Please don't write anything in this box. It's here to trick the robots.
Follow Cycle Traveller on PinterestFollow Cycle Traveller on InstagramFollow Cycle Traveller on LinkedInFollow Cycle Traveller on GoogleFollow Cycle Traveller on FacebookFollow Cycle Traveller on Twitter.

Review: Sony Action Cam helmet mountable camcorder

Alia Parker's picture
Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V. Cycle Traveller

Action cameras have taken the holiday-snap slideshow to a whole new level in recent years, with cyclists jumping on the bandwagon of strapping the lightweight video cameras to their heads. Gone are the days where Aunty Mary and Cousin Joe oohed and aahed over the piles of photo albums you placed on their laps. These days you Facebook them your latest action-packed video on YouTube and wait for an expected barrage of 'likes'.

GoPro has been at the forefront of developing and popularising the action cam market, but as with anything, a good level of competition helps to drive innovation and Sony has stepped in and started applying the pressure.

After three weeks testing the latest Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V (its second incarnation), I must say I was impressed with what an object that weighs 90 grams when in its case and fits into the palm of my hand is capable of doing. You can watch a short video I made using the Action Cam and its associated software in Bike routes: Cycling Narooma's Wagonga Inlet Scenic Loop. The video was rendered at 1080/30. This was my first ever attempt to make a video and I managed to make it work, which says a lot in itself. 

Cycling Narooma's Wagonga Inlet using Sony Action Cam review. Cycle Traveller

I wouldn't go as far as to say the action cam was perfect and in fact there was one issue I found quite detrimental to the quality of the end video. I'll explain more about that below. The good news is that Sony has addressed this shortfall in its third incarnation of the product – the AS100V – which is yet to hit the market. Watch this space.

Specs

  • Full HD 1080 (60p,50p,30p,25p) HD 720 (120p, 60p)
  • Steadyshot Image Stabilisation
  • 12MP Still Image Mode
  • f2.8 Carl Zeiss Tessar Lens
  • Built-in NFC & WiFi remote Control
  • GPS Geo-tagging with Data Overlay
  • Exmor R CMOS Sensor for low-light performance

Review

The Sony Action Cam AS30V is relatively easy to use with just three buttons: next, previous, and record. It also has a 'hold' switch to prevent the record button being unwontedly switched on or off. The navigation screen is small and very basic. The next and previous buttons allow you to scroll between various shooting options – such as slow motion or resolution – and the record button doubles as 'enter'.

The cam sits within a plastic protective and waterproof casing which can be operated externally and mounted in a number of ways, including on a helmet or handlebar. I found the standard helmet mount that comes in the kit was not suitable for my bicycle road helmet (it's better suited to the more rounded skater-style helmets) but straps in the Universal Head Mount Kit, which is sold separately, can solve this problem.

Cycling Narooma. Image still off Sony Action Cam. Cycle Traveller review.

Strengths

I was most impressed by the Action Cam's ability to adjust quickly and smoothly between changing light conditions.

Its image stabilisation was also an impressive stand out, which is key given action cams are designed to be used on the move. This ability makes the end video much kinder on the eye.

The wide-angle lens squeezes a lot of view into the picture, and the degree to which it does this is adjustable. For instance, if you don't want the corners of the image to look so rounded, you can reduce the angle.

The Movie Studio Platinum video editing software that comes with the Action Cam is a powerful video editing tool capable of making professional looking videos. While it is quite technical, numerous YouTube tutorials are a good way of learning how to use it effectively.

The GPS Geo-tagging is very handy to recall and locate exactly where footage was shot and Wi-Fi capability makes connectivity much easier.

The kit comes with an additional case with an LCD screen to covert the Action Cam into a handheld video recorder, which is quite a nice little add-on.

The cam had decent sound as well as a jack for connecting higher-spec microphones.

The 12 mega pixel still camera allows the cam to take decent photos (an example is pictured right), albeit it is not a replacement for a proper camera as there is no zoom.

Sony Action Cam box kit. Cycle Traveller

Weaknesses

The action cam needs to be used in its protective casing when mounted and on the move. While the casing helps to protect the camera, the end result is that the plastic dome over the otherwise good Carl Zeiss lens reduces the quality of the overall video, especially where glare from the sun is concerned. You can see sun glare in a number of instances in the demo video above. This aspect has been addressed in the soon-to-be-released AS100V.

Another issue that can be addressed is the type of information on the display screen. When the camera is in use, there is no indication of the mode it is shooting in. For instance, I had forgotten I'd put the camera in slow motion to test the feature on a previous day. As a result, I went on recording in slow motion by mistake for some time afterwards. This made for very tedious viewing upon playback on my computer.

Overall opinion

I enjoyed using the Sony Action Cam and see it as an equal competitor to the GoPro. The quality of the end video was good, despite my gripe with the protective casing. The nature of action cams means they are used in circumstances that generally make them vulnerable to damage and as such, the protective casing is an important feature. However, the plastic dome over the camera lens does impact the quality of the footage, especially when the sun is high in the sky above the object being filmed. I look forward to seeing the AS100V which has attempted to address this problem by making the camera body weatherproof on its own, allowing it to be used without the plastic case covering the lens.

Overall, the AS30V was a trustworthy and reliable product with good end results. The quality is not comparable to full camcorders, but not bad for a small lightweight device. It is priced competitively, generally coming in substantially cheaper compared with the equivalent GoPro Hero 3 Black, making Sony's offering a very attractive alternative. However, those looking for even better performance and quality should wait for the release of the AS100V, which comes with a number of improvements and looks set to seriously shake up the market.

Images from top: 1. Sony Action Cam HDR-AS30V in protective case and stand alone. 2. Video produced using a Sony Action Cam. 3. Still shot using the action cam. 4. The Action Cam kit.

Comments

I own the Sony camera and found that if I have it switched on video mode for longer than five minutes, the casing 'mists over' making the video look like it's shot through fine cotton wool. I added the Sony 'inserts' that are meant to soak up the condensation, but they don't work. So, in certain conditions, the protective casing makes shooting a video next to impossible. A major design flaw.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Please don't write anything in this box. It's here to trick the robots.
Noellaproject