Working for a newspaper in the capacity that I do, sometimes you need a camera that can fit into places that you can’t. Not in a sense of hiding a camera to record secret data like a secret agent; but in a sense of needing a camera that can go places without you. (like for last year’s Superbowl Zipline) A while back I did a gear review for Roberts Camera of a Contour POV camera and I was pretty impressed by it. It functioned well, it went in places you needed it to go, you could change the horizon without needing to know what the camera was looking at. It had a Bluetooth viewfinder so you could line up your shots and it was $500 (although they have a newer Contour+2 now for $399). At the time the Contour+ seemed solid with the $500 price tag. Not anymore.
(Photo Courtesy Sony’s website)
Jody over at Roberts Called and said they had a new POV action cam for me to try and of course I was happy to oblige. As usual I should mention I’m not paid to do this, they just know how much I love to play with new gadgets. That being said, I went back and looked at my notes on the contour and went to their store to pick up the new Sony Action Cam. Frankly looking back at my Contour notes, Sony’s new action cam WiFi trumps it. Not just in price either. The Sony camera has more than equivalent functionality as the $400 Contour+ 2, but for $270. In fact it has primarily all the same functionality of the Go Pro Hero 3 black (except for the 4k resolution at 15fps and 1080p60 which the Sony does at 720p60) for only $260 as well. Plus for that same $260, it COMES WITH the waterproof case. Not an extra buy. The thing is relatively small, and the little LCD on the side is so intuitive I’m not even sure why they included a user manual with the camera. The few times I’ve used the GoPro 2, I needed the manual just to get the thing up and started. I had no troubles getting it to do what I wanted right out of the box which was great since about 3 hours after I got it I went and shot the Indystar’s Adventuress learning to play hockey with the Indiana Ice. You can actually see the Action cam, in action, in some of the video. (See what I did there? yea you did).
Now that I have your attention; I have a different video for you. This video is a compilation of some of the stuff that I did with the action cam. I mostly tried to use the action cam in *crappy* lighting scenarios as most of the companies that make these use them in brightly lit places to show off their features. You know, skydiving, mountain biking, the cool stuff that everybody thinks is really cool, but not everybody does?. A lot of people don’t have the means or places to do that and really how good are these cameras in the worst conditions? Check it out. (in HD!)
Ok so some video information here. The shot of the 1D Mark II mirror was shot with the 1D set to 8fps, 1/50th of a second. The clip was shot at 120fps with a 2 million candle power light shot towards the 1D to illuminate the inside. The clip was slowed to another 50% in Final Cut to give it that slow slow feel. If you have a camera that can shoot at 8fps, set your camera to it and see how fast that mirror moves because it’s not as slow as you think. The shot of through the viewfinder of my 1D Mark II in my office was simply that. I just turned the Action Cam to record, and mashed it to the back of the viewfinder. All of the POV ice shots were shot inside the waterproof housing attached to the hockey player, or Leslie via the Sony Helmet strap for the Action Cam. Music is from my Royalty Free Collection. Some from Freeplay music, others from Pond5.com.
The camera isn’t perfect, but honestly at $270 I know people that have bought them on just what I’ve said about their functionality in passing. That was before this review was even written for public consumption. The 16mp sensor inside of the Action Cam does a beautiful job even in low light situations of recording a very high quality video. The Action Cam is also capable of doing time lapse style video at several different intervals, but I didn’t play much with that. At 120fps the amount of light you have in your video is very important. I had a 2 million candle power light in the room for the shot of the cats and the laser pointer. The light was fading, which is why the video is as grainy as it is, but that’s the worst it got, which isn’t bad. Under regular florescent light the camera shined as much as it did outside during a sunny day, which is incredibly important. Any camera should perform fine on a sunny day, but performing well under the ambient light of a sports arena? That’s brilliant. The action cam does seem to expose consistently under an even exposure, however that’s normally what you would want if your camera is set to auto. That’s how outside you get deep blue skies, and rich colors when outside on a nice day. Inside however it’s how you get a darker image.
The most impressive thing in my opinion is how the WiFI connectivity was implemented. As I mentioned before, during part of my time with this camera I shot a piece for the Indystar’s Adventuress where she learned to play Hockey with the Indiana Ice. We also went Figure Skating, and Speed Skating, and the camera proved to be incredible for recording POV movements or getting into angles that weren’t possible before. I digress. The WiFI was implemented as such that I was able to attach the camera to Leslie, send her out on the ice and watch what was going on via my iPad from 50 feet away. I could record clips, change the field of view, frame-rate, or quality at the touch of a couple of tabs. When she came back I could even download the clips to my mobile device via the WiFi if I wanted to, but to do that you have to set the Action Cam to send it. Not only that, but from in the waterproof housing you actually get sound when the camera is set to Standard 1080 recording. At 60fps, or 120fps you don’t due to the frame rate but at regular 1080 you do. That being said you don’t actually have to use the waterproof case to attach the camera to things. Sony also makes lots of accessories that allow you to attach your action cam to various things without using the tape included. My only complaint about the mount is that it was difficult to put the camera at any angles using the helmet mount. I wish the mount had been done so the camera had been facing slightly more downward. You would think that with a 170 degree field of view that wouldn’t matter, but I want my video to be full frame, not just the bottom part showing lots of scenery. That being said; this is a problem I’ve had with almost any POV camera I’ve used so it’s not something you should hold against the Action Cam.
(Notice the Action Cam by the Speed skaters track cone? yea he didn’t either…)
So yea, wow. I haven’t used a Go Pro Hero 3 black to know how it compares, but honestly for the price point the Sony is the best POV camera I’ve ever used to this point. POV cams aren’t for everybody, but if you need one that comes with a waterproof case with all the first class functionality out there the Sony Action Cam is the place to go. It’s definitely on my list of wants in 2013 and it probably won’t be long before I own one as it was really tough to give this one back as I’m sure you can tell from the video above. Speaking of the video above, there is footage in there for upcoming Adventuress adventures. It’s not footage that appears in the stuff coming out so there’s no spoiler there; but it’s sort of a hint as to what’s to come in her Ice Adventures. If you’re a fan of the series now you have an idea as to what’s in store. Speaking of stores, if you want one of these like I do? Go to Roberts, you can even play with them while you’re there. More Soon.