The Sony PXW-Z90 – a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it’s best!

Normally when I travel up to arctic Norway for my annual Northern Lights expeditions I take a large sensor video camera. Last year it was the Sony FS5, which performed very well and gave me some great results. But this year I decided to down size and instead of taking a bulky camera I chose to take a pre-production sample of Sony’s diminutive new PXW-Z90 camcorder.

36B8104-683x1024 The Sony PXW-Z90 - a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it's best!
In Norway with the PXW-Z90.

On the outside the Z90 looks almost exactly the same as the older PXW-X70 camcorder. I’ve shot several videos with the X70 and it’s a great little camcorder that produces a very good image considering it’s small size. Being a new model I expected the Z90 to offer some small improvements over the X70, but what I didn’t expect was the very big improvements that the Z90 brings.

The Z90 is the first camcorder from Sony to incorporate a new design of sensor. It’s a 1″ type sensor, so like the X70, bigger than you used to find on small handycams, but not as big as the super 35mm sensor found in the FS5, FS7 etc. This is a nice size for this type of camera as it makes it possible to obtain a shallow depth of field by using the cameras built in ND filters (yes- it really does have ND filters built in) and a large aperture. Or if you need a deeper depth of field for easier focussing or run and gun then you can use a smaller aperture by switching out the ND filters. The maximum aperture of the zoom lens is f2.8 but it does stop down to f4 towards the telephoto end.

stacked-cmos The Sony PXW-Z90 - a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it's best!
Sony’s new stacked CMOS EMOR RS sensor

This new sensor uses a new construction method that allows it to have several layers of electronics immediately below the imager pixels. The “stacked” sensor can as a result incorporate more image processing and a large memory area right under the pixels. This means that the sensor can be read out much more quickly than is normal for this type of camera and as a result rolling shutter is hugely reduced (I didn’t notice any in any of my footage).

As well as a reduction in rolling shutter compared to other similar sensors, the ability to do more on chip image processing appears to bring other advantages as the noise levels from this camera are very low indeed.

Z90-Night-scooter-ride-1024x576 The Sony PXW-Z90 - a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it's best!
Frame grab from a night time snow scooter ride. Shot at +15dB gain the noise is still very minor. (click on the image to view a larger version.

The low noise levels mean that this camera performs surprisingly well in low light. Adding in +6dB  was not a problem if needed. Even with +15dB of gin the images hold together very well. Clearly the camera is doing a fair bit of electronic noise reduction at higher gain levels and there is a slight increase in image smear as a result. Plus in certain circumstances the noise levels do rise, especially if you have large dark areas amongst in an otherwise brighter scene. In my sample footage during the night time snow scooter ride, which was shot at +15dB gain, you don’t see and noise over the snow, but you can see some grainy noise over the dark jacket of the snow scooter driver (see the frame grab above).  The fact that you can push the camera up to +15dB and in most cases get a pretty good image is very nice.

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Frame grab form a PXW-Z90 – Hybrid Log Gamma. Click on the image to see a larger version.

On top of good sensitivity you also have great dynamic range, more than the X70 and enough to make direct HDR shooting and log shooting possible with this tiny hand held camcorder. It doesn’t quite have the dynamic range of an FS5 or FS7, but there is still plenty of range to help deal with challenging lighting situations.

As well as bringing a nice improvement in image quality over the X70 (which is pretty good already) the new sensor brings a vastly improved autofocus system. There are 273 focus detection points which are combined with faster readout, faster on sensor processing and the same AF processing technology as used in the flagship Sony A9 stills camera. This brings a really remarkable autofocus system to this camera. The AF system is a newly developed hybrid system that combines phase detection AF with new algorithms created specifically for video rather than stills photography. At last this is an autofocus system that really works for a video camera. It is intelligent and responsive. There is no hunting for focus, it just seems to get on with the job.

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Adjusting the AF response on the PXW-Z90.

Just about every aspect of the autofocus system can be customised in the camera menu. You can choose between using focus zones, the full image width or selectable focus spot areas. The cameras LCD screen is a touch screen so you tap the screen where you want to focus.

You can also tailor the AF’s response speed, you can adjust the size of the tracking range, using a wide range for occasions when you want the AF to follow an object through the shot, or use a narrow range to restrict the focus depth range.

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The PXW-Z90’s variable AF drive speed.

You can customise how quickly the AF will move from one object to another, from staying locked on to a faster more responsive setting.

In addition it has that wonderful Sony face detection system that allows you to choose one face out of a crowd of people using the thumb stick on the hand grip or the touch screen. Once selected the camera will stay locked to that face.

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36B8087-1024x576 The Sony PXW-Z90 - a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it's best!
Working with the PXW-X90 in Norway.

While I was up in Norway it was between -24c and -30c. In those temperatures you really don’t want to take your mittens off for more than a minute or so. Being able to rely on the cameras autofocus allowed me to keep my fingers warm. Not one shot out of all my rushes from the trip has incorrect focus. That is truly remarkable and made shooting with this camera a real pleasure. I’m not saying that you should always use autofocus. When possible I love to be able to pick and choose how I focus. But in many situations or for less experienced shooters this autofocus system will be a game changer.

For my test shoot in Norway I mostly used Picture Profile number 10 which gives an instant HDR workflow thanks to the use of Hybrid Log Gamma. Using HLG you can shoot as you would do with any other conventional camera. Then take the footage and play it back in HDR on an HDR TV without any grading or other post production work. I also shot at a couple of locations using S-Log2 to test how that worked (I was shooting in UHD and the camera is 8 bit in UHD. For 8 bit I prefer S-Log2 over S-Log3). The Z90 has 10 picture profiles that allow you to tailor how the image looks, including a crunchy DSLR type look. Some filmic looks using Sony’s cinegammas as well as profiles for shooting S-Log2, S-Log3 and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG).

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Dog sledding in the arctic (frame grab). Shot in HDR using HLG on the PXW-Z90.

The Z90 has Sony’s XAVC-L codec. This high quality codec offers 10 bit 4:2:2 broadcast quality recordings in HD and 8 bit 4:2:0 recordings in UHD (3840 x 2160). The camera records to SDXC cards, so media costs are very low. There are two card slots and you can record to each slot singly, record to one card after the other or dual record on to both cards at the same time for redundancy and an instant back. You can even use each of the cameras two record buttons to control the records on each card independently should you wish.

36B7978-1024x576 The Sony PXW-Z90 - a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it's best!
The PXW-X90 is very small, so carrying it around on the snow scooters was easy.
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The rear of the hand grip of the PXW-Z90.

The Z90 is a small camcorder and like all small camcorders this doesn’t leave much room for large buttons and switches. The menu system and many of the cameras functions can be controlled via the touch screen LCD or the small joystick/thumb stick on the hand grip. Iris, shutter speed and gain each have a dedicated access button that selects the function.

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The Full Auto switch and ND filter control on the PXW-Z90.

Then you use the thumb stick to select the value you want, or you can set each item to Auto. In addition there is a switch to put the camera into full auto on the rear of the camera. Just below the full auto switch is the control switch for the ND filters.

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The Sony PXW-Z90 compact 4K camcorder.

The lens is a Zeiss 12x optical zoom with built in optical image stabilisation. It is controlled by a single ring around the barrel of the lens which can be switched between focus control or zoom control. In addition there is the usual zoom rocker on the handgrip as well as a small zoom switch on the top handle. In addition to the optical stabilisation the camera also has Sony’s electronic “super steadyshot” stabilisation that can be used in addition to the optical stabilisation. Another very handy function is “Clear Image Zoom”. This is a form of electronic zoom function that makes use of a database of textures and object types. When using clear image zoom the camera uses this database to apply just the right amount of image processing during the electronic zoom process. In most cases you can’t see any degradation of the image when using clear image zoom. I left it on for all of the Norway shoot as it turns the 12x zoom into a very handy 18x zoom.

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The wide end of the PXW-X90’s zoom range.
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The long end of the PXW-X90’s zoom lens.














After doing so much shooting on large sensor cameras with restricted zoom ranges getting back to a small camera with a big zoom range was fun. For future Norway trips I am very tempted to switch to a camera like the Z90.

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The right side of the PXW-Z90.

The Z90 body is almost exactly the same as the X70. The cameras top handle has 2x XLR connectors with the audio controls for the two channels on the opposite side of the handle.

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The audio controls of the PXW-Z90.

If you want to make the camera more compact the handle can be removed, but when you do this you will no longer have any XLR connectors. Instead you will have an MI shoe on the top of the camera body  that can be used to connect a Sony UWP-D radio mic or a n XLR adapter. There is also a stereo microphone built into the main body of the camera, so even with the hand grip removed there are plenty of audio options.

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The PXW-Z90’s flip out LCD screen.

The flip out LCD panel acts as the cameras main viewfinder. Opening and closing the LCD screen turns the camera on and off. It starts up and shuts down very quickly. The resolution of the LCD is similar to most other modern camera LCD’s. It’s adequate for this type of camera, but it isn’t the highest resolution screen in the world. To check focus you have a button on the top of the hand grip to activate the image magnification function and the camera has a coloured peaking system to help pick out what is, and what is not in focus.  I suspect that with this particular camera, many users will take advantage of the cameras excellent auto focus system and there is a lot of feedback to the user of how this is working including coloured boxes that indicate exactly what the camera is focussing on.

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The rear of the Sony PXW-Z90.

As well as the side LCD panel there is also a small OLED electronic viewfinder on the rear of the camera. This is very useful for use in very bright sunlight, but it is rather small.

The cameras gain, shutter and iris functions each have a dedicated button on the side of the camera. One push of the appropriate button enables that function to be controlled by a small dial wheel just under the front of the lens.

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Iris, gain and shutter speed controls on the side of the PXW-Z90.

Press the shutter button and the wheel controls the shutter. Press the gain button and the wheel controls the gain. Overall this system works well, but I would still prefer a separate gain switch and a shutter speed up/down switch. On the rear of the hand grip there is a small joystick that sits under your thumb. You can use this thumb-stick to set many of the cameras settings and to navigate through the cameras menu system.  In addition you can use the LCD touchscreen to navigate through the menu as well as select your autofocus points etc.

The PXW-Z90 is a small camera that packs a very big punch. It’s never going to give the fine degree of image control that you get with most large sensor cameras and it won’t quite deliver the same image quality either (although it’s really, really close). If you need a small, discrete camera, perhaps you travel a lot, or you just need a “B” camera, then the Z90 offers a  possible solution.  I haven’t even touched on all the streaming, ftp and wifi capabilities of this camera. The auto focus system is a delight to use and it’s the best AF system I’ve ever come across on a video camera. The new sensor in the Z90 is clearly a fairly large step forwards from the sensor in the previous similar model the X70, it has more dynamic range, a lot less rolling shutter (not that it’s a big problem on the X70) and the final images look better as a result. I might just have to add one to my camera collection.


If you would like to join me on one of my adventures to arctic Norway please see take a look at this page. I’ve been running these trips for 11 years and EVERY tour has seen the Northern Lights. This year was no exception and we got to see some really great Auroras and had a great time dog sledding, ice fishing and exploring the Finnmarksvidda.

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2018 was yet another great year for my Aurora tours. This picture taken on January 20th.


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35 thoughts on “The Sony PXW-Z90 – a compact 4K camcorder with auto focus at it’s best!”

  1. This has the same monitor out limitations as the FS5 etc. In 4K you are limited to 2 video streams. So you can record one and view one. So while you can use an external monitor and record 4K internally, you can’t then also use the built in LCD or EVF.

  2. Thanks again for your insights Alister. Dutch broadcaster NOS just supplied me with a Sony Z90 for camjo-reporting. I am loving this one (after the HXR-NX70 and the VG900). Autofocus is extremely good for my run and gun recording.
    I hope you’ll continue your explainers and tutorials for the Z90 (and any other camera for that matter)

    1. To what format do you record, Lex (HD – 4K). And what do you do in post? Grade your work before you send it off or do you use a custom NOS color profile?
      greetings Stefan

  3. You mention shooting S-Log 2 in UHD. Can you mention how happy you were when you graded it and/or applied a camera LUT and then graded (and in which NLE)?

    Oddly, in my test I found using the S-Log 3, S-Gamut3.Cine to give me the best starting point after compensating for exposure (having exposed a couple of stops over) in FCPX using CoreMelt Chromatic.

    1. I used S-Log2 because in UHD you only have a very limited data range to play with and S-Log3 only uses 80% of the already limited range while S-Log2 uses 95%. I am happy with the results having graded it in Resolve but there isn’t quite the same dynamic range you can get from a camera like the FS5 or FS7.

    2. That’s the problem with using grading plugins within edit software rather than dedicated grading software. The plugins only really work within very small ranges and typically don’t understand S-Log2. There will be no difference between S-Log2 and S-Log3 in terms of the look if both are handled with the same corrections and the correct transform. However with an 8 bit recording S-Log3 will have less data and this will show up as more artefacts. In Resolve etc I can always make both look the same, except the 8 bit S-Log-3 always exhibits more banding and macroblocking.

  4. Hi Alister,
    based on your review and others I purchased the Z90 to replace my Canon xa25. The sony fits in nicely with all my other Sony gear.
    One limitation I found is to do with audio: on the canon I used to work with a rode mic connected to the mini jack and a wireless system connected to a XLR port. I can assign the mini jack to channel 2.

    I have not found a way to do this on the sony: I can assign channel 1 and 2 to one XLR input (and change levels) but the mini jack although mono is recorded on both channels.

    NB strange i can not record to all 4 channel inputs… they are there in the recording…

    1. The Z90 like all the other Sony cameras in this class only has 2 audio channels. There are 4 or 8 channels in the files as that is the XAVC standard for the file, but the camera itself only has 2 audio channels. You should be able to get an XLR to mini jack adapter so you can plug a radio mic into one of the XLR inputs and then the Rode into the other.

  5. As a B camera to an FS7, I can see the Z90 could well be ideal for many interview setups. Does the Z150 offer any real-world benefits over the Z90 that you would see in the footage or is it limited to the improved ergonomics of more lens control &c?

    Also, does the Z90 o/p 10bit 422 over HDMI for external recording?

    Thanks for the constant flow of information on the Sony cameras. Invaluable!

    1. The only benefit the Z150 has is it’s bigger and has separate rings for zoom and focus on the lens. So less fiddly to use on a tripod and may be more acceptable on a professional shoot. The Z90 is the better of the two cameras otherwise in my opinion.

    2. I don’t know for certain but my guess would be that the HDMI is 10 bit 422 in HD and 8 bit 422 in UHD, like all the other similar Sony cams.

      1. Why is it that this output information is always so difficult to get. Should be a standard listing in the tech info with regard to output specifications and choises. This part is also very difficult to check in the resulting file. And there are differences between SDI and HDMI HD output quality also. SDI should be HD 422 please. And note that output is 50p standard (there is no 25p). If 50p is not desired (multicam mixing in BM atem p.e.) you should use HD 50i (and 422 would be a bonus). Is this correct Alister?

        1. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get the HDMI specs. There is a lot of confusion as there are many permutations. 25p is not included in the HDSDI standard so you must use 25psf (which is actually 25p, just packaged so it looks like a 50i stream to any connected device). 25psf is used for maximum compatibility with both 50i and 25p workflows. The HDSDI is 10 bit 422.
          HDSDI and HDMI should be the same quality, but HDMI is more prone to interference and image degradation due to bad cables, so HDMI can become degraded while HDSDI either works or doesn’t work. I would always prefer HDSDI over HDMI.

  6. Hi friends! I’m looking a camcorder to replace my JVC Everio GZ-HM30BU, a 2012 costumer camcorder. This will be my first pro or semi-pro camcorder.

    I’ve been reading about several brands and models and I still can’t decide.

    My idea is to do some local news coverage, an amateur coverage. Some public events, documentary and nature film and stuff like these. I won’t be doing this everyday, it’s not my job. I won’t do weddings.
    But, I got a budget and I want something a bit more professional than a common consumer camcorder.
    I believe, at least in my case, this would be a camcorder I’ll be using for several years. I’m not a professional videomaker or journalist but I want something a step beyond the consumer camcorders. So, I’m not going to be selling it and buying another camcorder so frecuently.
    This is an expensive product, at least in my country, and I don’t think I would have the chance to buy something like this in the near future, either ’cause I didn’t like the image or I don’t feel comfortable with the rings location or the lack of three rings or something else.
    I have to use very well my budget.

    What am I looking for?
    Well, the first concept I learn about was: “entry-level”. So, I could say that’s what I want (wanted? – I still can’t find a good “entry-level” camcorder yet), an “entry-level” camcorder. I have the JVC Everio GZ-HM30BU, a 2012 costumer camcorder, so I’d say any current handycam would be better than this. But, I want something a bit more semi-professional than a common handycam.
    I want something which allows me to handle the exposition, focus, gain, white balance. Also something with a direct mic connection like XRL connection, so I can receive a more direct audio and not an ambient audio, for example, when doing an interview.

    That’s why I started looking for a camcorder in accordance with my needs, but without going that far. So, I put a limit to my budget.
    The limit is 2600-2800 USD. It would be nice if I could find something nice for that price, but until now I’m not finding anything. So, my new limit, in case I need to get this far, is the Sony HXR-NX5R (USD 3400 here in Argentina).

    So, now I’ve explained about my budget I’ll tell you about the models and brands I was reading about for the last 3 month (yes, is not easy, much money and most of the concepts I’ve found are new for me).

    Keeping always in mind the “entry-level” concept, the first model I saw or my first option was the Panasonic AG-AC90, but I was told the AC90 is really old now and although it was quite good for its time is really rather outdated now. I also was told that Panasonic camcorders don’t have a good performance in low light conditions, so I could say I dismissed Panasonic.
    My second option was the Sony HXR-NX5R and I think it was a very good option, still is. I didn’t read any negative comment about it yet. In fact, I’ve read it has a very good performance in low light conditions despite of its three 1/2.8 sensors (I used to think bigger sensors, like 1″ sensors, had a better performance in low light but it doesn’t seem to be like this). The only complaining I read was about it’s not a 4K camcorder.

    Due to the NX5R price (USD 3400 here in Argentina) I started looking at the Sony HXR-NX100 (USD 2600). I must say I thought I have found it. I was almost convinced to buy it, but I read the negative comments:
    – Iris doesn’t open
    – E:62:10 code error
    – Focusing issues
    – Bad performance in low light

    So, I dismissed the NX100. I was advised not to take the risk.

    What was my next option?
    The HXR-NX80. Small, lots of professional settings, I thought this was going to be my new camcorder, until I read the negative comments. I couldn’t believe it! Negative comments about a 4-5 month old camcorder?
    Some customers complaints were about:

    – Touch panel was completely unresponsive.
    – Bad focusing.

    Well, I could go for the PXW-Z90V, haven’t read any negative comments yet.
    But, something I never liked about these camcorders was the touch screen (tends to fail in the NX80) and the removable XLR handle unit. Don’t know about you, but to me it seems it’s going to break anytime.
    Touch screen can be useful in cell phones but not in a camcorder. I don’t like it to get dirty every time I need to change something or do a focus on something (Z90 / NX80).
    So, dismissed the Z90? Not yet, but it doesn’t convinces me.

    So, which one is still in my list as possible acquisition? The NX5R.
    Basically, I’m looking for a camcorder with more controls than a consumer camcorder, with a decent (good) performance in low light and with no negative comments about failures.
    I didn’t research about other brands, like JVC or Canon.

    As for resolution, well, I wasn’t looking for a 4K camcorder. Although, I was told everything now is tending to 4K and I should consider a 4K camcorder even if I’m not going to edit in 4K.
    Truth is I’m not going edit 4K videos, I should upgrade my Pc in order to do that and I don’t have in mind upgrading my Pc right now. But, this was only an advise, you know: Is better to have it and no to need it than to need it and not to have it.

    But, I found 4K camcorders (e.g. NX80), at least Sony’s, didn’t offer me the controls that others did (e.g. NX5R).
    So, I found the PXW-Z150. But, again, disappointed by the negative comments about it, especially its bad performance in low light.

    So, where do I find myself now?
    In the middle of nowhere. With new concepts, with things I believed I understood but I realize I don’t (e.g. 1/2.8 sensors with better image quality and performance in low light than a 1″ sensor).
    And of all the camcorders I’ve been researching about only one it’s still in my list: NX5R.

    I know this is technology. Nothing is perfect. But, I’m trying to find the camcorder that fit for me, always within my budget. There’s no perfect cam, but I need to feel comfortable and convinced. And most important, I wouldn’t like to waste my money, once it’s done there’s no going back.

    So I hope you can help me and guide me. I would like to read your opinion, your point of view about whether or not I’m in the right way, about the models I’ve been reading about, about its failures. Tell me about your experience with this kind of camcorders or suggest other brands or models.
    Any help you could give me will be welcome.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. A common problem is people comparing the low light performance of a S35mm camcorder with a camcorder with a much smaller sensor with much smaller pixels. The two will never perform the same. The NX80/Z90 are a generation later than the Z150 and NX100 and have a better sensor and better AF. But the smaller package size inevitably means less space for buttons and switches, so more reliance on the touch screen etc. I have never met anyone with a failed touchscreen on a NX80, X70 etc. I’m not sure that it’s that common a problem. The NX80/Z90 both perform very well in low light due to some very effective noise reduction and I think these are the best of the bunch right now.

      1. I would also add that I also get quite surprised at people that will make a sensitivity assessment based on how high a cameras ISO number goes. This is nonsense as ISO does not tell you how noisy an image is, or how sensitive a camera is. It is nothing other than an exposure rating. And while sensor size is important, it’s pixel size that counts. The NX80/Z90 images need to be seen on a big 4K screen to be fully appreciated as they are incredibly detailed.

  7. Hi! Well, I’ve been suggested to go for the Z90.
    Most of the suggestions were based on the new 4K resolution. But, there’s something I don’t understand.
    I’ve told not to choose the NX5R due to the time it’s been in the market, I mean, the time it’s pased since its lauch date. Other people told me it’s still a great camcorder and it worth going for it.
    So, my doubt is, why the NX5R, an almost 1 year and half old camcorder, is more expensive than the Z90, a 5-6 month old camcorder?
    The prices I got them from Sony’s webpage:
    NX5R (Launched September 2016) – 2799 USD
    Z90 (Launched Dicember 2017) – 3249 USD

    If this difference is correct, then, there must be something the NX5R offers and the Z90 doesn’t.

    What do you think?

    1. I made a mistake. Prices are wrong located in my last comment.

      Correct is:
      NX5R (Launched September 2016) – 3249 USD
      Z90 (Launched December 2017) – 2799 USD

      1. The pricing is probably simply to do with the fact that the NX5R is a large bodied camcorder and the Z90 a smaller one. The NX5R lens has separate control rings for zoom and focus and this can be easier to operate. However the NX5R is an NXCAM camcorder with AVCHD and XAVC-S while the Z90 uses a newer sensor, new processing and is an XDCAM camcorder with XAVC-L, AVCHD and optional XDCAM codecs.

  8. Hi! I was looking at the NX5R specifications on its manual and I see the following thing:
    In order to record using the XAVC S HD codec I need a SDXC card.
    Now, the slot A accepts “Memory Stick PRO Duo” and SD cards, while the slot B accepts SD card only.

    A SDXC card, is a SD card? I mean, will slot B accepts a SDXC card?
    So, if it does, it will be able to record in XAVC S HD using both card slot, right?


    1. NX5R uses 3 cmos sensors and has slightly deeper looking color. It also has better low light performance with less noise without processing. And as mentions it has controls that are faster to access. The NX5R takes larger and cheaper batteries that can last for hours. Both the NX5R and Z90 use the same 6.9 watts.

      Something not mention here about the Z90 is that is has 24-bit audio recording.

      1. There is very little difference between the sensitivity and noise of the NX5R and Z90. Being HD only the NX5R has fewer pixels, but it’s sensor are much smaller and even though there are fewer pixels the pixel pitch is similar to that of the Z90. However it does have a faster lens and at the wide end this helps, at the telephoto end where the lens is slower less so.

        The NX5R is 7.8 watts if you are using the LCD screen compared to the Z90’s 6.9w with LCD.

        Almost all XAVC codecs have 24 bit audio, the exceptions being the consumer version called XAVC-S as used in the NX5 as well as XAVC Proxy.

  9. Hi Alister,

    Really interested in this camera but I’m a little worried about noise in lowlight. Is there a way to set maximum ISO?

  10. Hi Alister,

    Thanks for posting about these new Sony cameras. Following your review, I have bought a NX80, and I’m satisfied for everything you mentionned, but there is something that you didn’t mentionned that I find a little bit bothering: in UHD, the camera is quite prone to aliasing. Any suggestion to avoid it? I guess that there is less aliasing in HD? Do you think that reducing the level of detail in the picture profile would help?

  11. Hi! As for the file structure, the way the camera contains the video files, what would be the difference between the NX80 and the Z90? Are they easy to use and to work with?
    In case I just want to playback them in my Pc, in case I just want to watch what I filmed, is it possible?
    Which files should I use from each camcorder to edit or to playback in Pc?


  12. Hi Alister,
    Sony has a new firmware update to the Z90. So time to update.

    Just wondering how i save all my settings, because there is a warning all will be reset to defaults. Can I use the save camera profile function for that?

    as i understands it saves all settings to my sd card, but will this include all tweaks and settings made to custom picture profiles? The manual and the info on sony website is very poor…
    great camera, and i understand this update improves camera stability in high framerate, So worth the update (next one will have proresRAW recording?)

  13. I’m in bit of a quandary..
    I dont need a camera that shoots stills ( only video), so which should I look at – the Sony A73 or the Z90? I already have the FS5 but its getting a bit large to travel with, considering that airlines have become stingy (expensive) in the weight allowance department. Also Im not a big fan of the stills camera form factor for video –so– what should I look at?
    Thanks in advance–Ajit

    1. Ajit – they are two such totally different cameras that the choice comes down to your purpose. For live events in reasonable light I’d probably choose the Z90 for it’s extended zoom range, XLR in, SDI out and wi fi capabilities. It’s also going to be a lighter weight and simpler kit as you won’t need anything much else but spare batteries and a tripod and a few cables. Perhaps a shoulder rig if you really want one but it’s not really that form factor. Think of it like a handheld ENG camera. Also has a screen which flips around for self shooting.
      The A73 is a full frame camera with a multitude of lens options – so I would suggest a better option for budget drama, high quality corporate and anything else that requires a shallow depth of field (eg modern wedding shoots, fashion etc). You’re going to need a lot more kit – lenses to cover the ranges you need, some way of hand holding the camera for long periods, a separate audio recorder or XLR adapter, ND filters and some way to attach them and all the things you need for a Z90.
      If cost is a factor, then by the time you kit yourself out with an A73 it’s going to be much more expensive.
      If it comes down to quality the A73 every time. If it comes down to practicality and cost then the Z90 is faster to use in a lot of situations and lighter to travl with but image quality will not compare, especially in low light.

  14. Hi Alister,
    thank you for a great site and all the info you provide. I’m shooting with a well calibrated EX1 for 12 years now and would like to switch to a Z90 because I want a smaller, lighter camera and get better 4:2:2 quality. I never shoot autofocus so far because I don’t want some automatic ruin a good shot pumping at the wrong moment. So the good AF to me seems no argument for the Z90. What quality switch is to be expected in regards of low light quality and other things like overall image quality shooting probably mostly in HD?
    Did you remove the donate button? I will be happy to donate for an evaluation regarding that switch or if it is a good idea at all. The FS5 and the 200 are probably too big and heavier again.

    1. Generally a 4K camera will not be as good in low light as an HD camera. The Z90’s 4K codecs are 4:2:0. Overall the Z90 is surprisingly good for it’s size. But it’s a very different camera to the EX1. I suggest you find somewhere where you can borrow or hire one before making the decision to buy.

  15. Hi Alister
    Thank you for putting so much excellent advice on here. I appreciate the time you spend on this.
    I have the NX80 and have been using the profiles suggested by Doug Jensen. Recently I have been looking into using HLG but have been a bit put off by advice that it really needs 10 bit and so was very interested to see you have used it on the Z90 in 4K and got good results. I have also been considering a camera upgrade.
    In your view is there an advantage in using the XAVC-L codec over the XAVC-S for HLG, or generally. Do you have recommendations for the HLG settings in the NX80 and Z90?
    Best regards

    1. If you want to shoot in 4K you can only use XAVC-S. HLG is only really for HDR delivery. If you are shooting for HDR then you must use the default HLG profile, messing around with the settings will make the HLG non standard and may no longer be correctly compatible with HDR TV’s. For footage that won’t be graded the 8 bit is just about acceptable.

  16. May I ask if you’ve found a way to enable face detection in 4K/UHD? Whenever I enable it face detection gets grayed out in the menu. Very disappointing.

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