Sony FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera with 3.5-Inch LCD (Black) Review

Sony has always been the undisputed leader in the camcorder niche even back in the days when the Betamax format reigned supreme during the pre-digital era. When the video format changed to digital, the company maintained its edge releasing various models that reflect the latest in video technology of the times.

Sony FDR-AX100 is the brand’s offering for the 4K Ultra HD format, now the new gold standard for video technology. Unveiled by the company at the CES 2014, it is said to be the first consumer/low-end professional camcorder capable of capturing 4K videos.

The Sony FDR-AX100 is one of the most popular 4K camcorders today with a customer satisfaction rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars on the e-commerce site, Amazon. Check out this Sony FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera review to see if this is the camcorder you are looking for.

Sony FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera with 3.5-Inch LCD (Black): Overview

This is for you if: 

  • You are looking for a high-quality camcorder
  • You prefer an established and reputable brand
  • You are looking for a video recorder where you can change setting manually
  • You prefer a camcorder with optical zoom

It’s not for you if: 

  • You are looking for a camcorder at the lower end of the price range

Quick Summary

  • Sensor: 1.0” back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS Sensor with direct pixel read out
  • Video Format: XAVC-S (UHD/HD), AVCHD (HD)
  • Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 5.4 inches
  • Recording Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC card, Memory Stick PRO Duo/XC-HG Duo
  • LCD Monitor Size: 3.5” with 1920×480 resolution
  • Optical Zoom: 12x
  • Lens: 9.3-111.6mm f/2.8-4.5 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
  • Video Out: HDMI
  • Other Interface: Multi/Micro USB Terminal

Features and Specifications:  

  • 4K Ultra HD Video
  • Perhaps one of the reasons you have been researching about the Sony FDR-AX100 is because it is a 4K camcorder. Indeed, Sony has prominently displayed the 4K emblem on the gadget’s foldable side screen that it would be hard to miss even by casual observers.
  • The 4K name refers to the number of pixels on the horizontal side of the screen, which is roughly around four thousand. Actually, 4K or Ultra HD has 3840 by 2160 pixels or a total 8,294,400 pixels. For comparison, Full HD is only limited to 1920 vertical columns x 1080 horizontal rows of pixels which explains why the format is also known as 1080p.
  • The camcorder is capable of capturing the finest details thanks to its 3840 x 2160 resolution. The result? Sharper, clearer and more realistic pictures and videos. But remember that you will need to have a 4K screen to really enjoy the 4K experience.
sony fdr-ax100/b 4k
  • Zeiss® Vario-Sonnar® T* lens and 1.0-type Exmor R CMOS sensor 
  • The Sony FDR-AX100 is able to produce such vibrant and crisp pictures due to the combination of the Exmor R CMOS sensor with direct pixel read out and the Zeiss lens. The sensor’s light-receiving area is 4.9 times larger than most sensors found in other gadgets. This helps in noise reduction, greatly enhances the clarity of videos and images and also enables background defocusing when needed.
  • Meanwhile, the Zeiss 29 mm wide-angle lens is capable of 12x optical zoom as well as 24x Clear Image zoom. This zooming function is controlled by a rocker on the grip which is very easy to use. Adjusting image focus, on the other hand, can be done through its focus magnification feature and accessed via the LCD touchscreen.
  • Advanced BIONZ X™ image processing engine 
  • An image processing engine is a chip that processes raw image data from the sensor and converts it into the correct file format before the image or video is stored in a camcorder’s memory. It also carries the very important task of doing this task efficiently so that it could keep up with the incoming data from the sensor and won’t experience any bottlenecks.
  • With its ultra-fast processing speed, the advanced BIONZ X engine does its job very efficiently. In addition, it does additional tasks to enhance the images such as providing texture and depth, making photos more true-to-life and realistic.
  • Star
    This fast processing speed is what enables the camcorder to record videos up to 120 frames per second. The image processing engine also makes other features run without a hitch including its smooth yet sharp playbacks.
sony-fdr-ax100-features
  • Manual Adjustment Controls 
  • The Sony FDR-AX100 video camera with 3.5 inch LCD Black allows its owner to individually tinker with the camcorder’s iris, gain and shutter speed. Of course, the manually fine-tuning will get some people to get used to it. However, it is always a nice option to have, especially those who want the ultimate control over their camera’s output. For the more casual user, an automatic mode is always available.
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization with Active Mode 
  • These days, every decent camcorder should have some form of image stabilization option. Of course, the FDR-AX100 has the Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization with Intelligent Active Mode, enabling users to correct camera shake leaving no shots ruined by unintentional camera movement.
  • Versatile Video Output 
  • This Sony camcorder allows users to record Full HD movies in the XAVC S, AVCHD or MP4 HD formats. This makes it a very versatile gadget ideal for content creation.
  • Multiple Still Image Options 
  • Users of the FDR-AX100 are given the option of capturing high-quality still images at different resolution levels. The camcorder is capable of shooting 14.2 MP, 15 MP and 20 MP still images. Even if the gadget is currently recording a video, it can still be used to capture 4K 30p video and 2.1 MP images.

Advantages of the Sony FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera 

  • The large sensor delivers great quality videos and photos with less noise
  • With its manual option, it is ideal for users who want to customize their equipment’s settings
  • Crisp, clear and lifelike 4K video output
  • The camcorder has an optical zoom (12x)
  • Has built-in ND filters and an adjustable viewfinder

Disadvantages of the FDR-AX100/B 4K Video Camera 

Even the greatest of gadgets will inevitably have some things that can be improved on. Here are some of the drawbacks for this camcorder:

  • Freezes at times while changing frame rates and resolutions
  • A bit bulky
  • Simultaneously accessing the menu’s functions while using the focus button is tricky
  • It’s expensive compared to other camcorders

“Considering that we get 4K for less than 2K is awesome. Love the lens designed by Zeiss for Sony. Love the fact that you can go almost 100% manual with settings. Love the fact that it has a 3 level ND filter system built in. Have shot some pretty interesting goodies with this from tight macro shots to night shots (infra red) - as well as night shots of the moon. Unbelievable detail in the imagery. But I must forewarn you, you need to learn the manual settings to achieve such greatness. All auto isn't bad, but for those special shots, learn the manual settings. This camera produces way beyond consumer level and is definitely ‘pro-sumer’ class.” - Andreas Hohl, Amazon buyer.

Conclusion: 

If you are ready for your very first 4K camcorder, the Sony FDR-AX100 is one of the most versatile gadgets currently available on the market that could appease both casual and professional users. It is packed with features that even professionals would love such as its amazing lens, its large sensor, and the ability for manually adjusting its settings.

On the other hand, it is both handy enough and easy-to-use even for casual users. The perfect camcorder to buy if you intend to share its usage among a group of both professional and casual videographers.