I've never owned a camcorder before and have always relied on my increasingly proficient smartphone to capture video of the moments that mattered. Now I can see though, on reviewing the FDR-AX700, camcorders are in a completely different class.
Upon arrival I gave the camera the recommended full charge which took around 3 hours. In use the battery has been lasting, after this full charge, for 5 hours of normal use which is excellent. Extra batteries are available for purchase if you need to be recording for longer.
The camcorder needs a, to be bought separately and not included, SD card or a memory stick pro duo card to record onto. Yes, it is annoying to have to purchase this as well, but I find that to be fairly common practice with technology these days.
In use the camcorder displays what it is seeing on a really sharp 3.5 inch screen and onto a pin sharp electronic viewfinder. Both are clear, bright and display all of the needed information. There is a built in microphone housed at the top of the camcorder which I've found to be excellent, especially the built in wind filter which really does cut out the annoying rumble produced by a breeze.
Most importantly though, picture wise, the AX700 is outstanding. Format wise the device records in AVCHD, XAVC S 4K and XAVC S HD formats and it can also take still pictures which are captured in .jpg format. There are a host of modes including night mode, but being the amateur I am, I put the camcorder in automatic mode and had excellent results throughout. The recording is image stabilised which means a very steady take, and there's a superb zoom thumb wheel positioned exactly where you'd want it to be, which gives an optical zoom of 12x. So, without a tripod even, the camcorder produces steady, sharp image, even when at full zoom. Excellent. Of course, the camcorder records 4k video but it can also be stepped down to various lower resolutions too, including 1080p for those of us without 4k equipment. Colours are accurate, skin tone is very natural and motion is captured beautifully. Everything captured has a very professional sheen to it, even in auto mode.
There are also a couple of other nifty features that are worth concluding this review with. Firstly, the camera can be controlled using an app on your smartphone and this can also be used to view the images in playback. Really handy. The camera also has built in wi-fi which is a nice and speedy way to playback and transfer what you've captured.
All in all then, whether you be a professional or a total amateur like me, the FDR-AX700 is a superb camcorder with a host of features and, most importantly, crystal clear recorded video, picture and audio.
The FDR-AX700 is a 4K HDR camcorder aimed at serious amateurs who already shoot videos and, I would suspect, people like me who use stills cameras. The manual functions are a nod towards professional video, but it can be set to automatic. Video file formats are: XAVC S 4K, XAVC S HD and, AVCHD; photo mode is .jpeg. There are two slots for recording media – SD card or Memory Stick PRO Duo – for recording simultaneously or sequentially.
The 12x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation outputs to a 3.5 inch 1555k dot LCD touch screen and an OLED electronic viewfinder. A large rocker switch close to the hand grip controls the power zoom. Phase detection AF is selectable for speed of change, width/depth and, whether it locks on to a subject or not. Three levels of integral neutral density filters can be selected when required. Whilst some features are selected or adjusted manually, the majority are shown on the touch screen and selected with a button that operates like a joystick to the right of the viewfinder. An integral stereo microphone is housed below a perforated panel in the top of the body behind the lens, with the sound level displayed in the touch screen. A wind filter is switchable. For hand-held work it fits nicely in the hand and the image stabilisation works well including at full telephoto.
This review is work in progress. I videoed a parade in 4K, hand-held with image stabilisation on active, auto focus set wide, AF drive speed on 5, AF depth and subject both set to 3, picture profile set to 1, face detection on. Impressive focus during panning, skin colour was better than with my Panasonic DMC-G7 with X Vario lens and, the audio was not overpowered by a loud peel of Cathedral bells. I've attached a frame grab without enhancement to demonstrate definition - the stone carvings on the right hand arch - using the Sony free download of PlayMemories. I've also used photo mode in a nature reserve where I needed wide angle shots, switching to picture profile 2. The jpegs varied between 4MB and 8MB, with the 5024 x 2824 image showing excellent depth of field and definition. I will be trying the slow motion and remote control to assess my rowing action on a Concept 2 in due course and, if I were still running, it would be great to set up behind a treadmill to record foot strike.
Why buy this expensive Camcorder when phones and DSLRs can take 4K videos? It’s really down to how you will use it. I was the subject of a video by production company NiceBiscuits who were using high end professional video equipment and later in the year, a short videoed interview by HealthUnlocked where they used a DSLR. The difference for my non-photogenic face was chalk and cheese. I intend to use the Camcorder to produce a video of the nature volunteer group that I work with from September to March, so it will be properly tested.
Update 24 January 2018 I was just about to bid on eBay for an excellent macro lens for my stills camera when I checked the specification for the camcorder. It focusses down to 10mm in wide angle and, pulling back slightly zooming in is bigger than 1 : 1. No need to buy the macro lens as the camcorder takes good photos. i was also going to buy a Rode microphone but outputting the camcorder internal microphones to Audacity is good enough for voice over. This is a great camcorder.
This is a really impressive bit of kit. It is fully featured and has all the available bells and whistles that a professional grade camera should have.
The picture quality is excellent (even at non 4k resolution) and it captured everything I threw at it with great ease!
Battery life is OK at around 5-6 hours on a 3 hour charge.
I haven't tested the 4k capture as I don't have a 4k device to play it back on but on 1080p it works a charm. You can also use your smartphone as a remote and playback device which is really cool.
I was a little disappointed that you can't use this straight our the box though as you need a smart card to record onto and this isn't supplied. At this price I would have hoped that a card would be included and its a real shame that one couldn't be included.
Good quality once you have all that is needed to operate it though!