With a new sensor, lens and an updated microphone, it should be a different beast.
Boosting its role as an event-focused camcorder, Sony significantly upgrades on its top-of-the-line 4K consumer model, the AX33, with the new $1,000 (AU$1,400, £680) FDR-AX53. Though it looks similar to the older model, the AX53 incorporates a new lens, new sensor and new microphone -- pretty much the main elements which define video quality.
Sony has switched from a 1/2.3-inch 4:3 aspect-ratio sensor to a 1/2.5-inch 16:9 version; in previous models the camcorder cropped into the middle 8 megapixels for shooting video, which means smaller pixels subsetted from a higher-resolution sensor. The newer model uses the entire 8-megapixel sensor, which has larger pixels. The result is (according to Sony) much improved low-light video quality.
In addition to doubling the optical zoom range from 10x to 20x, Sony has changed the optical construction by introducing an advanced aspherical lens (which makes it smaller). It also uses a faster autofocus algorithm and a new five-directional microphone designed for less sound bouncing around the capsule.
New features include high-framerate recording to create slow-motion HD video and automatic 4K timelapse creation.
It's expected to ship in March.
The company also revealed two less interesting mainstream HD models. At $550 (AU$770, £375) the HDR-CX675 fills a hole in the current lineup as a -free version of the PJ670, with the same autofocus updates as the AX53's, improved Balanced Optical Steadyshot stabilization (5 axis) and time-lapse capture.
The $400 (AU$560, £270) HDR-CX455 has the more typical version of Sony's optical image stabilization. It's a -free version of last year's PJ410 with a slightly larger and higher-resolution LCD, 5.1-channel sound, a built-in lens cover, time-lapse and improved autofocus.
The latter two models will be available in February.