- Long battery life
- Still image quality is good
- Decent companion app
- Removable battery
- Solid construction
- Mediocre video quality
- Only one adhesive mount included
- Heavy in its waterproof case
- So-so low-light performance
- 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor
- f/2.8 lens aperture
- 1080p/60fps video
- 11.9-megapixel stills
- Android and iOS companion app
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Manufacturer: Sony
- Review Price: £179.00/$268.50
WHAT IS THE SONY HDR-AS50 ACTION CAM?
Sony’s Action Cam range is pretty diverse, ranging from the entry-level AS20 all the way up to the 4K-capable X1000V. The HDR-AS50 sits just above the former, but it’s still firmly at the cheaper end of the line-up.
For just £179/$268,5, though, you get all the functionalities needed by all but the most hardened adrenaline junkies and videographers. It packs in 1080p/60fps video, waterproofing to depths of 60m, and electronic image stabilisation, making it a versatile entry-level action camera.
SONY HDR-AS50 ACTION CAM – DESIGN AND ACCESSORIES
Contrary to GoPro’s distinctly rectangular action cameras – or cubic in the case of the GoPro Hero Session – Sony’s Action Cam designs have long bodies that more resemble a traditional camcorder.
It means that, face-on, Sony’s Action Cams are slightly more streamlined. This also means hand holding the camera feels a little more ergonomic, as you can grip the body more easily. Chances are that you’ll be mounting the AS50 more often than holding it, however.
Outside of its waterproof case, the HDR-AS50 weighs 83g – not quite as feather-light as GoPro’s Hero Session (74g), which also has the advantage of not requiring a waterproof case.
The waterproof case adds a considerable amount of bulk
Throw it inside its decidedly chunky waterproof case and the HDR-AS50 weighs closer to 180g. It’s considerably more resilient to the elements with this addition, however, and will survive depths of 60m for up to 30 minutes, as well as becoming shock-proof and dust- and sand-resistant.
Along the side of the camera you’ll find a small LCD screen used purely for changing settings. You’ll need to pair with the companion Sony PlayMemories Mobile app for iOS and Android or opt for the separate Sony RM-LVR2 wrist-based remote control (around £120) if you want a live view for composing your shots.
Changing settings and shooting modes is intuitive and you quickly get the hang of the camera’s menu system. There’s the option to turn on one-button recording, so you can power on the camera and begin recording just by hitting the Record button on top.
The camera can also be set to provide audio feedback when recording begins, but the case muffles this significantly so you may well miss it. A red LED on top indicates an active recording, but I would’ve liked a second LED on the front of the camera as well.
The HDR-AS50 is supplied with a basic adhesive mount, so you might need to consider the added cost of buying extra mounts. The camera has a standard 1/4-inch tripod thread on its base for attaching the optional Sony mounts. You can also buy an inexpensive GoPro adaptor, which opens up your accessories options considerably.
SONY HDR-AS50 ACTION CAM – CONNECTIVITY AND SOFTWARE
For connections, there’s just a Micro USB port used for charging and connecting the camera to transfer your footage to a computer. There’s no way to directly output to a television, nor connect an external microphone. Storage is handled through either microSD or Sony M2 memory sticks. The former are considerably cheaper. As the camera supports two different storage formats, you need to make sure you insert them the right way round as it’s possible to insert a microSD card backwards.
You can pair the camera with the aforementioned PlayMemories Mobile app through Wi-Fi and it’s generally a straightforward process. Each camera has a unique Wi-Fi password, so you’ll need to check the manual or connect the camera to a computer to find it, which is a little annoying. There’s also Bluetooth that lets you remotely switch the camera on and off through the app.
As for using the app as a live view, it’s a pleasant experience. There’s minimal lag or delay, and the app makes it easy to change settings and shooting modes. There’s also a separate Sony Action Cam app that lets you edit your footage. It works well enough, but it isn’t as straightforward as GoPro’s Replay app for speed of knocking together a half-decent cut.
SONY HDR-AS50 ACTION CAM – VIDEO AND AUDIO QUALITY
Sony has slapped a Zeiss Tessar lens on the front of its camera, with the same f/2.8 aperture size as on the GoPro Hero Session. This is paired with a 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor. One of the advantages that Sony’s Action Cam has over rival GoPro cameras is its electronic image stabilisation. While not as good as fully fledged optical image stabilisation, it does make for steadier footage.
The sensor is capable of 1080p footage at up to 60fps. If you want the higher 120fps frame rate, you’ll need to drop the resolution to 720p. Recording using the XAVC S codec, you can get up to 50Mbps video bitrate, otherwise it’s 24Mbps when using MP4. Still images are captured at up to 11.9 megapixels (4,608 x 2,592 resolution).
Captured footage during a Ride London cycling event was a little underwhelming. Even when presented with ample outdoor lighting, there was some noise evident in darker areas of the scene and colours overall were rather muted.
Overall sharpness was a little lacking as well, and detail such as brickwork went missing. The camera also has a slight tendency to overexpose scenes, resulting in completely blown-out skies and more missing detail. Indoor, low-light performance is also a little noisy for my liking.
Audio quality is reasonable, but when mounted to a bike frame the stereo microphone picked up every vibration. When mounted elsewhere or handheld, the microphones perform well, however, and wind noise wasn’t an issue even during the cycling. It’s still a shame you can’t connect an external microphone.
The HDR-AS50 fared far better with still images that were considerably sharper, better exposed and had far higher levels of detail. Unless you like the barrel-distortion effect, you might want to change the field of view; you have a choice of Wide or Narrow. There are also timelapse modes at intervals of 1, 2, 4, 10, 30 and 60 seconds.
SONY HDR-AS50 ACTION CAM – BATTERY LIFE
Shooting video at 1080p, 30fps, the Sony HDR-AS50 lasted an excellent 2 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge. This managed to beat the GoPro Hero Session by about half an hour. The HDR-AS50 has the added benefit of having a removable battery, too, so you can carry a spare. Charging is done through the camera’s Micro USB port.
SHOULD I BUY THE SONY HDR-AS50 ACTION CAM?
There’s plenty to like about the Sony HDR-AS50 Action Cam. The camera is intuitive to use, especially compared to the slightly fiddly GoPro Hero 4 Session. It also has longer battery life and the advantage of having a replaceable cell.
Having said that, now that the Hero Session has been drastically reduced in price since its launch, I’d still opt for the GoPro. It has better image quality and far superior audio recording. It’s also considerably more svelte than the HDR-AS50 in its waterproof case, too.
The Sony HDR-AS50 is a decent all-round entry-level action cam.