A question that I get quite regularly from people who enjoy my wildlife videos, especially all my bear videos, is “What kind of video camera do you use?” The answer to that question is that I’ve used several different cameras throughout the years, but more recently I’ve been using the Sony FDR-AX53 video camcorder, which for many reasons has now become my primary camera. In this blog and video, I’ll give a review of this camera and go over some of the reasons why I like it so much.
As an introduction to this review, let me give a little backstory on how I got into wildlife videography in the first place. My interest in videography was initially born out of my love of photography. After capturing thousands upon thousands of still images of my favorite wildlife subjects, such as the bears of Alaska, I eventually decided to switch gears and start focusing on capturing video footage, as there was an increasing demand for it in the marketplace.
When I first began my videography efforts, I simply used my DSLR camera in video mode. While I captured some decent footage with my DSLR camera, I found that using it for wildlife videography wasn’t so ideal…especially for filming bears…which required me to be a good safe distance away at all times. The bears I was filming were often on the move, and I found that my DLSR and telephoto lens was rather slow to focus, it was noisy, and it would get out of focus very quickly. I also found that much of the footage that I captured was very unstable and looked shaky when filming from long distances…even when using a tripod. All this led me to start experimenting with point and shoot style cameras as well as designated video cameras, or camcorders as they’re often called, as I wanted a camera that was more compact, that performed better, and that was faster and easier to use in the heat of the moment.
I used a number of point-and-shoot cameras over the years to capture video footage of wildlife, but most notably the Olympus Stylus SH-50. Although these kinds of cameras are quickly becoming a thing of the past, it’s a great little camera which I still use from time to time. It has a 24x optical zoom, shoots in 1080 HD, it has great image stabilization, decent sound quality and is very compact. Not to mention, it takes high-quality still photos too. While this camera worked great and was fun to use for recreational purposes, I eventually wanted to get something that could be used professionally. Thus, after a great deal of research, I decided on the Sony FDR-AX53 video camcorder, which is often referred to as a “prosumer model” camera, as it can be used for general consumer level purposes, as well as some professional level work. Now it’s obviously not on par with cameras that are used for big Hollywood productions, but for things such as shooting professional-grade online video, it works great.
The Sony is compact and lightweight, it has a rugged design that cleans up easily when it gets dirty, and it has lots of great features. Now I won’t go over every single feature of this camera in this review, but I will hit on what I feel are the most important ones, especially for wildlife and outdoor videography.
The footage you’ll see in the video below was all shot with the Sony FDRAX53, but please note that it won’t look nearly as sharp and impressive as it actually is, as the compression that YouTube uses when uploading videos and hosting them on their platform diminishes the image quality quite a bit. Nonetheless, this camera can shoot up to 4K resolution and up to 60 frames per second, from which you can produce some nice slow-motion footage. It has a 20x optical zoom, which is an especially important feature for me, and it’ll even go up to 40x when using the digital zoom feature. Along with an incredibly powerful optical zoom, this camera has a unique “Balanced Optical Steady Shot” feature which acts like a built-in gimbal and results in fantastic image stabilization, even when filming at very long distances, which again is a very important feature for filming wildlife.
The Sony FDR-AX53 features a ZEISS 26.88mm lens, a large image sensor that’s comparable to many DLSR cameras, and it has very good sound quality with a variety of adjustable microphone features, including the option for attaching an external microphone of your choice. It’s got a 3-inch LCD touch screen that you can use for both setting up the camera as well as live viewing and it also has an eyepiece viewfinder which works great in situations where the glare from bright sunlight washes out the LCD screen. It has dozens of options for customizing both the image quality and the performance of the camera, and much like DSLR cameras, it has plenty of automatic settings to choose from, or the option to adjust features and shoot manually, which is especially useful.
The connectivity features of the camera include options for Wi-Fi, USB, and HDMI, and like most cameras these days, you can store all your files on SD cards. The camera comes with a rechargeable lithium battery pack, and you can buy extra batteries in a variety of sizes to fit your needs. Other features, which I haven’t really used much to be honest, include time-lapse and night shot. And finally, yes, it also takes high-resolution still images too.
This camera currently sells for a little over a thousand dollars. I’ve had mine for three years now and have taken it on all sorts of adventures in Alaska and beyond and have had no issues or problems whatsoever. It’s performed great in a wide variety of conditions. All in all, it’s a wonderful little camera and I can highly recommend it for any kind of outdoor videography needs you may have. Click here to order yours today.
Check out the video below to see more…