The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!

The new Sony PXW-X70 XDCAM camcorder.
The new Sony PXW-X70 XDCAM camcorder.

Initial Thoughts.

As the owner of a Sony AX100, which is a really great little 4K and HD camcorder I wasn’t really all that excited when I saw the first prototype of the X70 at Broadcast Asia back in June. You see in the past Sony have done this many times, taken a high end consumer camcorder, updated the firmware, added a handle and then sold it for a higher price as a pro camcorder.  In the past, there has in reality been little difference between the cheaper consumer model and the more expensive pro version.

The handgrip on the Sony PXW-X70
The handgrip on the Sony PXW-X70

The PXW-X70 is different. This is much more than an AX100 with new firmware. For a start the body of the camera is quite different. The right hand side of the X70 is quite different to the AX100. It has a much fatter hand grip. This makes the camera much easier to hold comfortably for long periods. It also makes space for a full size HDSDI output and a full size HDMI output. But the differences don’t stop there.

On the top of the hand grip there is a large assignable button that is normally set to act as a control for the focus magnification function. This button falls immediately under your index finger when your shooting. In front of this is a new larger and easier to use zoom rocker and then in front of that is another assignable button, this one set as a one push auto iris button – very nice!

The back of the handgrip and the small joystick.
The back of the handgrip and the small joystick.

At the back of the handle there is a small joystick that ends up under your thumb (just where it needs to be). This joystick can be used to navigate through the cameras menu system. So, without taking your hand out of the hand grip you can check focus, zoom in and out, set your exposure and go through the menu system. If only it was this easy on all of Sony’s cameras! Ergonomically this camera is really good, especially when you consider how small it is.

The camera has a nice 12x stabilised, optical zoom lens, behind which sits a 1 inch 20 megapixel sensor. In video mode about 14 million pixels are used, so even in 4K (there will be a paid 4K upgrade option next year) there are more pixels than needed for full resolution. Rather than let this extra resolution go to waste you can activate Sony’s “clear image zoom” function that works seamlessly with the optical zoom to give you a 24x zoom range in HD.

Frame grab from PXW-X70. Click on the image to see the full size frame.
Frame grab from PXW-X70. Click on the image to see the full size frame.

The clear image zoom really is remarkably transparent. If you look hard enough at the image, on a big screen, when it’s zoomed all the way in you can just about discern a very slight softness to the image, but frankly I don’t think this is any worse than the softness you might see from a compact optical 24x zoom. It certainly doesn’t look electronic and unless you have side by side, with and without test clips I don’t think you would know that the clear image zoom has been used.

If 24x is not enough there is also a further digital extender, controlled by a button on the right side of the lens that doubles the digital zoom. This you can see, the image is a little degraded at 48x, but it’s not terrible, might be handy for a breaking news story where you can’t get close to the subject.

The left side of the PXW-X70
The left side of the PXW-X70

As well as the optical stabiliser in the lens the camera also has a switchable electronic stabiliser. The active steadyshot is very effective at smoothing out even the shakiest of hands. But it does tend to hang on or grab hold of the image a bit. So when you do deliberately move the camera it tends to try to stabilise the scene until it can no longer correct for the cameras movement at which point the scene is suddenly released and starts to move. If your using a tripod you definitely want to just use the standard steadyshot and not the active mode.

Dual SD card slots on the PXw-X70
Dual SD card slots on the PXw-X70

The pictures are recorded using either XAVC, AVCHD or standard definition DV to SD cards. For XAVC you must use SDXC cards, but these are cheap and readily available these days. There are two card slots and you can choose between relay record where the camera will switch from slot A to slot B once A is full, or you can make two simultaneous recordings on both cards at the same time. This gives an instant backup if you need it.


The XAVC HD recordings are 10 bit 422 long GoP at 50Mb/s, 35Mb/s or 25Mb/s. The quality of the 50Mb/s recordings is amazing with no compression artefacts that I can see (there must be some, I just can’t see them). Even the 25Mb/s recordings look really good. You can shoot at up to 60fps in 60i mode and 50fps in 50i mode. In 60i mode you also have 24fps.

Frame grab form the PXW-X70, click on the image to see full size.
Frame grab form the PXW-X70, click on the image to see full size.

Considering this is a highly compact, single chip camera the images it produces are really very good. They don’t have that typical small sensor camera look. The pictures are remarkably noise free at 0db and largely free of artefacts. I tend to find that small handycams often suffer from what I would describe as “busy” pictures. Pictures where  perhaps there is a lot of added sharpening or where the pixels are read in special ways to make a sharp picture. This makes edges slightly flickery and gives the pictures a tell tale small sensor look. The X70 with it’s big sensor and abundance of pixels just doesn’t have this “busy” look.

Train sitting in station. Frame grab from PXW-X70
Train sitting in station. Frame grab from PXW-X70

The pictures really look like they come from a pro camera. Occasionally very fine, high contrast details like white text on a black background can look a little busy, but this is very minor. Dynamic range is quite respectable, it’s not as good as a PMW-300, but not too bad for a compact handycam (I estimate about 10 to 11 stops of DR).

One thing I did find with this camera is that because there is so little noise and the codec is so good, you could quite comfortably shoot about a stop darker than you would normally and then just bring the image up a bit in post. Shooting a little darker helps the camera handle bright highlights and then in post you can just bring up the shadows and mid tones with a simple colour correction to give a nice exposure. I wish I had realised this when I shot the demo video. I would have exposed a little on the dark side and then tweaked the shots in post. There’s so little noise at 0db and so few artefacts that the image holds up to this really well. If your using auto exposure you can set an exposure offset to allow for this in the menu.

PXW-X70 without the top handle fitted.
PXW-X70 without the top handle fitted.

The X70 is pretty sensitive and 9db of gain is quite useable, so shooting indoors in a typical home or at a wedding venue without extra lights should be no problem. Ramp it up to +33db and it see’s better in the dark than I do, but there is a fair bit of noise at +33db.

As well as being generally rather sensitive the PXW-X70 also has a nightshot mode that bypasses the cameras IR filter and includes a switchable infra-red light, so you can shoot in total darkness if you want.

To see what you are shooting there is a 3.5″ LCD panel. This panel is higher resolution than the one on the AX100 and gives a sharp and pretty accurate image. On the back of the camera there is a small OLED viewfinder. This little OLED is pretty good. It has great contrast and is pretty sharp for a small finder. It’s a great feature on bright sunny days when the LCD can become harder to see.


The HD images are crisp and sharp without any obvious sharpening, almost certainly a result of having a 4K ready sensor. The lack of obvious detail correction helps give the pictures a pleasing, more filmic look. The camera has picture profiles so if you want you can soften or sharpen the images if you choose. As well as detail and aperture controls there are also controls for gamma (standard, still, Cinematone1, Cinematone2, ITU709) and color. The color controls are similar to those on the FS700 where you can adjust the saturation as well as R, G, B, C, M, Y and K brightness. In addition there is a choice of 6 different preset color modes plus black and white.

PXW-X70 auto/manual switch.
PXW-X70 auto/manual switch.

The camera can be controlled either fully automatically or fully manual as well as various in between modes. There is a switch on the back of the camera to switch between auto and manual. In manual you can control the iris, shutter and gain by pressing one of three buttons along the bottom edge of the camera and the using a small wheel just below the lens to set what you have selected. In practice this actually works quite well. There is another button for white balance control on the side of the camera with the usual presets plus auto white balance. Just under the Manual/Auto switch there is a selector for the built in ND filters. I recently purchased a A7s DSLR type camera and I had forgotten what a fiddle it can be to use a camera that doesn’t have built in ND’s. So it’s really good to see proper ND filters on the PXW-X70 as they really help you manage your depth of field.

On the lens there is a single large control ring that can be used to focus the lens or to act as a manual zoom ring. The focus is responsive and although I don’t normally like round and round servo focus rings this one wasn’t too bad.

The zoom/focus ring on the PXW-X70.
The zoom/focus ring on the PXW-X70.

There really is so much to this camera that it would take a small book to go through all the features. For example there’s the touch screen LCD that can be used for touch to focus or touch to expose where you just touch the part of the screen you want to expose or focus on. There’s a full set of exposure and focus aids including peaking, histogram, zebras etc.

On the top of the camera you have Sony’s new MI shoe (Multi-Interface) for connecting accessories like the supplied handle with XLR audio inputs. The supplied detachable handle is really well made and very secure when attached. One small note is that by default when you attach the handle to the MI-shoe the camera switches to XLR audio automatically by default. So if you don’t actually have a mic connected to the handle you won’t have any audio as the internal mic gets shut off. You have to go in to the audio section of the menu to enable the internal mic if you want to use the handle but want to use the built in mic.

If you want to do time-lapse or slow stuff down the camera has S&Q motion that goes from 1fps to 60fps at 1920×1080.

The camera has WiFi and NFC and allows remote control via Content Browser Mobile and simply touching an NFC enabled phone or tablet against the side of the camera will pair the camera with the phone or tablet. In the future following a firmware update you will be able to use the camera to stream your content live via U-stream.

Finally – build quality. It’s really well made. It feels nice and solid, it feels like it will really last. Don’t tell Sony, but I dropped the camera from waist hight while I was using it. It survived, no problem at all.

Sony's new baby XDCAM camcorder, the PXW-X70.
Sony’s new baby XDCAM camcorder, the PXW-X70.

In conclusion: This is a nice little camera. It’s very easy to operate. The picture quality is very good for such a compact camera, the only thing that lets it down just a bit is the highlight handling. But the camera is so clean that you can afford to expose a little lower to compensate for this. Since shooting the demo video I have been playing with the picture profiles to help with the highlight exposure and I found that bringing up the black gamma really helps as it lifts the mid range allowing you to expose slightly lower.

The large sensor, combined with the switchable built in ND filters gives you much greater control over the depth of field than normally possible with a compact handycam.

I think you have to remember that this is a small camera. It isn’t a PXW-X180 and it never will be, but if your budget is tight and you want an easy to use compact camera this could be the one for you. I think it would be a good fit as a “B” camera or for use in lower budget corporate productions. In addition the PXW-X70 would be a good camera to give to PA’s and producers or to hand off to inexperienced shooters for fly-on-the-wall productions.

46 thoughts on “The Sony PXW-X70. Sometimes good things come in small packages!”

  1. Alastair,

    thanks for a great wrap-up of this camera. I’ve been using a PMW-200 since it was released, and it delivers some great images – plus all the usual Sony bells and whistles. I have BM Pocket Cameras, and the GH4 as well. The smaller size of the PXW-X70, plus it’s advanced codec (and 4K in the future), and a chip bigger than super 16, as well as many of the nice Sony features, really has me excited. Why? Because the PMW-200 is so damn heavy for running and gunning. I’m curious about your comment that it will never be a PXW-X180… What’s it’s biggest shortfall compared to the 180?

  2. It’s biggest shortfall is the highlight handling. It’s just not quite as good as the X180. However, raising the black gamma to +7 HIGH in the picture profiles really helps. The thing is that this is a cheap camera, maybe you can keep your PMW-200 and supplement it with the X70.

  3. Hi Alister,

    Great review! A an AX100 owner I have some questions:

    Does the X70 have knee and slope controls?

    Will this lens allow for very slow “creeping” zoom ins/outs? (the AX100’s zoom rocker is way too touchy)

    Do you have any word yet on the future 4k bitrate? I have to imagine it’s least UHD 4:2:0 @ 100Mbp/s (Panasonic/Lumix has proved that you can record 100Mbp/s on SDXC cards now)

    Thanks again.


    p.s. Will you be doing a Sony A7s review soon? (I just got mine last week and I LOVE that thing!)

    1. Yes it has knee and slope controls but I didn’t find that they made a great deal of difference to the highlight handling. Raising the black gamma was more effective, allowing you to expose a little lower.

      1. A7s review will come soon, I’ll be writing up the whole Slog2 workflow and providing some LUT’s.

  4. Nice writeup. Curious about the OIS: does the lens and sensor block move together as a unit? I got me an NX30 as my small run-and-gun camera for situations where moving fast outweighed the nice image I get out of my mirrorless cameras (GH2s which gave way to GH4s to which I just added an A7s).

    Outdoors, in good light, the NX30 does fine. But, I’m not thrilled with the NX30 indoors, especially when cut with GH4 footage. So, despite not yet penciling out, I am looking for a replacement for my NX30. Seems like the X70 would be an all around upgrade to my NX30, but I think the 30’s OIS is pretty amazing, key for a small, handheld.

    What are your thoughts on the X70 as a replacement for an NX30?


    1. It’s a fixed lens but the stabiliser is pretty good. It would bring really good image quality compared to an NX30.

  5. Alistair,

    Will the 4K upgrade be similar to that of the A7s whereby you will need an external 4K recorder?
    The AX100 can already do 4K as well as xavc. to me, the AX100 will be just as good as the X70. The built in SDI port is nice and the handle is nice but i already have the external xlr kit from my sony a99 and it works great!
    Also, will the X70 utilize the true 4K resolution or will it be the consumer pixel size. Frankly, either one in 4K is amazing and I doubt anyone will notice the difference.

  6. Did Sony not get the memo?
    Let’s not forget what happened with the Sony FS700. Remember how vague Sony was with the upgrade information and pricing? Here’s a recap, it cost $400 for the upgrade to the camera. Another $2000 or so for the interface and another $6000 for the recorder (people found affordable workarounds). Sony would remove the $400 portion if you purchased the other equipment.

    If you get the chance, voice your opinion to Sony on the PXW-X70 because this is a POS marketing ploy that is insulting, contains vague information, and no pricing information.

    1. My understanding is that the 4K will be internal XAVC, but of course there is also an HDMI out. The price has not been set, but rumour has it that it will be in the £400-£500 region.

      It’s probably vague simply because the engineers haven’t figured out exactly how far they can push the camera and codec. Up to now Sony have not allowed any camera to record at more than about 60Mb/s to an SDXC card. However other manufacturers are pushing 100Mb/s to SDXC. So maybe Sony are trying to figure out what bit rate they can use reliably before releasing all the details.

  7. Thanks for a very useful review. Curious about rolling shutter, especially since it seems that the A7s has a lot of rolling shutter, especially in full frame mode. Similar with this camera?

  8. Alister,

    Thanks for the useful writeup. Two questions (that I couldn’t get answered with a brief Google search):

    1) I’ve seen a wide range of possible price guesses. What have you been told (or do you assume) will be the announced/expected price?

    2) How wide does the lens get? Was that an issue for day-in-day-out use for you?

    Thanks! –Jim

    1. The lens is wide enough for most day to day shooting. You could use a 0.7x wide adapter (I have one that fits) if you need to go very wide.

      I was not given any firm pricing, but Sony are well aware that if this is too much more expensive than the AX100 that it will be a hard sell. So I expect to see about a £500 premium over the AX100 for the X70. That would make it approx £2,200.

  9. Hi Alister,

    Great review as always!
    Looks like a great little camera, for a good price.

    For me though, I am looking at investing in my first fully owned camera for event shooting, documentaries and ENG for my freelance work. It will be ainly for web delivery, but also broadcast.

    Would really appreciate your advice. What cameras would you recommend from the Sony XDCAM lineup if I might ask? Is the PXW X180 a good investment as a main camera? will need to be sturdy and durable. Might the 1/3 inch sensors be a deal breaker?

    Budget is around 6000 pounds.
    Thank you for any advice Alister

    Tokyo, Japan

  10. Are there CineGammas on the X70?

    If you were off to a corporate event or tradeshow assignment, which would you choose – EX1R or X70?

    Dare I ask… is there Face Track and/or Tap To Focus on this camera? Self-op interviews are de rigueur for many videographers and these focus aids are most welcome if we wish to concentrate on our interviewees rather than our viewfinder.

    I really enjoyed the AX100 over the Z100, and so a Pro version to supplement an S35 sensor camera such as F3/C100 is appealing, but highlight handling is key – it’s what spoiled my relationship with the FS100. And I think that dials back to the original question – CineGammas… or anything close – Knee at 90/-2 and black stretch without noise at a bare minimum. LOL

    1. No Cinegammas. The sensor does not appear to have the dynamic range to make use of cinegammas. Yes there is tap to focus and face tracking.

  11. Alister – thank you again for another excellent review – we have been in contact before through

    I have been a PMW Ex1 user since 2008 and now PMW 200 over the last year or so – I used a nano flash with the EX1 recording at 100mbps and 4:2:2 – of course the nano flash was dropped when I bought the 200.

    I am really very happy with the PMW 200 and have been waiting for Sony to bring a 4K version out but have not seen anything comparable (Z100 is certainly not comparable).

    My question is this – would there be enough of a difference in the picture quality between the x70 vs. the 200 that I should wait further? You mentioned highlight handling but that can be compensated by black gamma adjustment and perhaps shooting a bit dark. With a 1″ sensor I would think the x70 has excellent low light capability. You keep mentioning the “excellent picture quality for a small camera” – does that mean in side by side comparisons one could tell a significant difference between video shot with the 200 vs. the x70?

    I really like the small form factor and the fact the upper assembly can be removed and then use internal mics – this could help in my travels – one look at the PMWEX1 with shotgun mic and Nanoflash on the back of the camera and the guards at The Vatican made me stow it in the cloakroom (special permit needed) – even in London on the walkway between The Eye and Parliament bridge I was told to stop filming because the owner of the complex deemed it “improper” .

    I am not a professional videographer such as yourself but a physician (cardiologist) and HD videography is my hobby but I still want to keep up with as professional look to my videos as possible.

    I know the 4K upgrade is a few months off but I’m assuming they would be using something like the XAVC-S codec since it will be stored on SDXC cards – the z100 recording is horrendous – 20 minutes on a 64 GB card @ 30p and half that at 60p. Does it look like we will need to give up 4:2:2 (and probably 60p) with the new codec?

    I apologize for the long post – in summary – PMW 200 vs PXW X70 video quality? Comparable? Enough of a difference that an amateur “professional” videographer such as myself could tell that much difference in side by side comparisons?

    Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    1. The X70 is very good at it’s price point. But unless you need 4K or need a tiny camera, right now I would stick with your PMW-200. I doubt the X70 will do 4K at 60p. It might just squeeze in 422, but it’s still going to have to be very compressed to be able to use SDXC cards.

  12. I’m really considering this as a B cam for my fs700. I do mostly doc-style corp projects and this seems like a real winner. Green screen and events but also pull of some nice SDOF for sit-downs (compressed). If the PMX180 is the big brother why the 1/3 chip set? Would not the x70 be better in low light than the 180?

    Seems like my biggest problem would be convincing a client that we’re pros using this little cam. I know the proof is in the pudding but sorry, size does matter sometimes lol (at least to the people paying the bills).

    1. Smaller sensor make it easier to add long zoom range lenses. The X180 and X70 are very different cameras. The X180 has better dynamic range, but the X70 is higher resolution. The X180 lens is f1.8 while the X70 is f2.8 to f4.5 lens so focal length will have a noticeable effect on low light performance, plus while the X70 sensor is bigger it has a lot more pixels on it, so the low light benefits are not as big as they could be.

  13. Hi Alister,
    Great review!
    I’m thinking of buying AX100 or X70 and I have few questions.
    I must doing photos at the same time as the movie.
    Does the X70 can take photos like the AX100?
    Does the X70 or the AX100 work with HVL-F60AM?


  14. They ax-100 will do 120fps. Any clear insight on what the x70 can/will be able to accomplish? I seemed to have read it will do double the frame rate.
    24p=48fps |30p=60fps | 60p=120fps. Am I mistaken?

    I have been using the fs700 successfully since its birth. I (like others) have grown tired of the poor ergo, added bits and pieces and form factor. Seems like the x70 would be a great B cam and workhorse for corporate docs, green screen and broll. No?

    Now, if we could get a S35 sensor in the pmw300 body I’d be happier than a pig in…

  15. Thank you for your review. Did you remember please if the camera has a “stand-by” power option after “x” minutes of inactivity ? And also if the “startup time” is short or long ? Thank you again

    1. Not 100% sure about the standby function, but I’m pretty sure it will power off after about 5mins of non use. There may be an option in the menu to change this. Startup is quick, 3 or 4 seconds I think.

  16. thanks for the news, this camera REALLY catches my interest. curious. in your initial use of it, could you get a feel for how dynamic range was possible with it?
    are there any chances that there will be a log profile built-in like SLog2?

  17. apologies, didn’t realize you already answered my questions in the comments. you can delete my question if you want

    1. No, it’s different on the X70 to to AX100. The switch switches exposure control between full auto and manual on the X70. On the AX100 it just switches the ND’s between manual and auto as in essence the AX100 is in auto exposure by default.

    1. Both Ax100 and X70 have maximum apertures of f2.8. Most likely due to the larger sensor and trying to keep the lens compact.

  18. Hi, thanks, this is the most informative article on the x70 yet.
    Having used both, can you comment on real life picture quality differences compared to ax100 ? How effective the xavc-s format is ? I have the ax100, being extremely happy with it. Yes, x70 seems to have better ergonomics, top handle, xlr input (available for ax100 as well)… But for a grab-and-shoot camera the ax100 has the same sensor, same filters, somewhat less manual controls, in smaller size… And immediate 4k. I do not miss anything now for “easy” applications. For more demanding filming I do not feel the x70 is suitable enough. Any comment ?

    1. Not a huge difference in image quality. It is essentially the same just recorded with a much better codec. It is the ergonomic differences that are the most significant.

  19. Thank you for sharing Alastair. I just returned the Sony HXR-NX3 because you cannot operate the LCD and the EVF simultaneously. By chance, does the x70 give you that luxury of using the LCD and EVF? Guessing it does not but worth asking. Thanks for your time.

  20. A very informative review. Thank you.
    I have to choose between this and a Canon XA25 for a client, for a camera that could be operated on a tripod as part of webcast coverage in a lecture theatre where the zoom may end up on its far end if picking out someone in the audience. It may also be used handheld on a cable (don’t think you mention the very useful SDI output).
    I see you say the zoom is seamless between its optical and digital ranges. Someone did ask earlier if you could creep the zoom slowly, and is the zoom speed nicely proportional to the rocker?
    I’m guessing you’d choose this over the Canon?
    I think the audio switching over to the XLR’s when the handle is attached will lead to a fair few mute recordings! When you switch over to the internal mic, does it remember that every time you switch on, or do you have to re-select the internal mic?
    Cheers, Rob.

  21. Thanks!
    How about rolling shutter on the X70?
    Is the rolling shutter as AX100?
    Is the rolling shutter a big issue on AX100?
    Some videos on the net look awful.


  22. Alister – Thank you for your advice. I’m sure that technically the PMW 200 is a better HD camera than the X70 but, for my purposes, I believe the X70 will fill the bill. I “bought” an AX100 for 2 weeks and did about an hour of video in all different lighting conditions both in 4K and HD up to 60p and with good outdoor lighting I was hard pressed to tell the difference in quality of the shots between the 2 cameras (in my non-professional eye’s opinion). In low light, the judicious use of
    gain to compensate produced very acceptable (to me) results and seemed to have less noise than the 200 for the same level of gain.

    I also find the small form factor quite appealing as I will be using this for vacations with long escorted tours and lugging around the 200 for 8-10 hours straight has not been the most pleasant experience.

    My question to you is: when the camera is finally in the hands of the public, will you be publishing us suggestions as to recommended picture profile settings to maximize the video quality of the camera?

  23. How big is the rolling shutter problem in handycamshoot?
    Is converted 4k to hd better than hd straight out the cam?

    1. There is a fair bit of rolling shutter. I wouldn’t shoot sports with it but for general shooting it should be fine. It doesn’t do 4K yet so no idea how good it will be. Should be at least as good as the AX100 which downconverts very well indeed.

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