It's been a while since the camcorder broke out of the narrow confines of family celebrations to embrace extreme photography, GoPro style. But Sony's newest videocams now target a mélange of specific shooting situations and styles to capture shooters' creative aspirations.
With a variety of discrete users in mind, Sony is re-enivisioning the camcorder in a quest to infuse fresh life into this category and make it attractive to people who "grew up" shooting video with their smartphones or got comfortable shooting video with their DSLRs. With consumer HD camcorders under pressure, Sony has come up with several high-concept models that it hopes will fulfill unmet needs and inspire new kinds of creativity. All were announced at the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin.
Ever tried to record a musical performance with a consumer camcorder? Sometimes it's not too bad, but the audio almost always seems to be missing that magic. Sony is keying into a solution for that problem with the new HDR-MV1 Music Video Recorder, a new concept in the camcorder space. Sony believes it's in a unique position to address these issues based on its expertise in both audio and imaging technologies. But in this case, the company takes the concept a step further by fusing that technology into the social media realm.
Sony envisions musicians using this 6-ounce, 4.6 x 2.9 x 1.1-inch camcorder to record themselves in practice, rehearsal, and live performance, and then upload and share the results online in CD audio quality. Built-in Wi-Fi works with Sony's PlayMemories Mobile app to let users control the camera with compatible devices for start/stop recording and movie/audio mode selection and then to share their work to smartphones or tablets. NFC support offers one-touch connection with compatible Android devices.
This HD camcorder, which has a 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor, records at an image-stabilized 1080/30p. It features uncompressed Linear PCM recording technology (as well as internet-oriented AAC) and a high-performance stereo mic recording at 16 bit, 48 KHz. This is the first time Linear PCM has appeared in a consumer product, according to Sony--it's generally used for pro broadcast capture. You can connect external microphones or instruments to the camcorder and a built-in speaker lets users check recordings.
Sony has packaged this model with a 120-degree Carl Zeiss wide-angle lens and thrown in Wi-Fi and NFC networking, allowing both remote control by a smartphone (there's no viewfinder) and sharing with an audience via Sony's PlayMemories mobile app for both iOS and Android. Other musical niceties include audio lip sync for matching music-video playback, a 2.7-inch color LCD, and audio level controls.
The HDR-MV1 Music Video Recorder will be available in November for $300.
4K in consumer hands
It wasn't so long ago that 4K video was the exclusive preserve of professional motion picture videographers with a product designed to be viewed on the big screen. But after three years of development, Sony is introducing the FDR-AX1 4K Handycam for TV-oriented personal content, at a price tag about half the going rate of Sony 4K pro models.
Going after adventurous enthusiasts, early adopters, people with more money than they know what to do with, and maybe even wedding photographers, this high-end hardware anticipates that in the near future, 4K TVs will be brisk sellers. The output from this camcorder, which is in the new XAVC S format, is tailor-made for 4K TV: XAVC S can support 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) up to 60 fps. The format allows longer recording times, storing almost two hours of 4K video on a 64GB QXD memory card.
This 4K camera takes the 1920 x 1080 resolution of HD and multiplies it by 4, rendering image quality that's dramatically more engaging as a result of smaller pixels. Like the new music camcorder, it uses Linear PCM audio, but also features image stabilization, and 20x optical zoom with an f/1.6-f/3.4 aperture on the Sony G Lens. Aside from 4K/60p, it also records in 2K and Full HD with its 1/2.3 CMOS sensor.
Despite the friendly, consumer orientation of this 6-pound little beast, there are still challenges, Sony warns, including the limited number of 4K displays currently available, and the CPU horsepower required to handle the large data stream. It's not surprising that release of this model is imminent. Sony previewed a version of it at CES earlier this year.
The Sony Handycam FDR-AX1 will be available in November for $4500.
Sony's HDR-AS30V Action Cam, a 16-megapixel "point-of-view" video camera with a 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor for fast motion, is actually this line's third iteration. It shoots full HD, 1080/60p video with a 170-degree viewing angle, offers image stabilization (for a 120-degree viewing angle), and a new capability for 12-megapixel still images. The design promotes increased wearability and weather resistance, not to mention a wealth of mounting accessories.
The Action Cam is is not about capturing family-oriented precious moments--it's about you capturing you doing cool stuff. Because this camcorder will likely be mounted on a helmet, motorcycle, car, or bike, it's weatherproof and waterproof up to 16.4 feet (5 meters). It weighs about 3.2 ounces, sporting a slim, streamlined design with audio pickup. You can control the camera with an external controller without removing it from the case. It leverages Wi-Fi capability for the new Live View remote control at a distance--though Wi-Fi doesn't work underwater. The Action Cam offers one-touch NFC sharing (in still image mode), which works seamlessly with Android, or peer-to-peer Wi-Fi sharing for iOS.
New mounting attachments include a Chest Mount Harness, Roll Bar Mount, and Universal Head Mount Kit.
GPS is part of the whole extreme sports narrative--athletes want to document where, when, and how fast they accomplished their acrobatic feats. Thus, speed and other GPS data is included in the video playback.
Transfer footage to a computer via Wi-Fi then use Sony's free PlayMemories Home application to edit and post files to social networks. With the Action Cam's GPS data, the program's Map View displays location and trail information. Multi View reads speed information and creates a speedometer overlay. Two-Screen Multi View combines two different video files captured simultaneously with two different cameras into a single view.
The HDR-AS30V Action Cam will available in early October for $300; the Live View Remote will be available in December for $150. A bundle containing the camera, live view remote, and waterproof housing will be $400.