Three new 4K Sony handheld camcorders

Bam! In your face, Canon! Mere hours after the XF400/405 was launched (see our news item here), Sony have hit back with not one, not two but THREE of their own. But if you look at the specs, it could be that Canon’s got the better offering unless you’re very keen on slowmo or this newfangled HDR stuff.

The Sony kit is an update of both their excellent PXW-X70 compact handheld and their consumer version the AX100, to bring an all-new lineup: the FDR-AX700, the HXR-NX80 and the PXW-Z90. They’re all very, very similar with but with a few differences according to their target markets.

Sony PXW-Z90
Sony PXW-Z90

To cut the long story short, the Z90 is the top spec model with everything; the NX80 is similar but lacks 3G-SDI and WiFi and the AX700 is the same as the NX80 but lacks XLR inputs. There are also codec differences between the Z90 and the other two, the former using XAVC-L and the others XAVC-S; see their full spec sheets for the detailed info.

The first caveat is that even though they’re 4K, it’s only at 25/30 fps depending on where you are in the world. Canon takes the edge here, doing 50/50fps. C’mon, Sony, get your act together!

Unlike the X70, this time they all shoot 4K out of the box instead of it being a paid upgrade. Bitrate is only 100Mbps (Canon’s XF400 does 150) and it’s 8-bit 4:2:0. Fans of Sony will nod sagely at the news that there is still a paid upgrade available for the Z90 cam, to enable legacy broadcast codecs, the cheek of it.

The sensor in all three is a new one-inch stacked Exmor device with 1:1 pixel readout. They all support “an instant HDR workflow” using “Hybrid Log Gamme” according to Sony and boast a new hybrid autofocus system which can be controlled by a touchscreen and configured extensively.

The viewfinder and flip-out screen are new as well, with detailed OLED displays (VF: 2,359k pixels, screen: 1,555k pixels); the lens is disappointingly not wide at only 29mm (35mm equivalent – Canon take the win here at 25.5mm) and a 12x zoom (Canon wins again with 15x) though Sony once more bangs on about its “Clear Image Zoom” for an 18x digital enhancement in 4K or 24x in HD. We’re not fans.

Super-slow motion at reduced resolution up to 1,000 fps (PAL; 960 NTSC) is available as well as full HD slowmo at 100fps which is nice (120 NTSC). Sony is also claiming “less” rolling shutter distortion though we wait to see this in practice.

A seemingly trivial but very welcome feature is the return of the standard 2.5mm LANC controller jack. Hooray!

The cams should be released later this year and pricing will be around £3,370 (inc VAT) for the Z90, £2,800 for the NX80 and £1,800 for the AX700. Or you can, if you’re quick, get the older X70 model including the 4K upgrade, for a bargain £1,900 inc VAT.

Get the press release details and links to the individual camcorder pages here: We are really looking forward to getting one in to test, as we really liked the X70.

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