Sony A7s or AX100, perhaps the PXW-X70?

DSC_0034-300x168 Sony A7s or AX100, perhaps the PXW-X70?
Schneider Xenon 50mm FF lens on the Sony A7s

As an owner of both the A7s and AX100 and as someone that has shot with the PXW-X70, if I had to choose one which would it be? That’s tough because although they really are very different cameras they both have strengths that are nice to have. The A7s produces a prettier picture and can be used run and gun, with limitations. I use the kit 28-70mm f3.5-f5.6 and it works well, good auto focus, smooth aperture changes etc. BUT and it is a very big BUT you need a really good set of ND’s or a strong ND fader to use it outdoors due to the extreme sensitivity. Add to that the minimal 3x zoom and it’s pretty restrictive as to what you can shoot without switching lenses and fiddling around. Sure you can add something like the new Tamron 16-300mm f3.5-f6.3 but the autofocus tends to hunt a lot more, manual focus is fiddly and you still need to mess around with ND’s. I think you need to be a fairly competent cameraman and need to be very careful over lens choices etc to use the A7s for run and gun successfully. Plus don’t forget the cost of all the extra lenses, filters etc adds up and makes the kit bulkier.

DSC09308-300x199 Sony A7s or AX100, perhaps the PXW-X70?
The new Sony PXW-X70 XDCAM camcorder, the pro version of the AX100.

The AX100 (or PXW-X70) on the other hand really is a grab and go camera. Easy to use, great zoom range, built in ND’s. It’s quick and easy to use and may get you shots that you will miss with the A7s. But the pictures are not as pretty, primarily they lack the dynamic range of the A7s. But they are very easy to use, so well suited to those that are full auto shooters or rely heavily on auto functions to keep life simple. The X70 has much better ergonomics than the AX100 but is a bit more expensive. Both are very compact packages and as you don’t need to buy extra lenses or filters work out substantially cheaper than an A7s kit with a set of lenses to cover the same focal lengths at reasonable apertures.

Anyway, if I had to give up one of mine (A7s or AX100), for me it would be the AX100 that would go. I would be prepared to sacrifice the ease of use of the AX100 for the better images from the A7s. But I normally shoot manually anyway. I’m used to swapping lenses, working with ND filters etc. If you not used to shooting manually then the AX100 may be the better choice. Great images are of course important, but the best camera to own is a camera you will use. It’s all very well having fancy pictures and the ability to swap lenses etc. But if fiddling around means you don’t use it very often, then there is no point in having it. You would be better off with a camera that you will be comfortable with, that you will use regularly.

26 thoughts on “Sony A7s or AX100, perhaps the PXW-X70?”

  1. A7s – great quality especially in low light, but no sound, no image stabilization, no ND. Cost without lens about as much as PXW -X70. When rigged with reasonable zoom, sound etc, bigger and heavier and scary looking. Pxw-x70(better ergonomics and codec then ax100) – compact, handle off -looks like regular camcorder(playing stupid tourist) plus good lens, everything what A7s doesn’t have(see above), 4k in the future(personally don’t care much). Image quality of course not as good, DOF, and low light performance can’t be compared(full frame vs 1″), but since most of our stuff goes to internet… XAVC good in post. Just my 2 cents… BKS

    1. Sorry, but with an IS lens A7s does have image stabilisation. It has sound, built in mics, 3.5mm jack or dual XLR with phantom power via a hotshoe adapter. ND is an issue, but there are Canon EF adapters with variable ND built in now.

  2. Hi Alister,

    I have found your articles extremely useful, especially this one. Thanks for sharing.

    How would you rate the frame grabs from the A7S’s HD footage? I am hoping that they are superior to frame grabs from Sony EX-1R or Canon 5D footage since there is no line skipping for the sensor. Some of my clients ask for stills from the EX footage to use in newsletters or on the web. They’ve been happy with what I give them but I would like better-quality stills from frame grabs.

    1. The HD frame grabs normally look pretty good. The lack of noise really helps and they do tend to have a more photo type look.

  3. Hey Alister. Loved your review of the Slr Magic Anamorphot. Would love to hear your thoughts and see some footage of it on that Nikon 50 on the A7s. Thinking of running that setup. Cheers.

  4. Alister, with a GH4, I have my LSS bases covered but I was considering the X70 so that I have a standard video camera in my bag. What are your thoughts about matching colorimetry between the two. I assume the X70’s 10 bit 4:2:2 should make it easier to push color one way or the other.

    Your thoughts.

  5. Always a good post Alister – thanks. DSLR/DSLM, pretty highlights and milky DOF gotta love that. The X70 does however seem like a good “video camera” compromise with that large sensor and 10 bit color space. Having the option of a proper video camera in the bag is very attractive.
    Alister, regarding colorometry matching with my GH4 and the X70, I’M assuming that the 10bit 422 color space on the X70 will make it easier to push things one way or the other in post … your thoughts?

  6. Hi Mr Chapman

    Great review of the X70, can you share some source videos of your tests, YouTube is too compressed to appreciate quality…

    I often rent NX5 and ex1 for webcasting, often in low light conditions, do you think i can get better results (less noise) with X70?

    Thanks, Daniel

  7. Hello Allister, I would like and appreciate your opinion and info about FE mount to FZ mount possibility.
    I´m FZ F3 owner, it will possible to develop a passive adapter to mount 28-135 FE FF lens onto FZ cameras?
    I asked same question to Jon Fauer from FDTimes, and he said: Sony E mount has 18mm flange depth. FZ mount is 19mm. If someone can machine a custom FZ to E adapter — that would be nice!
    And Jacek from Optitek in CA said:
    Sorry but if Jon thinks it’s so easy he should make one. We will not.
    many thanks for your blog and info

  8. Allister – I watched your tutorial for XA100, especially the sequense about the SPOT METER/FOCUS-function. I thought it would work the same way on the PXW-X70. But what ever settings I choose, this function is greyed out/inactive.
    What to do…?

    1. I don’t have the camera on hand to check, but I think you need to set it to full auto for these functions to work.

  9. Hey!

    You make me wounder, are X70 and AX100 so similar? 10 bit most give the X70 effort
    in lowlight. And a better look.
    So A7S work well in autofocus mode. Interesting!

  10. Hi
    I own NX5
    Thinking of buying X70
    How do you compare X70 footage with PXW-X200 in low light situation like Wedding or Reception?

  11. Thanks for this Alister – really informative. Just wondered what your gut feeling is concerning how the X70 might be perceived by broadcasters. We have a roadtrip style documentary coming up and this would be ideal in all sorts of ways. I would see it as the main camera on the road with interview ‘at home’ recorded on broadcast XDCam, so probably 80% the small camera. When I see so many programmes made up of stuff from emergency services and CCTC footage, my thought is that the X70 ‘should’ be very acceptable. Just wonderered what you think? I can’t ask the broadcaster yet as nothing is agreed with anyone, other than we have been asked by a producer to make it. Thanks!

    1. While the codecs meet broadcast spec and the sensor size is reasonable I don’t think this camera will get general approval as a mainstream camera for broadcast. Generally when a broadcaster approves a camera they will do so when they believe that in almost every shooting situation the camera will produce a broadcast quality image. Don’t get me wrong I think it produces really amazing pictures for what it is. But in some lighting situations it can sometimes have that small camera look (“busy” edges and poorly handled highlights) and I think this would prevent it from getting a general broadcast approval. For what it is I don’t think there is anything better and I’m sure it will get used for many broadcast productions but on a case by case basis.

  12. Spot on and very relevant points like this from an experienced cameraman rather than just a shopping list of features is hard to find and much appreciated, particularly the sorting out of the differences likely to be encountered working in the field with these different monsters. Am curious to know how you think the EX1 ranks in this beauty pageant?

  13. First a quick thanks for your S-Log2 over-exposure by 1, 2 and 3 stop LUTs. Saved my bacon on shoot where I exposed everything about 2-3 stops over and the Sony S-Log2 LUT just blows out. I’ll buy you a beer when I get to that page.

    But I’m really writing about the sensitivity and the ND issue. For a test, while shooting 1080/30 S-Log2, I put the camera in full auto mode with no ND’s and it shoot at 1/8000th shutter (not the usual 1/60th) and the result no problems with shutter artifacts or rolling etc.. So with these modern cameras maybe ND are getting obsolete?

    1. If you don’t mind un-natural jittery strobe like motion in your shots then sure you can use super fast shutter speeds. But for realistic natural looking motion you really want the shutter speed between 1/48 and 1/100.

      1. Maybe I’m not super observant but on a recent shoot in very bright desert I set the A7 on full auto and camera selected various high shutter speeds and I did not notice anything unnatural in the final product. Have you or anyone here experimented with this? Look at my desert video here mostly shot at 1/8000 shutter!

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