I first began to look at action cameras seriously towards the end of 2013. Earlier in 2013 I first started creating movies with a DSLR and was getting familiar with editing software. I could see that the POV (point of view) camera angle an action camera provides would add something to the videos we upload to our Youtube channel. Back when I first started looking a few models were top of my list of contenders. At the higher end there was the GoPro Hero 3 Black, Drift HD Ghost and the Sony HDR-AS30. Looking at the specifications the GoPro seemed overpriced and you sensed you were paying for the brand name and the expensive marketing behind it. The Ghost looked great, I particularly liked the fact it was somewhat waterproof without a case, had an LCD showing what the camera was recording and had very good battery life. The Sony model at the time was a great price from a big name and had image stabilisation which was something the others didn’t have. However I was not convinced enough by any of them to make a purchase immediately. Then early in 2014 I saw reports of a new Sony model and after reading the specifications decided to wait until May when it was expected to be released.
Sony HDR-AS100VR – Impressive feature list
I purchased the Sony in a kit that came with the wrist mounted remote control RMLVR1 and the kit was still cheaper than the GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition. The body of the Sony had been improved and was now white and splash-proof. For hiking, mountain biking and most other outdoor activities I don’t need to use a case. One is supplied however in the kit which allows you to go up to 5 metres underwater which I have used for white-water rafting and sea kayaking. Another case that allows you to go much deeper is available if you happen to want to use this camera for diving.
An adaptor is also supplied that screws into the bottom of the camera which allows you to connect it to any standard tripod. The pack also comes with a couple of sticky mounts one flat and one curved as well as a yellow mount adaptor which you will need to mount this camera to the various mounting accessories you can buy (more about these accessories later). Whilst the changes on the outside are welcome it’s the changes inside that really impress me. Sony action cameras have always had a steadyshot option but it’s been improved in the HDR-AS100VR. The camera can record in 170 degree view but if you want to use steadyshot it records in 120 degree view. I find the 120 degree view more than wide enough and so I leave the steadyshot on all the time. The difference in the final video using steadyshot is quite remarkable, avoiding the need to try and reduce shaky footage in video editing software afterwards. The lens on this action camera is of a very high quality, a f2.8 Zeiss lens! The sensor is an 18.9MP Exmor CMOS sensor which helps the camera produce amazingly high quality video and stills. The camera features WiFi and NFC to allow you to connect to other devices, useful if you don’t own the wrist remote and want to use your mobile phone to control the camera. It should also be noted at this time that the wrist remote controller can control up to 5 of these cameras at once if you happen to have more than one camera and want to record footage from more than one viewpoint. Connections include micro USB (used for charging the camera battery) and micro HDMI. The menu options are extensive, suffice to say that there is nothing this camera cannot do that the competition does. GoPro owners might point to the 4K recording mode of the Hero 3 Black but in truth this is a gimmick since it can only record at this resolution at 15 fps which is too slow for an action camera (I keep the Sony in 1080p at 50/60fps). One of the biggest improvements made to this model is the addition of a Pro mode which records in a new XAVC S format. This is considered to be broadcast standards and it uses a bit rate of 50Mbps. To use this Pro mode though you need to make sure you buy Micro SD XC memory cards and not Micro SD HC cards. The GoPro Hero 3+ Black records up to 45Mbps in H264 mode.
Sony HDR-AS100VR Accessories
The chances are when you buy this action camera you will quickly decide you want to buy a mount or two. The sticky mounts supplied are perfect for mounting to things like helmets etc but once mounted you cannot really change the viewpoint. For this reason the chest mount and headmounts available will prove popular. In looking at videos on YouTube of the GoPro chest mount you see people advising to mount the camera upside down because of the lack of adjustment in the mount (if you lean forward the camera does not point forward). The Sony mount is well designed since it can be adjusted from side to side and up and down resulting in complete flexibility. Other accessories are similar to what you can buy from the competition and include a surfboard mount, float, handlebar mount and even a dog mount! If you happen to already have GoPro mounts there is an adaptor that allows you to go from GoPro to Sony. The only negative I have about this camera is how difficult it is to buy mounts in the UK (retailers and Sony always seem to show out of stock). This does not seem to be an issue in Europe where I have walked into a branch of Media Markt and found the complete range on the shelf.
Sony HDR-AS100VR – Summary
- Great wrist remote (which is waterproof)
- Good battery life (spares can also be purchased)
- Great Zeiss lens (amazing optical quality)
- Pro mode XAVC S at 50Mbps
- Good range of accessories
New videos will be added over the coming months to our YouTube channel but here are the first 2 films where we used this camera: