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Sony Action Cam Mini review - hands on with Sony's go-anywhere wearable camcorder

Tom Morgan
4 Sep 2014
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Sony's shrunken action cam is small enough that you have no excuse for not recording that reverse 1080

Sony revealed its smallest action camera to date during its IFA press conference yesterday, and we couldn't wait to see it in the flesh. The Action Cam Mini records 1080p video, has digital image stabilisation, shoots at up to 120fps and can track your speed and route with GPS, yet weighs just 63g and would fit inside a match box. We managed to get some hands-on time with one earlier today, in order to bring you some first impressions.

Two thirds smaller than last year's Action Cam, the Mini is so small the Freedom foundation is fitting them to white tailed eagles in order to observe them in their natural habitat, in preparation to reintroducing the Extinct In The Wild (EW) species back to the French Alps. There are plenty of ways to fix it to a person, of course; the hat clip could be ideal for skateboarders, simply clipping onto a baseball cap without the need for a head strap, while the backpack mount would be perfect for hiking. A tripod adaptor is supplied in the box, to make it easier to fix the Action Cam Mini onto existing action camera mounting brackets that use a regular Tripod thread.

Despite the compact dimensions, Sony has still managed to squeeze in an 11.9-megapixel, back-side illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor, BIONZ X image processor and a 170-degree ultra wide angle ZEISS Tessar lens. Footage should be kept silky smooth, even when the camera is fixed to a motorcycle or other engine, thanks to Sony's SteadyShot image stabilisation, although this limits the FOV to 120-degrees. Your footage won't be compressed into oblivion, either; it uses 50Mbps bitrate XAVC S encoding to prevent compression artifacts from appearing even during fast motion.

Although we didn't record our own footage with the Action Cam Mini, we were shown a video of exactly what the diminutive camera is capable of. It certainly appeared to be able to handle all terrains, temperatures and altitudes, with snowboarding in the French Alps, hiking in Death Valley, backflipping on a freestyle Motocross bike and downhill mountain biking through a thick forest all whizzing by at a rapid rate. The camera itself is IPX4 splash proof, showing no signs of breaking after being pelted with snow in one scene, but if you want to get a bit more extreme a weatherproof case can make it waterproof to 5m and protect it from 1.5m drops.

Naturally given its size there's no room for an LCD display and the buttons would be a nightmare to press if you were wearing thick ski gloves, but Sony has neatly sidestepped the issue by bundling a live view remote viewfinder in the box to keep track of what's being filmed. It straps onto your wrist, connects over Wi-Fi and pairs with a tap using NFC, so you can be ready to start filming very quickly. You can control up to five different cameras from the one remote control, meaning you could set up multiple angles or follow several different people attempting the same course, without having to go back later and synchronise your footage.

When you get back and upload your videos to a PC, you'll be able to get a heads up display showing the start and end points of your recordings, as well as your current, average and maximum speeds, helping athletes or extreme sports enthusiasts work out where they were gaining places or losing time to the competition.

Add in Ustream live streaming capabilities, the option to control it from a smartphone using Sony's free PlayMemories 5.0 app and a stereo microphone, and it's clear that Sony hasn't made any sacrifices in order to shrink down the Action Cam Mini. We can't wait to get one into the lab and give it a full review.

The Action Cam Mini will be going on sale from October onwards, and is available to pre-order directly from Sony (complete with live view remote control) for £329.99. 

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