Back to the Past: Meet the World's First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam
Back to the Past: Meet the World's First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam

Back to the Past: Meet the World’s First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam

2 mins read

Here’s a fun item to start the week. YouTuber Zach Mayfield made a cool video on one of the most intriguing (and fun) cameras announced back in 2012: The Sony NEX-VG900 which is the World’s First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam. Check it out below.

Sony NEX-VG900: World's First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam
Sony NEX-VG900: World’s First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam

World’s First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam

In 2012, Sony introduced the “World’s First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam Camcorder” titled  NEX-VG900. As stated back then by Sony: “Realizing supreme imaging quality and generous creative options, Sony’s NEX-VG900 is the first Handycam camcorder with a 35mm sensor to exploit the artistic potential of interchangeable lenses fully. With a resolution of 24.3 effective megapixels, the camcorder’s Exmor CMOS sensor is around 40 times larger than its equivalent in standard consumer camcorders and more than twice the size of the APS-C sensor found in other interchangeable lens Handycam models. It captures full-frame, 24-megapixel still photos, with RAW format support for all the post-processing flexibility and quality expected from a pro-class DSLR camera. The sensor also allows the creation of distinctive ‘bokeh’ (defocus) effects; high sensitivity for extremely clear, low-noise images; and effortless reproduction of smooth, true tonal gradation”. Sony added that “Beautiful, film-like results can be achieved by shooting video in 24p progressive mode with CinemaTone Gamma, and Cinematone Color presets to precisely control cinematic grading effects”. The Sony NEX-VG90 was developed to constitute a bridge between DSLR and Handycam style camcorder for those who want to shoot full-frame high-quality videos but retain the logical form factor of Handycam.

The Sony NEX-VG900: World's First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam
The Sony NEX-VG900: World’s First 35mm Full-Frame Handycam

Untapped 4K potential

As mentioned by a review of USA Today (back in 2016 – four years after the introduction!): “While the image sensor is certainly large enough and has enough pixels to accommodate 4K video recording, the Sony NEX-VG900 only tops out with 1920 x 1080 Full HD recording (just like most HD camcorders). Another caveat is the fact that to take full advantage of the V900’s Full Frame image, you must use A-mount lenses with the provided A-mount lens adapter (LA-EA3 adapter). Using E-mount lenses on the VG900 will result in the camcorder initiating an APS-C crop mode that only uses a portion of the image sensor”.

The Sony NEX-VG900
The Sony NEX-VG900

Key Features

Here are the highlights of the NEX-VG900:

  • 24.3MP Full Frame 35mm Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • E-Mount Lens Compatibility
  • A-Mount Lens Compatibility via Adapter
  • Quad Capsule Microphone & 5.1 Sound
  • Tru-Finder OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • Cinematone Gamma / Color
  • Picture Effect Modes
  • Seesaw Lever Smooth Zoom
  • Uncompressed 1080 HDMI Output
Sony NEX-VG900
Sony NEX-VG900

These are pretty decent specs, and the Handycam was actually groundbreaking for many reasons. As for the price, you can still find a few on Amazon (or used ones on B&H/eBay). A new one will cost you $2,800 USD (not cheap at all!). The price range of the used is around $800-$1,000. Here you can find a review by B&H 10 years ago:

Now to the fun part

YouTuber Zach Mayfield made a brand new ‘retro review’ video about the camera, titled: “Sony’s FULL FRAME Handycam Nobody Cared About”. He says that his favorite cameras of all time are old-school Sony Handycams. “I grew up making home movies with them, and I pretty much owe my filmmaking obsession to those early years. But times have changed and now I’m making videos with DSLR-shaped cameras, which have their pros and cons” he says, and asks: “But what would happen if we took the ergonomics of retro camcorders and smashed them together with the powerful specs of modern cameras?” Check out his answer below:

So, what do you think? Although the NEX-VG900 looks like a lot of fun, would this full-frame Handycam be worth investing in nowadays? 

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Yossy Mendelovich

Yossy is a filmmaker who specializes mainly in action sports cinematography. Yossy also lectures about the art of independent filmmaking in leading educational institutes, academic programs, and festivals, and his independent films have garnered international awards and recognition.
Yossy is the founder of Y.M.Cinema Magazine.

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