Sony PXW X70–AVCHD vs XAVC-L, Some Sobering Thoughts

4k-Ultra-HD1 Like everyone else I was intrigued by the possibility of shooting 4K when I bought the X70 (4K upgrading coming out in June at a cost).

I say intrigued. It’s not that I really needed to shoot in 4K. When the 4K upgrade does come out, I’ll be interested to know if it has any improving affect on the camera’s native 1080 HD resolution by reason of the software. Otherwise, I’m not very inclined to go that way.

Here are the sobering facts:

1. To shoot in 4K you will have to use the Sony SxS Pro+ cards (not the SxS-1 or SxS Pro cards) and for that you’ll need a reader/writer than can take them. Or, as one commenter said, get and use an Atmos Shogun  4K recorder/monitor or something similar for about £1500/$2200.

2. The 64 GB SxS Pro + card costs over £600 or $900 and will get you 32 minutes of record time (or less by some reports).

3. The 128 GB SxS Pro+ card costs about £800 or about $1200 and will get you an hour of record time (or less).

4. There is now a free plug-in for FCPX that will allow you to import off an SxS card, but the expenses don’t end there…

5. You’ll need high-end graphics cards and a 4K monitor. Your MacBook Pros and iMacs won’t handle the image processing without making you go mad. You’ll need the Mac Pro which was built for 4K. PC users will have similar hardware issues, particularly for graphics cards.

So what about these SDXC cards we all bought? Well, they’re good and they’re fast and you CAN record XAVC-L on them if you want to, but why bother if your output is HD? Is there some small advantage? Apparently there is if you’re into minutiae, but in the scheme of things I don’t think there’s any discernible difference or advantage–except your files will be larger.

Unless you’ve got money to burn, stick with HD. It will be years before the prices on 4K equipment and media become affordable for most, and for that to happen, 4K will have to be all the rage. And that may never happen except in a small niche group of producers.

On the other hand, as another commenter pointed out, if you shoot in 4K for regular HD export, that gives you a host of advantages in post production (image cropping, stabilisation without image size loss, etc). Some blogs are suggesting that clients are requesting 4K shoots for HD export. It gives the option of later re-issuing the same video in 4K.

The question remains for X70 users, will we be able to record 4K at 60mbps on an affordable SDXC card and edit using proxy files? It remains to be seen.

As I said in the original X70 review, if you want a 4K camera, don’t get this one. Get one that’s already ready.

When it is ready, I hope I will have to eat my words–‘cuz I think I’ll want to start shooting in 4K for 1080 HD export.


22 responses

  1. I trust you have corrected this post by now as it contains a lot of erroneous information.

    First, the X70 does NOT record on SxS cards. It cannot. It records on inexpensive SD cards from companies like SanDisk and Transcend. Depending on frame rate, mbps rate, and HD or 4K, you can record from 100 minutes to 7.5 hours of footage on one $40 (US) 64gb card. Record media is incredibly cost-effective.

    Second, you write, “Your MacBook Pros and iMacs won’t handle the image processing without making you go mad. You’ll need the Mac Pro which was built for 4K. ” This simply is not true. I am regularly editing 4K (UHD) with FCP X on my mid-2012 MacBook Pro Retina (2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 with an Intel HD Graphics 4000, with 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM.) I am not using a 4K monitor and I am not going mad. I have edited 4K from the FS700 and from the F55 as well, some of which has been shown at Sony’s booth at NAB.

    Third– and I understand you wrote this over four months ago and things are changing quickly– “Unless you’ve got money to burn, stick with HD. It will be years before the prices on 4K equipment and media become affordable for most, and for that to happen, 4K will have to be all the rage. And that may never happen except in a small niche group of producers.” $500 for a 4K upgrade and the ability to continue to edit on a 3 year-old laptop is not what I’d call “money to burn.” The prices on 4K cameras and media are racing to the bottom… the incredible 4K Sony FS7 costs about $9,000 and yields VERY similar results to their $30,000 F55 digital cinema camera. The stunning A7RII mirrorless DSLR has a full frame sensor, five-axis mechanical image stabilization, records 4K internally, has a maximum ISO of 102,400, and costs about $3,200 (US.) And the X70 with 4K is a whopping $2,500.

    Depending on where you work and who your customers are, 4K is already not merely for a “small niche group of producers”, but it is a business necessity. Many clients and networks are now requiring programs to originate in 4K for archiving and for future (or current) 4K distribution. You are future-protecting your footage by shooting in 4K now, regardless of how you post and deliver (HD or SD.)

    And of course there are the amazing benefits of posting in HD when you’ve shot in 4K, allowing you to resize shots, zoom in up to 130% or so, stabilize shots, all which can save very significant time in production not having to always shoot multiple takes simply for the purpose of changing the shot size. You shoot a waist-shot of your talent and you also have a closeup. One and done. And on my mid-2012 MacBook Pro laptop. Without a 4K monitor.


    Finally, whether we like it or not, 4K WILL be the standard for broadcast television, and sooner than later. Yes, the distribution and broadcast infrastructure will take some time, but 4K TVs are selling like crazy. In 2014, only 1% of all U.S homes had a 4K TV. Some studies predict half of US homes will have 4K (UHD) TVs within five years. Other studies have predicted a fivefold increase in 4K television sales for the current years end, from just under 1 million units sold to about 5 or 6 million by the end of 2015.


    • Quite right. No I haven’t corrected it but have posted some updates from others. Your comment can serve as the update for now (until I’ve updated my own camera to 4K and can speak from experience). That was an old post on a developing scene. Now that you can upgrade to 4K and now that I’ve heard that the lower bit rate on XAVC-L performs better than the 100mps ones using XAVC -S, I look forward to the benefits of shooting in 4K and outputting to HD for the time being. Been too busy lately and haven’t even updated to the new firmware, but will probably get to it in the next week or two. Thanks for your well thought-out comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My pleasure.

        Happy to share what I learn along the journey– the good and the bad!
        (And if the bad helps someone else AVOID the bad, then that was GOOD!)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, my name is Hartmut writing from Berlin, Germany.
    Dear “Whisperer”: You can call out loudely that it is very easy to import and edit 4Kmaterial recorded by the SONY PXW-X70 on an iMAC (latest edition) and FCPX (latest edition). It is working perfectly and the results are amazing if you consider how cheap and tiny this camera is!

    Best Rechauds


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joe wrote: “I guess the question is (on the X70), will the SDXC cards at 60mbps (which are affordable!) record 4K that can be edited in proxy files?

    Your point of an external recorder is well taken.”

    But if an external, like a Shogun is used that blows the whole “run and gun” thing to pieces and you’re back mounting monitors and tethered to a tripod. Hmmm.

    They just recently did an ungrade for the AX100 to a 100 bitrate from the original…I think it was 60.
    My JVC records 150 bit rate on SDXC cards, as does my GH4. You just have to be careful with the write speed. The cards I use write up to over 90bps, and I don’t have any trouble. I don’t see things will be any different on the X70.

    Mark is sure right about the static scene thing—panning and action look terrible.


    • I’m at a slight disadvantage as I haven’t done the upgrade yet (and won’t even get to it for 10 days or so), but I do have those Sandisk SDXC 60mbs cards you’re talking about. The manual says it will demand 50mbps on SDXC cards, so it should work. I think I heard with the upgrade it’s doing 60mbps and, like your other cameras, maybe these rates will also change upwards with later updates, so who knows. You’re right though. I don’t want any extra bits (Shogun, etc.) and if I shoot 4K it will be for HD output, not 4K. And I’d do it judiciously when I know I’m going to want cropping facility in shots with a lot of detail (like the machinery inside of plants). Anyway, though I’m busy on one hand, waiting for the dust to settle on the other is not a bad thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for all your great comments and info. I note the JVC has come out with a new 4k camera that shoots in .mov codec, on standard SDXC cards. It’s called the GY-LS300. In addition is allows interchangeable lenses, has a super 35mm sensor, and an MFT mount.
    Size-wise, its looks like a viable run n’ gun cam, but I don’t think it has the added stabilization the Sony cams have. For my purposes the idea of being able to record in .mov files seems ideal–the .mov native codex makes editing in FCPX so much better. So, as good as the X70 is I’m thinking about considering this new option. B&H is selling it for….uh, 4k. 🙂
    There are adapters for MFT that will give you autofocus and other adjustments for a whole range of lenses—except the ones have have most of: e mount Sony lenses. But I do have Canon lenses I use on the FS100.
    The decision is not as difficult for me because I do “run n’ gun” as a hobby. Most shooting I do is in studio for my educational cannel on youtube.
    The x70 is a terrific camera, and I do finding editing and grading is better with xavc-long, but the JVC, if it pans out, would be great, for it would solve a lot of processing steps for mac users. After all the additional stuff you might possibly have to buy to upgrade on the x70, you could probably buy several good Nikon or Canon legacy lenses, or full frame Sony A mount lenses, or Minolta lenses, use adapters and get some fantastic results–with better low light performance, with that super 35mm sensor–not to mention VASTLY better DOF without doing all the gyrations required to get decent DOF with the x70.
    Pros and Cons!
    Does anyone have any experience with or comments about the JVC?
    I for one would like to hear them. I’ve tried to consolidate all my lenses in Sony e mount (or A/AF) mount for Sony full frame lenses, so that all lenses are useful for all my (Sony) cams—Sony is all i have at present. That said, a lot of the fine legacy lenses I have from Canon and Minolta would work, with the proper adapters, with either the Sony interchangeable lens cameras I have or the MFT mount of the LS300. Plus, this cam also shoots Panasonic MFT lenses with fully automatic features. I once owned a Panasonic G3, and those lenses were really reasonably priced and sharp as a tack.
    Ironically, the JVC hits the market…tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom,
      just my personal take on this 4K thing. You get a camcorder instead of a DSLR because you want zoom and ND filters and XLR and you want to shoot for more than 29 minutes …. If not then the GH4 is the camera to get (In my opinion). It gives no time limit, zoom and remote lanc(ish) but only with the 45-175 and the 14-45 (separately) and that’s a deal breaker for me. But if you want to use it for “creative” stuff and fast lenses then why bother with the X70 (complicated software, still unfinished and fixed lens) or JVC (way more money than the GH4) ?
      just saying…


  5. I think that nobody produces 4K right now, but who has a 4K camera can put it in a 1080 timeline and the results are significantly better than the “regular” hd. WAY better, not just better. Day and Night kind of better. Then the big problem (for me) of the 4K in the consumer cameras -regardless of the media , that can be a fast SD card actually- the big problem I was saying is the limited processing power of the consumer cameras that makes anything that moves look funny. The F55 can handle everything, including RS, and beautifully. but that’s the F55: don’t think that the X70 will get that power. So in 4K you can only shoot static scenes: if the camera pans then there goes the footage.But again for a static take then 4K produced as 1080 gives massive benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The PX70 promising but I’ll have to wait. I believe its been out for 6 months. Back in September I decided to buy the NX30. Joe’s video review on the this made up my mind into purchasing this as a second camera. All that he shows you is good solid information. I’m happy with this camera and have gotten some great, smooth moving shots in my wedding videos.
    I will be looking on upgrading to the PX70 next.

    Thanks Joe for your time in sharing your thoughts and use of the products with everyone. Always looking forward to anything new you have to share with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very nice, Joe. I will wait on your further evaluation of whether the 4K upgrade improves the HD images before pulling the trigger on pair of new cameras (especially as this gives the market more time to introduce something better). Five stars!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sony’s consumer 4K camcorder, the FDR-AX100, already records 4K to SDXC cards although at a lower bit rate.
    I can’t see any reason why the X70 won’t record 4K to SDXC internally since Sony already has that figured out.
    As for XAVC-L vs AVCHD, although you and I won’t see a difference in image quality, I’ve read that XAVC-L stands up better to colour grading.
    Of course the industry would like us to move to 4K. They get to sell more hardware. Bigger and better flat panel screens, more powerful computers and hard drives.
    FCPX is due for an update, which will likely include the ability to import XAVC-L rather than rely on Sony Catalyst software.


  9. Hello There! Thanks for the info. I was wondering about what the actual real story was about the 4K on this camera. Would you still recommend getting it to use as a HD camera? Based on the the review you wrote on the X70 I would imagine the answer would be yes. Also, will you be attending the NAB Show in Las Vegas this year?


    • Yes definitely–as covered in the review. 4K may prove to be a benefit, but still for HD export unless you want to go the extra mile for the 4K hardware investment. As to NAB–I live England, so probably not.


  10. I have a 4K camera (Panasonic HC-X1000). I got it not to record and produce a 4K film, but to record 4K and produce a HD film. Much in the same way we record HD to produce SD DVD discs…. it’s always better to start with the best footage as possible, for results that are more defined and detailed.

    The main reason for 4k for me, is so you can reframe your video images in editing, put in artificial zooms and pans and use the built in stabilizer more effectively without any noticeable picture degrading. You can pretty much zoom in up to 100%! In practice it depends on the lighting and how good the original shot is if you start to notice any degrade when you zoom in this way, as of course picture noise increases in size as you zoom in.

    4K editing on a standard HD computer is easily possible in FCPX by using PROXY files. The 4K proxy files in FCPX produce full size HD files (1080P) that look and play in full HD quality, so editing 4K is a pleasure with the added luxury of reframing shots as needed. 4K files are much more detailed too so the picture quality is amazing compared to HD. Looking at them side by side you realise just how bad HD really is in comparison, and when you consider 4K not only is 4 times the size of HD, but detail records about 100 Mbps while HD AVC is only 24 Mbps, there is a lot of difference.

    So is 4K needed now. Joe says no, and for 4K output he is absolutely right. But for HD output from a 4K source, I say that depending on your needs, it could be vital. Now, is there a decent camera for 4K that doesn’t cost as much as a brand new “big” car, for instance the X-1000 is a great price, and is great for outdoor daylight use, not so good in low light….?


  11. Hey Whisperer,
    Where did you learn that, with the upcoming firmware, shooting in 4K requires the use of Sony SxS Pro+ cards? The PXW-X70 is not even equipped with such a slot.
    In any case, to record in 4K, an Atomos Shogun external recorder/monitor,, would be a better option.



    • I linked the thread in the post. ( Admittedly they’re not talking about the X70 there, but if you scroll through to page 3 you’ll see that you’ll struggle with 60mbps and that much higher record rates are necessary for the 4K footage to be handled real time in Divince Resolve or by other editing software. Then there’s this from Sony:

      The PXW-X70 is also 4K ready and there will an paid upgrade available in June 2015. This adds 4K to the PXW-X70 Camcorder in 4K XAVC-Long format 4.2.0 8 Bit at 60Mbps using the broadcast MXF wrapper. We are looking to possibly support a higher bit-rate recording mode than 60 Mbps for 3840×2160 XAVC-L in the future. (from this link: That seems to indicate they know that higher record rates are really needed.

      However, according Gary’s comment, he does it all in FCPX using proxy files and has no trouble–and he’s on an iMac.

      I guess the question is (on the X70), will the SDXC cards at 60mbps (which are affordable!) record 4K that can be edited in proxy files?

      Your point of an external recorder is well taken.

      It appears the solution for the SxS cards for the X70 is through use of Sony’s SxS card reader/writer–another accessory and expense.

      Boy, you really have to read fine print to figure this all out. Very shady marketing if you ask me with added charges all the way.

      I really will be interested to know, when the upgrade for the X70 is released, if you can actually record 4K on an SDXC card. Then, for use X70 owners, at least Gary’s point above will make it worthwhile.

      If the Shogun takes care of that, that’s the route I’d take rather than buy Sony’s solution.

      Liked by 1 person

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