Sony’s Action Cam Mini – a portable video camera game changer?

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Time was when small cameras were the stuff of spy movies, “Pay attention, Bond, this is fully functional high-definition video camera small enough to slip into your shirt pocket and which can be controlled from a screen on your wrist.” Technology of course has a way of catching up with fiction and Sony’s latest Action Cam Mini the HDR-AZ1, announced at the IFA electronics show, means you no longer need to pop down to see Q to get your hands on a tiny movie camera.

The first thing to note is that it’s small, weighing only 63g, and around 2/3 the size of existing Action Cam products at 76mm long, 36mm high and 24.2mm wide. That doesn’t mean it’s lacking in capabilities though. Into this small space is packed an 18.6 megapixel image sensor that can handle resolutions up to 1080p at 60fps. If you’re prepared to sacrifice definition for faster action it can do 720p at 120fps. The camera has a Zeiss f2.8 lens and Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilisation technology. There’s no LCD screen on the camera itself, just a tiny display for camera functions, but Sony has solved that problem in a clever way.

For that added James Bond touch it comes with something called Live View Remote. This is a wrist-mounted controller with a colour LCD screen that can be used to stop and start recordings, change settings and log GPS data. It’s a bit chunky, like a double-width wristwatch, and connects wirelessly to the camera.

It’s possible to control up to five cameras from a single remote so you could set up multiple angles to cover a particular event or follow several different competitors. It gives you the ability to stream your footage live via sites like UStream and you can use Wi-Fi and NFC to connect directly to a smartphone. You have the option to control the camera from your phone too if you don’t want to use the remote.

Battery life for the Mini is shorter than on larger models as you might expect. It’s splash proof to survive day-to-day life but there’s also the option of buying it with a case which makes it dust and sand proof as well as waterproof down to five metres. There’s a standard tripod adaptor so the camera can be attached to mounting brackets for bikes and the like and Sony also offers a choice of wearable and bike mounting kits on its website.

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If you have an active outdoor lifestyle and you want to be able to record your exploits, the Action Cam Mini could be just the camera for you. The HDR-AZ1 is expected to go on sale in October and is available to pre-order on the Sony site until the 6th of October at a price of £279 including the Live View Remote.