Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder (Black) Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐:halfstar:

sony

#1



To Buy Or Not Summary

:star::star::star::star::halfstar: by 295 customers
4.4 out of 5
  • Amazon Customer Reviews
    :star::star::star::star::emptystar: by 107 customers
    4.1 out of 5
  • Best Buy Customer Reviews
    :star::star::star::star::halfstar: by 174 customers
    4.6 out of 5
  • Walmart Customer Reviews
    :star::star::star::star::emptystar: by 14 customers
    4.1 out of 5

Features

  • 4K XAVC-S recording with 16.6MP, Exmor R sensor, B.O.SS stabilization
  • ZEISS lens(26.8mm) 20x optical zoom in 4K, 30x Clear Image Zoom in 4K
  • 3.0" LCD (Touch panel), EVF, Wi-Fi/NFC, manual ring, night shot, 4K Time-lapse capture
  • Buy
  • Don’t buy

0 voters


#2

Amazon Review by Kyle S. :star::star::star::star::emptystar:

111 people found the following review helpful

A great camcorder for recording family vacations and special events!

I purchased this camera to record a family vacation to Disney World. I practiced with it for about two weeks before the trip and I used that time to familiarize myself with the camera. During these two weeks I was disappointed. I wanted much more manual control of the video than it was giving me. With this camcorder, you are able to manually set shutter speed or iris ( which is the same thing as aperture for those of you who know about still cameras), but not both. Whichever of those two you don't set manually is adjusted automatically. Furthermore, the gain (similar to a camera's ISO setting) is not controllable. The best you can hope for on gain is to set a maximum gain amount above which the gain will not auto-adjust. So be aware that this camcorder has very limited manual control; it's mostly automatic.

That all said, I took this with me on vacation and overall I was pretty happy with it. In fact, it probably is better that I couldn’t mess with those settings because it would have distracted me from what I was recording, and no doubt I would have messed things up considerably on some shots. Usability of the camcorder I rate as good, not great, because of the difficulty with the small touch screen and menu structure.

Disclaimer: I still don’t have a 4k monitor or TV, so I haven’t seen the video in full blown 4k (3840 2160). I have seen the video on my Surface Pro 4 (2736x1824) which is higher than HD and the video does look very good on it.

One thing that bugs me is that when recording in the bright sun the shutter speed was often 1/250th of a second (or higher in many cases), and that gives the video an unnatural sharpness and judder that I don’t like. Normally you want the shutter speed to be twice the frames per second setting to get a natural looking blur. However, the advantage of the fast shutter speed is that you can pull out of the video very sharp images. I did this right as my wife was getting soaked on Kali River Rapids and it is an awesome still image!

Anyway, a built-in Neutral Density (ND) filter option would give this camera better (more natural blur) bright light performance. I wish it had one.

The manual ring can be assigned to several different functions: [Zoom] [Focus] [Exposure] [IRIS] [Shutter Speed] [AE Shift] or [White Balance Shift]. I did use the ring often in AE Shift mode. For example, when my daughter was meeting a character outside the background was very bright (over exposed) and the subjects were dark (under exposed). Well I don’t care about a blown out back ground, so I would enable the ring and dial up the AE Shift so that the subjects are brighter. The shift range is only -1 stop to +1 stop. This range was almost always enough; I wish it went to +/-2. (BTW, there is an Auto Back Light feature that I always had ON, but I couldn’t speak as to if it really did anything. It didn’t seem to be all that helpful.)

Bottom line: This is a great camcorder for anyone who desires a simple, 4k capable camcorder that doesn’t need to be told what to do. It is not a great camcorder for anyone who wants full manual control over settings. There are definitely more things I can list that I don’t like about the camcorder than things I like, but in almost every case the negative things are more or less small gripes. Overall the camera excels at what I needs to do and that is record great quality video.

Things I like:

  • Taking a photo during a video does not stop the video (like what happens on a DSLR camera).
  • The camera is small and lightweight.
  • Voice canceling does a good job muffling (not silencing) the camera man, though I never used it on the trip except to test it out. (This function was given a physical button; you may use it, I never did.)
  • I think the “logic” behind the auto exposure does what I would want it to do.
    That is, in bright conditions it appears that it tries to keep the shutter speed at twice the frame rate by adjusting aperture (or iris as it is referred to) until it can’t be adjusted further before adjusting to a faster shutter speed. But it will take the shutter speed to a very fast setting to keep a reasonable exposure in your recorded scene.
    In dark conditions is behaves similarly. The shutter speed will be set to twice the frame rate and the iris is opened fully, and then gain (similar to ISO) is adjusted up to the max allowable (perhaps set by you using Auto Gain Control). I never observed the shutter speed dropping to slower than twice the shutter speed. (By that I mean if recording at 30 fps, the shutter speed wasn’t ever slower than 1/60th of a second. This keeps the video from being too blurry when motion happens.)
  • The rotating/flip-out display is great. Lots of cameras have this now so no big deal here. It was easy to flip it around for selfie mode.
  • I didnt take many still photos with this camcorder, knowing that I can extract stills in post-production. But when I did it was nice to have the button right on top next to the zoom. Easy to press without missing a beat on the video recording duties.
  • The camcorder’s stabilization system is really amazing. I HATE shaky video and it was really minimized with the system in this camera. I’ve seen a some of criticism about this camcorder because of not having the Intelligent Active image stabilization available in 4k, but the Active mode works in 4k and that coupled with the physical vibration-reducing mounting of the lens within the camcorder body still does a really great job.
  • I only used the wifi capabilities once after my wife and daughter got soaked on Kali River Rapids they went to the bathroom to dry off and I had some time to kill so I used the in-camcorder editing to view the point where they got soaked, create a couple still images of the event, connect my phone to the camcorder, and transfer the stills to my phone. I then sent the stills out to friends and family. It was awesome. I only wish the 4k wasn’t limited to 30 fps, because this video would have been awesome in slow mo.

Things I don’t like:

  • The display is very glare prone and reflective. There is a normal and bright setting in the menu, and if your environment is bright you’ll want this to be in bright mode for sure. Changing between the two is a bit of a pain as you have to go deep into the menu to do it.
  • The display is small and it is hard to hit the right button on the screen. I very rarely used the three custom buttons you are allotted, partly for this reason. On several occasions I pressed the wrong one not the end of the world but something to keep in mind.
  • Interface is too difficult to navigate. Example: It takes 13 “taps” on the screen to turn the focus magnifier on or off.
  • The viewfinder only works when flip-out display is closed. And when it is closed you can’t change any settings other than the one setting assigned to the adjustment ring.
  • Viewfinder is difficult to use if the extended battery is used because the battery sticks out so far.
  • I only used the viewfinder one time, when I was on a dark ride and didn’t want light emanating from the flip-out display to distract from the experience for other riders.
  • When zoomed and medium-to-low light, auto focus had a really hard time (using firmware version 1.01). Even when using spot focus and touching the item it still would not focus on it. Had to totally reframe to get it to focus on what I wanted.
  • It is not easy to control basic settings like shutter speed, iris, or gain, and you can only choose one to manually control at a time. The other two will adjust automatically and there is nothing you can do to change that.
  • You have to initiate manual control of a setting (shutter speed or iris) to see what it is. Why is this not shown on the screen at all times? Very frustrating. The camera really should have an option for this info (along with gain) be shown on the display at all times.
  • No custom shooting modes. I would have loved to have the ability to define a custom mode for {4K, 30 FPS, 60 Mbit, 1/60 shutter speed} and another for {HD, 60 FPS, 1/120 shutter speed}.
  • The door/cover over the microphone line-in and micro USB port opened on me frequently without me intentionally doing it.
  • It takes several menu selections and few seconds to switch between 4k mode and HD (1080p) mode, and then an unnecessary tap on the OK button to dismiss the window telling me it completed switching modes. Seems like this should be easier to do.
  • I hate it that you have to have the battery in the camera to charge it. I bought extra batteries and a travel charger and that helped.
  • The lens is variable aperture from F/2.0 (wide) to F/3.9 (20x zoom). I wish it had a fixed aperture through the full zoom range. This is something to keep in mind when recording in low light especially, as more light will be available to the sensor at wide angle.
  • BIG GRIPE. I didn’t realize this until after returning home. Every time I formatted the card, file numbering reset at C0001. In the camera settings you can choose “Series” or “Reset”, and I had “Series” selected. I’d expect the number to just keep incrementing even after formatting the card, but that’s not what it does. Perhaps this is a bug in the firmware? Not sure. I had to download a file renaming utility to get these names straightened out - a real pain in the neck. (BTW, at the end of each day I copied the SD card contents to an external HDD using a card reader; I did NOT use the PlayMemories software or transfer directly from the camcorder using the USB cable. Also, I’m planning on doing all my editing using Adobe software, not the included PlayMemories from Sony.)

Be aware of the following:

  • If it is very bright out, the aperture (iris) will be closed down to F/11. Pretty much everything will be in focus. An ND filter on the front of the camera will be necessary if you want shots with a more open aperture so you can get those DSLR-like blurry backgrounds in bright light.
  • 5.1 sound only enabled when recording in AVCHD (read that to mean not 4k). For this reason I never used it. Didn’t even test it. Wasn’t interested in it at all. Sales gimmick?
  • Digital Image Zoom (250x) looks terrible. It’s bad, really bad.
  • Night shot mode is enabled by physical button on the camera, but the night shot light is enabled within the menu structure. The light does not have much range at all - only a few feet. The night shot mode has a physical button directly above the power button and is the same size and shape. I missed a shot by pressing the power button instead of the night shot button by mistake.
  • There is no neck strap provided. You will really want a strap of some kind. I used a Quick Release Sling Shoulder Neck Strap and it was AWESOME.
  • What the heck is Clear Image Zoom (CIZ)? I tried to figure this out and I will explain what I think. I think for this camera it means that the video that will be recorded is using slightly less area on the sensor than it normally would, and thus in order to maintain a 4k resolution some pixels in the final video are interpolated (in camera up-scaling). Essentially it is a type of digital zoom. The remaining portion of the sensor, the area around the edges of the recorded video, is then used to stabilize the image (reduce shake). Note that when Intelligent Active or Active steady shot are enabled that CIZ is enabled as well. My assumption is that with Intelligent Active, more edge area is used for stabilization and thus a smaller sensor area for actual recording, thus more pixel interpolation. Regardless, CIZ seems to do a good job. For my purposes I doubt I could ever tell if it was on or off.

Here were some usage tips I made for myself before the trip. You may find them helpful.

  1. In low light environment, shoot wide angle to take advantage of the F/2.0 aperture that lets in more light. Hopefully the gain will be lower and thus the video will not be as noisy.
  2. Use Low Lux setting for “must-capture” events in low light. The video will be very noisy so don’t use it if you don’t have to do so. Try night shot if it is very dark vs using the Low Lux mode.
  3. For the maximum field of view, use Standard Steady Shot or Off. Intelligent Active or Active will crop in on the image a significant amount.
  • NOTE: Steady shot will change the field of view quite a bit. It’s hard to quantify, but it’s like the difference between a 24 mm and a 30 mm focal length on a camera if that makes sense to you.
    Intelligent Active (clear image zoom will be enabled). Not available in 4k, I’m guessing that this is not available in 4k probably because it would look bad with all the interpolated pixels from CIZ.
    Active (clear image zoom will be enabled) - has the same field of view as Intelligent Active. This mode is available in 4k.
    Standard and Off. Both of these have the same FOV, which is wider than the other two options.
    When switching between 4k and HD the last used steady-shot setting for the resolution is retained.
  1. If it is very bright out, aperture will be closed down to F/11. Everything will be in focus. When it is dark the aperture will open up the full amount, you may want to consider turning on focus peeking if manually setting the focus.
  2. Steady shot doesn’t help small camera “movements”, only shake. Keep the camera as steady as possible and don’t expect steady shot to work miracles.
  3. If Intelligent Active or Active steady shot are not needed, use Standard steady shot. This will keep clear image zoom off. (Clear image zoom which adds pixels to the image.)

This ended up being way longer than I expected.

Amazon.com - Customer Reviews: Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder (Black)


#3

Walmart Review by DA753 :star::emptystar::emptystar::emptystar::emptystar:

Did not have tags when purchased.

This product came "new" in the box without tags or stickers. Second hand from manufacture is unacceptable.

Walmart.com - Customer Reviews: Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder (Black)


#4

Best Buy Review by BNme2016 :star::star::star::star::star:

Plays above its' pay grade....

Before making this purchase, I spent 6 months reviewing multiple brands and units. Haven't owned a camcorder in 25yrs, currently use my Nikon D810 with 20mm prime f1.8 and 24-70 f2.8 for the occasional 5-10 min video. That said to qualify that I have a high expectation of image clarity and color reproduction. Substandard equipment [within my budget] just won't do.

By sheer luck, I came across a comment someone made about seeing this at CES and found a video accordingly. After reviewing the specs and seeing the ‘‘bare minimum’’ posted video from this particular camcorder, decided to wait and look personally when it came out. Very glad I did…

Pro’s: In sunlight, 4K, this camcorder is absolutely PHENOMENAL. Color, clarity, depth of detail is simply beyond expectation. 1080P is slightly less when compared side by side, but still fantastic. You can pause a recording and see details in the image the look like a still photograph.
Daylight, indoors, 4K, still produced recordings above my personal expectations. Color is great, clarity [if you have your settings and focus tracking properly] still great.
Sound capture: Using only the internal mic, it’s not perfect but MUCH better than expected and for home/personal use I have no need for a shotgun mic [which is available] Depending on your settings it offers Stereo, in 4K, or 5.1 surround in lower resolution.
Low Light: wow, read the specs but really didn’t think it would be this good. Not studio grade, but for my experience and needs pretty close. Scenes filmed on the city street, at night, 4K, are clear and colorful even handheld.
In depth, real world, low light test: https://youtu.be/jA3TpopmSvw

Optical stabilization: Are you kidding me? 5 axis floating head you can see move? This thing records video in low light, 4K from a moving car you can easily use for home movies [or security footage] if desired. Stop the frame and you can read the road signs going down the highway…

B.O.S.S. in 1080P is even better when walking around, almost no movement.

Cons: Occasionally struggles a bit in low light moving from varying depth of field objects if it’s a dark subject and faster moving pan, but actually I don’t see the need for that [you can also bump the focus assist to correct or simply let the camera catch up]
Dropping the resolution to take advantage of 5.1 surround and additional image stabilization results in more noise [especially bare minimum lighting], but who wants that/those shots anyway.

Battery life with the supplied unit isn’t stellar [2-1/2 hrs +/-], better than the 90’s units though ~ I’d recommend buying a spare and an external charger as it’s only rechargeable using the cord when on the unit otherwise.

Summation: For the money, this unit easily performs above it’s level. I put it on par, perhaps better, with the more expensive AX100 for 700.00 less. Still well within my return period, have around 50hrs of recorded video used and have no buyers remorse. It’s a keeper.

Bestbuy.com - Customer Reviews: Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder (Black)


#5

thank you :+1:

Sony FDR-AX53 Super Stabilized 4K Video Camera Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAR2jqFK988