With the runaway success of the GoPro Hero, everyone’s scrambling into the wearable POV camera market. So it’s about time Sony — a long-time player in both camcorders and teeny-tiny imaging tech — trotted its own horse into the race.
Sony’s shooter, simply called the Action Cam, is available in Wi-Fi ($270) and non-Wi-Fi ($200) versions. We tested the Wi-Fi variant (which, given its ability to pair with your smartphone, is the only one we’d recommend) and found it to be a mixed bag of yay and meh.
Video looked nice overall. The camera maxes out at 60 frames per second at 1080p, which is admirable, and there are both 2X and 4X slo-mo modes that can capture at 720p. I did, however, see some digital artifacts when shooting high-speed sequences, and my blue skies often appeared off-color, especially compared to other cameras like the Hero3.
The solid, Wi-Fi-connected iOS app is great for seeing what you’re shooting, and it’s delightfully easy to set up and use. But the manual controls on the camera need some work. When you aren’t using the app to control shooting, it’s very difficult to tell if you’re actually recording or not without physically taking the camera off its mount and looking at it.
Sony advertises the camera’s single, big red button as being “glove-friendly.” True, but only if you don’t care to know whether or not you’re actually shooting. To be sure the video is rolling, you’ll need to check your phone — and realistically, you don’t want to have to pull your phone out of whatever pocket or bag you keep it in during action sports and fire up an app. Nor can you swap modes when it’s in its waterproof housing. Want to shoot a still? You have to take it out of the case. And for that matter, just about everything in the camera’s little interface is difficult to suss out without breaking out the manual.