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.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.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.Pinkbike's take
|The 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.|
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