I was at a Sony Store recently and got to test drive this amazing camera for a day. I put it through a stress test of constantly changing lighting and bad (on purpose) camera movement to see if I could reproduce the infamous "jello" effect from a rolling shutter on CMOS chips. I even tried to reproduce a complaint I read about on Sony's own website that says after 2GB (or 12 mins) of shooting the file would split into 2 pieces and cause stutter in audio and dropped frames at the break. I was using a class 4 SDHC card. The test was shot in 1080 24p FX mode.
Lets cut to the chase.
Easy to operate: Being a Canon guy, I thought the controls on a Sony might be a jump for me, but they're all pretty standard. I had no problems jumping in and doing what I wanted with it.
Low light/Changing Light operations: The front of the store was well-lit with a mixture of color temperature (florescent, tungsten, LED) flood lights. The AX2000 had no problems with automatic white balance. I rolled the iris up to over-expose the image then had the camera auto-iris to reproduce some image tearing. There were no issues. I walked to the back with a dramatic lighting change. This was lit like a home theater and the camera had no problems keeping up.
Lens: I really liked the 20x zoom and the controls on the lens itself. The placement of the focus, zoom, and iris rings were very nice. I had no trouble telling which one was which and reaching them while I was shooting.
Look and feel: The camera looks like a pro would use it. The ergonomics were fantastic. Buttons that needed to be buttons were buttons, and switches that needed to be switches were switches.
Stock battery: I was amazed at how long it was lasting. Don't get me wrong, it's something that a pro would HAVE to upgrade, but in a pinch I wouldn't be worried about using it.
Stock Microphone: This is no surprise, a stock mic that's bad? NO WAY! I haven't come across many prosumer cameras with a good mic. This is an easy (and not too expensive) fix, buy a shotgun mic.
Auto focus: This seemed a little sluggish to me. If you're shooting a wedding or something, this won't be a big deal. If you're shooting a sporting event, it might...
Some people have complained about editing AVCHD. I'll say this: I'm on a Core2 Quad with 8GB RAM and a GeForce GT 120 and Premier CS5 and it worked like a charm. Of course I had to render every transition, but playback was smooth as silk and scrubbing through video wasn't horrid.
I believe that this camera stands alone with no equal right now. The Panasonic version might have 3CCDs, but the zoom isn't as good and it only records to 1 memory stick which means that I'd have to switch media more often. I was also unable to reproduce the "jello" effect that some complain about with CMOS sensors. I was handheld the entire time and was NOT being careful when I shot. I just wish my boys at Canon would make something similar ;-) because I'm going to be switching brands as soon as I save up the cash.
Canon has announced the XF105 and XF100. These are going to be smaller (and cheaper) versions of the XF305 and XF300. Because the XF100 will shoot with 50Mb/s and 4:2:2 color space, I doubt it will be in the $3000-$4000 range. Although, I'll be ecstatic if it is!
PS... I happen to LOVE Jello! I don't need Bill Cosby coming after me! (Posted on 7/22/12)