Sony launches duo of 4K, HD action cameras with higher-quality, better-stabilized Zeiss lenses
posted Friday, September 9, 2016 at 3:00 AM EDT
Move over, GoPro: Sony has just stepped even further into the action camera giant's territory with the launch of two new Sony Action Cam models offering a choice of either 4K or HD capture along with game-changing image stabilization capabilities. Slated to ship in late September 2016, the Sony FDR-X3000 and HDR-AS300 inherit their newly-uprated Balanced Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology from the company's Handycam camcorder series.
Much is shared between the Sony X3000 and AS300 Action Cams, but clearly Balanced Optical SteadyShot is the big news, so let's start there. The technology made its debut in early 2012 with the Handycam HDR-CX760V, and has been widely lauded for providing steadier footage than is offered by competing stabilization techniques. Instead of simply moving individual lens elements, the image sensor, or perhaps a combination of the two to steady motion from camera shake, Balanced Optical SteadyShot moves the entire optical block (that is to say, the whole lens and the sensor which sits behind it). Now, the technology arrives in both new Action Cam models for the first time, and it's arguably of even more importance here, given the reputation of action camera footage for being nausea-inducingly shaky.
The Sony X3000 and AS300 share a new Zeiss Tessar-branded lens with an actual 2.6mm focal length and a fixed f/2.8 aperture. Although the lens itself has a fixed focal length, three field-of-view options are provided by the two cameras courtesy of an on-demand digital crop function. You can elect to shoot with either 17mm-equivalent wide, 23mm-equiv. medium or 32mm-equiv. narrow settings, or if you prefer, to use a stepless 3x digital zoom function.
Both cameras share the same 8.2-megapixel, 1/2.5-inch backside-illuminated Sony Exmor R image sensor, and coupled with a Bionz X image processor, it's capable of full pixel readout without any pixel binning. This, along with Sony's XAVC S codec at a bitrate of 100Mbps for 4K video or 50 Mbps for Full HD footage should yield excellent image quality. And if you need slow-motion footage, the FDR-X3000 can provide a 120 frames per second capture rate at Full HD resolution, while the more affordable Sony HDR-AS300 can do so at HD resolution.
Audio, meanwhile, is captured with an onboard stereo microphone complete with wind noise reduction function. Location tracking and a speedometer function are also available, thanks to the presence of a built-in GPS receiver, and this data can optionally be overlaid on your videos. You can also shoot still images individually, or at preset intervals with a Time-Lapse Capture function. These time-lapse stills can then be reassembled into a 4K time-lapse video using Sony's Action Cam Movie Creator software, or a Full HD video with the Action Cam app.
As if that's not enough, you can also have the cameras assemble highlights of your footage into movies automatically in-camera, with face detection used to identify subjects and determine which clips to use. These Highlight Movie clips are paired with customizable music, and make it really easy for less-experienced videographers to get results ready for sharing.
More experienced shooters will appreciate the availability of custom white balance control and exposure compensation, but manual or priority-mode capture aren't available, with exposure always under automatic control. That's par for the course in an action camera, though. Live-streaming of video footage is also possible, and a loop recording function will continue to capture footage for as long as power remains or until you stop capture, discarding the oldest footage automatically as space is needed for newer video to be captured.
Both cameras are, as you'd expect in the action camera segment, both splash-proof and able to be waterproofed to 197 feet / 60 meters using a supplied underwater housing. An underwater scene mode is also provided for good results beneath the surface. Back topside, both cameras can be controlled remotely using a new Live View Remote device which is 30% smaller than that supplied for the previous-generation Action Cams. The new remote unit can be used to power the Action Cam on or off, start or stop capture and change settings at a distance from the camera. It can also be mounted for easy access, with a variety of mounts including a handlebar mount, shooting grip and finger grip available.
If you prefer, you can also control the new Action Cam models remotely using Sony's PlayMemories Mobile application for Android or iOS smart devices. And to ensure adequate range, Sony has equipped its new Action Cams with a new Wi-Fi High Power mode.
Available from late September 2016, the 4K-capable Sony FDR-X3000 is priced at US$400, or US$550 for the FDR-X3000R kit which bundles the new Live View Remote. The Full HD-resolution Sony HDR-AS300 will cost US$300, or US$450 for the HDR-AS300R kit including the Live View Remote.