All the pictures in this article are taken from recordings of FDR-X1000v action camera, except of pictures of the camera itself :)
I'd actually wanted to buy multipurpose camera. But eventually went for action camera, as the usual conditions that we encounter traveling and hiking are harsh. In addition, we like to be in constant motion on our trips and don’t want to have device that steals our attention too much.
Finally, after 2 years of usage I decided to write the amateur review of our camera.
I have some technological knowledge, but I am more like a hobbyist or enthusiast. I tried to find some useful information on the Internet that would be helpful for me, but most of the things were just too technical. So, I decided to write review myself - I'm not going to focus on technical details here.
Why didn’t I buy GoPro?
Mainly I thought that GoPro was new to the market (it's a big player but still fairly new). I was convinced they had a great idea. They have my credit for making first great sport camera and creating this trend with extraordinary marketing.
Basically, if GoPro didn't start that idea, Sony action cam wouldn’t probably exist. But I thought company such as Sony could be much more mature on technological and manufacturing side. Despite my feelings that Sony marketing is old-fashioned, I think they are better due to years of experience on the market and in production. But don't listen to that, it's just speculation of my own
I wasn’t looking for the camera that will technologically expire in 3 - 5 years. I wanted camera for non-professional usage that could last years after warranty and still be useful. Maybe in the future, I could use it as backup or secondary camera for instance.
When it sucks?
4k mode has very wide range of shoot. I haven't been able to find any configuration to reduce it.
This results in the side objects being bend. Like round trees or unrealistic shapes of people. This is actually good thing if you have your camera mounted on your head when skiing or riding a bike. But it’s weird when you want to take a slow horizontal vector shot using tripod or gimbal.
It’s not that bad for me and I sometimes use it in my movies. It actually looks well, as long as there aren't long straight objects on sides. If there are people, poles, trees, etc. - then it definitely looks unprofessional. But it's OK if there are rocks or just grass - it’s not visible that much.
If someone finds it really annoying, I think there is a software to undo this effect.
Lack of live recording display
It might seem like it's not such a big deal but that caused many of my movies leaning to one or another side. The device is so small that it's hard to feel if it's in straight position.
At the beginning, I wasn't paying attention to that. But it turned out to be a problem after I loaded movies onto the computer. Even if I'm careful to keep it in right position, the photos and movies still aren't horizontally straight.
That's why if we are going to use the camera in wider spectrum, then just mounting it on a surface won't be sufficient.
We must use either gimbal or remote.
However, both of them are expensive stuff. I use the combination of gimbal + PlayMemories app (to remote control) on smartphone + pipe mount for my phone. I figured out that there are much more fun things we can do with gimbal - I especially like timelapses while walking (you can see them in videos shown at the bottom of the post).
In the below image I intentionally make it less compressed and bigger but it is 4k video screenshot of FullHD monitor. Look how sharp it is. Not possible with FullHD video. How to explain that?
The biggest negative argument I hear around is why do I need 4k if there are not many devices to view it. I must say this statement is missing one point.
If you shoot at 4k it looks much better even on FullHD displays. The amount of details makes the image way sharper. This is kind of wrong because it doesn't make sense as end result on avarage screen would have the same number of pixels. Maybe the 4k file stores much more information and graphic processor can output better/less compressed FullHD.
Also, it gives you much more flexibility in editing as zooming or applying filters. If you have fullHD monitor but play any 4k YouTube video, it's somehow better - how? It's a paradox that actually works.
I usually shoot in FullHD and 60 frames per second, as I love the dynamic of 60p rate mixed with amazing quality of XAVC S.
Dark Vs Light
The battle between dark and bright side is never over.
However, it’s better to shoot in either bright or cloudy conditions. For example, if there is a dark forest with sun above it, it might be hard to get it right.
But most of the times it’s alright.
The Sony camera does not have a display to check lights which is a bit inconvenient. Of course, you can use your phone but having to take it out every time you shoot can be annoying, right?
Anyway, for me this device behaves far better for its class, so I treat that as small minus.
There is very bright spot but still the image is rather dark (minor drawback in my opinion though):
But if the picture is half biright and half dark we have the worst outcome:
When light conditions are balanced, the image looks well:
The rocks on the bottom are a little bit too bright:
XAVC S sounds a bit technical but that’s the only technical thing I need to mention. You can count all the features over and over again, but there is one feature that beats them all.
It’s XAVC S recording format which is so magnificent that makes the movie super sharp and of amazing quality. If I planned to buy camera again, I would like to have XAVC S format mode. Of course, the downside is that you have to get appropriate memory card and even sellers sometimes have no idea what you're talking about.
It must be SD XC 64GB minimum.
Yes, it's very important to pick the right card. Many of them advertise 95M speed but truly it's only read speed and we need 95MB read and write it's really hard so I advise ask good seller about it and make completely sure as many packs lack the info about write speed.
And even if card's label says that is 4k compatible it's probably still too slow for XAVC S. More technically this format enables very high quality recording with up to 100MB write per second which enables to record 120 frames per second in FullHD. The for 4k is able to record only at 30 frames per sec but it’s truly amazing. Sony competitors really struggle to keep up with this standard.
People usually say that if something is good at everything, it probably sucks. That the multipurpose device enables you to do more, but nothing is of satisfying quality.
Well, I can’t say Sony X1000v is good at everything but it’s certainly good with quite a few purposes of usage.
Beware - your waterproof container will start leaking if even tiny amount of sand will get around. So, I advise to use it with caution, especially when changing batteries - make sure container is clear from sand.
Good news is that reasonable amount of salty water got inside my container, which I realised after some time, but it did not harm the camera at all. Very big plus for that.
However, underwater shots aren't of particularly high quality. This camera can stand being underwater very well, but doesn't make good underwater movies.
Slow motion is very nice but... not very slow. So, to keep high quality must be less slow, but that doesn't make much difference in dynamic shorts. See the example of slow motion in movies at the bottom.
Tools I find necessary
You have to fix the camera well - due to its small size it's hard to keep it horizontally straight in hand. The best options are: helmet, chest mount, tripod or gimbal. If you don't practice sport which requires helmet and you're not into water sports, you should get the gimbal as it's perfect match. I use very light tripod and gimbal because the number of possible shooting positions is very satisfying.
- Lens protector or underwater case - for general harsh conditions.
- Cheap tripod.
- Gimbal with smartphone or remote control strip.
- 0 or few surface mounts (helmet / ski).
I use these 4 items 99% of time. All the rest is just a fancy gadgets. It's best not to hurry with buying too much stuff.
Battery replacements usually last 3 times shorter than orginal battery. Have powerbank or one spare battery.
One more tool I should mention here is the application for smartphones - "Play Memories" app. It's not intuitive at all. It does not let us load movies to smartphone, only images. And has like 5 steps procedure if you want to do anything. I try to use it only when absolutely necessary.
At home I plug in camera to USB and copy the images and that works just fine.
Bad! I think there is not acceptable to use the sound recorded by this camera for professional purposes, although people say it’s better than in GoPro. And Stereo microphones look nice.
I tried to extract little bit of background audio of singing bird, but after turning it up a bit the mechanical beeping sound appears. So, it's better to record ambient by other methods than default. To be honest, when I need to record sound, I just use my smartphone.
Also, Sony claims that this camera reduces wind noise. Well, I have it turned on all the time but still hear the strong wind.
Better than Smartphone?
Is it better than a good smartphone if there are no difficult conditions like rain/wind?
I belive so.
The quality and image stabilization is really good in comparison to smartphone movies. The size and handiness is also better than the phone’s ones.
Other advantages are: wide range, beautiful colors, high quality and amazing smoothness when using 60 frames per second (I use it all the time).
Except for the pictures. I recommend taking pictures with your smarthone, as it's a way better at this. I believe it’s due to advanced compression and boosted algorithms - caused by huge competition on the market.
When do I use the camera and how I rate each use case (scale 1 - 5):
Timelapse + gimbal
|As car dash camera|
I weren't using stablization image software nor image contract/light/color manipulation. Just cut and paste.
One of my first movies shot with Sony camera on peaceful trip, just hiking, no gimbal. It was partly taken by holding the camera in hand but I also used a cheap tripod.
Now a bit of adrenaline - nice via ferrata in Dolomites. Almost all shots were done by Sony action cam mounted on helmet, except the zooming from distance scenes.
Example movie with gimbal scenes, slow motion and also timelapse + gimbal.
The camera pushed into its limits here. Did a good job, just the skier wasn't very skillful
At the end some very peaceful nature clip.
Would I buy it again if I'd had all that knowledge? Yes, I would.
Although, I would be little bit disappointed as I didn’t know that even amateur movie making requires more than one camera. Why? Because Sony Action Cam is amazingly good in some areas but also some of its feature are crap.
Of course, it is possible to back it up a bit if you have tripod or gimbal but still some slowly moving short shoots look terrible due to curvature. But fast moving clips are amazing.
So, this camera sometimes amazes you with the quality but it can also leave you feeling that you are missing something.
But there's an important question to answer - is successful filmmaking more important than comfortable and relaxed trip?
It’s quite hard job to run around with your camera, be creative, look for interesting angles, check different positions and movements, and at the same time enjoy your vacations and appreciate the surroundings.
I'd say that this camera is all I need for my adventures.