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LAS VEGAS -- Though it lacks the novelty of the FDR-AX100, the first 4K/UHD (2160p) camcorder with a 1-inch sensor, Sony's latest prosumer entry into that market makes up for it with more advanced optical image stabilization and a signficantly cheaper price. The Handycam FDR-AX33 has many of the same capabilities of its dropping-to-$1,700 sibling (£1,830/AU$2,500 pre- price drop), but in a smaller, package with a less expensive $1,000 buy-in. (UK and Australian pricing were not available at press time, but a direct conversion would be £652 or AU$1,235.)
The camcorder is smaller overall than both the AX100 and the 1-inch HD CX900, both which remain in the line. This stems in part from the smaller 20-megapixel 1/2.3-inch (7.8mm) sensor it uses, as well as some changes to the design; for instance, it uses a more compact combination of button mode selector and lens ring to control the manual features, more like the Panasonic X920 style rather than the typical Sony design. It also forgoes the big zoom rocker on the side of the camcorder in favor of a more consumery zoom switch on top.
Sony went with the smaller sensor on this model in order to incorporate its Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS) stabilization, first announced at CES 2012, which it couldn't manage with the larger sensor and lens -- at least for now.
At its best quality, it records UHD, aka QFHD, in 2160/30p or 24p at 100Mbps with the XAVC S codec to a UHS-I U3 or better SD card. More prosaic features include a 10X zoom 29.8-298mm f1.8-3.4 Zeiss lens, though sadly one of the features Sony considers a "step-up" to the AX100 is a built-in neutral density filter. It also has a smaller LCD -- 3-inch, 921,000 dot vs. 3.5-inch -- and a shorter lens than the 12x zoom on the AX100. The viewfinder is higher resolution, though.
It also gains the new features that Sony has rolled out for all its 2015 camcorders, most notably Multi Camera Control, which will allow you to control up to five cameras via Wi-Fi, and support for live streaming via Ustream.
The FDR-AX33 will be available in February.