Every year, a tech company needs to show that it is ahead in terms of innovation or at least slightly better than the competition just to get everyone’s attention. Sony did that last January 2015 when it announced a couple of Sony Action Cams. Action cameras are very ripe for innovation and while there are clear leaders in the product category, any company can enter the ring and use their exclusive technologies to make these competing products stand out. Sony’s approach was to make a 4K action cam with a very small form factor. While it was a huge technological feat, a 4K action cam isn’t what everyone wants simply because not many people have 4K displays. Sure 4K displays are getting cheaper but a lot of people are contented with their aging 1080p displays. It is only fitting for Sony to introduce a cheaper model for the masses and the Sony HDR-AS200V is one of those inexpensive products.
About the Sony HDR-AS200V
Sony announced the HDR-AS200V at CES 2015. It was first priced at $300 making it around $200 cheaper than its 4K counterpart. Currently, it sells for around $200 although you can pay a bit more if you wish to get one of the several configurations which includes specific accessories. For instance, the Hike Bundle includes a backpack mount while the Moto Bundle comes with a handlebar mount instead. All of the bundles including the base model come with a waterproof casing which does add some bulk to the action cam but it includes a tripod mount too. Although the waterproof casing is obviously needed when going swimming or surfing with the Sony HDR-AS200V it isn’t exactly necessary for doing activities in the rain as the body is IPX4 splashproof.
The HDR-AS200V isn’t Sony’s cheapest action cam right now but it is one of the most affordable action cams that have a live streaming feature. Thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi, the Sony HDR-AS200V has the ability to stream live directly to Ustream so Ustream viewers can see what the camera is seeing in real time. Outside of that feature, the main purpose of the built-in Wi-Fi is to allow smartphones and tablets to connect to it for remote control purpose. Once you install the PlayMemories Mobile app to your iOS or Android device, you can do things like checking out what the camera is seeing to make it easier to level the shot. The cool thing is if you have 5 of these cameras, you can control them all using the same app. If your Android device supports NFC, you have the option to perform a more direct approach in pairing the device. There is also an optional bundle of the HDR-AS200V that comes with a special device that you wear on the wrist called the Live View Remote. This remote feels a bit bulky but it does have physical controls and a small screen making it a lot easier to do remote control operations.
Another nifty thing the Sony HDR-AS200V can do is loop recording which is useful if the SD card inside of the camera body doesn’t have much available storage space. All you need to do is set the duration of the loop and you are guaranteed the most recent footage after you stopped recording.
Finally, you can optionally use a free software called Highlight Movie Maker which can analyze the motion gyro of a video recorded by the HDR-AS200V. The app will use that data as a basis in highlighting the best scenes in a video and make it ready for sharing in the MP4 format.
The main benefit of getting the Sony HDR-AS200V over say a cheaper $200 action cam lies on this action cam’s performance. It is capable of recording Full HD 1080p at 60 frames per second and there are other options to pick from if you need higher quality at the expense of storage space. There are also a few slow motion modes including up to 120 frames per second for 720p video or double that for VGA quality.
The HDR-AS200V uses a 170-degree f/2.9 ZEISS lens so the quality isn’t exactly mind-blowing but what this particular model does offer is a certain degree of flexibility in the form of manual controls. You can adjust the hue, brightness, white balance and/or AE shifting. Professional cinematographers should be able to make movie-like quality clips. The built-in stereo mic dramatically improves the audio capturing quality especially when compared to smartphones. It even features wind noise reduction so the overall audio quality is cleaner.
• Plenty of bundles and accessories to choose from
• Stereo mic makes all the difference
• Flexible remote control options
• Splashproof design with waterproof case
• NFC inside
• Manual controls are great if used properly
• Modest price
• Video quality is nothing to write home about
• Not everyone may like the format factor
With plenty of features and video recording modes, the Sony HDR-AS200V actually turns out to be a good deal for a midranger. The video quality can be bland depending on the environment but the low price is nothing but good news for first-time action cam owners who like trying out various features.