Sony HDR-FX1: one year later

Sony HDR FX1Sony’s first HDV cam, the HDR-FX1, stirred the HD video production world with its introduction an year ago. In that time several new HDV camcorders came on the market (Sony Z1 and JVC GY-HD100U). Sony’s main competitors in the DV field both have announced their HD cams: Canon XL H1 and Panasonic HVX200.

So where does the Sony FX1 stand right now? Is it still a good buy or it’s worth to wait a little longer? I’ll answer these below.

Different shooters have different needs. In my recent post about HD cameras for guerilla filmmaking, the FX1 wins fair and square. What about other uses though?

Let’s look at FX1’s advantages:

  • Affordable (Canon XL H1’s price is almost 3 times higher)
  • 1080i support (actual chip is 1440×1080)
  • Vibrant video with some low light capabilities (3 lux)
  • Long battery life
  • Standard HDV (using MiniDV cassettes)

On the negative side we’ve got:

  • Fixed lens (albeit a good Carl Zeiss one)
  • No XLR inputs for audio
  • No true 24p

If your end-product stays on video (DVD) and you don’t need balanced audio, Sony FX1 offers the best value. Wedding and corporate videographers will have an easy time selling their services as well. The FX1 is black and sexy and although it’s not a shoulder cam (like JVC GY-HD100U or Canon XL H1), it does look professional.

On the other hand, if you need balanced audio and you hope to be able to transfer to film, it’s best to wait a bit. Here’s why:

Canon XL H1 has interchangeable lenses and supports Canon XL mount and full range of lenses. This will allow you the flexibility to simulate a “filmlook” more easily. For example, shooting with a tele lens to create a narrow depth of field.

Panasonic HVX200 is the only cam under $10,000 that supports variable speeds (including true 24p). If you’d like to create filmlike video with real slo-mo effects, this is the cam to get.

In short, the FX1 is best suited for videographers who acquire, edit, and distribute on video. Aspiring filmmakers will find the features limiting, but hey, you only pay a fraction of what others are paying so you can’t complain. If $3,000 is still too much for you, you could get Sony HC1 for less than $1,500 – it’s a more affordable, entry-level HDV camcorder.

Update: Sony released Sony FX7, a three-CMOS sensor camcorder that provides a “horizontal” alternative to the Sony FX1.