Review: Sony 4K Action Cam
It’s hard to believe how many action cameras have been developed over the past few years. It seems to be one of the most popular and talked-about category of cameras. It’s not going to compete with the convenience of your cellphone, but an action style is popular because of its small size, super wide-angle view and the ability to capture unique perspectives.
The Sony 4K Action Cam is one of the best in this category. It features high-quality 4K and 1080p HD video in a streamlined profile.
I tried it out with trips to the desert, beach, ocean and biking trails. The camera is splash-proof without the included waterproof case, which makes it safe to use for most action adventures, unless the camera is going to get drenched or go underwater. You do need to be especially careful because the lens is not protected without it.
Because the camera uses a regular 1/4-20 tripod mount, I had no problem connecting it to my array of tripods, clamps and connectors for mounting to bike handles or helmets.
Setting up most action-style cameras can be a little tricky because they have such a tiny display screen and only a couple of buttons to change the settings. I found it best to use the Sony PlayMemories Mobile app on my iPhone, which makes it a breeze and really sped up the process.
I used the camera most of the time without the housing. The quality of the video images was excellent. I shot mostly at 1080p at 30 fps. When I bumped it up to 4K video, there was a noticeable difference in quality. It made it easy to crop or zoom into the video from my project that was going to be 1980 x 1080 HD. Of course, 4K file size really fills up your hard drive much quicker.
Eventually I will be shooting everything in 4K, but I’m not there yet.
I tried the time-lapse photo option a few times with success, but this is one feature I would like to see Sony improve on. The file size is only 2.1 MP (1920 x 1080p), which is small, especially if you want to crop into the images or make a print. Regular, full-size still images are 8.8 MP, which also is a little small.
The action camera features a 170-degree wide-angle ZEISS Tessar lens, BIONX Processor and Exmoor R CMOS sensor. It’s plenty wide enough for everything I shot.
I was impressed with how well the camera works with the PlayMemories Mobile app on my iPhone 5. There isn’t any noticeable lag time on the phone’s display as you move the camera.
Using the Live-View Remote (RM-LVR2) was seamless. While using your phone is better with its large screen, the Live-View Remote straps to your wrist, out of the way, and is available when you need to start and stop the video and check your composition. It can control up to five cameras. It’s not always convenient to have your phone out in the elements.
There are only three buttons on the camera. Two on the side allow you to run through the menus, choosing your modes, including movie, still photos and time-lapse, plus your preferences. The start and stop button is on top. Also, there is a hold switch on top that keeps you from accidentally changing settings.
The top button starts the video rolling, so a few times I was shooting well before intended. It’s best to use the locking hold switch when you are done shooting. This eliminates that problem.
I clamped the camera to my bike, and considering how bumpy the ride was, video was pretty smooth using the SteadyShot electronic image-stabilization function.
I thought my most interesting video was when I attached the camera to a hockey helmet. This is where the camera really shines, being close-up to the action, giving the point-of-view of the participant.
The batteries worked fine for any of my adventures that didn’t last more than 30 to 60 minutes. If you’re going to be using the camera for an extended shoot, I would recommend purchasing additional batteries.
The Sony 4K Action Cam features include:
Built-in stereo microphone
Maximum aperture: F2.8
Weight: 4.02 oz
SteadyShot electronic image stabilization
White Balance: Auto / Color Temp / Custom
Shutter Speed: Auto 1/30 – 1/10,000
Waterproof: Down to 32.81 with the case
Media: Micro SD and Sony Memory Stick Micro
Still Photos: 8.8 MP
Obviously its main competitor is the GoPro 4. Both shoot 4K video. It was really tough to tell the difference between the video in normal shooting situations outside. The Sony 4K Action Cam color generally seemed to be a little more vivid. When I tried them both on dry land, the Sony with its Zeiss lens, seemed slightly sharper. The GoPro fared much better underwater when both cameras used the included waterproof housings.
The Sony is splash-proof without the case, which gives it an advantage outside the water with sports like snowboarding, hiking, climbing, skateboarding or biking. The Sony video was smoother using the SteadyShot electronic-image stabilization feature. The GoPro does have a larger file size for still photographs and has more available accessories.
Do you need an action, POV (point-of-view) camera? They are a great addition to any photographic arsenal, giving you a super wide-angle view in such a small profile that can be mounted almost anywhere. You can even buy action camera mounts for your dog which I reviewed last year. The cameras can bring you close-up and into the action, giving a spectacular point of view.
The Sony 4K Action Cam and LiveView Remote Kit is priced around $599.00.
December 1, 2015, 3:32 am
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