Friday, 22 January 2016

Sony FDR-AX33 Camcorder: Zoom Range and Steady-Shot

I ended my last post by saying I was puzzled by the zoom range of the AX33 and the effect of using Active Steady-Shot (Balanced Optical SteadyShot, BOSS). This is a snippet from the manual:

And that is all it says. I wondered if this affected both ends of the zoom range. While you might expect zoom magnification to be noticeable at the long focal length end of the range, is there also an effect at the short (wide angle) end?

The additional apparent focal length is very welcome indeed for wildlife. Sony’s 10x zoom range has been extremely limiting in the past and I have carried a 1.7x extender for previous models.

I have extracted some stills to show the effect of the three Steady-Shot settings: Active, Standard and Off at both ends of the zoom range. I used a Full HD setting, rather than 4K since the effect is more pronounced.

Zoom at it longest focal length with
different SteadyShot settings
Zoom at its shortest focal length with
different SteadyShot settings. The angle
of view is slightly narrower with Active; the
window frame is included to show the effect
more clearly
As you can see there is a huge effect at full zoom between Active and Standard or Off. There is an effect at wide-angle but it is not so pronounced. However, it is worth noting that if you seek to gain the longest apparent focal length then set Steady-Shot to Active. On the other hand if you want the widest angle shot possible, set SteadyShot to Standard or Off, depending on how the camera is held.

What Sony does not mention is whether there is any effect on video quality of using Active Steady-Shot to get a longer effective focal length. I have seen it said that there is a very small effect which is hardly noticeable but that it the only information I have found.

Having had the camcorder since the summer, I find it has already been superseded - by the newly-announced AX53 with a true optical zoom range of 20x. Still the same viewfinder though.