Overview – The Sony HDR-AS200V is a great camera for everyday shooting on the mountain. It has decent video quality, a relatively small size, and all the features you want for everyday use.
Ease of Setup/Use – I must admit that I’m not a big tech guy. I’m a skiier first, and when I’m taking video I want to be able to take my camera out press record and do very little editing once I’m back home. The easier the camera is to use, the more time I can spend skiing and the less time I have to spend messing around with settings on my camera. Out of the box, the Sony HDR-AS200V is relatively easy to use, and if your familiar with action cams, you’ll be taking great vids as soon as you get to the mountain. This was my first Sony cam, and again I’m not a huge tech guy, so I decided to take a bit of time and read through the instructions and features before getting to the mountain. If your not familiar with Sony action cams it’s worth taking the time to learn a little more before you start filming. I’ve since had a lot of time with this camera and several other Sony cams in addition to the ION Air Pro and Go Pro Hero 4 Silver.The ION has the least features of all the cams, and as such is probably the easiest to use out of the box. The Sony cams and Go Pro took about the same amount of familiarization before feeling really comfortable using the cams. The biggest challenge is learning the language and abbreviations that Sony uses for each setting and what each setting does. I found the best way to figure it all out was to just spend the time familiarizing myself with each feature. The bottom line is that if your familiar with Sony cams you’ll have no problems using the Sony HDR-AS200V out of the box, and if you’re not, then take the time to get familiar with the camera.
Video Quality – To assess video quality of the Sony HDR-AS200V we did an A/B comparison with the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver. We chose this cam because it is the most similar to the Sony HDR-AS200V. Sony and Go Pro both have more advanced cameras with the Sony 4k and Go Pro Hero 4 Black, but those cameras also come at a higher price point. The biggest difference between the 4k and the Sony HDR-AS200V is that the latter doesn’t have the ability to shoot in a 4k format. The highest video quality of the AS200V is 1080p. However, when comparing the Sony 4K at 1080p with the Sony HDR-AS200V at 1080p, the video quality is just about equal. So if you don’t plan on shooting in 4k, the Sony 4K cam may be overkill. So what about the Sony HDR-AS200V vs. the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver? For this comparison I set both cameras to 1080p 60fps 45mps (Go Pro) and 50mps (Sony). This is the highest quality setting for the Sony HDR-AS200V and probably the most popular setting for everyday use. Both the Sony HDR-AS200V and the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver have great image quality at 1080p, but we would give a slight edge to the Sony HDR-AS200V. To us the picture seemed more natural, and more closely matched what we saw with our eyes. Check out the videos below and decide for yourself which looks better. Unfortunately Vimeo reduces the videos to 1080 30 instead of 1080 60. I think you can still see a decent comparison of the video quality of the Sony HDR-AS200V and G0 Pro Hero 4 Silver. Also the Sony was in Steady Shot mode which reduces the wide angle slightly and looks a bit more “zoomed” in.
Sony HDR-AS200V Video at 1080p 60fps (Reduced to 30fps on Vimeo, Steady Shot On)
Go Pro Hero 4 Silver Video at 1080p 60fps (reduced to 30fps on Vimeo)
Software – The Sony action cam software wasn’t the most user friendly, but for me this wasn’t a huge deal breaker. I really don’t change the settings very often once I’m on the mountain so I never really needed the software. Plus I really don’t spend a lot of time viewing the film until I’m home at a computer. If you like the live view you could always purchase the Sony “watch” instead of using the phone software. The PC software wasn’t much better. It automatically syncs to my computer adding video and picture media without asking. I’ve got a lot of files so it was a bit annoying having to wait for the program to stop syncing before use. You can turn this feature off once you get into the settings area, but I’d rather not even deal with it. The Go-Pro software was easier to use. One thing to note was that I found the Sony files easier to use on my computer than Go-Pro. I have an older computer that is definitely not designed for video editing (again I’m a skiier, not a tech guy). However, the Sony videos were much more friendly on my computer than the Go Pro vids.
Battery Life – When testing the Sony HDR-AS200V we could film nearly every run from the time the lifts started running until after lunch (with Wi-Fi and GPS off). The cam has a much better battery than the older Sony HDR-AZ1 Mini Cam.
Sound Quality – This is another area where I’d give the Sony HDR-AS200V an edge over the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver. The sound is much more natural and far less mumbled. The speakers are placed at the front of the camera and do a great job of picking up sound. There were plenty of times I could here my friend talking over the video that I couldn’t hear in the Go Pro Video. Of all the cameras I’ve tested I think the ION was the best for hearing others in the videos, but as soon as you started moving it also picked up a lot more wind noise. The Go-Pro does a better job of reducing wind noise, but when using the wind reduction feature on the Sony HDR-AS200V you can notice a big difference. So if you want to pick up conversations in your videos, the Sony HDR-AS200V has the edge, but if you want less noise (including conversation), the Go-Pro does a better job of drowning it out.
Size and Fit – The Sony HDR-AS200V is a great size for shooting POV films while skiing. It’s not the smallest of the cameras (Sony HDR-AZ1 Mini Cam), but is worth the trade off for better video quality and more features. When mounted on top of the helmet it’s not much less low profile than all the other cams, but on the side of the helmet it’s relatively low profile. IT’s also small enough to work well on a monopod or “selfie” stick. It’s much less low profile than the Sony 4K and Go Pro, but not quite as small as the Sony Mini Cam or even ION Air Pro.
Pictured (Left to Right): Go Pro Hero 4 Silver, Sony FDR-X1000V, Sony HDR-AS200V, Sony HDR-AZ1
Accessories – I only have a few complaints with the accessories for the Sony HDR-AS200V. First is that you can’t mount the camera (sans case) directly to a mount without the mount conversion piece. The other is that the mount is hard to get on and off the “mount plate”. Otherwise the Sony HDR-AS200V has a lot of great accessories.
Summary – Of the three Sony cams we reviewed (4K, Mini, AS200V), the Sony HDR-AS200V is our favorite. It’s a great combination of price, size, weight, features, and most importantly video quality. Battery life is great, and video quality is on par with the higher end Sony 4K camera (although it lacks the 4K capabilities). We thought the video quality was also slightly better than the Go Pro, and the sound was much clearer. It’s relatively small and low profile, and works well on the helmet or monopod. It was relatively easy to use out of the box, but the software could use a bit of help. Overall, it’s a great camera for skiers, and to us it’s the best option out there for those who don’t need 4k or other high end video formats.