Sony may be struggling in the smartphone and TV divisions but the tech juggernaut continues to bloom with innovations. Digital imaging looks to be the company’s strong point as their range of mirrorless cameras continue to put pressure on entry-level DSLR cameras. On the high-end side, Sony recently released a full-frame camera that weighs significantly less than the top heavyweights. Sony branched out even further in 2012 when they first introduced the Sony Action Cam. The Sony HDR-AS30V is proof that the company won’t concede this camera category to popular brands like GoPro. But unlike Sony’s other wearable cameras, the HDR-AS30V is a lot more ambitious targeting the $299 price point. This is more on the riskier side since people that are willing to spend that much would go for a brand that is dedicated in making wearable cameras. Only an in-depth review can determine if the Sony HDR-AS30V can really hang with the big boys.
The design of the HDR-AS30V isn’t really trendy or sleek but it is definitely a step in the right direction when you compare it with the older model. It is about 25 percent and around 35 percent lighter making this camera less bulky than the GoPro model. As a result, you don’t feel too encumbered when you mount this camera on your helmet. Fans that have gotten used to the control layout of the first model will be pleased to know that the Sony HDR-AS30V maintains that familiarity.
Just like its predecessor, the HDR-AS30V comes with a waterproof accessory although you can’t take it deeper than 16 feet. This may sound like a huge downgrade if you enjoyed going as far as 197 feet deep with the older model but this waterproof housing is thinner and lighter. You can actually put it on and just forget about it to keep the camera protected from accidental dunks while the camera remains usable. Waterproof membranes are even added to the camera’s microphones to allow audio recording.
Despite the size and weight reductions, the Sony HDR-AS30V many of the specs of this new action camera are in line with the HDR-AS15. It features the same Carl Zeiss Vario-Tesser lens with a 170-degree angle of view with a BIONZ image processor and 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor. These specs translate to decent 1080p performance at 30p or 60p even in areas with lower lighting. The previous model was only limited to 30p at 1080p. It would have been nice though to see some marginal improvements in overall video quality since the Sony HDR-AS15 wasn’t exactly a trailblazer in the $199 category but the HDR-AS30V can still produce good videos.
Built-in SteadyShot technology is still one of the camera’s unique strengths as it can keep those rough rides looking smooth although it will narrow down the field of view to just 120 degrees. With its 3-way shake-cancelling method, you can expect some noticeable blur reductions no matter what the zoom level is.
In addition to the 1080p mode, there is also a 720p mode which can be useful if you want to save space or if you want to go 120p. A super slow speed is available too at 640×480. You also get the option to take 11.9-megapixel images.
Two of the major new features present in the Sony HDR-AS30V are the built-in GPS and NFC. NFC is a great feature to have for Android smartphone users as it makes the whole pairing process a lot easier. Just take any smartphone that also has NFC, have the device touch the camera with NFC activated and the two devices will be paired through Wi-Fi without any complicated setup process. It serves as a quick and easy way to transfer videos from the camera to the smartphone. With built-in GPS, you have the option to overlay some useful data on the video including a small mini map on the upper right corner along with some speed, distance and time information on the bottom. It pretty much looks like the kind of HUD you would expect on a video game. The PlayMemories Home app can also read photos and videos with the added GPS data so the app can plot the locations for every shot on the map as well the proper trail based on the video location.
Judging from the new features of the HDR-AS30V, this camera is more of an iterative upgrade which hoped to fix some of the complaints of the cheaper HDR-AS15. The Sony HDR-AS30V is successful in this respect although the $299 price tag makes this a pretty tough sell. But before you look at the more powerful competitors, it is recommended to check out the Action Cam accessories. The upcoming RM-LVR1 accessory is quite unique as it is a wristwatch with a viewfinder and it is compatible with other Action Cam models too. Sony also plans to release a universal head mount kit, roll bar mount and chest mount harness to add even more value to their action cams although you have to purchase them all separately.