Action cams sound like niche products because that’s what they are really meant to be. They are meant to target those into extreme sports and any other activities that look fun from a first-person perspective and need to be shared. But it is that first person perspective that really added a broader appeal to action cams. Combine that with the fact that these devices are so small that you can use them with a number of accessories opening up even more possibilities. This is often the kind of freedom you can get with a high-end model and the video quality should be pretty good too. However, action cams are a little bit pricey for some. Sony is one of the companies that offers a somewhat more affordable action cam and it’s good enough to the point that Sony didn’t bother offering an updated model. This action cam is known as the Sony HDR-AS20.
About the Sony HDR-AS20
The Sony HDR-AS20 is one of the six action cams in Sony’s current lineup. It was launched back in June 2014 which was the time when the action cam market had a clear leader that was very difficult to dethrone at the time. The $199 price tag was one of the major attractions of the HDR-AS20 and it should now be cheaper at around $150 considering its age. That officially makes it Sony’s most affordable action cam.
The design screams Sony with its all black looks. It’s as if Sony’s engineers took one of their cameras and gave it a nice molding process resulting to a curvy rectangular form factor with a protruding lens. Like other action cams with this slim form factor, it is primarily meant for mounting to a helmet or the side of a pair of goggles and the package comes with the necessary mounts to do it.
The side of the HDR-AS20 feature a small square-shaped monochrome display with “Prev” and ”Next” buttons that both serve as the Wi-Fi function when pressed together. The only other button present on the camera is the Record button located on the rear of the Sony HDR-AS20. The bottom of the action camera is the small door that you can open to reveal the charging/data transfer port along with a mini HDMI OUT and 3.5-inch jack for plugging in an external microphone.
The HDR-AS20 comes with a transparent waterproof casing that adds full water protection at up to 15 feet deep and shock resistance at up to 5 feet. The casing also has a standard tripod mount. Because the action camera unit itself has a rounded top and bottom, it is necessary to add the waterproof casing if you want to use other mounting options outside of Sony’s official ones.
Perhaps the most innovative feature of the Sony HDR-AS20 is its ability to run in groups although you will need to buy the Live View Remote accessory in order to control them all. Up to 5 of these cameras can be connected to the wrist-worn accessory and that makes it far more convenient when you need to do things like level these cameras or start recording at the same once they have all been set up.
The Wi-Fi functionality isn’t just limited to the optional accessory as it can link to smartphones and tablets as well. If you are used to remote controlling other Sony cameras you have then there is no adjusting needed as the HDR-AS20 relies on the same PlayMemories Mobile app which is available on iOS an Android. The app tends to be a bit buggy but it works for the most part. Devices with built-in NFC can effortlessly connect to the Sony HDR-AS20 as the action cam has NFC built-in as well.
Overall video quality is average which is understandable for a budget camera. Sharpness and dynamic range are the two biggest weak spots while the color quality is pretty good. On the upside, the Sony HDR-AS20 does offer plenty of video modes with 1080p/60p as the highest quality mode. There are also a few slow motion options which look pretty good. Sony’s proprietary SteadyShot technology is also built into the Sony HDR-AS20 and does a pretty impressive job in reducing blur.
The audio capturing capabilities of the HDR-AS20 is also pretty good thanks to the built-in stereo mic. A fully charged Sony HDR-AS20 will last around 2 hours
• Adequate amount of video recording modes.
• Good microphones
• Convenient remote controlling especially with the optional Live View Remote accessory.
• Included waterproof housing adds some worthy protection.
• Built-in NFC
• Only $150 – $199
• Mediocre video quality.
• Not many mounting options unless you add the waterproof casing.
• Launched in 2014.
The HDR-AS20’s low price is the main attraction here and considering how easy it is to use, it is a solid device for first-time action cam owners. You may not get the best video quality but in order to get there, you need to spend more.