picture. We're trusting your camera skills here. Don't let us down.

Professional tools

In addition to making pictures at a whole different standard than the HD camcorders of the past few years, the FDR-AX1 is loaded with tools every professional — or aspiring pro — will appreciate. Two XLR audio inputs await pro-quality microphones or field mixers. Focus peaking, zebra display, center marker, guide frames, three neutral density filters — the things pros depend on to get them the best shots are all easy to find and use on this camera. And if you should desire a degree of personalization, seven customizable buttons can be programmed to call up commonly used or modified settings.

So even if your movies might be more about the life of your family's cat rather than the latest Hollywood action blockbuster, the images you capture will be as detailed and sharp as they can be. Doesn't your cat deserve the star treatment too? You might be onto something here. Prepare for the big screen now.

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Highlights:

    Storage and Formats:
    • full 4K video recording (3840 x 2160) at up to 60p; standard HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 60p also available
    • records ultra-high-definition video to dual memory card slots with optional XQD memory cards
      • camera will switch recording from one card to another as first card gets full
      • compatible with S-, H- and N-Series XQD cards
    Features:
    • features 1/2.3" 8.3-megapixel Exmor R® back-illuminated sensor for exceptional clarity and low light performance
    • 3-1/2" LCD display, as well as a separate viewfinder
    • seven assignable buttons can be programmed to commonly used functions like zebra, focus peaking, or auto exposure level
    • traditional 1920 x 1080 HD recording option @50mbps with the XAVC-S codec
    • two XQD slots deliver the high-speed capacity 4K recording needs, plus longer recording times
      • also has one traditional SD/SDHC/SDXC or Memory Stick® slot
    • 20X Sony G optical zoom lens (31.5-630mm equivalent)
    • professional composition and exposure tools like zebra, focus peaking, center marker, and guide frames
    • three neutral density filters and five paint functions for expressive cinematic looks
    • view 4K 60p video on compatible Sony 4K TVs with supplied HDMI® cable
      • three independent rings for zoom, focus, and iris control
    • may require firmware update for HDMI 2.0, consult manual for details
    Connections and Dimensions:
    • high-speed USB 2.0 port
    • HDMI connector
    • dual XLR professional audio inputs for microphones and field mixers
    • 7"W x 7-3/8"H x 14-1/4"D
    • weight: 6.11 lbs. with battery
    • warranty: 1 year parts, 90 days labor
    • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
    Supplied Accessories:
    • AC adapter
    • battery charger
    • rechargeable lithium ion battery
    • A/V composite, USB, and HDMI cables
    • lens hood
    • large eye cup
    • operating guide and license CD-ROM
    • 32GB XQD memory card

    Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

    Features and Specs
    General
    LCD Screen Size (inches)
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    3.5
    Viewfinder
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    0.45" Electronic
    Total Pixel Count
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    18,900,000
    Effective Pixel Count for Video
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    8,300,000
    High-Definition
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    U
    Aspect Ratio
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    16:9
    Manual Focusing
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    Yes
    Filter Diameter
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    72mm
    Optical Zoom
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    20 x
    Digital Zoom
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    N/A
    Night Imaging
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    No
    Image Stabilization
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    Optical
    Built-in Video Light
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    No
    Built-in Memory
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    None
    Max Recording Time w/ Included Battery
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    170 mins
    Digital Still Camera Features
    Effective Pixel Count for Stills
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    ---
    Built-in Photo Flash
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    No
    Still Image Aspect Ratios
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    N/A
    Inputs and Outputs
    USB Port
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    USB 2.0 High Speed
    HDMI Output
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    Full size
    Mic Input
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    XLR x 2
    Dimensions
    Weight With Battery (ounces)
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    98
    Width (inches)
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    7
    Height (inches)
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    7-3/8
    Depth (inches)
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    14-1/4
    Warranty
    Parts Warranty
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    1 Year
    Labor Warranty
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    90 days
    Image Sensor Warranty
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    1 Year
    Product Research
    What's in the box?

    Download owner's manual

    • 4K camcorder
    • Lens hood (installed)
    • Rubber eyecup
    • NP-F970 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery (7.2V 6300 mAh 47.5Wh)
    • AC-VL1 Battery charger (DC Output: 8.4V 2A)
    • AC-NB12A AC adapter with 73" DC output cord (DC output: 12V 2.5A)
    • Two 79" AC cords
    • 59" HDMI cable (full-sized Type A HDMI connectors on each end)
    • 5' A/V connecting cable (stereo RCA and composite video plugs on both ends)
    • 62" USB cable (Type A USB on one end and Mini-B 2.0 USB on other end)
    • 32 GB XQD memory card (in plastic case)
    • Operating Guide (Eng)
    • Operating Guide (Fren)
    • Operating Guide (Span)
    • Operating Instructions for XQD Memory Card
    • Digital 4K Video Camera Recorder Licenses CD-ROM
    • Playback of Recorded Clips notice
    • Limited Warranty sheet
    • Product Registration sheet (US)
    • Product Registration sheet (Can)
    • Vegas Pro 12 Edit software promo sheet

    Our Product Research Team

    At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

    General Features
    Recording Features
    Battery Information
    Inputs and Outputs Notes
    Software

    General Features

    4K Digital Camcorder: The FDR-AX1 is Sony's first 4K/60p consumer camcorder. With four times the resolution of Full HD, you can record breathtaking video and audio with professional results. Ultra High Definition/4K content can be played back on a 4K TV in full resolution (3840 x 2160), or, by changing the HDMI output setting, in Full High Definition (1920 x 1080) on an HDTV.

    3.5" LCD Screen: The FDR-AX1 features a 16:9 wide-screen 3.5" Xtra Fine LCD monitor. The high resolution 1,229,000-dot LCD screen can swing out 180 degrees, and rotate up to 270 degrees for multiple viewing angles. The LCD provides sharp and detailed images for monitoring or playback. The screen automatically switches to Mirror mode when the screen is rotated 180 degrees (for self-recording), but the image will still be normal when recorded.

    0.45" Color Viewfinder: The FDR-AX1 also features an adjustable 0.45" wide-screen color LCD viewfinder (1,226,880 dots) that lets you record and review video and still images when the LCD display is closed or in Mirror mode. The angle of the viewfinder can be adjusted up to 90 degrees. A large rubber eyecup is included to help shut out excess light from the side and top.

    Dual XQD Card Slots: The AX1 features dual slots that will accept XQD memory cards. XQD memory cards have a write speed of up to 125 MB/s, which is approximately 25% faster than top-end Compact Flash cards. You can choose which memory card slot to be used for recording by pressing the A or B button next to the desired slot. A Relay Recording feature allows you to lengthen recording by automatically switching between the two memory cards. The camcorder is compatible with S-series, H-series, and N-series of XQD cards.

    Note: The camcorder has a slot for Memory Stick PRO Duo and SD memory cards, however, the slot is not yet functional. According to the Operating Guide, the slot will likely become functional with a future upgrade.

    Optics: The FDR-AX1 has a wide-angle G-Lens with a 20x optical zoom with a focal length of 4.1-82mm (35mm equivalent: 31.5-630mm). The maximum aperture range is F1.6-F3.4. The minimum focus distance is approximately 13/32" (1 cm) in wide angle and 31-1/2" (80 cm) in telephoto. A large lens hood with a louvered lens cover is included. The camcorder has a powered zoom mechanism with a zoom lever on the right side and another in the carry handle. The handle zoom switch can be set to one of 8 fixed speeds or variable zoom speed. Manually, you can zoom at the desired speed by turning the zoom ring around the lens. The lens also has a manual focus ring.

    Image Sensor: The camcorder has a 1/2.3", back-illuminated Exmor-R CMOS sensor with 18.9-million total pixels and 8.3-million effective pixels for video recording.

    Accessory Shoe: The AX1 has a top-mounted standard Accessory Shoe for mounting a self-powered video light or microphone. It does not supply power to the attached accessory.

    Recording Features

    Video Recording: The Sony FDR-AX1 4K camcorder records Ultra High Definition and High Definition in the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 XAVC S format. Audio is recorded in 2-channel Linear PCM (48 kHz, 16-bit). You can choose from the following recording format options:

    • UHD:
      • 3840 x 2160 / 60P (59.94P) / 150 Mbps
      • 3840 x 2160 / 30P (29.97P) / 100 Mbps
      • 3840 x 2160 / 30P (29.97P) / 60 Mbps
      • 3840 x 2160 / 24P (23.98P) / 100 Mbps
      • 3840 x 2160 / 24P (23.98P) / 60 Mbps
    • HD:
      • 1920 x 1080 / 60P (59.94P) / 50 Mbps
      • 1920 x 1080 / 30P (29.97P) / 50 Mbps
      • 1920 x 1080 / 24P (23.98P) / 50 Mbps

    Recording Time: The following table indicates the estimated amount of recording time in minutes for UHD and HD movies on a XQD memory card:

    XQD Memory Card 3840 x 2160 1920 x 1080
    60P
    150 Mbps
    30P 24P
    100 Mbps
    30P 24P
    60 Mbps
    60P 30P 24P
    50 Mbps
    32 GB 25 min 35 min 60 min 70 min
    64 GB 50 min 75 min 125 min 150 min

    Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization: The camcorder is equipped with SteadyShot image stabilization technology, compensating for camera shake, to give you smoother video when recording in low light or when zoomed in to a distant object. There are four SteadyShot settings: Hard, Standard, Soft, and Wide Conversion.

    Auto/Manual Focus: The Sony FDR-AX1 allows you to choose between Auto Focus or Manual Focus. To focus manually, you can set the focus switch to "manual" and rotate the focus ring around the lens. You can temporarily use auto focus temporarily, even in Manual mode, by pressing the Push Auto button. The Focus Magnifier function will magnify the center of the screen by approximately 2 times to allow you to confirm the focus. The minimum focus distance is about 1 cm (13/32 inch) for wide angle, and about 80 cm (2-5/8 feet) for telephoto.

    Exposure Modes: The FDR-AX1 gives you the option to set the exposure automatically or manually. When manual exposure is selected, the camcorder lets you adjust the following exposure elements:

    • Iris: You can manually open and close the iris to control the volume of light entering the lens by turning the iris ring on the lens. In the viewfinder/monitor, the F value is expressed between F1.6 and F11 or Close. You can change the operating direction of the iris control by selecting Normal (clockwise rotation darkens image) or Opposite (counter-clockwise rotation darkens image).
    • Shutter Speed: You can adjust the shutter speed in a range of 1/4 second through 1/9000 second. The selected shutter speed appears in the monitor.
    • Gain: When you don't want to use the AGC (automatic gain control), you can manually set the gain to High, Medium, or Low.

    Neutral Density Filters: The AX1 has three built-in ND (neutral density) filters for adjusting the amount of light entering the Image Sensor through the lens. Depending on the shooting conditions, you can choose to reduce the amount of light to 1/4 (1), 1/16 (2), or 1/64 (3) filters, or Off (no filter).

    White Balance Adjustment: You can adjust and fix the white balance according to the lighting conditions of the recording environment. You can store two white balance settings in Memory A and Memory B for later recall. Other white balance settings include:

    • Auto: The white balance is adjusted automatically.
    • Outdoor: The white balance is adjusted for the following conditions: Outdoors, night views, neon signs and fireworks, sunrise, sunsets, under daylight fluorescent lamps.
    • Indoor: The white balance is adjusted for the following conditions: Indoors, party scenes and studios where lighting conditions change quickly, and under the video lamps or incandescent-like color lamps.
    • Color Temp: The color temperature can be set between 2300K and 15000K.

    Paint Menu: The Paint Menu lets you adjust six functions (White, Offset White, Gamma, Detail, Skin Detail, and Matrix) to create expressive movie styling and cinematic looks.

    Assign Buttons: The AX1 lets you assign some functions to 7 designated assignable buttons. Functions such as Marker, Peaking, Focus Magnifier, Auto Exposure Level, SteadyShot, Color Bars, Rec Lamp (Front), Rec Lamp (Rear), and Thumbnail can be moved to one of the easily accessible Assign buttons.

    Audio Recording: The FDR-AX1 compliments the professional quality video recording with professional quality audio. A high-quality stereo microphone is built-in, however, you can add one or two external microphones if you desire. Dual XLR 3-pin audio jacks are provided for connecting external microphones. A built-in microphone holder allows you to mount an external microphone to the camcorder. Rubber isolators help prevent the pickup of mechanical noise from the camcorder.

    Audio Controls: The camcorder gives you numerous settings for recording audio. You can independently set the source of each audio channel to internal microphone or external input (the two XLR inputs). If external input is selected, you can set the input source to Line, Mic, or Mic+48V (with phantom power). The level of each input can be automatically or manually set (using rotary controls). If the internal microphone is selected, you can set the incoming audio signal to mono or stereo.

    Thumbnail Screens: The Sony FDR-AX1 displays thumbnail images for all recorded movies on the LCD monitor. The buttons for playback are conveniently located on top of the camcorder. You can select Memory Card A or B, and the playback type (UHD, HD). Each recording of the selected type are displayed with the date and time of the recording. Once the video begins playback, you can use the playback buttons to select the next/previous file, pause/play, stop, and fast reverse/fast forward.

    Battery Information

    InfoLithium Battery: This unit comes with an NP-F970 InfoLithium (Lithium-ion) battery (7.2V / 6300mAh minimum / 6600 mAh typical). The InfoLithium system exchanges data about its actual power consumption with the camcorder for a more accurate estimate of recording time available.

    Battery Life: The approximate recording and playback times for the supplied NP-F970 battery is as follows:

      Continuous Recording Typical Recording Playback Time
    4K (30P) HD (60P) 4K (30P) HD (60P) 4K (30P) HD (60P)
    LCD Screen 165 min 155 min 75 min 70 min 230 min 230 min
    Viewfinder 170 min 160 min 80 min 75 min 240 min 240 min
    Note: Typical recording time shows the time when you repeat recording start/stop, turning the power on/off and zooming.

    Charging: You can charge the NP-F970 battery using the supplied AC-VL1 battery charger. The charge lamp turns off when the battery has reached a Normal Charge (at approximately 6 hours and 5 minutes). To reach a full charge, you can continue charging the battery for another hour after the lamp turns off (7 hours and 5 minutes). This allows you to use the battery a little longer.

    Inputs and Outputs Notes

    Video Outputs: The Sony FDR-AX1 has the following video outputs:

    • A/V Out: RCA composite video output and stereo RCA audio jacks. A 5' A/V cable is supplied.
    • HDMI Output: Full-size HDMI jack to output video and audio to an HDMI-equipped TV. You can set the resolution of the output signal to 3840 x 2160P, 1920 x 1080P, 1920 x 1080i, or 1280 x 720P. A 59" HDMI cable is supplied.

    USB Port: The camcorder has a mini-B Version 2.0 Hi-Speed USB port for connecting to a PC via the supplied USB cable. Connecting the camcorder to a PC via USB allows you to download videos and still images from the inserted memory cards.

    Note: There is a Type A USB port that is not yet functional. According to the Operating Guide, the port will likely become functional with a future upgrade.

    Dual Microphone Inputs: The camcorder features two XLR microphone inputs for adding external microphone for advanced audio recording. These can also be used for line level audio signals if the input type is changed in the menu.

    Headphone Output: The camcorder features a 3.5mm minijack headphone output for connecting a pair of headphones for listening to audio/video playback. You can select the headphone audio source with a 3-way switch: Channel 1, Stereo Mix, Channel 2.

    DC In Jack: The DC In Jack is for use with the supplied AC-NB12A AC adapter and charger.

    Software

    PlayMemories Home: The Sony FDR-AX1 has no built-in software for importing images and video from the camcorder to your computer. Instead, the PlayMemories Home software can be downloaded directly to your computer via the Internet (URLs for Windows and Mac are provided in the supplied Operating Guide). With PlayMemories Home, you can:

    • Easily organize your videos and play them back instantly
    • Manage and play back content easily using Calendar View
    • Upload to online services simply and easily, including Facebook and YouTube

    Compatible Operating Systems: PlayMemories Home is compatible with the following Windows Operating Systems: Windows 8/8.1, Windows 7 (SP1), Windows Vista (SP2), Windows XP (SP3)(32-bit version), and Mac OS X 10.6-10.9.

     
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