The Action Cam is available in two versions, one with WiFi and one without. The WiFi-enabled HDR-AS15, which we reviewed here, retails for around $270. The HDR-AS10 is the model without WiFi, and it sells for just under $200. Both Action Cams come with a couple of adhesive mounts and a waterproof case that can keep the camcorder safe when traveling underwater (down to 197 feet).

For the most part, adventure cams are small, rectangular little buggers, and the Sony Action Cam definitely fits this bill. It's body is thin and light, about the length of a credit card, and roughly as thick as your thumb. The entire camcorder should fit easily in your palm, unless you have awfully-small hands, and the few buttons on the body of the Action Cam are well-labeled and easy to access. The camcorder doesn't feel sturdy or rugged, in fact its plastic shell feels like it could break all too easily if dropped. To remedy this situation, Sony ships a hearty, waterproof case with the HDR-AS15 that is very durable and can handle underwater dives up to 197 feet.

Front Tour Image
Back Tour Image
Left Tour Image
Right Tour Image
Top Tour Image
Bottom Tour Image
Box Photo

The Sony Action Cam HDR-AS15 comes with the following accessories:

• Rechargeable battery pack (NP-BX1)

• Battery cradles (X-type and G-type)

• Waterproof case

• Micro USB Cable

• Operating Guide

• Adhesive mounts (2)

At times, we were impressed with the video performance from the Sony Action Cam. The camcorder captured motion with impressive smoothness, especially compared to some of the choppy video we saw from its competitors in the adventure cam market. But we also saw a huge loss of detail in low light situations, as well as a ton of noise and compression artifacting in certain bright light shots. Sony seems to have programmed the HDR-AS15 to drastically oversaturate colors, with blues and greens appearing as neon-like tones even under normal daylight conditions. Still, when evaluating the performance of this model, you have to remember—this is an adventure cam. The quality of the image isn't as important as actually being able to capture a wild image in the first place, and, while the Sony doesn't necessarily do this any better than the competition, it does have a few neat tricks up its sleeve.

In our lab test, the Sony HDR-AS15 spit out fairly accurate colors, at least compared to the competition. The camcorder's auto white balance system seemed to work quite well, so the average color error reported in our test was just 4.26—a number that is worse than we see from most traditional camcorders, but better than your average budget model. The saturation, however, was very high, measuring at 127%. We noticed this oversaturation in real-world shooting as well. Green grass looked atomic, blue sky had out-of-this-world vibrancy, and colors across the palette looked more intense than Starburst candies.

More on how we test color.



All this oversaturation may sound bad, but it's actually something that some people will love. In certain situations we found the colors yucky, but other times we liked how the camcorder brought out deep colors from a sunset. Take the AS15 to the beach and strap it to your surf board, and we're guessing the blue-green water and blue-blue sky will mesmerize. We just wish Sony included an option to tone down the colors in-camera.

The Action Cam HDR-AS15 continued its oversaturating ways into our low light test, with the camcorder measuring a ridiculous 145% saturation level in low light. Color accuracy, just like in bright light, wasn't that bad (coming in at 4.95). Still, the camcorder wasn't quite at the same level as the competition here—the Contour+ and Contour+2 both had better low light color accuracy, and the GoPro Hero2 edged the Sony by a slim margin as well. More on how we test low light color.



Noise levels were high in our bright light tests with the Action Cam. We measured the noise levels at around 1.0%, which is about twice as much noise as we'd like to see in bright light. In addition to noise, we saw some discoloration and moire in our bright light shots. Remember, though, if you're videos are cool and exciting enough, these performance issues shouldn't be what most people notice about your shots. More on how we test noise.


We didn't expect the Sony Action Cam to do this well in our low light sensitivity test. The camcorder needed just six lux of light to record a usable image, which is less light than either generation of the Contour+ camcorders we've reviewed required. Still, at light levels this low (six lux is about as much light as a crummy flashlight will give you), the Sony Action Cam's video image showed tons of noise, artifacting, interference, and detail loss. So, the camcorder will get you an image in low light, but you may not be pleased with the results. More on how we test low light sensitivity.

Strangely, the Sony HDR-AS15 showed less noise in low light than it did in bright light. This odd result is likely due to the camcorder's ability to expose the image properly in our low light test, while the camcorder overexposed the image in our bright test. Noise levels increased drastically when we shot in very low light situations, whereas our low light noise test is performed with the amount of light you'd expect in a dimly-lit bar or restaurant. Our point is this: the Sony Action Cam surprised us with some positive low light results, but it's not the kind of camcorder that can handle very low light situations with ease. More on how we test low light noise.


The Action Cam HDR-AS15 continued its oversaturating ways into our low light test, with the camcorder measuring a ridiculous 145% saturation level in low light. Color accuracy, just like in bright light, wasn't that bad (coming in at 4.95). Still, the camcorder wasn't quite at the same level as the competition here—the Contour+ and Contour+2 both had better low light color accuracy, and the GoPro Hero2 edged the Sony by a slim margin as well. More on how we test low light color.



Smooth motion was one of the first things we noticed about the Sony HDR-AS15's video performance. Its videos didn't have a choppy look or blurry effect that we've seen from other—particularly the original Contour+—adventure camcorders. But that's not to say the motion looked perfect. There were consistent problems with compression artifacting, which is something we see on all adventure cams, although the Sony seemed to have more of an issue with this. Portions of the screen (in high-detail areas) would become pixelated at times, which is usually a result of the camcorder's compression system not working hard enough. The smoothness of the video may actually be related, as the camcorder seems to cut back on detail in an effort to retain a smooth video image.

Speaking of smoothness, the Sony AS15 does have two slow motion functions that capture 720p HD video. Unlike the Contour+2 slow motion setting, the options on the Sony Action Cam convert your video to slow motion in-camera. The quality isn't always great (especially in low light), but the effect can look excellent. The options include 2x slow motion (60p) and 4x slow motion (120p), both of which record 1280 x 720 videos. More on how we test motion.

Bright Light Slow Motion 120fps

The Sony Action cam can record Full HD video, but don't let that spec fool you. This camcorder won't produce image as sharp as a top-notch consumer camcorder, although its numbers were on par with the other adventure cams we've reviewed in the past. Sharpness levels came in around 575 lw/ph horizontal and 600 lw/ph vertical, and these numbers are 15 - 20% lower than what you can expect to see from a traditional camcorder in the $600 price range. More on how we test video sharpness.

Bright Light Slow Motion 120fps

1080p Motion Low Light

1080p Motion Bright

Motion Indirect Low Light


The Sony Action Cam, like all adventure camcorders, is unique when it comes to usability. It's a simple camcorder to use in one sense, but it's an extraordinarily difficult product to master. Turning it on and hitting the record button is a cinch, but say you want to pair the camcorder to your smartphone to do some live monitoring. That's where things get a bit more difficult. The camcorder's menu system is also not the easiest to use, but we have to admit this: it's probably the best menu we've seen on a wearable adventure cam yet. When you consider the Contour camcorders have no on-board menu options at all (all settings must be changed with a smartphone or computer), Sony's menu on the HDR-AS15 is a wonderful benefit in comparison.

There's also the issue of mounts and cases, both of which are integral to the adventure cam market. Sony ships a strong waterproof case with the HDR-AS15, and we found the case worked well for the most part. It wasn't the easiest case to disassemble, and we didn't like the fact that the case prevented you from accessing certain buttons on the camcorder's body, but we liked its compact body, durable design, and the fact that has a tripod mount on the bottom. The Sony Action Cam doesn't ship with a ton of mounts, but it does come with a few adhesive ones that are good for sticking the camcorder onto the top of a helmet.

The point of the Sony Action Cam isn't to pick it up and use it like a regular camcorder. That wouldn't make sense. Instead, you're supposed to use it with its waterproof case and mount it to a helmet, moving vehicle, or board (snow or surf). The camcorder itself is fragile and easily corrupted, but inside its waterproof case it becomes a well-protected machine. The case does have its problems, however, particularly its awkward locking mechanism and the fact that you can't access any menu buttons while the Action Cam is inside the case. At least the start/stop record button is accessible through the case, and we are impressed with the built-in tripod mount on the base.

Handling Photo 1

If you're looking for an adventure-cam package with a ton of mounts and accessories, then you'll probably also be a little disappointed with the Sony Action Cam. The camcorder comes with its waterproof case and a couple of adhesive mounts, but that's really about it. You don't get a whole slew of different mounts like you do with GoPro's Hero2 that came with your choice of three different packages. If you want more mounts with the Sony HDR-AS15, then you need to buy separate accessories... but there aren't many of them either. Sony's website lists a headband mount (waterproof or non-waterproof), an adhesive mount pack, a handlebar mount, a tilt adapter, and a suction cup mount. Hopefully more will be added to this list soon.

Handling Photo 2

If you have a smartphone then you can take full advantage of the Sony Action Cam's WiFi capabilities. Using your smartphone as a remote control and remote viewfinder is one of the best features of the HDR-AS15, and the function works a bit differently than the system on the Contour+2. Instead of pairing with your smartphone over Bluetooth, which is what Contour does, the Sony Action Cam establishes itself as a WiFi hotspot. Connect to this WiFi network on your smartphone and open Sony's free PlayMemories Mobile app, and you can now see everything your camcorder sees (on your phone).

Handling Photo 3

The smartphone app doesn't let you adjust many settings, but you can use it to start/stop video recording, change record modes, and turn stabilization on/off. With the Contour camcorders, you get a lot more controls using your smartphone with Contour's free app, but the quality of the remote viewfinder image didn't look nearly as good compared to the Sony Action Cam.

Handling Photo 4

These dedicated buttons give you quick access
to aperture and shutter speed controls.

Battery life on the Sony HDR-AS15 with its provided battery pack was exceptional. The camcorder was able to record continuously (with WiFi turned off) for 162 minutes. That's nearly an hour longer than the Contour+2 and a good 20 minutes longer than the GoPro Hero2. And if you want even better battery life, the Sony Action Cam can make use of a slightly larger "G" type battery pack that must be purchased separately. More on how we test battery life.

The Sony Action Cam's battery is removable and rechargeable, as it should be, but there's also something unique about the camcorder's battery features. The battery slips into an enclosed compartment on the back of the camcorder, but it fits into a small and removable cradle. Adding to the mystery is the fact that the HDR-AS15 comes with a second, slightly larger battery cradle as well.

Here's the deal: the Sony Action Cam can work with two different batteries. It comes with the NP-BX1 battery pack, which fits into the plastic cradle marked with an "X". The cradle marked with a "G" is for use with a larger battery pack, presumably the NP-BG1 that is available from Sony. Unfortunately, Sony doesn't say that the NP-BG1 is compatible with the Action Cam on its website, nor is the battery listed in the accessories for the HDR-AS15. Sony is probably just behind on its updating, but this doesn't change the fact that the whole battery cradle design is strange. Why not just make a battery compartment that could fit both batteries?

Battery Photo
See the little display on the side of the camcorder? That LCD is for adjusting menu options only, so don't expect it to show you a video feed during (or after) recording. If you've seen a GoPro Hero camcorder before, it's basically that exact kind of screen. You can access menu options, change settings using the previous and next buttons, but that's it. But with the WiFi-enabled Sony HDR-AS15 there is a solution for being able to frame your videos on the fly: your smartphone. The camcorder pairs with iPhone or Android devices via WiFi and you can use your mobile device as a remote viewfinder (and you can change some settings or start/stop recording with the phone as well). This feature is not found on the HDR-AS10, which does not have WiFi. Then there's also [this](http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921666486326). It's a an adapter that adds an LCD to your Action Cam, thus turning it into a small Handycam camcorder. The adapter costs $99 and fits into the proprietary port on the bottom of the Action Cam. Kinda cool? Sure. Is it worth it? Probably not. The Sony HDR-AS15 doesn't have much to set it apart from the adventure cam crowd, but it does have a few special abilities like slow motion modes, digital image stabilization, and two battery pack options. It also has all of the prerequisite features that are must-haves for wearable camcorders: built-in WiFi, time lapse recording, 1080p and 720p record modes, and a provided waterproof case. The slow motion modes are unique on the Sony Action Cam for two reasons: they record 720p HD video and they convert the clips to slow motion in-camera. The Contour+2, for example, only lets you make use of a high-speed frame rate for its slow motion mode. The video actually has to be slowed down using third-party software later—the camcorder won't slow it down for you. With the Sony, you shoot slow-mo right outside of the box, and the results can be very good. In low light, we did see more artifacting and noise with the slow motion shots, especially with the 120fps SSLOW mode, but in bright light the slow motion video still had lots of detail. The WiFi connectivity on the HDR-AS15 isn't anything incredibly special, as this feature is found on most adventure cams these days. But it is worth noting that the Sony Action Cam is available without WiFi as well. Yes, the HDR-AS10 Action Cam costs about $70 less than its WiFi-enabled brother, but we think the extra cash is worth it... if you have a smartphone that will enable you to make use of the coolest WiFi functions. Controlling the Action Cam with your iPhone or Android device is very useful, as it helps you frame your shot (your phone's screen turns into a viewfinder) and control the camcorder remotely. It's way better than using the Action Cam blindly and adjusting settings with the tiny onboard menu screen.
Lens Photo

Like most small camcorders, the Sony Action Cam comes equipped with a large CMOS sensor. The sensor is also loaded with pixels, encompassing 16.8 million pixels on its 1/2.3-inch surface. Sony lists the effective pixel count for video as much lower, around 12 megapixels, which is still a ton of pixels. But the strange thing is Sony says the still image resolution is only 2 megapixels, and that's a huge drop from 12 megapixels. Since the Action Cam's main purpose for photographs is its time lapse mode, this 2-megapixel limitation makes some sense. Your photos will be the exact size of your videos, 1920 x 1080, so time lapse sequences will be the same size as a regular video.

The lens is a Carl Zeiss Tessar with an f/2.8 aperture, 2.5mm focal length, and a minimum focus distance of around 30cm. Sony claims the quality of the lens is one of the Action Cams advantages over the competition. Sony thinks GoPro and Contour can't build lenses that are of the same caliber of Zeiss. This may be true, but our performance tests didn't prove this case. The Sony Action Cam's video quality was right in the thick of it compared to the others, and its images weren't any sharper than the competition.

One thing's for sure, the lens on the Action Cam records at an extremely wide angle of view. At its widest setting, we measured the field of view at 143-degrees, which is almost 50-degrees wider than the Contour+2 recorded. Strangely, both camcorders claim to record at a 170-degree field of view, as does the GoPro Hero2, which we measured at 124 degrees. This makes the Sony Action Cam the widest lens we've reviewed on an adventure cam so far. You can also switch to 120 mode on the Action Cam, which we measured as having a 102-degree field of view.

Lens Photo 2

See the little display on the side of the camcorder? That LCD is for adjusting menu options only, so don't expect it to show you a video feed during (or after) recording. If you've seen a GoPro Hero camcorder before, it's basically that exact kind of screen. You can access menu options, change settings using the previous and next buttons, but that's it.

But with the WiFi-enabled Sony HDR-AS15 there is a solution for being able to frame your videos on the fly: your smartphone. The camcorder pairs with iPhone or Android devices via WiFi and you can use your mobile device as a remote viewfinder (and you can change some settings or start/stop recording with the phone as well). This feature is not found on the HDR-AS10, which does not have WiFi.

Then there's also this. It's a an adapter that adds an LCD to your Action Cam, thus turning it into a small Handycam camcorder. The adapter costs $99 and fits into the proprietary port on the bottom of the Action Cam. Kinda cool? Sure. Is it worth it? Probably not.

All of the Action Cam's ports and terminals are on the bottom of the camcorder in a single strip. The bad part about this is that these ports aren't accessible when the camcorder is inside its waterproof case (that makes sense, though). Still, Sony needs to have some kind of case or mount that lets you use the Action Cam while giving access to the ports. Otherwise the external mic jack is mostly useless.

The ports, in a row, are as follows: Micro-B USB terminal (for charging the battery and connecting to a computer), Micro HDMI, a Sony-proprietary port for connecting certain accessories (just like GoPro's "Hero" port), and a 3.5mm mic jack. The battery compartment and memory card slot are both located on the back of the camcorder, behind the sliding cover.

The Sony Action Cam's battery is removable and rechargeable, as it should be, but there's also something unique about the camcorder's battery features. The battery slips into an enclosed compartment on the back of the camcorder, but it fits into a small and removable cradle. Adding to the mystery is the fact that the HDR-AS15 comes with a second, slightly larger battery cradle as well.

Here's the deal: the Sony Action Cam can work with two different batteries. It comes with the NP-BX1 battery pack, which fits into the plastic cradle marked with an "X". The cradle marked with a "G" is for use with a larger battery pack, presumably the NP-BG1 that is available from Sony. Unfortunately, Sony doesn't say that the NP-BG1 is compatible with the Action Cam on its website, nor is the battery listed in the accessories for the HDR-AS15. Sony is probably just behind on its updating, but this doesn't change the fact that the whole battery cradle design is strange. Why not just make a battery compartment that could fit both batteries? Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content

Battery Photo

Instead of regular SD cards, the Sony Action Cam works with MicroSD or Memory Stick Micro cards. These cards are smaller, easier to lose, and often pricier than traditional SD cards, but they essentially function the same. The memory card fits into the back of the camcorder, in a slot right next to the battery compartment. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.

Media Photo

Adventure cams have only been around for a few years, but the market has begun to develop a template for products. It seems that all new adventure cams must come with the following features: a waterproof case, a couple of mounts, built-in WiFi (or some system of pairing with your smartphone), and an ultra-wide-angle lens. The Sony Action Cam has all of these things, just as the Contour+2 and GoPro camcorders have each of these features as well.

So you really have to dig into these features to understand how adventure cams set themselves apart from one another. Let's start with the waterproof case. Sony's case is smaller than the one that ships with the Contour+2 and it has a tripod mount on its base—something we feel should be present on all adventure cams. The case does let you access the start/stop record button when the camcorder is inside, but there isn't a way to press menu buttons. That's something we love about the GoPro camcorders (they have external buttons that let you change settings without removing the camcorder from its case).

Sony's case has a strange locking mechanism that isn't easy to open with one hand, and the front of the case slips off somewhat easily. The front is meant to come off, though, as you can purchase different shapes for the front of the case. A flat front, for example, is designed for underwater recording. These replacement doors cost 50 bucks for a three pack.

Since the Action Cam is relatively new, Sony doesn't have a ton of accessories available at this time. The camcorder only ships with a couple of adhesive mounts, so you don't get that whole mount package like you do with the GoPro Hero2 models. On Sony's site you'll find a handlebar mount ($30), a suction cup mount ($30), a tilt adapter ($25), a headband mount ($25 or $30 for a waterproof version), and an extra adhesive mount pack ($20). None of these items are all that exciting, as we've seen them all before from the competition.

Sony's unique items include the replacement door pack, which is a legitimately good idea. Sony also sells anti-fog inserts that should help if you do lots of underwater recording, and you can buy a larger battery pack or an external charger for the camcorder. There's also the interesting camcorder cradle with LCD that turns the Action Cam into a traditional handheld camcorder for $100.

The Sony Action Cam may not have everything we want from a wearable camcorder, but this is an excellent first step for Sony nonetheless. The Action Cam HDR-AS15 was built on some great ideas—the WiFi functions work well, the slow motion options are easy to use and churn out decent videos, and the on-board menu system makes sense.

Like most adventure cams, performance from the HDR-AS15 had its flaws. We were impressed with the way the Action Cam recorded fluid motion and bright images in low light, but there was also a significant amount of artifcating and noise in many of our test shots. Colors were consistently oversaturated and over-exposure was also a noticeable problem. If Sony would have just taken a page from Contour's playbook and added a few more manual controls—maybe an extra metering mode or basic exposure adjustment—then the Action Cam would have been a far more versatile camcorder. Users who want to adjust light levels to get better shots will, but those who don't care about image quality as much can easily ignore the extra features.

Most impressive is that Sony was able to keep the price of the Action Cam competitive. The $279 price tag for the WiFi-enabled HDR-AS15 is fair. A cost of $199 for the WiFi-absent HDR-AS10 is good too—but if you have a smartphone, then the WiFi version is the one you should buy. The phone-pairing features provide you with very useful tools that make using the Action Cam a lot more fun.

Unfortunately for Sony, the Action Cam hit the stores just a few weeks before GoPro announced its new Hero3 adventure cam this month. With models ranging from $199 to $399, the GoPro Hero3 can appeal to a very broad audience. All of these Hero3 models have WiFi, and all of them have updated components over the Hero2 (although the features and specs differ based on the model). We haven't tested it yet, but just based on specs the Hero3 looks downright scary compared to the Sony Action Cam and the Contour+2. If the Hero3 pans out to be as good as advertised, then Sony is going to have to certainly innovate more and find some way to set itself apart from the rest of the adventure-cam crowd. The Action Cam is a good start, but Sony can do better.

Meet the testers

Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews
Jeremy Stamas

Jeremy Stamas

Managing Editor, Video

@nematode9

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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