Guest Post By: James Williams/Raven's Feather Studio & Froglips Productions (Alaska)
Published: Sept 2020
I recently ordered a brand new Sony FDR AX53 camcorder. So recently in fact that at the time I am writing this the camcorder hasn't even arrived as yet. It's supposed to arrive tomorrow. I can't wait.
I'm sharing this because I know that there are plenty of video enthusiasts who want to dive into and start filming documentary style films.
However, like so many of you my finances and ability to buy a decent video camera is very limited. I am actually accustomed to using and filming with higher end professional video cameras.
To be clear, there is difference between a video camera and a camcorder.
Although both do essentially the same thing, a video camera is decidedly more advanced than even the professional video camcorders on the market.
I've used both pro camcorders and pro cameras.
The biggest and most distinct difference between a camcorder and a video camera is the lens.
Lenses on all professional video cameras are removable and interchangeable. This gives a far greater dynamic range of choices in filmmaking that aren't necessarily available with camcorders.
All camcorders have a permanently attached lens that cannot be swapped out. This limits some of the dynamics and versatility of whichever camcorder you might want to use.
To that end, I ordered a brand new Sony FDR AX53 camcorder. It films in full 4K resolution but can also film in ultraHD, Full HD and Standard HD resolution.
It also offers the most advanced image stabilization feature on any camcorder or video camera on the market.
The camera actually has a physical gimbal called the "Boss," or the "Balanced Optical SteadyShot" system. It has a 5 axis stabilizing system that does wonders when shooting handheld.
Personally, I am no fan of handheld filming. It looks amateurish at best. But this Sony offers some of the best handheld filmmaking anywhere on the market.
I've done some very extensive research on this unit for many reasons. First and foremost, I don't have a whole lot of money to invest in a high end professional model. I'm retired and live on a fixed and limited income.
So after more than 3 years of study, watching the market and keeping an eye on products coming out, I finally decided to lower my expectations standards and settled on the Sony FDR AX53. But only after doing very extensive research on it.
It doesn't have all the professional features that I'm accustomed to using. But it's an overall decent camera and comes in at less than $1000.00. (I paid $849.00 plus tax)
I am excited and can't wait for it to arrive.
So far the videos that I've seen filmed with this little unit are pretty spectacular. The color saturation is gorgeous and true.
It offers great skin tone and there really should not be much need for color correcting in post. Color grading yes, but most of the colors should do fine on their own.
I am looking forward to the arrival of my new camcorder. When I do, I have some specific goals in mind for a new documentary video.
I do have a brief update and my impression about my camcorder.
Firstly, I received it yesterday Sept. 03, 2020.
After charging the battery, my wife and I drove to Bishop's Beach in Homer Alaska.
She went beach combing and I spent time familiarizing myself with the camcorder unit.
It shoots beautiful footage. But I gotta say it though. The onboard microphone is pretty much garbage, especially when shooting outdoors in windy conditions. It just sounds bad.
The image stabilizer on the Sony Ax53 is phenomenal.
I did quite a lot of study, learning and researching about the different available video camcorders and video cameras on the market. There really isn't any available that provides better image stabilization than this unit.
The AX33 and AX43 have an image stabilizer, but it isn't as advanced nor as effective as the one on the AX53.
For a consumer grade (not prosumer or pro) it's a wholly remarkable video camera.
I still have much to learn about it.
I am taking the video camcorder out of shooting in full 4k resolution. I don't need videos in 4K, and I have no display or computer that can render and process them. Most people would be very hard pressed to tell the difference between a 4K video and a 1080P or 1080I video.
The big drawbacks about this unit are the manual controls. You can only disable one automatic feature at a time. And whenever you do, any other feature you had on manual settings automatically default back to full auto.
You can control the aperture and shutter speeds, but here again it's only one at a time. It's pretty much one or the other, but not all at once. The shortcomings of a consumer grade camcorder.
Below: Footage of Bishop's Beach in Homer, Alaska shot on the Sony FDR AX53.
Despite, or in spite of its shortcomings, overall it is a gorgeous little unit.
It feels solid in your hands and seems very well built. The quality of sony cameras and product fits. The little unit that fits in the palm of my hand has a very good feel and very good weight. It balances beautifully...
But the controls are a bit fiddly and small for my huge hands. If anyone wants a good "run and gun" video camcorder for vlogging or just filming and don't want to mess around with manual shooting, this is an excellent choice.
If users and owners just takes the camera and uses it in full auto mode the results will be very pleasing. The camcorder shoots gorgeous, high definition and broadcast quality imaging.
I am ordering a cold shoe adapter so I can attach my Zoom H4N digital recorder to the camera while filming. This way I can gather audio and video at the same time.
I'll use my production slate to mark the audio and video footage to sync them during post production if need be...
The Zoom H4N audio recorder provides superior audio than the Sony's onboard microphone. In spite of all of its hype, the onboard mics don't add up or live up to its claim. A decent and separate audio recorder should always be the best option for filmmaking of any kind.
In conclusion, overall I'm happy with the new camcorder, but not jumping up and down for joy.
It is what it is.
I can work around the audio and I know how to do edits so that when playing back a video you'd never be able to tell if the audio was dubbed in or original to the video. Of course I would love to have all of the manual controls that I'm accustomed to using.
But all in all I am happy with my choice and purchase.
James M. Williams Jr.
Owner: Raven's Feather Studio & Froglips Productions (Alaska)
Share below your feedback and thoughts about this camera/review.