Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
October 23, 2013

Sony Action Cam

Sony [http://store.sony.com; (877) 865-7669] is one of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers in the world and one of the first companies to produce a video camera for consumer use in the early 1980s. Over the years, Sony has pioneered a lot of video camera technology, so we're not surprised to see Sony enter the action cam/point-of-view market with its HDR-AS10 and HDR-AS15 models. These full HD action cams feature compact and lightweight plastic housings that record HD video with full stereo recording of audio and include a slow motion mode, too. The unit is similar to the Contour in that it isn't quite a lipstick/bullet cam, but isn't a traditional "box" cam either. Control of the camera's settings is via two buttons on the side and the large record button on the end door; however, the side buttons are not accessible once the cam is in its waterproof case, so changing settings on the fly will require Wi-Fi connectivity or removing the cam from the waterproof case.

These cams feature Sony's SteadyShot image stabilization (the only cam in our review to use such technology) and a Carl Zeiss lens, like many of its fullsize video cam and digital camera offerings. The HDR-AS15 model reviewed here features built-in Wi-Fi that utilizes Sony's PlayMemories mobile app (iOS and Android available) to allow remote camera control, playback, and transfer of files to social media outlets. You can even use the Sony Action Cam with Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayMemories Studio program to download, edit, and share your videos via your PS3! While Sony's attachment offerings lean more toward action sports, they do offer a quality suction-cup mount for motorsports use (used in our testing here) and an optional case door kit that allows better audio recording. You'll find some interesting attachments no other manufacturer offers, like the outer case with color LCD screen which turns the Sony Action Cam into a full-fledged mini-HD video cam, or the dog harness to strap your Sony Action Cam to your dog for those runs in the park!

Labeled a "wearable action camera," the Atom HD features a traditional "box cam" styling that fits inside a clear waterproof case

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Specs
Available resolutions VGA, 720p, 1080p
File format .MP4
Sensor type Exmor R CMOS
Field of view 120-degree and 170-degree, user selectable, SteadyShot in 120-degree only
Still photo mode Yes
Photo resolution 2-megapixel
LCD screen Yes, 1.125-inch
Waterproof Yes, to 197 feet when using included case
Microphone Built-in (stereo)
Memory type MicroSD card or Memory Stick Micro (64GB max)
Wi-Fi capability Yes
Battery type Rechargeable Lithium-Ion (user replaceable)
Retail Price $239.99 for HDR-AS15, $179 for HDR-AS10 (no Wi-Fi)

Swann Atom HD

Swann [www.swann.com; (562) 777 2551]isn't a newcomer to video cameras, though the company has only been in the action cam category for a short time. Swann is better known for its security camera offerings for home and small business protection. Swann's line of action cam offerings continues to grow and its latest is the Atom HD. Labeled a "wearable action camera," the Atom HD features a traditional "box cam" styling that fits inside a clear waterproof case (good to 32 feet). Though the Atom HD includes the standard flat and curved adhesive-backed mounts for car mounting, helmet mounting, and the like, the Atom HD is the only cam in our roundup that features a ¼-20 threaded tripod mount not only in the waterproof case, but in the camera body itself. This allows easy installation via the standard tripod mount suction cup accessory we've used to mount most of the cams in our video testing.

The Atom HD has some interesting features you won't find on other cams in this segment as well. For starters, the Atom HD features a focusable lens. The cam ships with the lens in the standard configuration, but for underwater or macro lens use, the lens can be rotated to refocus the optics. The Atom HD also features a built-in LED light to help with low-light recording and dual MicroSD card slots that allow a total of 64GB of storage for up to nine hours of recording! The built-in 1.5-inch LCD screen allows easy on-camera setting changes and can also be used to set up camera angles and play back footage that you've recorded on the Atom HD.

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Specs
Available resolutions 720p, 1080p
File format .MOV
Sensor type CMOS
Field of view 110-degree in 1080p, 135-degree in 720p
Still photo mode Yes
Photo resolution 3-, 5-, 8-megapixel
LCD screen Yes, 1.5-inch TFT
Waterproof Yes, to 32 feet when using included case
Microphone Built-in
Memory type dual MicroSD cards (32GB max per card)
Wi-Fi capability No
Battery type Rechargeable Lithium-Ion (user replaceable)
Retail Price $249.99