Sony Action Cam FDR-X1000V review: Sony's 4K Action Cam gives GoPro a run for its money

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The Good The X1000V houses a ton of useful features for action lovers, plus it can record at 4K 100Mbps in Sony's efficient XAVC S codec. There's built-in image stabilization and the camera offers exposure compensation and white balance control. To top it all off, the X1000V records great quality 4K video.

The Bad Menu response times when tweaking settings on the camera can be slow, while the lens casing gets smeary and droplets clings to the front when you shoot in and out of the water.

The Bottom Line Sony's X1000V offers power and performance in a package that goes head-to-head with the GoPro.

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8.4 Overall
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

After mounting some pretty stiff competition against the incumbent frontrunner GoPro for the past few years, the X1000V's combination of features and performance might just tip the scales in Sony's favour.

The Sony retails for $499, AU$599 or £359, which places it at the same price point (at least in the US) as the GoPro Hero 4 Black edition . Sony's basic Action Cam package comes with the X1000V, a waterproof case, adhesive mounts and a microUSB cable.

For an extra $100 in the US, you can also pick up the X1000V with the live view remote. The remote is designed to be worn on your wrist and gives you a live view of the action via the small colour screen, as well as recording control.

Design and features

If you are familiar with any of the previous Action Cams from Sony, the design of the X1000V will come as no surprise. The camera is housed in a shotgun-style body which has a flattened base so it can stand on its own (outside of the waterproof case) with no support. A tripod mount and external mic input are located at the base.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Like the previous generation Action Cam, the AS100V , this latest edition is splash-resistant with an IPX4 rating. I was particularly thankful for this, as I unceremoniously (and accidentally) emptied my glass of water on top of the Action Cam during the testing process.

There's also a waterproof casing that comes with the camera, allowing the X1000V to reach depths of 10 metres or 33 feet. For extreme divers, an optional dive door with flat front panel can be purchased; this increases the depth to 60m/197ft.

To record all your thrills and spills a 170-degree Zeiss lens at f/2.8 sits at the front. You can reduce the field of view to 120 degrees when image stabilization is switched on. That feature is a key point of difference from the GoPro: built-in image stabilization compensates for camera shake. On the X1000V, the system compensates across a range of different vibration frequencies, including drone use.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

A stereo microphone sits right underneath the lens, with a wind cut filter able to be toggled on or off from the menus.

Operating the camera is reasonably simple, with the configuration remaining unchanged from earlier models. There are two buttons on the side panel -- Prev and Next -- used to navigate through menu options on the square LCD screen. At the top is a single record button to confirm selections, as well as to start/stop recording.

The X1000V's rear door partially opens to expose the micro HDMI and USB ports on one side, or fully opens to reveal the battery slot and microSD slot.

All about the resolutions

With a proliferation of 4K devices hitting the market recently, you may already be aware of some of the advantages of shooting video in a higher resolution than full HD. There are many when it comes to video editing, such as being able to crop in on sections of the frame. Plus, you can also pull out 8-megapixel stills from footage.

However, for most consumers, the resolution boost won't be worth it unless there's also a 4K TV or monitor in the house to make the most of it. So, the X1000V offers recording in multiple resolutions.

Recording is in either XAVC S or MP4, selectable from the setup menu. 4K recording is offered a resolution of 3,840x2,160 and only in XAVC S. Selectable frame rates are 30/24p at 100Mbps or 24p at 60Mbps.

XAVC S recording is also available at bitrates of:

  • 50Mbps (1080/60/30/24p)
  • 100Mbps (1080/120p or 720/240p)
  • 60Mbps (1080/120p or 720/240p)

MP4 recording is available at:

  • 1080/60/30p
  • 720/30/120p
  • 480/240p

To record at 100Mbps you need a microSDXC card with a UHS-I U3 rating, otherwise the camera will flash the word Media if you try and select this bitrate with a slower card.

Exposure controls are available to adjust the image in 0.3EV increments. White balance selection is available as well.

In 4K mode, the X1000V is recording a 1:1 direct pixel readout -- that is, one photosite or pixel on the sensor is directly corresponding to a pixel in the video. This is in comparison to "pixel binning", a phenomenon used on some other cameras that combines multiple photosites together to correspond to a single pixel in the video. A direct readout should deliver less false colouration and reduce the effect of "jaggies".

An option called loop recording lets you record video continuously, saving the last few minutes of footage (either 5, 20, 60 or 120 seconds).