Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1VR Review

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The space in which you can find action and sports cameras has traditionally been owned by GoPro, with their HERO line of cameras. However, competitors have quietly sprung up and began making splashes of their own, and one of those competitors is Sony.

Today we’re taking a look at one of their products in the space, The Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1VR.

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Form Factor

The HDR-AZ1VR is small, looks quite elegant, and definitely is not a good indicator of how much power can be found under its tiny, tiny hood. Fitting easily into the palm of the hand, its length-wise orientation, like classic camcorders, can feel much more natural when shooting when compared to other action cameras with their lenses on the wide part of the camera.

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Included in the box is a protective housing, which locks up quite tightly, allowing for easy access to the buttons while protecting the camera from the elements, as well as making it easy to look at the LCD screen on the side of the HDR-AZ1VR. While the on-camera LCD screen is relatively useless for anything other than battery, wifi, and memory card status, the HDR-AZ1VR comes with a live-view remote that straps onto a wrist comfortably using an adjustable wrist strap, and makes it easy to see what the camera sees and adjust its settings.

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The Sony HDR-AZ1VR and its accessories all seem to use a standard camera screw thread that is commonly seen on tripods and monopods for regular cameras, opening up the number of accessories available to the HDR-AZ1VR to an existing and well-established accessory market. The starter kit included in the review unit comes with a head mount, a roll-bar mount, and a 16GB SD card, covering practically all of the use cases where you’d want to use an action camera. All of these accessories, and the camera itself, appear to be sturdy and solidly built, but it can be difficult to really beat up during a product review.

About Those Accessories

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As mentioned earlier, the starter kit that was included in the review unit came with a head mount and a rollbar mount, and all accessories utilize the standard camera screw thread which makes it easy to mount to almost anything.

The head mount can be put on using a headband, or strapped to a helmet, or glued to a helmet using an adhesive strip. Personally, the weight of the camera with the mounting plates and pieces was on the higher end than I was comfortable with on a cloth headband around my forehead and skull, but would be perfect for any sort of helmet or protective headgear.

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The rollbar is quite sturdy and can be attached pretty securely onto any sort of bar, like the handlebars of a bike, for example. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take it for more than a leisurely ride around the city, but I’d imagine it would hold up well in almost any situation as long as the waterproof housing was being used.

Usage and Performance

As previously mentioned, the LCD monitor on the HDR-AZ1VR is on the small side, and it isn’t entirely possible to change the settings directly on the camera, which can be a bit frustrating. However, the live-view remote makes it extremely easy to change modes and change settings for that mode, all while letting you view what the camera views. Personally, that seems like a bit of a less-optimal user experience, being forced to use an external device to change settings, but it seems to be a minor annoyance.

On the upside, the live-view remote paired with the camera had me shooting within minutes of playing with the camera, allowing me to quickly and easily see the field of view and quality of the HDR-AZ1VR.

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The Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1VR can shoot videos up to 1080p, or 720p if shooting at 120fps, and seems to do a decent job at it. The picture quality is good, but noise and graininess are present on anything other than the most well-lit scenes. Colours are sharp, but even on vivid mode, provide a very neutral level of colour – which might not be so bad with rudimentary colour correction after shooting. The above photo includes screenshots from videos captured from both the HDR-AZ1VR and an iPhone 6, which is not exactly a fair comparison, but definitely shows the differences in image quality. Slow motion mode, at 120fps as mentioned earler, is an awesome feature and is perfect for capturing those amazing moments that need to be slowed down to appreciate.

The battery of the HDR-AZ1VR has been quite impressive – having shot about an hour of footage and no real movement in the battery for both the camera and the live-view remote. As a comparison, the GoPro HERO3 Black I previously owned would just about run out of battery after about 40 minutes of usage, but that should be taken with a grain of salt as this is purely anecdotal.

The Bottom Line

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The Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1VR is a great, entry-level action camera that provides solid picture quality, sturdy build quality, and enough bells and whistles to give it an edge over its competitors. With great battery life, solid accessories that use standard mounts, and a live-view remote, the Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1VR is definitely worth taking a long, hard look at.

This product is perfect for: capturing those active moments in life with a device that’s small enough to fit into your hand with a picture clear enough to show off to your friends.

Key things to be aware of: you cannot change the camera settings without a live-view remote or an app connected to the camera, and picture quality is good but not great.

Final review score: 4. The Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1VR is a great entry-level action camera that performs well and as advertised. Picture quality is average, but it is just a good product overall.

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Jon Lim

Jon Lim is a professional developer, writer, and an avid technologist. He has written creatively for the past 16 years, and professionally for 4 years.

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