Sony HDR-AS100V Action Cam review: Sony tackles the GoPro giant with the AS100V

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The Good High bitrate recording and a bunch of extra features like GPS make this Sony's best Action Cam so far, with good still image and audio quality added to the mix. A new tally light on the top of the camera makes it easy to see when you're recording.

The Bad The live view remote can't be used for photo or video playback, and a microSDXC card is needed for high bitrate recording. Exposure during regular 28Mbps video recording is uneven, while water tends to cling to the front of the waterproof case.

The Bottom Line Built-in image stabilization and high bitrate recording make this Sony's best Action Cam yet, but there are still a few usability quirks remaining.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Image quality 8

In the world of action and sports cameras, the GoPro Goliath has been challenged by many wannabe Davids over the years.

Contour, Drift and iOn have tried to carve out a niche but it's Sony that is trying to make the biggest dent in the GoPro armour with its Action Cam models.

Opting for a shotgun-style design rather than the boxy form of the GoPro, this latest model from Sony dubbed the AS100V bears many of the same physical traits as its predecessors.

Sharing the same overall form as the previous models means that it is backwards-compatible with most existing accessories should you be in the market for an upgrade.

Helpfully, Sony has made it easy to differentiate between all the different Action Cams by making the AS100VR white -- the earlier models both came in a black finish.

Spot the newbie. The AS100V (top) with the first Action Cam, the AS15V (below). Lexy Savvides/CNET

Aesthetics aside, the body is now splash proof (IPX4 rating) without needing any extra case or protection. Full waterproofing to 5m/16ft is available using the included plastic casing.

The lens has been overhauled from previous models, with a new f/2.8 Zeiss Tessar lens offering a 170 degree field of view. Like earlier Action Cams, the AS100V only shoots at the full 170 degree view when image stabilization -- or SteadyShot -- is turned off. Otherwise, with SteadyShot turned on, the view is reduced to 120 degrees.

Behind the lens sits a 13.5MP Exmor R sensor (1/2.3-inch) that's capable of capturing 12-megapixel stills in photo mode, or 2-megapixel stills in interval record mode (5, 10, 30 and 60 second intervals).

Connectivity is provided via NFC for one-tap setup with Android phones for Wi-Fi, while a micro HDMI port, micro USB and a combined power/microphone jack also sit at the base, underneath flaps. The built-in GPS tracks location data which can then be overlaid on videos using the PlayMemories Home software.

With a firmware update (Mac and Windows) the AS100V can live stream directly to Ustream. Burst still shooting and self-timer are among the other options added via the firmware update.

How it works

The record button on the Sony is so big you can't miss it, right on the back panel of the camera. The Action Cam has two other physical buttons that can be used to select between shooting options on the side LCD. Operation is simple, and slightly easier to get used to than the two-button operation of the GoPro.

At the top, Sony has added a new tally light to keep an eye on the recording status of the camera. It lights up red when recording and is much more useful than the secondary light located at the back of the model, which is so small it can be obscured by some of the accessories.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Fortunately, Sony now lets you mount the camera on several different accessories without needing the waterproof casing to hold it in place. The AS100V comes with a mounting plate in the box which has a bigger thread for use with screw-based accessories like the suction cup.

On the recording front, Sony has given the AS100V a boost by adding XAVC S recording (60/30/24p) at 50Mbps. On paper at least, this high-quality mode gives the camera a significant advantage over its regular MP4 recording which is at 28Mbps. It also opens up the option to shoot in either a vivid or neutral colour mode; the latter giving you more scope for grading in post-processing.

In regular 28Mbps recording, you can shoot at 1080/60/30p and 720/30p. Also, 720/120p and 480/240p are available (with sound) for slow-motion effects.

To complement Sony's pro-focused video with XAVC S, the AS100V has timecode functionality which allows editors to more easily sync footage from multiple cameras.

Battery life is great, with the Sony outperforming the GoPro Hero 3+ on 1080/30p recording at the default bitrate. The GoPro managed 1 hour 59 minutes before caving, while the Sony lasted 2 hours 17 minutes.

Live View remote

The Action Cam is available in some configurations with an included Live View remote (look for the AS100VR). Like the name suggests, the remote gives you a live feed stream from the camera and you can wear it on your wrist like a watch.

Taking a photo of your own wrist is difficult. Using the Live View remote is even more difficult. Lexy Savvides

There's a big record button to start and stop the action as well as a dedicated power button. It has a built-in battery and can be charged over USB, plus, the remote can be used to control up to five cameras at a time.

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