Top positive review
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Action cam for hi-fi enthusiasts
on 12 July 2013
The main bias of this action camera seems to be in camera technology, at the expense of usability. Whether you want to go for this depends on your priorities. The GoPro Hero3 Black may out-perform this camera in some areas, but do keep in mind the cost difference between the two.
I personally prefer the elongated form of this camera. Someone else may prefer the box form factor.
NOTE: I'm not an action man - I'm using a pair of these to shoot ultrawide FOV stereoscpic footage. I don't have insights on the action/field usage of this camera.
+ Sharpest image in the market, with up to 170 degrees FOV
+ Best, least noisy low light performance in the market thanks to the back-lit sensor
+ Very clean high quality stereo sound (by action camera standards), both from the internal microphones and the external input (which also takes stereo!). The noise floor is fair enough - for an action camera.
+ With the latest firmware update, it can shoot 1080P at 60 frames per second. 720p 120fps slow motion mode also available (this requires daylight due to short exposure).
+ Surprisingly good digital image stabilization (limited to 120 degrees FOV) - among the better ones I've seen.
+ Smooth white balance / exposure adaptation. No sudden jumps. Works well for long time lapses too.
- Very poor mountability. The camera itself is impossible to mount on anything on its own due to its rounded shape and the lack of a tripod screw on the chassis. It comes with a waterproof housing with a tripod screw - and that's it. All other mounting accessories need to be purchased separately.
- The external inputs/outputs are located in the bottom of the camera, making them inaccessible if the camera is mounted in any way (except upside down - good luck finding a suitable accessory)
- Applies heavy dynamics limiting/compression to the sound to maximize the perceived volume. This is OK for direct use but not good for post processing. It sounds pumpy and clips easily if it gets a loud signal. (most users won't care - I do)
- Inconsistent manufacturing quality - some specimens may have a slightly mis-aligned lens which can give a blurry image in one of the corners of the image (also noted by Techmoan) - this is not the Zeiss quality I would expect. Make sure to check that the camera's picture is sharp all over and if not, be prepared to return it for a new specimen.
* The color range is a bit vivid, making the sky very blue. You may whether like it this way, or not. It's a bit 'colder' in tone than the GoPro. However these can be graded easily in post.
* Charges via micro USB. Comes with a cable, but not with a charger. The charging indicator is a tiny light in the bottom under the lid.
* With the new firmware, you can change the on-board speaker sound settings, to either get the loud feedback you want, or make it quiet for time-lapses.
* Be prepared to purchase a MicroSD (or the Sony proprietary equivalent) with this camera - it doesn't come with one. The card cradle is not designed to only allow iserting the card the right way around, which may lead to a bit of confusion. Even the right way around the camera may not always recognize the card until you try again.
* The bottom lid that protects the external inputs/outputs tends to get in the way and is flimsy. I removed it permanently by unscrewing the bottom panel.
* There is a(n expensive, bulky) cradle accessory available, that turns this camera into a tripod-mountable camcorder with a viewfinder.
* The recently introduced AKA-SF1 skeleton frame offers new mounting options, which leave the inputs accessible.
* The slow white balance adaptation is good for avoiding flicker, but if the footage frequently changes between indoors and outdoors you may have moments where the white balance is off for quite a while as the camera slowly adapts.
Possible alternative: Braun Sixzero (similar price range; similar form factor but more practical: has a viewfinder screen and a tripod screw on the body; poor sound quality, not as good picture quality; narrower FOV; comes included with a good set of mounts)