When Sonyfor the adventurous type, the photography world sat up and paid attention. This category has long been dominated by the likes of GoPro and Contour, so many were interested to see what Sony's offering would bring to the table.
Design and features
As it turns out, quite a lot. The Action Cam comes in two flavours, one with Wi-Fi and one without, though Australians will only be getting the Wi-Fi-enabled version, dubbed the HDR-AS15.
The Action Cam is a very small and lightweight shotgun-style camcorder, which has a 170-degree lens and stereo microphone on its front. To the side, a small LED screen and previous/next buttons give navigation options, though you cannot playback footage on the screen. At the back, a simple lock-slider and big recording button complete the physical controls.
There's also provision for connecting an external microphone, as well as connectivity options with micro USB and HDMI output. The Action Cam uses microSD cards or MemoryStick Micro cards, which are both accepted in a dual-slot that sits behind the rear door. As such, it's easy to insert the card back-to-front, which you only realise when the camera gives you a "no card" error when switching it on.
Elsewhere on the specifications side of things, the Action Cam is on par with all the other offerings in this category. It sports full HD video recording at 1080p (30 frames per second), 720p (30, 60 or 120fps) or 480p (30fps). Image stabilisation is standard, a feature that other cameras of this class miss out on. It is, however, only electronic image stabilisation, which means that it is nowhere near as effective as optical stabilisation. Plus, it will only work when shooting at the 120 degree field-of-view.
Unfortunately, the petite stature of the Action Cam presents the first real design issue. It can't sit upright without the aid of the waterproof casing — which, incidentally, lets you take the camera down to 60 metres underwater. This wouldn't be too much of an issue if the casing allowed you to access the controls — the only button you can press while the casing is on is the record button. Settings, therefore, need to be adjusted before putting it in the case.
The Action Cam works great if you want to mount it on your head, straight on. Anything else, and it gets a bit awkward.
The external microphone jack is located on the bottom of the camera, and can't be used when the unit is inside the waterproof casing.
That said, the Action Cam is pretty straightforward to use if all you want to do is shoot video. Pressing the record button, even when the camera is turned off, immediately starts recording.
On top of regular video, you can also snap stills at intervals, ideal for making time-lapse videos.
Wi-Fi and app use
The HDR-AS15 comes with Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to transfer videos, as well as use your mobile device as a wireless viewfinder to control the camera. The PlayMemories Mobile app is available for Android and iOS devices.
Once installed, you need to connect the devices to each other using the Wi-Fi password, which is provided in rather small text on the cumbersome paper instruction manual. Enter this once, and the devices will automatically talk to each other in the future.