Four-Wheeler Tubing, Chainsaws, & A Review of The Sony Action Cam

For some crazy yet awesome reason Sony sent me one of their new go-anywhere HD video cameras, the HDR-AS15 Action Cam. I actually volunteered to receive it through their request on Klout, a website that measures influence and engagement across the different social media platforms. I’m not too big on keeping track of a score for these things – I like social media for the “social” aspect alone – but if you’re going to send me a $250+ camera to test and review, I’ll take it!

All that being said, I finally had a chance to put this camera to the test over Christmas. As you’ll see in the above footage (edited in iMovie), we captured some 120 fps slow motion footage of my brother-in-law and his chainsaw in the first part of the video. I really dig the wide-angle settings of the Action Cam and you’ll good demonstration of that in the very first clip. You can actually change the view from 120-degrees all the way up to 170-degrees.

The second part of the video is from an afternoon of tubing-on-the-ice-behind-the-four-wheeler at my parents’ house – one of our all-time favorite winter activities. The first few shots are from the head of my 5 year-old. Notice the part where she actually falls off and dives head-first into the snow. Hilarious. Eventually I strapped the camera onto my own head and had my dad really whip me around on the tube. The footage this camera captured pleasantly surprised me in how cool it looked.

This isn’t really a professional in-depth review but I do want to point out some of the good and bad of this camera:

Size of the Camera

This HD video camera is amazingly small. It literally fits in the palm of my hand. That obviously makes it very lightweight and portable which makes mounting this camera to your handlebars, helmet, or goggles no big deal. It makes sense why it’s so small since there is no viewfinder or screen. I was really impressed with the compact size of the Action Cam.

Recording Modes

The Action Cam is capable of shooting full 1080p HD video, and it also has other modes for 720p at 30fps, 720p at 120fps (again, awesome!), and a few other settings. The video above was recorded at 720p. It’s nice to have options.

Video Recording Quality

Overall I was impressed at what the Action Cam was able to capture with its Carl Zeiss lens. It’s winter in MN so the light isn’t the greatest these days and there are a lot of shadows, but I think that the footage turned out pretty good given that fact. I can’t wait for summer to try it out in full sunlight. I’ll also be curious to see the quality of footage underwater in one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. There are a few up here with 20+ feet of clarity so underwater footage on one of those lake could be pretty spectacular.

There are a few spots in the above video where it seems like the footage gets a little muddy – especially when there is a ton of movement. However, I’m not totally sure if that’s the camera or if it’s the SD card that I am using. I hope to do more testing on this. Also, I wonder if shooting at 1080p might change that.

Finally, I was definitely impressed at how smooth and stable the footage I captured turned out. It seems like the Action Cam does a good job of capturing non-shaky video even if you’re bouncing all over the place on an inner-tube being pulled behind a four-wheeler.

Accessories

The Sony Action Cam came with a USB cable for charging and data transfer, a rechargeable battery, a water-proof case, and various other mounting accessories. It did not include the MicroSD card or a handle-bar mount. I’m hoping to pick up some sort of mount for my bike this spring.

One note about the water-proof case: It is nice and light and it includes a big, lockable record button on the back. This makes it easy to hit record while you’ve got the camera mounted.

WiFi Functionality

This particular model of Action Cam has built in WiFi which is pretty sweet. First, I can connect to the camera from my iPhone by logging on to the camera’s own WiFi network. I then downloaded an app that allows me to preview live video footage from the camera. It essentially acts as the viewfinder for the camera. It also allows you to change the settings of the camera which is nice if you’ve already got the camera mounted and don’t want to move it.

The WiFi functionality also allows you to transfer captured footage directly to your mobile device. This is really nice for verifying that you got the shots you wanted.

Input Locations

One great thing about the Action Cam is the fact that it includes an input for an external microphone. This is HUGE in my book! There’s so much video footage out there with crappy audio quality. Back when I did a lot of video blogging, the ability to use a lapel mic was a big deal to me and I’ve always had a preference for cameras that have this option. And the Action Cam is one of those cameras…

but…

…the location of the mic input on the Action Cam is on the BOTTOM. There is no way to mount this camera to a tripod or X-Shot and use the mic input. In fact, the Action Cam needs to be used inside of its waterproof case to even get mounted on a tripod, and then there’s even less of a chance of ever getting a mic hooked up to it. This is a major design flaw and I don’t see any way that I can use a mic with it unless Sony comes out with some sort of tripod mounting accessory that holds the sides of the camera or something. Very perplexing.

Overall Impression

I’d give this camera 8 out of 10 Yanks on the Yank scale. It’s not out-of-this-world amazing, but for around $250, the quality, size, features, and functionality is pretty awesome. Again, I’m excited to use this in the warmer months in the lakes and woods of this area. I might even get creative and invent my own tripod mount for it that allows me to use the mic input. I think it can be done.

Look for some more footage from me in the coming months, and thanks again to Sony for sending me an Action Cam to try out.

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