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A Look at Sony’s New HDR-AS50 Action Cam

Sony has announced a new action camera, the HDR-AS50, coming in at a baseline $199.  The real news here is that Sony actually has listened to customer complaints (or suggestions as they like to call them) and then made some useful improvements over their existing action cam lineup. Perhaps the most notable improvement is the actual user interface. While the built in LCD is nice for configuring and controlling while capturing footage, in the old days it was a convoluted mess of step-through menu options that took far too long to navigate through for the simplest of actions. Even common operations like turning the unit off required unnecessary menu navigation.  It was as if you had to use a TI-82 calculator to program it.

The Basics:

That has now been addressed with a grid like menu presentation that is far simpler to navigate.

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Of course, while it’s far simpler to operate, it’s still nowhere near as clean as something like the touch-screen on the back of the latest Hero4 & Hero+ LCD screens.  But hey, it’s a start.

In addition, they’ve made a minor form factor change, which now allows for a flat bottom instead of the curved topple-prone previous version. So you can now simply set it on a flat surface and start recording. And they wisely modified the tripod mount to use the industry standard ¼ inch thread doing away the need for an adapter.  Previously you would have had to have the little attachment piece on there, which in turn didn’t fit into the waterproof case.

And a new button arrangement has further simplified operations. There is even a dedicated power button now.

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Case and accessories:

They now include the 60-meter dive housing; itself improved with new side-mounted buttons for navigating the new menu system without having to open the case constantly.

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You can bundle it with the new improved Live View remote for $350. The remote can be wrist worn, or you can pop out the module and pocket it or even better, get the finger grip mount and have a live view right on the camera.

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An interesting tidbit on the new live view remote is that it’ll automatically power on the camera, when you power on the remote.  So it acts like a legit TV remote control in a way.

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While the AS50 tops out at 1080p/60fps, it does contain a 4K time-lapse mode.  This means that any timelapses you capture will be rendered as 4K video (just like what GoPro does on their Hero4 Silver/Black).  For companies, this is relatively easy to do since the resolution of photos far exceeds what’s required for 4K – so they might as well add this in and then slap that 4K stamp on the camera.  But just be mindful that for normal videos, it’s not 4K.

If you want 4K shooting on the Sony lineup, you’ll have to use the higher end X-1000 model.  Unfortunately, the X-1000 is not currently slated to get the new improved user interface.  Hopefully that will change by the time a shipping date is announced for the AS50.  Sony is saying a late Q1 release time-frame, though it sounds a bit in flux.  Historically though, that’s usually been the case of a March-April time-frame for the companies CES announced action cameras to make it to retail shelves.

With that – thanks for reading!

Don’t forget to check out all of the DCR CES 2016 coverage, as well as a slew of updates that were only seen on Twitter.  It was a crazy busy week! 

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29 Comments

  1. André Berger

    Did you also have a look at Nikon’s new “KeyMission 360” action camera at CES? With 360 degree recording in 4K I think it looks like an interesting camera.

    Reply
    • We’ve got another post coming up that specifically talks to that (and a few other 360* action cams). :)

      Reply
  2. Typos make it hard to read

    Just a few typos that I think you would like to correct:
    While the built in LCD is nice for configuring and controlling while capturing footage, in the old days it was a convoluted mess of step-through menu options that took far to long to navigate through for the simplest of actions.
    should be “…far too long to…”

    As was as if you had to use a TI-82 calculator to program it.
    I think you mean “It was as if…”

    Sony is saying a late Q1 release time-frame, though, it sounds a bit in flex.
    I believe that it sounds a bit in “flux”.

    Reply
  3. Miguel Ferreira

    Is it just my imagination, or did they also improve the waterproof housing with a flat “lens”?

    Used to be round and the reason for bad underwater images on Sony actions cam’s, and if you wanted that, you would have to buy another housing with a flimsy looking flat glass.

    Reply
    • Randy Cantu

      Yep, they specifically mentioned that improvement also.

      Reply
    • Mateo

      Hi Randy,
      Any word on whether that new housing will fit other Action Cam models? I have the AZ1 Mini & would love to get it in a flat-lens case that doesn’t suck in the water.
      On a related note, does the new AS50 feature a new battery design, or does it use an existing battery model some current Sony users may already own?

      Reply
  4. West Coast Best Coast

    [Old man gets up on soapbox]
    “TI-82? That is your Holy Grail of TOUGH?? Back in my day, we had HP RPN calculators and we liked it!!!”
    [Old man falls off soapbox, breaks hip]

    Really, though, Randy, when the TIs came out, it was like an angel coming down from the heavens, showing us how to slice bread. Of course, then EVERYBODY could tell what a secant wave looked like, not just us nerds…

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Milessio

      My 30 year old Ti56 is still going strong, and so is my brother’s Ti62 Galaxy. So how’s the HP doing? :)

      It seems novel now that they came with a printed book of a manual.

      Reply
    • Eiffel

      My HP41CV is still working perfectly and looks like new despite over 30 years of use 😉

      Reply
    • Ian Lilly

      Still using my HP 11C here – bought new in Feb 1983, on its 4th set of batteries!

      Reply
  5. Benjamin Gordon

    Any word on battery life? That’s my biggest hangup for action cams. It would be great it they could get somewhere 6-8 hours on the stock battery so I could use one for long bike rides.

    Reply
    • Sean

      Same here. I don’t care about 4k – 1080p is enough for me. What’s not enough is that barely 2h battery life most cams have.

      Reply
  6. Misza

    any word on ant+ ?

    Reply
  7. salderton

    What have you started? I couldn’t get passed the first paragraph …

    Try the TI-30! Ah, those lovely bright LED digits; and those memories for constants pi, e, c, µ, e.t.c.
    Of course, the slide rule had to go.

    … Excellent way of polling your reader demographic though.

    A Sony action camera? As you say “it’s a start.”

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    Reply
  8. Alberto

    Hi:

    I prefer buttons based navigation than touch screens. I think they are safer and more accurate (and you can press them with gloves!), and menus can be messy in touch screens also…

    Reply
    • Alberto

      Sorry, I didn’t know you used gravatar, and I thought the photo was for avatar. The photo has NOTHING to do with my answer.

      Sorry, again

      Reply
  9. John

    I’m just not seeing how this works as an *action* cam. It looks like a smaller version of their old Handycam models.

    Reply
    • John

      Seriously, is that a camera or an antenna? Do you need to request clearance from the FAA if you attach this to the top of your helmet?

      Reply
    • In general I think folks will be disappointed with helmet mounted 360 cams (I’ve tried). Instead, handlebar mounting is far more interesting because you get to see rider too.

      Reply
    • Andy C S

      I’m guessing you could, instead, use it upside down and it would look a lot less conspicuous.

      What kind of adapter is that btw?

      Reply
    • Andy C S

      Sony VCTHM2, got it.

      Reply
    • Eli

      If you want a good action shot Id agree the handbar is better but the helmet seems better if your goal is to record in case of a problem (car passing too close, etc). Now they just need to support linking to the Ant+ radar profile to only record when a car passes and maybe an accelerometer to save the last minute before an impact.

      Reply
    • (Side note: In my half-asleep period on the plane, the answer above about being helmet vs handlebar location based, I thought I was on the 360* action cam post, not the Sony one. Doh!)

      Reply
    • Shinigami

      Normally you mount on the side of your helmet, not on top. The Sony helmet mount is quite good, or one can simply use industrial strength Velcro. The steady-shot function on my AS200V blows most other action cam images away quite nicely.

      Reply
  10. Granville Sellars

    Would you know if Sony have sorted the massive issues with audio I encountered on the
    HDR-AZ1VR – when mounting the camera on a motorbike or bike helmet?
    When used in the waterproof case the camera vibrated against the case producing an appalling racket.
    I exchanged mine twice (three units tested in total) and they were all the same.
    I ended up with GoPro copy – £50. Not as pretty but much more functional.

    Reply
  11. Brian

    Any idea where I can get the “finger grip” mount?

    Reply
  12. Lee

    Yeah, I like the finger grip… Link please!

    Reply