Today a review from the Sony HDR-AS100 action cam.
As you know from me I will give you my opinion, no resolution charts, no pixel peeping, just the way I use it and my opinion.
As most of you know I love to be active during my free time and one of the things I love to do is mountain biking (or just biking), we live in a nice area for biking and often I’m asked online if I can show some of the routes I bike, one could of course do this by taken some photos (which I normally also do) but it’s more fun if you can see the video right? So it was time to get a so called Action Cam, now one thing I noticed from myself is that although I claim to be not brand loyal I went to the store and asked not for an action cam but for a GoPro Hero4……
In the past I bought a GoPro because everyone told me it was the best action camera out there, and to be honest it was a very nice camera although I had to add a lot of extras like the display and still I could not really see what I was doing in bright sunlight (by the way this is all a non issue with the new generation), also when we watch a movie and you see action cam sequences the first thing we say is “GoPro” now this is actually quite good for GoPro, it means they did their work and marketing VERY well, it’s a bit like GoPro for a lot of people is the same as action cam so if you buy one… it’s not an action cam but a GoPro… so also with me.
The store I bought my camera was Tuerlings in Tilburg, they helped us out with the Scott Kelby Photowalk this year and they sold the GoPro’s so I thought it would be nice to buy it from them. Now one thing I have to say about Tuerlings, this is the kind of shop you want to buy gear, their staff is very knowledgable and friendly and they really give you a VERY good and solid advice, as I was about to find out.
As soon as I told the salesperson about what I wanted to do with my GoPro/Action cam he immediately said that I would be much better off with the Sony HDR AS100. At first I was a bit stunned… Sony? as an action cam? I’ve been shooting Sony photo cameras for a while now but I never (to be honest) even looked at their action cams. Thanks to Tuerlings I got the guarantee that if I did not liked the camera I could bring it back, no questions asked, and exchange it for a GoPro. Well in that case…..
The camera itself
I hate to bore you with all the specs but here we go :
Very good Zeiss lens
Up to 50mb/s video (XAV S or MP4)
120 AND 240 fps action freezing motion video (slow motion that is)
Natural and vivid colorsettings
Wrist remote control and display
Splash water proof
Wifi and NFC
Underwater color balance
170 degrees lens without steady shot and 120 degrees with steady shot
1920×1080 at a max of 60 fps
720P at a max of 120 fps
800×480 at a max of 240 fps
Several Photo (13.5MP) options like interval, burst, time-lapse, motionshot LE,
The camera itself is very small and compared to the GoPro’s I actually like the form factor from Sony a lot more, the menus are really easy to navigate, although I would have liked to have format a bit more easily accessible. The main thing I love about the Sony is the splash water proof, this means you can just use the camera without it’s housing on your bike (car or whatever) without the fear of it getting wet, and because there is no casing the sound and image quality is optimal, one thing I don’t like is the way the microSD card is mounted, this can be either way and one would expect that it would only fit one way. Also I had some trouble finding the right MicroSD card, but when I got the correct one in the mail from Tuerlings it actually worked right away, so beware of this make sure you buy a card with the camera.
Battery life is ok but nothing more, on the other hand I think it’s a limitation of all cameras that run with tiny accupacks, I get app 2 hours out of a battery with GPS and wifi enabled, with wifi off it should last a lot longer, GPS I don’t want to turn off because I actually love this feature. It’s great to see where you biked and in the Sony software you can even overlay the GPS information in the video, the quality of the video does take a hit (hardly noticeable on most material) but it looks pretty cool so let’s hope they will fix that later on.
The image stabilization is a BIG BIG advantage.
Of course you can do this later in Premiere or Final Cut Pro but to have it in camera is in my opinion always best, especially when filming a few hours of material. Now you can always argue if image stabilization is the reason to buy the Sony so let’s see if there is more…. because there is.
We already talked about GPS but what’s the most important thing about a camera?
Of course…. the image quality.
And I can be very very short about this one, the Sony is absolutely awesome, the GoPro might have 4K in the most expensive version but the dynamic range and color rendition of the Sony really surprised me, now I have to be honest that I did not have the opportunity to compare the two next to each other but also when you read reviews online the Sony wins hands down on pure image quality and I can only say that for an action cam I was pleasantly surprised about the quality.
The vivid color mode is… well ok vivid, I like it and I use it for my bike rides, however if I want serious image quality I will switch to the natural looking color setting which is indeed much more natural of course and is easily tuned in your editing software. Most of all however I am impressed by the dynamic range of the camera and it’s ability to operate at very little light, again I don’t have a GoPro4 here to compare but the Sony does incredibly well in low light situations. I made a small video tour of our studio handholding the camera and using image stabilization and the on board microphone which you can see here, and trust me… the studio was pretty dark.
As you can see the Sony did really well and this was actually one of the reasons we wanted to get a new action cam, my old GoPro was very bad in low light situations.
As expected it’s best to choose the setting 50 (or 60fps) for recording anything with movement, I tried a few videos on 25/30 just for testing and the image jumps around way too much, on 50/60 it’s very very smooth and the added image stabilization almost gives you the idea that you are seeing a glide cam, the next clip is actually me riding my bike with the camera mounted on the handle bars (not the perfect place for shocks, realize that parts of this route are off road and VERY bumpy. The video is sped up but you get a pretty good idea I think about some of the tricky lighting situations and the overal image quality. I did had to compress the heck out of the video so don’t mind the lack of detail, we had a very slow connection where I uploaded this (even slower than in the studio) and the video was never intended to be used for a review, but I do like to show it because you can see the way the Sony handles the lighting and stabilization.
Cases and holder
When I posted online I got the Sony the first few responses were mostly from people telling me I made a huge mistake and I would never ever be able to get all the accessories that GoPro has etc. Well I can be very short in this regard…. even if I couldn’t…. who cares…. as long as you can find the accessories and mounts YOU need, in my case the car and my bike, it’s ok right?
What people often don’t realize is that GoPro indeed has a huge amount of mounts and accessories, but don’t worry…. Sony sells a convertor which makes it possible to mount your Sony action cam on the GoPro accessories.
The wrist remote
This I really really love.
With the Sony package I got a wrist remote was included, at first you might think “well let’s skip that one” especially because the Sony is (like most other modern Sony cams) compatible with my iPhone app for Sony and shows you the image on your smartphone (also Android) however you have to start the app, make connection etc. The wrist remote works like a charm, connection is made in seconds and you can see what the camera does and start/stop recording all from your wrist. Because most action cams don’t have an LCD display (which also doesn’t really make sense) it’s always hard to adjust them exactly the way you want it. I used the LCD backpack on my GoPro but never really liked it, it did make it easier but especially in bright sunlight it was hardly visible and it was still a matter of guess work. The new GoPro’s have way better integration with remotes and smart devices but I absolutely love the wrist control.
The Sony action cam is awesome, the image quality is in my personal opinion incredibly good. I love the added GPS and the wrist remote/LCD screen, the image stabilization rocks (well actually it prevents that) and overal the package is incredibly well thought out and very very nice. The included software is ok, for people not familiar with editing software like final cut or premiere it will be more than adequate and adding GPS information is loads of fun.
Overall I’m incredibly happy I went for the Sony instead of the GoPro, the 4K from the GoPro did got my interest (we own a 4K projector) but in the end I thought the other features from the Sony were more important for what I’m using the material for and I’m glad I did.
Many thanks to Foto Tuerlings in Tilburg for giving me the right advise, if you live in that are make sure to check them out.