POV or action cameras are not exactly for everyone and that is why only a few companies are fully focused in making quality products for sports enthusiasts. Most of these companies don’t even make any other products that are unrelated to action cameras. But Sony is willing to get its feet wet by announcing the Sony Action Cam back in 2012. This is pretty big news because Sony currently makes some of the best mirrorless cameras right now and their camcorders are pretty impressive as well. But some tradeoffs have to be made when making a wearable camera as it is difficult to put all that cool tech in a small and durable package. In the end, the price will determine if the Action Cam has a place in this small but crowded market and the Sony HDR-AS10 positions itself as the affordable version of the Sony Action Cam.
The design of the Sony HDR-AS10 shows that Sony is definitely studying how its competitors are designing wearable cameras. Sony’s execution is pretty spot on as the Sony HDR-AS10 feels very lightweight and small making it a cinch to strap on. Two adhesive mounts are included so you can easily mount the camera to a flat or curved surface. The buttons are basic as they should be with a record button on the back and two buttons on the side for navigation purposes. Next to these buttons is a small LCD display. What is quite surprising about this design is the fact that you can remove the battery and swap it with a spare if you decide to purchase one separately.
The unit itself isn’t waterproof but the HDR-AS10 comes with a waterproof housing made of plastic. Not only is this casing waterproof down to nearly 200 feet but it also makes the camera both dust and dirt resistant. You can keep it in the waterproof casing during harsh weather conditions to keep the camera fully protected. A universal tripod mount is included as well.
The lens and sensor are the main highlights of the Sony HDR-AS10. The Carl Zeiss Vario-Tesser lens promises a 170-degree viewing angle. The video quality is pretty good on 1080p and it looks great if you output it to a 1080p display via micro HDMI cable. But it doesn’t look as great if you playback videos on those larger 30+ inch displays. Sony also integrated their proprietary Sony Exmor R sensor which improves low-light conditions. This sensor doesn’t exactly plow through the competition but the end results are decent for the price you are paying. The HDR-AS10 is also one of the few mountable cameras to come with an image stabilization technology. It doesn’t use an optical image stabilization technique but the digital approach to image stabilization still helps smoothen out videos at the slight cost of image quality. The SteadyShot technology uses a 3-way shake-cancelling technique to reduce blur across all zoom levels.
Being able to record 1080p video at 30 frames per second is a must-have feature for any action camera nowadays and the Sony HDR-AS10 can do it too. But another cool thing that this camera can do is take 720p video at 60 or 120 frames per second. This makes the video 2 or 4 times slower and the results look very smooth making this a nice fun mode to try out.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the HDR-AS10 is the inability to rotate the lens or flip the video 180 degrees. Your only workaround is to transfer the recorded videos to a computer and edit them manually using a video editing software. Fortunately, the PlayMemories software is included so you can do that type of editing as well as organize videos chronologically. The software also makes it easy to create interesting slideshows and other video projects if you want to turn your series of videos into presentation material. You can then share the finished products online since the PlayMemories software supports direct uploading to Facebook and YouTube. You may also upload the content to the PlayMemories Online service so you can access them from anywhere.
With a $199 price tag, the Sony HDR-AS10 is a worthy competitor to today’s wearable action cameras. It is also $70 cheaper than the Sony HDR-AS15 which has the same specifications but with added Wi-Fi capabilities. If you don’t need the smartphone interaction, the purchasing the HDR-AS10 is a smart budget choice. There is definitely some room for improvement but this is Sony’s first attempt after all. While Sony hasn’t made any announcements yet, it is exciting to see what Sony will add to their future products if they decide to stay in this niche market. But for now, the Sony HDR-AS10 will remain as a nice affordable action cam with decent recording features and a solid design.