Sony HDR-AZ1 Action Cam - Review

Jan 14, 2015
by Pinkbike Staff  
Sony HDR-AZ1 Action Cam

Over the last two years, electronics giant Sony, have brought six new cameras to the POV camera market, under the Action Cam brand, offering arguably the stiffest competition to GoPro's dominance. Like GoPro, with each new model, Sony have added both incremental and headline-grabbing features to their products, meaning they're definitely worth taking seriously. With riders like Brett Rheeder, Matt Hunter, Cam McCaul, Stevie Smith, Casey Brown and Brendan Fairclough running these cameras, we're taking a look at the newest and smallest model yet, the HDR-AZ1 Action Cam Mini.

The AZ1 actually sits alongside the current AS100V model as its little brother, but rather than adding a host of new features, offers a cut-down, more compact, lighter package, meaning it can be more easily (or less intrusively) mounted. Sony have achieved the around 35% reduction in size and 30% reduction in weight, by making a few compromises compared to the AS100V, and depending on your intended use of the camera, this either makes a small or a significant difference.

Side-by-side comparison of Sony HDR-AZ1 and HDR-AS100V Action Cams

The details

• Sony HDR-AZ1VR Action Cam (camera + Live View remote bundle)
• 110g (with case, battery, card)
• 80x53x35mm (in case)
• CAD $369.99, USD $349.99, GBP £279.00, AUD $479.00 (list price)

What's to like

The AZ1 is small and very light, and like its bigger brother, it features full HD recording (1080p at up to 50/60fps), super slow-mo capabilities (720p at 100/120fps), a built-in tripod mount with or without a case, stereo recording and quality Zeiss optics. It also allows for quick NFC pairing via WIFI to mobile devices or the Live-View remote for monitoring the picture and changing settings, an IPX4-rated splashproof camera body (again, allowing use with or without a case), live web streaming and an extremely high quality recording mode when using compatible microSDXC cards and the on-board XAVC-S mode. If using the Live-View remote (which was bundled with our retail pack), you can also sync up to 5 cameras to one remote, for simultaneous control over settings and recording functions.

Sony's ubiquitous SteadyShot electronic stabilisation is also present, and with careful use, produces good results, although it's not ideal in every situation and can be switched off. The strict weight-loss diet also means less complex, non multi-function buttons compared to the AS100V, and with the removal of the settings menu, the cameras side display is now tiny, showing only battery life, WIFI mode and card status indicators.

A burst photo mode is present, and still image resolution is of very good quality at 11.9MP, although slightly lower than the AS100V's 13.5MP images, though both compare well with the GoPro HERO4's 12MP stills.

Sony HDR-AZ1VR Action Cam Bundle

What's not so good

As we said, Sony made some compromises to slim-down the AZ1, with probably the biggest of these being a smaller battery, meaning slightly shorter battery life than on the AS100V. Additionally, without the ability to change setting on the camera via the buttons, almost all setting changes now have to be made via the wrist-worn Live-View remote or the free Sony PlayMemories app on your mobile device. Changing settings on POV cameras is always a chore, but Sony's app is very low-latency, and with fewer settings to change, it's pretty quick to use.

One obvious omission, especially for those who specifically need it, is that none of the Action Cams currently record 2K or 4K video. Of course many feel these modes are a bit of a fad, but for some applications, such as aerial filming, 2K and 4K are pretty crucial to have, to allow image stabilisation or cropping.

Several other features missing from the AZ1 compared to the AS100V, including the removal of the micro HDMI port, microphone-in connection and the GPS data logger, which has now been moved to the Live-View remote. Whilst none of these omissions are deal-breakers, if you need these functions, the AS100V is obviously still the camera to go for.

A final minor criticism is the mounts that come with the Action Cam range, which could be a bit better designed. Again though, this is something that's quite subjective, as there are plenty of third-party mounts, such as those from K-Edge, that bridge the gap between different manufacturers mount systems, so there are still plenty of options.

Sony HDR-AZ1 Action Cam

Pinkbike's take
bigquotesThe AZ1 is certainly a great camera, giving you stunning picture and sound quality (in fact broadcast-quality if using the XAVC-S mode), in a spectacularly small and inconspicuous package. The compromises around settings, battery life, 4K and HDMI-out may put you off, but operating the camera via the app or Live-View remote is pretty straightforward, and if you tend to stick to one shooting mode for the majority of filming and/or photos, the removal of superfluous settings and buttons may make little difference to you. The AZ1's batteries are small, light and cheap, so if you are intending on using it intensively, having a couple of spares is a good idea, as is keeping charge topped up on your mobile device or the remote. The final clincher though, may be the price, with the bundled camera and remote kit we tested costing considerably less than other rival products, making it a good budget alternative. Overall, a good, simplified option compared to other systems, with exceptional image quality.

More on the Sony HDR-AZ1 Action Cam


90 Comments

  • + 71
 For a camera/video product review, I dont understand why there's no sample footage? a 10 or 15 second video will do. I'm quite interested in its performance in low light and how the camera does in situations where exposure varies rapidly since me and my friends tend to ride in the afternoon up to when the sun is out.

1080p60 with a remote for the price sounds nice though.

omission of 4k is fine but video quality matters.

but no hdmi out...
  • + 2
 unlike gopro who invented a plastic housing Sony make cameras. Their footy is all over PB
  • + 3
 Nicely said
  • + 59
 Lets be honest.... even if somebody handed you $400 to go spend on a camera, everyone would still buy a gopro...
  • + 4
 I have a hero 3 that screws up regularly. I am more concerned about home video computers and 4K video as I wonder who has storage for a few dozen rides
  • - 1
 meh, wont be as good as a gopro, just watch all the videos they've been making like the one with steve and brendan.... shit quality compared to gopro!
and 4k? seriously? low fps and by the time you upload it to youtube it will look like a 1080p video anyway Razz
4k videos is pure marketing guys
even my xperia z3 phone can record at 4k LOL
  • + 2
 the only reason why i like the idea of that remote for the price is to be able to put the camera on a drone when its not being used in trail pov sessions. cant wait to get my drone lol
  • + 13
 Everything Sony I have ever owned in the last 39 years has been good to great. Never had any issues with Sony.
  • + 11
 I picked up a sony over the gopro and haven't regretted it yet, running it 2 years now
  • + 5
 @therealme528 same here love my hdr as 30V
  • + 2
 I want the Shimano cam, as a balance between value and video options...
  • + 5
 so Apple has been granted a patent and Gopro stock went down 12% this morning
  • + 2
 The reason that GoPro is popular guys is because it's the better product. The Sony Action Cams are good, but there are more downfalls than upgrades.
The pros: A Carl Zeiss lens, image stabilization (which really only works with third person POV), and ability to pick up more detail than the GoPro at 1080P...
The cons: Image stabilization sucks for action cameras. Quite shockingly in fact. Overall video quality (even with stabilization off) isn't as nice off the camera as the GoPro which tends to saturate things more. Sony's footage tends to be brighter and therefore have more detail, but that sacrifices depth which is more important when taking video of "Action" and "Extreme Sports" into consideration. Mounting options are more scarce than GoPro, but that's a popularity thing.

Sony makes good cameras. At the higher levels... Their Action cameras aren't impressive in any respect other than the Sony name and the Carl Zeiss lens. [Seriously the only reason I like the Sony is the lens].
  • - 2
 go pro is mainly popular because they set a trend not a better product. It's the apple of the cam world and consumed by sheeple
  • + 4
 the sony footage looks horrible it totally ruined that bret rheeder bit a while back
  • + 0
 depends on settings and what quality you upload it at, I'm more than happy with any footage I've taken since I got it
  • + 8
 lol @ using "sheeple" to describe people who buy GoPros

ffs
  • + 3
 I definitely would have agreed with you a couple of years ago. I was going to buy a Contour Roam, but decided to get the GoPro. Truly the Contour was the only camera that gave the GoPro a run for it's money.
Anyways,
Yeah GoPro is the Apple of the action camera world. They started a revolution like Apple did with the iPhone. Everyone wants one and there is more support. [I don't own Apple products btw. I hate them...]
Where GoPro and Apple differ is that the GoPro is a real class leader in terms of hardware and overall footage quality...
  • + 2
 I'd pick a Sony no matter what. Let's face it, GoPro has a big marketing and they were pioneers but Sony makes optical/electronic stuff for years. Their experience in making video recording devices has a great outcome in quality of the eg. HDR-100 recordings. Even some youtube comparations show what's up.
  • + 2
 Heres my take on the "big brother" for those that want info related to this or the AS100V.

www.pinkbike.com/u/eastsideride/blog/sony-as100v-action-cam-review.html
  • + 1
 i heard that gopro cameras use sony sensors? true?
  • + 6
 Great review @eastsideride compared to this article! I can't really argue with anything you said.
In saying that, @hytrus93 , Sony does make great cinema cameras and to a point even their SLRs and amateur video cameras are good. In the end, they're still a bit behind. Something that eastsideride mentioned in his review was the increase of detail compared to the GoPro. In fact, when you look at the video comparisons of the Sony vs. GoPro you will notice that quite quickly. However, notice also the Brighter colors. Personally (and to many others) the saturated look that the GoPro gives is more pleasing during most lighting conditions. During night shooting, the GoPro falls because it's saturating the colors. Whenever I go and look at videos online using an action cam you can almost tell what camera they're using. The only time that I was kinda stumped was Contour vs. GoPro.
GoPro was founded by a surfer who was making stupid (in a good way) mounts for disposable cameras. Now it's a big company that produces their own cameras (mainly manufactured by Ambarella @jozhua130 ) and has a ton of athletes and film makers who want to support it.
Part of the reason I like the GoPro more is the society involved with it. Some of the consumers of GoPro are definitely "sheeple", but a great deal of them have taken a simple camera and paired it with an average lifestyle and made it look awesome. For me, the GoPro kinda signifies what technology can do for the average human. Even if the GoPro doesn't have the best hardware (which I believe it does) it inspires a ton of people to go out and be productive and share it with the world. Fine details like that my friends are what matter!
  • + 2
 jozhua130 you might consider thinking twice since there can be RF interference with the drone. A lot of drones crashed because the WiFi was turned on and interfered with the RF of the drone, thus making it crash.
  • + 1
 Thanks @woodenproductions for sharing that information. I never considered that. I'm thinking of getting a walkera QR x350 soon. then get a Go Pro plus gimbal. The DJI drones are quite expensive over here in the Philippines. Im also considering drones with built in cameras albeit without the a wireless viewfinder connected to a phone or its own viewing module. I can only wish the kickstarter companys working on drones "that follow you" can price their offerings a little bit on the cheap end of the scale.
  • + 1
 @AlexArmanetti Thanks man! Glad you liked it. Hopefully it will be shared by the editors Razz
  • + 1
 @jozhua130 Walkera is great choise, 3DR Robotics has the follow subject ability, however it is around 700$. I have DJI F450 with MultiWii, the nunchuck Nintendo Wii Flight Controler lel Big Grin
  • + 27
 Haven't looked for this camera yet, but there are lots of POV comparison reviews on websites dedicated to photography that will actually get into the details relevant to a photographer. This "review" was about the same as reading the side of the box.
  • + 9
 It's only a matter of time before Sony beats GoPro. Sony is a camera company, GoPro is a mounts company. Ambarella make all of their actual hardware.
  • + 0
 I saw in the news that go pro's stock value went way down right after apple said they were gona make a pov camera. They havent even made the camera yet and the go pro is already losing its market value. I dont like apple but maybe them joining in will make pov cams cheaper.
  • + 3
 Apple joining the market will make POV cams cheaper..... good luck with that! both Go-Pro and Sony have Budget options if price is the issue.
  • + 1
 No @richardsouthernextreme I didnt say the apple cam would be cheaper, with them joining the pov market there is more competition which makes the price of ALL pov cams to go down, at least they should. It was like flat screen tvs, when they came out they were really expensive, but more competition and more people buying them brought the price down. It's economics.
  • + 6
 This review comes pretty late. About 10 days agou PB posted an article about the new Sony 4K. The HDR-AZ1VR was already out last year.

@pinkbike pleas give us a real review with some film examples and best would be to compare the GoPro and Sony models. As @BiNARYBiKE said in his post, this review was more like reading the side of the box than anything with substnace.

I am thinking about buying a Sony AC but this review had no news for me.
  • + 1
 I bought a Sony a little over a year ago. It compares to my friends GoPro and contours. Remember Sony has been making cameras for years, they make a great product. Biggest downfall is mounting systems are not as advanced as gopro, but as Sony gets more popular they seem to increase. Another camera I have looked at is the ion, I want a real review of it. And honestly contour simplicity is hard to beat.
  • + 5
 ...hmmm, image quality is great?... I can't wait to compare it to, hmmmm....wait there are no example clips or images...next time!
  • + 6
 Doesn't the form factor of the sony cams make chest mouting impossible?
  • + 1
 Well it is possible. Not the best but ok But things like goggle-mounting and dog-back-mounting are sick.
  • + 2
 After owning a hdr-az1 for a month now, I have stopped using my gopros as my main action camera. Been a long time gopro fanboy but Sony is heading in the direction. Image stabilization does crop a good bit from video so i would only use for quad copter shooting to make slinky smooth video. If you have it enable while riding on your helmet, riding the rough terrain looks like a paved trail lol. My number one thing about the camera is the blacks in low light performance are excellent and almost comparable to my Sony vg-900 camera I also have. File size is handled very well also. Just my two cents.
  • + 2
 I wish they would use btle for normal control to save some power.
Use the latest batteries which can be charged at signifiat C.
Something very light, simple would be great.
Wifi is great for aligning the camera, I find the gopro wifi download power hungry and slow (shame I don't have 2 micro sd slots in my phone).
nfc pairing does not really give a competitive advantage, it's not like pairing is hard these days.
They should target a sub 50g camera with great iq with very flexible mounting. Memory write current is the only real limitation at the moment, but that is changing and sony (will their design partner) will have access to the technology.
  • + 1
 I've had the AZ1 with Live View Remote since March 2015. I have not tried it out with many of the accessories because, unfortunately as I travelled, I left a key piece behind to make the attachments. The videos and pictures are of fantastic quality. In poor light, not so great.

The one problem I had was with connectivity with the remote. So I tried to install Sony's update and the remote froze -dead. Would not revive. I exchanged the package under warranty (essentially just the remote) for another after travelling. Since then, I have been reluctant to try the update again. I can find nothing about update issues from Sony or on the forums. Anyone have any leads about this?
  • + 4
 hehe It looks like Barbies Handicam!
  • + 1
 And a more important note. If you decide to buy one, first thing you need to do is update firmware. The base firmware is buggy, I guess because they rushed these out. Newest firmware is solid thus far.
  • + 1
 Firmware is a must, but forget about trying to use the GPS function,unless Sony have finally removed it because it doesn't work.
  • + 3
 Would have loved to see this side by side with the dimensions of a GoPro. Sony wins in form factor.
  • + 1
 So did the Contour Roam but look what happened to them. Form doesn't always win over function.
  • + 1
 Sony makes cameras and the form adds to it. I love my Sony, get tired of people calling it a gopro because they don't know about competition. And with contour running again I would like to see what they offer in the near future, if they do better at advertising I believe they can take a big chunk of the market.
  • + 1
 now, that's the review! cheers PHeller
  • + 2
 Can 120fps really be considered "super slo-mo"? I know it's the same with most acion cams.. but if you're going to claim super slo mo I feel it need to be a few hundred fps.
  • + 2
 Yeah with 240fps on an iphone now this doesn't seem that super
  • + 3
 That is a big ass lens; I can't read this review without scrolling back up to see if it's still lookin at me or not
  • + 4
 "USD $349.99, AUD $479.00 (list price)"

Bend over Australia...
  • + 2
 got mine for 390 with a free charger kit and extra battery..
  • - 4
flag chiefstash (Jan 15, 2015 at 18:58) (Below Threshold)
 I picked up a GoPro hero4 silver for $90 at REI garage sale, was only missing batteries witch I picked up on Ebay $5 a peace.
  • + 2
 good for you mate, your parents must be very proud
  • - 1
 Your mom approved it.
  • + 3
 i have got Kodak sp1 £154 @tesco great camera enough for weekend warrior
  • + 2
 Bought one for my son for Christmas - image and stability are great. Can't wait to get it up in the mountains this Summer.
  • - 1
 i have a hero 4 black and the footage is unreal ,theres no way sony beat go pro on this one. go pro is popular because its the best , apple is popular because its the best and anyone who thinks other wise is just saying hat because they don't want to pay for the best , but you get what you pay for and for the sony thats trash video
  • + 2
 Marketing, and the power to crush your opposition is why Apple and to a certain extent, Gopro have become the monsters they are. Your attitude sounds like you are exactly the sort of consumer that falls for this marketing. If it's really expensive then it's the best doesn't always hold water. Better to shop around, do some research and discover for yourself what is good. Rather than being told what to buy.
  • + 2
 Oh and you do realise that gopro cameras have a Sony image sensor don't you?
  • + 0
 interesting design i like the watch band remote , wonder what Apple is going to bring to the market heard they announced they are entering the mini action cam market and it hit GoPro hard stock wise
  • + 1
 Apple did not accounce they were bringing a POV camera to market. They were simply awarded a patent for controlling a camera remotely, which some interpret as possible future competition for go pro.
  • + 1
 one would think they would need a camera design for the patent company to approve so i,m betting they have something up there sleeve
  • + 2
 I have their little brother and I can tell you sony gives you the best bang gor your buck
  • + 1
 This has been out for a while. Why is no one releasing any actual video samples?
  • + 1
 I just bought one, I love it. 1080 @ 60 fps is super rad. I also love the steady shot feature.
  • + 2
 Got a hero 3, it works and I love it. Thanks Sony but another time
  • + 3
 Go pro, use Sony!!!
  • + 1
 I'm surprised no one mentioned AEE magicams. I consider them to be the closest rival to GoPro in terms of quality and sound.
  • + 3
 good job Sony. I want !!
  • + 3
 too expensive for me
  • + 1
 Watch it with all them commas, pinkbike. That was close to unreadable.
  • + 1
 were is canon and nikon? and low light will always be a problem.
  • + 2
 gopro or this thing?
  • + 2
 I would vote for GoPro Hero 4 silver than this thing. Its a good effort from Sony but the Hero 4 is a bit more versatile in it's mounting and the of course the 4K feature. The Silver edition is what I recommend at the moment.
  • + 2
 What I like about the Sonys is the stabilisation. Super sick. I'd recommend the sony hdr as 100V
  • - 1
 Depends do you want a camera made from a company that makes cameras, or to you want your camera to say gopro? Gopro makes a great camera but the Sony still runs with it, with a few extra add ons. And the bigger version isn't that big so you can get that with the extras also. Gopro wins in mounting options, but sonys choices are growing.
  • + 2
 2 words: chest mount
  • + 0
 I have the chest mount and it work very well... in fact better then the gopro one since you can fine adjust the camera angle in every direction and up to 360° with the gopro I had to put a foam as gettofix in order to point it high enought
  • + 0
 I have none of this problem with mine. Gopro is close to my chest. I would shoot down this lonnng camera at my first run. (tested)
  • + 1
 thinking about it, kinda feels ackward mounted in the chest
  • + 1
 Where did you get the chest mount from?
  • + 1
 From amazon, www.amazon.com/Sony-AKACMH1-Chest-Harness-Action/dp/B00EVIJXCI

To be honest it's working very well fro me compared to the old gopro 3 black same goes for underwater (i do a lot of dive at up to 180ft no leak for now)
  • + 2
 every time someone posts a chest mount video, everyone bitches about the video quality. Just saying
  • + 1
 do you have an example?
  • + 0
 they should have called that thing sony spy cam. you could sneak that anywhere without people noticing.
  • - 2
 Wow. What an amazingly bad mount. Why give it that much opportunity to act like a lever? (For lack of a better word at the moment)
  • + 3
 The mount pictured is a K-Edge mount to attach to a GoPro Mount. The adhesive mounts that the Action Cam comes with has a lower profile.

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2019. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.054226
Mobile Version of Website