Considering its history with cameras and camcorders, it's almost a surprise that it's taken Sony this long to develop a wearable cam. Its first effort, the Sony Action Cam, is certainly a good start. Not only is this device small and light, but, at $269, it's more than $100 less than other wearable action cams that also shoot 1080p video.
On its own, the Sony camera is quite tiny -- just 3.25 x 1.6 x 0.31 inches and 3.2 ounces -- but inside its waterproof housing (good for up to 197 feet), it's as large as the Contour+2 or Drift HD Ghost. Of course, those two also require even larger cases to make it down to those depths.
Like the GoPro Hero3, this housing is also required not only to protect the camera, but also to mount it to a helmet or handlebars. And, while it lies flush, as with the Contour and HD Ghost, the Sony camera needs to be mounted perfectly perpendicular, as its lens does not rotate.
On the bottom of the Sony Action Cam is a small plastic door that covers ports for microUSB, microHDMI and an external microphone jack. On the back is a sliding hatch with a large Record button that's slightly hard to press, which may be a good thing.
Similar to the GoPro Hero3, Sony's camera has a small monochrome LCD that shows the battery life, recording quality, Wi-Fi connection and recording time elapsed. In front of the display are two buttons, Previous and Next, for navigating through the menus.
In addition to sharing movies and photos via Wi-Fi using the Sony PlayMemories app for Android and iOS, it also lets you control the Action Cam wirelessly, as with the Contour, Drift or GoPro cameras.
We were somewhat underwhelmed by the video quality of the Sony Action Cam. While the footage was by no means bad, colors were more washed-out than on other cameras, and contrast was inferior. When viewing comparison video of skiers on an overcast day shot side-by-side with the GoPro Hero3 and the Contour+2, ski jackets were less vivid, and we could see less detail in the snow.
While it can record video at 1080p and 30 fps, the same as other cameras, the Action Cam's still image resolution is limited to 2 megapixels, well below the 11 MP offered by the GoPro Hero3 or the Drift HD Ghost.
One bright spot, though, is the Action Cam's battery life. At 3 hours of continuous recording WVGA video at 30 fps, it bested the Contour 2+'s 2 hours and the GoPro Hero3's 90 minutes. Only the Drift HD Ghost (3.5 hours) lasted longer.
Sony makes a good first effort with the Action Cam with Wi-Fi. It has a small, sleek design, and lasts a long while on a charge. However, its video quality and features could be better. We expect more from Sony's sequel, but if you're looking for an affordable way to record your outdoor adventures, the Action Cam is worth a look.