Think of the Sony HDR-AZ1 Action Cam Mini as a simplified version of the HDR-AS100V Action Camera , its high-end POV camera.

Basically, Sony ditched a lot of those extra features of high-end models like its video and audio jacks, but kept its excellent high-speed XAVC-S format video, the Zeiss Tessar f2.8 lens with a field of 170 degree vision, electronic image stabilization and wireless functionality. It even updated its Live-View remote that places a color LCD screen on your wrist to control the camera and preview and review shots.

Getting rid of these extra features allowed Sony to make the camera very compact. Although with small bodies come small batteries and other tradeoffs that can put you off.

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GoPro Hero4 Silver may have received our Editors’ Choice Award, but the Action Cam Mini is excellent on its own and, for some, will be the best choice. The Sony is also technically cheaper than the GoPro (there are potential hidden costs).

The HDR-AZ1 Action Cam Mini can be purchased on its own in the US for around $ 250. It’s also available as a bundle, the AZ1VR, with the second generation of Sony’s Live-View remote for around $ 350, £ 279 in the UK and AU $ 479 in Australia.

Features and design

With traditional cameras small and light can be a good thing, but there comes a time when cameras can be too small and light, which makes them difficult to use. With mountable video cameras like the AZ1, the smaller and lighter the better.

About two-thirds the size of the AS100V Action Cam , the Mini is just as wide as this camera at 24.2mm (0.95 inch), but its height has been reduced by 10.5mm, down to 36mm (1.4 inches), and length is 76 mm (3 inches), or 5.5 mm. Plus, it weighs about an ounce less at 2.2 ounces (63 grams).

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This size difference is all the more impressive given that there isn’t much of a performance gap between the two. However, they are different enough that you might want to go for the top model.

Differences in functionality include an effective resolution of 13.5 megapixels for the AS100V versus 11.9 megapixels for the AZ1; your choices for high-speed slow-motion videos are only 720p at 120 fps on the AZ1, while the AS100V can shoot up to 240 fps at a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels; there is no HDMI output, mic jack, or expansion port on the AZ1, and GPS is not integrated.

The AZ1 also lacks the larger integrated LCD display in the AS100V. The AZ1 has a display, but it’s so small that it’s only used to let you know about the status of the battery, Wi-Fi, and memory card. Unlike those on the AS100V, the buttons on the AZ1 cannot be used to change settings, beyond turning on the Wi-Fi and selecting its mode: single sign-on, multiple camera or live broadcast.

Joshua Goldman / CNET

All other setting changes for the Mini should be done with the Live-View remote or an iOS or Android device connected to the camera via Wi-Fi. It is for this reason that I would highly recommend picking up the AZ1VR pack which includes the camera and the Live-View remote control (RM-LVR2V); although the camera can be picked up on its own in the United States, the remote cannot be purchased separately.

True to its name, when the remote is paired with the AZ1, you get a live view of the camera, so it doesn’t take more than a glance at your wrist to see if you’re getting the shot you want. want. The remote can also simultaneously control up to five Action Cams and has GPS to retrieve location data from your videos and photos.

On the left of the screen is the mode / navigation buttons, at the top are the menu and display buttons with a power button on the bottom and on the front is a large record / button. Entrance. That’s a lot of buttons for a wrist remote, and navigation can be confusing at first if you’re trying to make a quick change.

Joshua Goldman / CNET

The two connect quite quickly. There were times, however, when the connection dropped and it wouldn’t reconnect without turning off both the remote and the camera. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a potential source of frustration.

If you don’t want to pay extra for the plan, you can use your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet and Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app, which lets you do the same things as the remote. The camera also has NFC, so if you have an Android device with NFC, you can just tap the two together and the app will launch and connect.

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