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Sony Action Cam HDR-AS15 Review Part 1

Discussion in 'Electrical/Electronics/Lighting' started by Butch450, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. Butch450

    Butch450 Administrator
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    Sony Action Cam HDR-AS15 Review
    Part 1 - Unboxing and Initial Impressions


    sony_action_cam_1.jpg
    I have been a die hard Contour camera user since they first released the Contour HD 720p helmet camera a few years back. I currently own several Contour 1080p (model #1300) cameras and while Contour and even GoPro have released many new cameras since, the Contour 1080p camera is still my favorite camera for use when shooting video on rides. I have always wondered why the major companies like Sony, Canon and Nikon never threw their hats into the ring and now at least one of them finally has. Sony enters the action camera market with their release of the HDR-AS15 action cam and I will be offering up my impressions and comparisons of it in a 3 part review. Part 1 will be a general overview of the camera and my initial impressions of it's design and features. Part 2 will be a review of it's video and audio quality along with it's features after some extended usage, and part 3 will be a head to head comparison of it to my beloved Contour 1080p.

    Sony released 2 versions of their action camera, the HDR-AS15 that I will be reviewing has built in Wi-Fi while Sony's other action camera the HDR-AS10 does not. Other than the built in Wi-Fi both cameras appear to be identical. So what's in the box? You receive the camera, a waterproof/dustproof case, a tripod mountable base, one adhesive backed flat mount, one adhesive backed curved mount, a battery, a USB cable and the instructions. I will detail the Wi-Fi functionality and full spec list in part 2 of my review. My initial thoughts on the design of the camera and it's mounting options (or lack thereof) are mixed. The size of the camera is very compact even when in the waterproof case, but some of the choices Sony has made in designing the camera leave me scratching my head a bit. One of the obvious omissions is a rotatable lens like on the Contour cameras which easily allows the user to level the image regardless of how or where you mount it. This in itself is not a bad choice as long as there are mounts available that will allow the cameras user to always be able to mount the camera straight on whatever, or wherever they need to. The camera alone has no option for mounting unless you want to stick some dual lock tape on one side of it. But if you do that then the camera is not protected and if riding dusty trails may get damaged. To use any of the supplied or currently available mounts you have to use the waterproof case. And even using the waterproof case will not guarantee a level mount as there are hardly any straight surfaces on most helmets. With the supplied mounts the only area you can mount on a helmet would be on top of it. Sony does sell an optional goggle strap mount and that may work well for some helmets, but may also produce shaky video. It's still early on so lets hope Sony can come up with some better options that utilize an arm style mount like GoPro currently uses. For now I will have to add some dual lock tape to the side of the case and hope I can find a level spot to mount the camera on one of my helmets.

    sony_action_cam_2.jpg

    sony_action_cam_6.jpg


    Looking past the mounting issues.... the camera, its buttons and the LCD screen are all easy to use and read. The camera settings are accessed with a touch of the next button and the start/stop button on back acts as the enter button. The only drawback to this is if you want to change your settings (even via the Wi-Fi app) you need to remove the camera from the case first to do so. Once the camera is set to your liking the start/stop button on back powers the camera on and begins recording with one touch. Press it again and the camera stops recording and will enter sleep mode. You can see if you are in record mode by looking at the red led on the back of the camera. If solid you are recording, if off you are off. There is also a hold lever that when in the "Hold" position will lock the start/stop button so it can't be pressed by accident.

    sony_action_cam_4.jpg

    sony_action_cam_5.jpg

    The back of the camera houses the battery and micro sd card. The door slides to the left and then flips open on a hinge. Sony utilizes a slide out tray for the battery. This works much better than on the Contour cameras I have owned in the past. The tray slides out easily and Sony even gives you an extra tray for use with their G line of batteries. Underneath the camera is a compartment that opens to reveal the usb port, hdmi port, an external microphone jack and a power port for charging. There is also an led that illuminates during charging. The battery supplied with the camera is the X line. I will test the battery charge and drain times and list them in part 2 of this review.

    sony_action_cam_7.jpg

    sony_action_cam_8.jpg


    Sony is using a Carl Zeiss lens and the view angle of 120 or 170 degrees can be selected via the settings menu. The camera also utilizes Sony's steady shot feature but turning this option on will only allow you to use the 120 degree angle setting when shooting video. The camera also has a time lapse mode where it shoots jpeg images at an interval that the user can set in the menu. Record modes for video are 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 30fps, a slow motion 720p @ 60fps, super slow motion 720p @ 120fps and 480p @ 30fps and are recoded in the MP4 format. The camera does not record audio in the 2 slow motion modes. Videos and still images can even be sent to your smart phone via the Wi-Fi app for playback and sharing. I will delve deeper into the Wi-Fi feature and it's functionality in part 2 of this review as well.

    sony_action_cam_9.jpg

    sony_action_cam_10.jpg

    After a few hours with the camera I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand it has a ton of features built in for a very affordable price, but on the other hand I feel Sony didn't study their competition enough and may have forgot to add few things. The lack of mounting options for now is a negative, but I am sure that will change over the next few months. For now I will reserve judgement until I really put the camera through it's paces and film some real video with it. After all a few short comings can easily be dismissed if the image quality is on par or better than their competitors. From the start Sony is facing an uphill battle since so many of their prospected buyers are Contour or GoPro loyalists, and although I may be one of them, I am eager to see what this little camera can do. I'll finish off part 1 with a few images of the Contour and Sony side by side and a test clip shot in 720p@60fps. Please watch the video in 720p. Part 2 of this review is coming soon.

    sony_action_cam_11.jpg

    sony_action_cam_12.jpg


     
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    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
  2. bluesmanjesse

    bluesmanjesse Moderator
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    Well the video quality looks pretty good, doesn't seem necessarily better than the competition but, no worse either! I like the one touch record feature, I find though that at least on my Hero 2 it's very easy to push the button twice and instead of recoding video you end up putting the camera in picture mode and taking a picture instead of starting to record. Could this happen with the Sony or do they utilize a different button to change modes?
     
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  3. Butch450

    Butch450 Administrator
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    Different button. You hit the next button to enter the settings menu and then change from movie mode to pic mode.
     
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  4. DODGE57HEMI

    DODGE57HEMI Site Supporter

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    Looks good Butch and from the small sample vid the camera seems to have a nice picture/lens on it!
     
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  5. Timmi

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    Very well written review, Butch. I was set to go for the Sony before reading this. They lost me on the lack of rotating lens. That is a must have for all the places I mount my Contour.
     
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  6. Butch450

    Butch450 Administrator
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    The lack of a rotating lens is hard to get around but gopro found a way to make it work with their mounts so hopefully sony will also.

    tapawhat?
     
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  7. thegrizz

    thegrizz Administrator
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    Great review. I gotta be completely honest, I am not impressed with the video quality. It isn't bad, but to today's standards it isn't great compared to the competition.

    There could be a good possibility of it being on my machine so I will test it on another machine tonight.

    Here is a screen shot from HD from the video with which I am talking about. I am circling some areas in which I see some apparitions. I am guessing this is due tot he failing light and the loss of data getting to the sensor.

    With the low light conditions, I may be too quick to judge on the video quality so I am looking forward to some more footage from the camera.

    Looks like it has plenty of settings and it is good to see another quality competitor in the arena now.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. NoisyKawi

    NoisyKawi Site Supporter

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    Not ready to ditch my gopro for this, but it is nice to see more helmet camera competition. It'll only make things that much better for us.
     
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  9. Butch450

    Butch450 Administrator
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    Gary I shot that clip at 5:30 pm. Also it was at default and 720p. Still have quit a bit of testing to do with it.

    tapawhat?
     
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  10. thegrizz

    thegrizz Administrator
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    I knew it was either late or early due to the position of the sun. Nevertheless, I'm anxious to see it in better light.

     
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  11. ole brute

    ole brute Site Supporter

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    I'll wait till you've had a chance to play with the settings to see if i like it.
     
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  12. Gunny

    Gunny Site Supporter

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    Not bad .... nice writeup so for Butch Ole Boy ... and I wanta see what the vid looks like when the camera is mounted to yer skull & bouncing around on a bike ...

    Looking forward to further testing ... but take yer time ... :72:



    ...
     
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  13. bluesmanjesse

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    I have noticed some of that stuff in my videos from the GoPro Hero2 also Gary but it seems like it's not that bad in the raw video, it's after I edit it and it uploads to Youtube and then gets streamed back, not sure where the quality degrades at but I just chalked it up to that scenario. Do the raw videos have the same Butch?
     
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  14. Butch450

    Butch450 Administrator
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    I just checked the raw video at the 31 second mark that the 2nd image is taken from and don't notice it. Also the camera on the tripod at the bottom of Gary's image looks all blurry but is crisp and detailed in the video. The same happens with the contour vids when uploaded to youtube sometimes as well. It used to annoy the hell out of me lol. I am going to try and get out this weekend to get some raw vid from the sony and the contour to compare side by side.

    Gunny I won't rush this review. Last thing I want is to declare Sony king of the hill without thorough testing since I love my contours lol.
     
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  15. Gunny

    Gunny Site Supporter

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    My vids ALWAYS look better before they go to Youtube .... :wtf: .... so if the video quality is crisp & clean on your computer screen after it's reproduced then OH WELL ... what's a guy to do once it goes on Youtube ?? :103:



    ...


    ...
     
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  16. Kenny G

    Kenny G Site Supporter

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    I'm trying to find Part 2 on this Sony cam, anyone throw a bone where it's at? Thanks.
     
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  17. Odyknuck

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    Nice review. I will have to agree not having the rotating lense and no physical mounting would deter me from buying this one. I am sure the design will change. I am a Drift fan myself as they seem to offer everything I see as a need in a sports cam including operator friendly. I did have the HD stealth and unfortunately I lost it. I recently bought the next version (not the Ghost) and waiting on it to try out. Keep us posted of your findings.
     
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  18. Butch450

    Butch450 Administrator
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    Part 2 never was written yet. I went out and shot footage on a ride but didn't realize the camera was angled too low for a lot of it to be useful. I can say that this camera shot pretty decent daytime footage but night footage is where it really shined. The following link has some info and my thoughts from that trip with a few videos uploaded as well...http://www.rocksandruts.com/forums/...SRT-May-4th-and-5th&highlight=sony+action+cam
     
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  19. Kenny G

    Kenny G Site Supporter

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    Thanks for the link Butch. You boys are way over this cowboy's head with all that tech jargon. I couldn't tell which camera was running other than the one you mentioned about zooming. Heck I've got a camera, maybe I should just stick with it, sound pretty intense/time consuming trying to download/edit them videos.
     
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  20. RedRocket

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    To give you guys a little insight...and BTW, I have no specific experience or do any work with youtube but I do understand the general technology used for streaming services...it's my day job. I will state though that I am not a video editor or production specialist, I work with commercial servers that stream video, very similar to what youtube is doing.

    Now, on to some background information on video streaming...

    When you upload one of your streams to youtube and then try and stream back your video, you will notice that the stream is available in multiple resolutions for streaming. The only way multiple streams from a single source is possible is by taking your original stream resolution/bitrate and transcoding that stream. By transcoding the stream, it has the capability of changing the original stream to other resolutions and bitrates...or realistically, multiple versions of your original stream. You can verify this by going into "Settings" on the youtube screen when you are streaming a file...you will see multiple forms of resolutions available. When streaming a file, youtube seems to default to lower auto settings but you can change this setting for your individual streaming session...I always set it at 720p or higher.

    So, why create other resolutions and bitrates? The purpose for dong this should be obvious...not everyone has the same throughput or bandwidth available for streaming. So, when it comes to streaming you need lower or higher bitrates available to accommodate each streaming user's available bandwidth. There is also a concept called ABR (MBR), Adaptive BitRate or Multiple BitRate streaming. With ABR, the software streaming player you are using communicates with the streaming server to auto adjust to lower or higher bitrates based upon the available bandwidth path from the streaming server to your player.

    Now you have a little background on what is occurring but that still does not explain why the degradation in video quality. When transcoding, loss will occur in VQ. This is 100% dependent on the server doing the transcoding as not all transcoding servers are created equal. In addition, when you start off with say a 4mbps stream at 720p, the 480p or 320p stream has reduced data available as well youtube has to have settings that also reduce the bitrate for those streams.

    My suggestion for you video uploaders is to make sure you use the highest res and reasonable amount of bitrate on your camera so when editing, you lose as little data as possible before it gets transcoded by your youtube upload.
     
    #20
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
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