Sony FDR-AX53 & HDR-AS50 Cameras!

AX53

Another big set of releases at CES regarding cameras that have a slow motion mode fro the consumer are the Sony Handycam and Action cam models that were refreshed.   The Sony FDR-AX53 is the most interesting of the two as it is probably the smallest and lightest Handycam from Sony that shoots 4k in a near professional quality level.

It offers so much for under 1k that it will pose some problems for other cameras in it’s segment.  It is not as advanced in the zoom department as the Panasonic WXF991 which can ramp zoom and focus on dolly motion but it does have a jack of all trades feel about it.

Sony FDR-AX53 Specs:

DIMENSIONS (W X H X D)
Approx. 2.87 x 3.17 x 6.56 in (including supplied battery)
WEIGHT Approx. 22.4 oz (including supplied battery)
SENSOR TYPE  1/ 2.5-inch ((7.20 mm) back-illuminated Exmor R® CMOS Sensor EFFECTIVE PIXELS (VIDEO)
Approx. 8.29 Megapixels (16:9) 1
EFFECTIVE PIXELS (STILL IMAGE)
Approx. 8.29 Megapixels (16:9)/Approx. 6.22 Megapixels (4:3)
APERTURE TYPE
F 2.0-3.8
OPTICAL ZOOM 20x
Balanced Optical SteadyShot™ with 5-axis Intelligent Active mode
VIEWFINDER TYPE
(0.24 in)/Color,  1 555 200 dots equivalent
SCREEN TYPE 3.0-inch (7.5 cm) Xtra Fine LCD display (921 600 dots) Wide (16:9) Tilt Swivel
SHUTTER SPEED
Auto Control Range (1/8(NTSC)/1/6(PAL)-1/10000), Standard (1/60(NTSC)/1/50(PAL)-1/10000), Manual Iris Control (1/30(NTSC)/1/25(PAL)-1/10000), Manual Shutter (1/8(NTSC)/1/6(PAL)-1/10000), Smooth Slow (1/250(NTSC)/1/215(PAL)-1/10000)
HIGH SPEED REC* Slowmo!
Yes (120p(NTSC) 100p(PAL) 1920 x 1080, 100 Mbps/60 Mbps)
TIME-LAPSE CAPTURE
Yes 6 (Shooting Interval (1/2/5/10/30/60 sec), Shooting number (1-999), Capture Image Size, (4K:L(8.3M;3840 x 2160)/HD:S(2.1M;1920 x 1080)), AE Mode (AE Lock/AE Tracking))
SELF-TIMER
Approx. 10 sec. (Still Image/Golf Shot)
FLASH COMPENSATION
Yes (3 steps)
COMPATIBLE RECORDING MEDIA
XAVC S 4K (100 Mbps): SDHC Memory Card (4 GB or over, UHS-I U3 or Higher)/SDXC Memory Card (UHS-I U3 or Higher), XAVC S 4K (60 Mbps)/XAVC S HD: SDHC Memory Card (4 GB or over, Class10 or Higher)/SDXC Memory Card (Class10 or Higher), AVCHD, Still: Memory Stick PRO Duo™ (Mark 2), Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo™, Memory Stick XC-HG Duo™, SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card (Class 4 or Higher)
RECORDING FORMAT (VIDEO)
XAVC S format:MPEG4-AVC/H.264, AVCHD format ver. 2.0 compatible:MPEG4-AVC/H.264, MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
RECORDING FORMAT (STILL IMAGE)
DCF Ver.2.0 compatible, Exif Ver. 2.3 compatible, MPF Baseline compatible
VIDEO RESOLUTION
XAVC S 4K: 3840 x 2160/30p(NTSC)/25p(PAL), 24p, XAVC S HD: 1920 x 1080/60p(NTSC)/50p(PAL), 30p(NTSC)/25p(PAL), 24p, AVCHD:1920 x 1080/60p(NTSC)/50p(PAL)(PS), 30p(NTSC)/25p(PAL)(FX,FH), 24p(FX,FH),60i(NTSC)/50i(PAL)(FX,FH), 1440 x 1080/60i(NTSC)/50i(PAL)(HQ,LP), MP4: 1280 x 720 30p(NTSC)/25p(PAL), MP4: 1280 x 720 30p
VIDEO RECORDING RATE (ABR / VBR)
XAVC S 4K: Approx.100 Mbps/Approx. 60 Mbps, XAVC S HD: Approx. 50 Mbps, AVCHD PS: Approx. 28 Mbps/FX: Approx. 24 Mbps/FH: Approx. 17 Mbps/HQ: Approx. 9 Mbps/LP: Approx. 5 Mbps
MICROPHONE
Built-in 5.1ch Zoom Microphone
AUDIO RECORDING FORMAT
XAVC S: MPEG-4 Linear PCM 2ch (48 kHz/16 bit), AVCHD: Dolby® Digital 5.1ch, Dolby® Digital 5.1Creator, Dolby® Digital 2ch Stereo, Dolby® Digital Stereo Creator, MP4: MPEG-4 AAC-LC 2ch
MIC LEVEL CONTROL
Yes (31 steps)
MY VOICE CANCELLING
Yes
AUTO WIND NOISE REDUCTION
Yes (On/Off)
SPEAKER
Monaural Speaker
INPUT AND OUTPUT TERMINALS
Accessory Shoe (Multi Interface shoe), HDMI (micro) Terminal, Remote (integrated into Multi/Micro USB Terminal) Terminal, Stereo Minijack
WI-FI®
Yes
NFC™
One-touch remote, One-touch sharing
SUPPLIED BATTERY
NP-FV70
AX53_2
HSC: It is clear that this Handycam is the most advanced in terms of features and apparent recording quality to ever be released by Sony in this price bracket MSRP $998. Everything in it seems to be in a class of it’s own from the sensor performance with 1.6x larger pixels to previous models to the 5 axis image stabilization. Notice the lack of a tilt-able eye cup viewfinder with a usable resolution like it is included in the Panasonic which might be a sore point of the Sony.  There is even a self timer mode for video which will let you get your Golf Shot in slow motion at the max of 120fps at 1080p and start recording 10 seconds later.  As to the validity of this being a Golfer’s camera it remains to be seen. You could always use the Wifi function to start the recording with 10 second delay and do your shot. 
It is kind of a let down that 4k is still limited to 30p maximum. It is time to start allowing cameras to record at 4k 48p and 60p for more fluid motion in the format.  Higher frame rates in 4k have a tendency to look better and avoid screen tearing and look much more fluid.  You will still need 24p for the cinema effect however higher frame rates are great for slowing down action.    It is still a remarkable device considering what it does but if you are looking for higher frame rates at 4k this is not your solution.   For 1080p 120fps is good but it is kind of a let down as well.  240fps for the 1080p format is becoming a more common feature for cameras and portable devices.  Sony in their own RX camera series seems to think 240fps and even higher frame rates are needed. The Handycam segment is limited in this regard.  It will be interesting to see what Panasonic can do in the segment or if they in fact have stagnated.

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AS50UW
The other announcement is the Sony HDR-AS50 Action Cam which is a lower end model to last years X1000V which beat the GoPro Hero 4 Black in resolution and stabilization. 
AS50 Specs:
  • 1080p60 XAVC S Video at 50 Mbps
  • 120 fps High-Framerate Capture in 720p
  • 1/2.3″ Exmor R Sensor with Bionz X
  • Burst and 4K Time-Lapse Photo Modes
  • Bluetooth for Remote Operation
  • Live Streaming via Ustream
  • Wide and Narrow Angle of View Modes
  • SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Stereo Microphone / Mono Speaker
  • Works with RM-LVR3 Live-View Remote
AS50
It is a low end action cam to compete directly with other segment offerings and for those who do not need 4k or higher frame rates at 1080p.   This camera will only deliver 120fps at 720p.  It is a good compromise with a price tag under $200 for the body only and about $259 with a waterproof case.  It will be interesting to see if Sony releases a X2000V or similar replacement with high end specs in the first half 2016.   
From what you can see in the demo video, the footage while distorted due to the super wide angle lens; does in fact offer a big jump in dynamic range and highlight retention compared to other cameras in the action rugged segment.  Sony is a leader in sensor technology especially for dynamic range and low light ability and it shows in these hardware releases.
Both cameras will be available some time in the first quarter of 2016 with February 21st as a possible date based on the pre order websites.


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6 thoughts on “Sony FDR-AX53 & HDR-AS50 Cameras!”

  1. The slow motion function of 100 fps at 60 Mbps should in theory give better image quality compared to my Panasonic V750 which does 100 fps at 28 Mbps. But then again I bought that camera 2 years ago and now its time for 200 fps or more.
    As Panasonic, Sony and Canon have announced their top 2016 models I wonder what more we can expect to see in the consumer electronics department this year in the field of slow motion.

    1. It will probably be less artifact prone and deliver better per pixel quality especially with the new sensor. However as you say stagnation at 120fps seems to be the norm. And with Panasonic being secretive about the slow motion features of their new camcorder which will probably only reach 60fps, there is not a lot of going forward in this space. Good observation regarding the frame rate!

  2. It’s difficult to compare the Panasonic 991’s slow motion with Sony’s AX-53’s because the Panasonic only talks about slow motion as something you achieve in-camera with one of their in-camera post processing techniques.

    1. It has been confirmed by a Panasonic Rep that the new 991 has 120fps and 240fps interpolated slow motion. Same as last year models no change there.

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