As camera technology develops, I find myself using it more and more to share my travel experiences. In addition to writing articles about my adventures and capturing them via still photographs, I’ve begun to also take video clips, which I share on my YouTube channel.
I like finding new technology that allows me more creativity in how and what I share. Officially known as the HDR-AS15, Sony’s new wearable Action Cam is designed to compete in the action sports camera world lately dominated by GoPro. With broadcast-quality functions, Sony’s legendary reliability, a waterproof housing, a huge range of mounts and Carl Zeiss lens technology, it all works together to create a powerful tool to capture images and record video.
How I use it
As a travel blogger, I use the Action Cam to document my experiences, both via photos and video. I’ve used it to capture some of my travel experiences, including a filming a paragliding trip over the Pacific Ocean at the Torrey Pines Glider Port using the headstrap mount. Watch the video here. I use the Action Cam as a secondary camera, to supplement my main DSLR.
For individual stills, I found the Action Cam shape took some getting used to, I settled on a two-handed grip to get the best shots. The images are not shot individually by pressing the start/stop button, you use the interval mode but can start and stop it to take just a single image. It’s also interesting to let the camera go and shoot a whole series of still images, the time interval can be adjusted. The camera shoots stills at 2.0 megapixels in the 16:9 format, at 1920 x 1080.
The Action Cam shoots dramatically beautiful HD video through the proven Carl Zeiss lens technology enhanced with Sony’s SteadyShot system. This is a serious, professional camera and will shoot full HD, 1920 x 1080 at 30p, which looks beautiful even on a 100″ projection TV. There is also a setting for standard HD at 1280 x 720 at 30p or standard definition VGA at 640 x 480 at 30p for web stuff. For detailed slow motion, you can shoot in 2X slow, 1280 x 720 at 60p or 4X slow at 1280 x 720 at 120p. Sony has also released a firmware upgrade that now also has a 60p full HD setting at 1920 x 1080.
Audio is recorded in stereo. The sound is muffled when filming with the waterproof housing, but a semi-waterproof front cover-piece is available for better sound in non-submerged situations. HD playback is possible on an HDTV via an HDMI cable and a $99. optional viewfinder attachment clips onto the side, making it more like a traditional (but tiny) camcorder. Sony’s Exmor R CMOS sensor is designed to also offer exceptional low-light performance and it’s that broadcast-proven technology that separates the Action Cam from its competitors.
The camera, both while shooting and while viewing media, uses a smartphone app to allow the user to see what’s happening. The Sony PlayMemories Mobile app is easily downloaded in iOS via the Apple Store or Android via Google Play. I have a Samsung Galaxy S2 I was able to download the app and link the camera via WiFi in a matter of minutes. When shooting, the app allows full control of the camera and most functions. The phone also serves as a viewfinder.
The app also enables instant viewing of the pics and videos via WiFi, and also sharing and saving them on the phone. This is a great feature allowing videos or photos to be instantly shared via social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram or sent via email. Media can also be copied to the phone’s memory or SD card. There is also a PlayMemories app for laptops and desktops with more features. There is great camera control from the mobile app, including the ability to switch from video to stills and to adjust the quality, angle and speed. This can all be done with the camera inside the waterproof housing. A disadvantage I found is that if you are not using the app (like when out swimming), you can only start and stop the camera in the housing, you cannot switch from video to still or vice versa.
The battery charges via a mini-USB cable with a computer or USB plug in device. Occasionally, I have to take the battery out then put it back in the camera to get the camera into charge mode. The Action Cam comes with the waterproof housing (which has a standard tripod mount) along with two adhesive mounts. Everything connects easily and is solidly made. I’ve used them to shoot some skateboard footage, with the camera mounted on the skateboard. The Action Cam itself is small, only 3.2 ounces. In the waterproof case, it’s about the size of small bar of soap. Images and video can be captured with either a 120 degree or 170 degree lens setting and that media is captured on a MicroSD card. Suggested retail for the Sony HDR-AS15 Action Cam is $269.99. A non-WiFi version, the HDR-AS10, retails for $199.99.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog travel4people.com. In the past months, he has visited Turkey, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Canada and just returned from Peru. He’s always eager to test out new travel gadgets on his adventures when they allow him new ways to share his experiences with others. Follow him on Twitter @thefredsherman
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