- Written by Dave Koons
Sony is making their entrance into the action camera market with the appropriately named "Sony Action Cam". My friends over at ChutingStar loaned me one to try out and see how it stacks up. The Sony Action Cam comes in two models, one that is WiFi enabled and one that is not. I got to play with the WiFi enabled version.
My first impression was that it's small and light with very few buttons. The bottom is curved so it will not stand up on it's own, you must put it in a case of some sort. In other words, you can't just set the camera on the table and press "record" because it will fall over. The clear plastic housing has a flat bottom with a standard camera screw mount, so it can be mounted onto any tripod or camera mount. Once inside the housing there is only one accessible button. Pressing that button turns the camera on and automatically starts recording, pressing it again will stop recording and the camera will automatically power off in 10 or 60 seconds depending on your settings. An attachment screws into the bottom of the housing which allows you to clip it into Sony's self adhesive mounts. This mounting system is a fixed angle system, so placement of the adhesive mounts is crucial. There is a tilt adapter that can be purchased separately that allows for angle adjustment though, and I think the Surfboard mount kit also comes with an angle adapter.
The camera has two viewing angles that can be selected when shooting video, 120 or 170 degrees. When set to 170 there is a lot of "fisheye" distortion, which is to be expected. I don't much care of the fisheye view personally, so I opted for the 120 degree setting. The camera also has with 5 video modes to choose from and the firmware update adds a 6th option. I chose the newest video mode which is 1080 @ 60 fps for my testing.
The WiFi function allows you to remotely view and control the camera using any Android or iOS device. Once you have connected to the camera, you can see a live feed of what the camera is seeing, you can change camera settings or modes, you can start or stop recording, and you can copy videos and images from the camera to your handheld device.
- I mounted the Sony Action Cam side-by-side with a GoPro Hero3 Black edition. They were mounted as close together as I could get them without each camera interfering with the view of the other. Inline image 1
- I took a few still images with each camera from the same spot and I videoed a couple of tandem skydives with both cameras. I edited the footage of the tandem skydives in a side-by-side comparison with the GoPro footage on the right and the Sony Action Cam on the left. I'm not even going to include the still image comparison in this article because the difference in resolution is huge.
View the comparison video here: YouTube Video of Sony Action Cam Vs GoPro Hero3 Black
Still images seem to have a lot of contrast and the colors are vibrant when there is adequate light, but photos get very grainy in low light settings. Image size is limited to 2MP (1920 x 1080), so you aren't going to get anything better than what you can get with a basic cell phone camera. If high quality still images are what you are looking for, this is probably not the camera for you.
Video is sharp and the image stabilization works very well. I noticed a little lens flare but it was nothing too extreme and it didn't wash out the rest of the video image. Settings and controls are very intuitive and easy to figure out even without reading the directions. The biggest issue I had was being confident that the camera was recording. If you've ever been anywhere near someone with a GoPro mounted on their head, you are familiar with being asked "am I recording??!?" as they point to their head and wait for your assurance that the little red light is blinking. The Sony has a red light of it's own, but it's on the back of the camera and difficult to see when it's in the housing. So you are limited to either hitting record before putting on your helmet, or just having faith that you pressed the button hard enough. And if you press the record button too hard, the camera housing can pop right out of the adhesive mount (you have been warned).
You might notice that you can hear the tandem student screaming in freefall in the second video. The audio was picked up by the Sony camera but not the GoPro. I don't know why, they are both sealed inside waterproof housings, but the Sony seems to pick up audio when surrounded by extremely loud white noise.
The Sony has a few quirks that might take a little adjusting to get used to but overall I really like this camera, especially for the price.
- WiFi remote is reliable and easy to use (requires Android or iOS device, this is not a wrist-wearable remote)
- Simple one-button operation
- Image stabilization works extremely well
- Clip mount is not as secure as it should be
- No outward indicator when it is recording
- Still images are low quality