Action sports aficionados are about to have a new toy to play with, as Sony gets its competitor to the GoPro Hero 4 Black ready, coming in the form of a new action camera that can grab recordings of 4K Ultra High Definition video, and even let you shoot some lower definition video on the go.
The camera looks a little like a tiny Handycam, and will be light, sturdy, controllable from either an app or a remote screen you can wear on your wrist, and will include Sony’s Advanced SteadyShot technology to stabilise what you capture and see later on, providing an algorithm that can work out what to do with the shake from bicycle mounts, board mounts, and even a drone mount.
And Sony has even enlisted a well known skate- and snowboarder to test this all, with Tony Hawk telling GadgetGuy that the camera has performed like a dream for him thus far.
“I got one of the first samples out of Japan, so I got to take it on my trips right through New Years,” said Hawk to a small group of journalists in Sydney this week.
“I went to the snow, I went to the surf, I did some skating and it performed well every time. Any lighting, even in the water, I’ve never shot anything in 4K before,” he said, adding “as soon as yo hit go, everything is perfect.”
The camera can be set to record in more than just 4K, with 1080p Full HD possible at 120 frames per second, while 720p HD scores a slow-motion friendly 240 frames per second. However, if you decide to go for the luxury of 4K, you not only get the full detail, but also the ability to grab 8 megapixel frames out of the video, which is something Hawk uses a lot of.
“Before, if you were shooting HD and you took a frame grab, you could still see the artefacts if you were putting it on Instagram, but not in 4K,” said Hawk. “Sometimes, instead of trying to get a photo, I just shoot, a video of the trick and take the best frame out of it.”
Durability is also key, as Hawk told us later on, because if you’re strapping this to the front of a snowboard or the bottom of a skateboard, you’re going to want to make sure it can survive your handiwork.
“I’ve put it on the bottom of my board and misjudged a grind, and I’ve slid on the camera,” he said. “On one, I sacrificed the lens and that was it. I haven’t had one break with the functionality.”
If all else fails, there’s the selfie stick, with Sony supporting the camera through its own monopole that you can hold up, which Tony says works better if held in the back hand.
“Front hand is good, you get the up hill view,” he said “but the back hand gives you more perspective going down the mountain [for snowboarding], and I found the same in skating too.”
Hands on with the camera, and it is one small camera. The form-factor is totally different from that of the GoPro, Sony’s major competitor in this area, with the small box of the GoPro compared to the tiny camcorder that is Sony’s Action Cam.
They’re both easy to hold, but Sony’s feels more like it can be gripped quickly with one hand, ready for mounting on one of many accessories for the sports or water-friendly activities it’s going to be taken on.
We caught up with a bit of video showing off the difference between the old Action Cam and the new one, and that image stabilisation was blatantly clear, with an obvious camera shake from the old model cleared up to be something quite smooth on the new generation.
Sony’s 4K action camera won’t be the only model the company plans to bring to Australia, with three Full HD models also arriving soon, including the AS200V with a full sensor capture and the ability to capture and edit movies sent to your smartphone on the go, as part of Sony’s Highlight Movie Maker.
A smaller model is also coming with Full HD, with the AZ1 providing a live wrist-worn remote in the box, and the ability to capture footage in either Full HD 1080p or HD 720p. Most interesting for this model is the weight, which together with card and battery clocks in at an impressively light 63 grams.
That model (AZ1) will be available for $499 when it arrives, while the AS200V will hit shelves in March for $399. And if you need some of that 4K action, well you’ll find that in the FDR-X1000V, which will also arrive in March for a recommended retail price of $599.