Monday, September 09, 2013

When cometh the $1,000 4K video camera?

Sony FDR-AX1

The announcement of a $4,500 4K consumer camera by Sony has to prompt the question; when will there be a $1,000 4K consumer camcorder? Of course there already are at least two; there’s the GoPro Hero3 Black, and Acer just announced a 4K smartphone.

But let’s talk about a reasonable quality, useable consumer camera?

If what’s past is prologue, maybe we can look to the speed of adoption of HD to project how long it will take for Sony to come up with a $1,000 4K consumer camcorder.

Sony HDR-FX1

In late 2004 Sony introduced the HDR-FX1. It’s kind of cool that the new camera’s name (FDR-AX1) echo’s the model number of the camera that pioneered low-cost HD capture (as does the PXW-Z100 echo the name of the HVR-Z1, which was the professional version of the HDR-FX1.) The HDR-FX1 was also the first camera that featured Sony’s new camera body design with the LCD on the handle The HDR-FX1 also had 3-CCD chips, but let’s ignore that.

The HDR-FX1 was priced at $3,500. Running that through an historical calculator, that amount possibly translates to $4090 - $4630, (which is kind of interesting.)

Sony HDR-HC1

Six months after the introduction of the HDR-FX1, in mid-2005, Sony announced the HDR-HC1 with an MSRP of $1,999. Even though the HDR-FX1 was considered a consumer camcorder, the HDR-HC1 was more like a consumer camcorder in that it was much smaller, and simpler to operate.

But it wasn’t until May 2007 that Sony hit $1099 with the HDR-HC7. This, like the other models, was a tape-based camera. Memory Stick and disk-based cameras started appearing in late 2006/early 2007, but were still $200-400 over that $1,000 price point.

It took until August 2008 for the $899.99 HDR-CX7 to arrive.

Sony HDR-CX7

Of course, it wasn’t just a case of the price coming down; there continued to be a lot of evolution; and the image quality improved (and resolution increased) over the next couple of years as the transition from HDV to file-based recording was completed.

But looking at the basic details, it took two and a half years to go from the first $3,500 “consumer” camcorder, to a $1,000 consumer camcorder. And adjusting prices for inflation, we’re probably looking at about $1,200 as the equivalent target price.

Will it take about the same time for us to get a 4K camcorder at that price point? Will all consumer cameras be 4K in five years? Or will it happen sooner?

One last point. I’m just looking at the cost of the camera; I’m not considering the quality or desirability of the cameras themselves. Sony makes consumer camcorders, and consumer camcorders. There’s a world of difference between the HDR-FX1 and the HDR-HC7. I’d take the HDR-FX1 over the HDR-HC7 any day because of it’s better optics and operator functions.

I’m sure that the FDR-AX1 will still be a better camcorder than that $1,200 camcorder, when it arrives.

1 comment:

Wayne said...

The marketing driven release schedule of companies are nonsense. Sony/Panasonic dream factories tell people when they can have something, and at what price. The reality was that it could be done much cheaper much sooner.

Sanyo, since swallowed and fading by Panasonic, had cheaper HD and full HD cameras sooner. Ambarella produced chip sets to produce many cheap dub $500 HD and full HD cameras with respectable performance. 4k versions of the ambarella chip set was announced last year, and propper camcorder version this year. Maybe a 4k 60p version will be publically announced this year to match hdmi2. We can expect $500- 4k cameras maybe soon. The thing that holds the industry back is lack of a Sanyo like innovator and player, not real restrictions. Where there is a will there is a way.