Sony HDR-AZ1 2015 Review by A Better Ski

Overview – The Sony HDR-AZ1 is a great little everyday action cam. It doesn’t have the best video quality or battery life of the Sony cams, but it can hold its own with most cameras on the market. It’s a decent choice for “point and shoot” skiers who want something a bit smaller, and yet still capable of taking decent videos.

Sony HDR-AZ1 Video Review

Editing Software – Sony’s Action Cam Movie Creator (Not great, but did the job)

Video Quality – The Sony HDR-AZ1 has the ability to take 1080p 60fps 50mps video. Since the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver is also capable of recording in that format, we decided to do a head to head comparison. It’s also worth noting that the Sony HDR-AS200V and the FDR-X1000V have that same capability, and we’ll touch briefly on the quality difference between the Sony HDR-AZ1 and all three cameras. In all of our tests thus far, the Sony HDR-AS200V and Sony FDR-X1000V have bested the Go Pro Hero 4 Silver in picture quality and we expected pretty good results from the Sony HDR-AZ1. Again we would have to say that the difference in video quality between the Hero 4 Silver and the Sony HDR-AZ1 was pretty subtle, but we would probably give the slight edge to the Hero 4 Silver in this case. Likewise, both the HDR-AS200V and the FDR-X1000V have a better picture. Again I’m not a big tech guy, but I’d speculate that maybe it’s a difference in imaging sensor, but I can’t say for sure. We’re not saying that the Mini cam was bad. It definitely has decent video quality and for the casual videographer it will most likely be just fine. I think the big takeaway here is that if you want the best picture quality, then you’ll be better off with the Go Pro Hero 4, or either one of the other 2 Sony cams. All of these cams, however, are bigger in size. Check out the videos below to judge for yourself. Both videos were shot on the same run with the sony helmet mounted and go pro chest mounted. The only difference was the steady shot with the Sony. Youtube will allow you to steady and edit the video after for slightly better quality, but we left it alone so you could see the raw video. The only editing I did was trim the video.

Sony HDR-AZ1 1080 60 Video

Go Pro Hero 4 Silver 1080 60 Video Quality

Ease of Setup/Use – Like the other two Sony cams, we had to take some time to get familiar with the Sony HDR-AZ1. When browsing through the video settings you’ll notice that the video formats will say HD, PS, STD, etc…instead of listing the actual video quality (1080/60p). So if you’re like me, you’ll want to first learn what each “code” stands for and what video quality settings are actually being used with each.   Unlike the HDR-AS200V and FDR-X1000V, the HDR-AZ1 does not have a large screen on the side of the camera for setting things up on the mountain, so you’ll have to use the phone app, or set it up via computer beforehand. Once you learn the language of the Sony cams, they are pretty easy to point and shoot.

Software – The Sony HDR-AZ1 is compatible with the same Sony app downloaded for the HDR-AS200V, and likewise we weren’t super impressed. It’s not that the software is bad, but we like the Go Pro interface better.

Battery Life – We thought for such a small camera, the battery life was pretty sub-par. If you film every run, you’ll definitely being running to find an outlet or extra battery at lunch. It uses a different battery pack than the HDR-AS200V and FDR-X1000V which is also a bit annoying. I like being able to have the ability to switch out batteries between cameras if needed, and you can’t with these cameras. I understand that the Mini cam is quite small, so I guess the bigger battery pack wouldn’t work well. If they could find a small battery pack that lasts as long, we’d be really happy.

Sound Quality – Sound quality is pretty good with all the Sony cams we tested. They don’t sound nearly as muffled as the Go Pro cams. They don’t pick up as much sound as the ION cam, but the Sony cams are also don’t sound like you’re in a wind tunnel when skiing down the mountain.

Steady Shot – Steady shot is a great feature for skiers. Even the best terrain is going to get bumpy at times, and with Steady shot on, the video doesn’t look as choppy.

Size and Fit – The biggest draw to Sony HDR-AZ1 is definitely the size. Sure the video quality isn’t as good as the FDR-X1000V, but it’s also half the size. It’s very low profile and lightweight. When mounting it on to of my helmet, I didn’t feel like I looked like a Tele Tubby. When mounted on the side of the helmet, I could barely tell it was there. It’s also great on the monopod and perfect for those who want to be a bit more discrete when filming on the mountain.

Pic 1: Size comparison of popular models (Pictured from left to right Go Pro Hero 4, Sony 4k, Sony HDR-AS200V, Sony HDR-AZ1)

Sony HDR-AZ1 Comparison

Accessories – Like all of the other Sony cams, the biggest complaint is that the mounts aren’t super easy to use. I almost always had to take my helmet off to place or remove the camera from the mount. We also don’t like how small the lock feature is on this cam. It’s really easy to flip the switch and take 2 hrs of pocket video. One of the best things about this camera is that I can actually use my goggle mount without feeling like my goggle are being pulled off (a feeling we got with the FDR-X1000V).

Summary – The Sony HDR-AZ1 really is a great little camera. If you find all the other cams to be a bit on the big side, you’ll love how small the Mini cam is. It still takes decent video at 1080p, and is a relatively easy to use point and shoot camera. We’d like to see a bit better battery life, and maybe a larger side screen, although that may be hard to do without compromising overall size. I’d definitely recommend this camera as a basic point and shoot for skiers because of its small size, decent video quality, and low price point.

List Price US $249
Sony HDR-AZ1 Action Cam Review

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