A Review of the Sony 4K UHD Video Recording FDRAX33 Handycam Camcorder
After releasing last year’s FDR-AX100 4K camcorder, which was one absolutely superb piece of 4K video recording technology for the prosumer level, Sony has taken the idea of a budget-friendly 4K mini-camcorder to an even higher (or should we say lower, pricewise) level with their latest offering the FDR-AX33.
Last year’s AX100 was not only a remarkably loaded piece of 4K video recording technology, it also came at a price that was only considered a bit too expensive for the time, at $1,999. Well in this regard, the AX33 is an even bigger winner with a current retail price that sits just below the $1000 dollar line. In other words, this is a 4K handycam that has finally been built and priced to appeal to the completely mainstream market.
Despite its low price, the AX33 is also no slouch at all in the features and specs department. While it doesn’t come with the same powerful sensor as the AX100, the 33 does offer a number of unique features, a smaller, lighter body and also the distinction of being the first Sony 4K camcorders to come with what is arguably one of the most advanced image stabilization packages in the camera tech world.
Most importantly of all, the AX33 is a 4K handycam that just about anybody can pick up and love, video recording buff or not. Basically, it’s the 4K video equivalent of the average joe’s home use camcorder. However, despite this and its correspondingly mundane appearance, this little camcorder comes loaded up with some excellent video recording features and can even pull off some excellent still photo shooting.
The AX33’s ½.3 sensor chip is definitely not up to the standards of what we’ve seen in other cameras and camcorders, but it’s also far from being a little weakling and still allows for capture of some fairly wicked 4K, Full HD and HD video (among other resolutions).
Additionally, the lack of a large image sensor in the AX33 allowed Sony to free up some space for one absolutely superb image stabilization system in the form of the BOSS, which stands for Balanced Optical SteadyShot. This new technology is well ahead of what we saw in the more expensive AX100 and delivers absolutely fantastic results at keeping the AX33’s video solid even during 4K shooting or under some shaky conditions.
To finish some of the basic good features of the AX33 off, the camcorder also comes with solid connectivity in the form of NFC, WiFi and ports for both USB and MicroHDMI.
4.2 - 27 Reviews Yet
The AX33 is not what we’d call a professional-grade camcorder. It was definitely designed with the wider consumer market of light users in mind. This of course doesn’t mean that this is a weak 4K recording machine but it does present a few minor limitations on the overall specs of this excellent little machine.
For starters, the quality of this shooters CMOS sensor is less than stellar. At ½.3” it offers half the megapixels of its AX100 predecessor. On the other hand, for the sensor power that it does offer, the AX33 delivers remarkably solid photo stills and some excellent video in both Full HD and 4K UHD resolutions.
The only other flaw in the otherwise nearly perfect (for its class) AX33 that we could find is the lack of an internal memory. If you want to store your various photos and videos, you’ll have to buy yourself an external SD card in one of the accepted formats (see specs).
This is one mini-camcorder we absolutely recommend to anybody who wants to get started on 4K video recording or who simply wants a great camcorder without caring whether they’re shooting in 4K or HD resolution. Either way, the AX33 delivers excellent specs, spectacular 4K video and some very decent still photo functionality.
Camera Type: 4K UHD mini-camcorder
Video Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
Sensor Type: 1/2.3" CMOS sensor
Recording Formats: Still Images: JPEG Video: XAV-S, AVCHD, MP4,
Recording media: Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick Pro Duo (Mark 2), Memory Stick XC-HG Duo, SD/SDHC/SDXC
Zoom: Optical: 10x, Intelligent: 15x 4K, Intelligent: 20x (in HD), Digital: 120x
Display: LCD 3” Touchscreen
Connectivity: 1x HDMI D (Micro), 1x Multi-Terminal, 1x Headphone Out, 1x USB 2.0
3840 x 2160p / 30 fps (100 Mbps)
3840 x 2160p / 24 fps (100 Mbps)
3840 x 2160p / 30 fps (60 Mbps)
3840 x 2160p / 24 fps (60 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps (50 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 30 fps (50 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 24 fps (50 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 60 fps (28 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 30 fps (24 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 30 fps (17 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 24 fps (24 Mbps)
1920 x 1080p / 24 fps (17 Mbps)
1920 x 1080i / 60 fps (24 Mbps)
1920 x 1080i / 60 fps (17 Mbps)
1440 x 1080i / 60 fps (9 Mbps)
1440 x 1080i / 60 fps (5 Mbps)
1280 x 720p / 30 fps (3 Mbps)
Focal Length: 3.8 – 38 mm
Maximum Aperture: F/1.8 – F/3.4
JPEG: 20.6 Megapixel, 6048 x 3400 (16:9)
JPEG: 10.3 Megapixel, 4288 x 2408 (16:9)
JPEG: 8.3 Megapixel, 3840 x 2160 (16:9)
JPEG: 7.7 Megapixel, 3216 x 2408 (4:3)
JPEG: 2.1 Megapixel, 1920 x 1080 (16:9)
The Sony FDR-AX33 comes with your standard package of camera/camcorder accessories when bought as a stand-alone. These include: an NP-FV70 rechargeable battery pack, an AC-L200 AC adapter, an HMDI cable, a USB connection support cable and the added bonus of a BC-TRV travel charger. The AX33 also comes with a lens cap and a standard-issue 1 year warranty out of the box. Since this camcorder comes with its own built-in Zeiss zoom lens, that at least won’t be an extra expense before you can simply start shooting.
The single most notable highlight of the FRD-AX33 is definitely its BOSS image stabilizer system. By binding together the entire image viewing and processing stack, including the lens elements, sensor and motorize zoom, BOSS creates what is undoubtedly one absolutely fine piece of stabilization technology even at the highest possible zoom and at a maximal resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.
And speaking of the cameras video recording chops, this little shooter, despite its compact size, can pull out 4K ultra HD video at exactly the same frame rates as its bigger brother the AX100. While the sensor is half the size of the AX100’s, the overall 4K video quality and still image clarity produced by the camera’s 10X zoom 29.8-298mm f1.8-3.4 Zeiss lens is downright superb and all the more so for the price the AX33 is retailing for now. Other shooting resolutions include Full HD, 720p HD and SD at different frame rates.
Furthermore, the AX33 comes with some of the other new features that Sony has unrolled for all of its 2015 camcorders. These most notably include a Multi Camera Control that lets you control up to five different Sony cameras with the feature through their WiFi connectivity and feed their video streams live through Ustream.
We should also note that the overall size of the AX33 is an asset of this camcorder, at least in our view. Considering that it has been made for the home user market and for light semi-professional field use as well at a slight stretch, the AX33 is wonderfully proportioned with its 6.1 inch length, 3.1 inch height and weight of just 1.44 lbs with battery installed.
Finally, the Bionz X Image processor of the AX33 is the same as that found in many of Sony’s far more professional camcorders, including the much pricier AX100. The effect this processing technology creates on this camera’s final video and photo quality is notable and more than enough to leave most amateur and even pro users satisfied as far as basic recording needs go.
4.2 - 27 Reviews
The handling of the AX33 is a definite winner in this compact camcorder. With a body that’s designed to be held in one hand with the fingers inserted comfortably between the camcorder’s gripped right side and hand strap. The feel of the camcorder --given its exceptionally compact size and weight—is wonderfully smooth and easy on the wrists and arms with a construction that feels solid despite being entirely plastic.
Furthermore, the connectivity on the AX33 is as complete as you could want for a camcorder of this type. A mic input, 3.5mm headphone output, HDMI port and a USB mini-cable that’s stitched right into the exterior hand strap are all ready to be easily used for moving video or photos around to other devices quickly. Furthermore, the NP-VF70 battery that comes included with the AX33 can manage continuous shooting for roughly 1.5 hours.
As for the functionality of the BOSS image stabilization system, it’s incredible to see in action. Even if filming from a shaky surface or with unsteady hands, there simply isn’t any visible shake in the video being recorded, even with the zoom ramped up. And speaking of the camcorder’s 10x optical zoom, it’s beautifully fast, with reaction to inward or outward focus happening at seemingly instant speed.
Simply put, the quality of the AX33’s 4K video is superb while delivering decent photo still quality.
Starting with video recording quality, the overall result that the A33 creates is one of near perfection. The 4K UHD video made by the camera looks spectacularly crisp, clear and vibrant, with a notable difference from what you’d get while shooting in even optimal HD video resolutions. The BOSS system works particularly well during video recording in whichever resolution when it comes to sweeping panoramic shots or constant walking movement while sweeping the lens across the surrounding landscape. There is virtually no judder on the resulting video and this only serves to make the quality of the footage look that much better.
This camcorder also automatically focuses in on faces, and smiles while also automatically adjusting white balance and exposure in Auto mode, depending on levels of ambient light. Basically, when you’re trying to capture the best possible 4K video you can with this camcorder despite a lack of experience in videography, the machine itself does everything it can to help you out.
Colors in the native 4K and HD video render with beautiful levels of color and the only complaint we have in this department is that the AX33 actually slightly exaggerates the vibrancy of what could be more realistic colors. Thus, the video produced can come with almost overly vibrant blues, reds, greens or any other colors that stand out in general. However, this effect is only slight and doesn’t get exaggerated to anything we’d call really overdone.
Finally, video quality with the AX33 stays remarkably clean even in low lighting conditions, which is useful for filming darker indoor events or twilight footage in nature settings.
The FDR-AX33 4K camcorder is one very affordable piece of video recording technology when you consider all the features it offers and the simplicity with which it delivers them. Its current retail price on Amazon.com is $948.00.
4.2 - 27 Reviews
Honestly, for its price and target market, the FDR-AX33 is nearly a perfect 4K/HD camcorder. Its specs and the video quality they deliver are superb. Our only minor complaints would be that this device offers a weaker ½.3 inch CMOS sensor for some somewhat weak still imagery and that it lacks an internal memory.
• Excellent price
• Absolutely superb BOSS image stabilization
• Zoom during 4K playback
• Tiltable OLED viewfinder
• Excellent color rendering
• Great price
• Easy to use
• No internal memory
• Weak CMOS sensor
• Very slight oversaturation of some colors in video