Sony announces new lifestyle cameras: Action Cam and NEX-5R

Check out our review of the Sony Alpha NEX-5R mirrorless camera.

Sony took the wraps off two imaging devices for very different shooters: ones made for the BMX or snowboard daredevils, and the other for their parents. The company officially launched its Action Cam camcorders for extreme sports fans into point-of-view videos and the NEX-5R, a Compact System Camera that captures fast action but a bit more sedately for those on the sidelines.

Action Cams: HD-AS10 and HDR-AS15

The Action Cams are direct competition for Go Pro camcorders used to memorialize flying leaps, turns, and inevitable crashes. They can be attached to bike handlebars, snowboards, helmets, or anywhere the clamps fit. We didn’t get ride any ramps with the Action Cams but we did hold them — they are unbelievably small (3.2 x 1.9 x 1) and weigh little more than piece of candy (90 grams, 3.2 ounces).

The camcorders are made to be worn and Sony has a number of options depending on your needs. Each also ship with a case that’s waterproof down to 197 feet. How many extreme sports shooters will actually reach those depths? We can’t fathom — but they can attempt to push the limits if they so desire.

Due in September, the HD-AS10 ($199) and HDR-AS15 ($269) Action Cams are very similar. The key difference is the more expensive edition has Wi-Fi so, for example, you can control the camcorder with your smartphone while you concentrate flying off of a mountain.  Both models have 16MP CMOS sensors, Carl Zeiss optics, built-in image stabilization, and use the MPEG4 codec, enabling it to capture full HD video (1080/30p). The demo videos we saw showed a very cool, high-quality 4x slow motion effect (120 fps in 720p). Other slo-mo settings are also available.

Sony NEX-5R

It seems like it was just a short time ago we reported the introduction of the Sony NEX-5N mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The old model will now be replaced by the 16MP NEX-5R, slated for an October release. Although it looks similar to the older camera, the 5R has some pretty radical enhancements, including a new hybrid auto-focusing system that uses phase detect and contrast phase AF for faster and more accurate focusing.

Sony claims you can capture a moving subject at 10 fps and all the frames will be in focus, but we’ll be the judge of that when we get our hands on a production unit. From our experience, previous models could take 10 fps but focus would lock on the first frame, leaving the rest of the shot blurry. Supposedly this is not the case with the 5R, making a mirrorless camera perform like a classic high-end DSLR. If it works as advertised, it will be a real breakthrough.

The NEX-5R has built-in Wi-Fi so you can send images taken by the camera to your smartphone using a new app. These photos can then be formatted to send as SMS. As part of the hardware announcements, Sony stated it would create a new series of photo-centric apps consumers could download from the Sony PlayMemories Online service (also slated for October). There’s a long list of apps that can enhance your shots, control cameras (initially the 5N/AS15), and help with quick photo uploads to Facebook.

One of the complaints about Sony NEX cameras is the touchscreen menu system. We’ve never had a real problem with it, but it can be confusing to some. To combat the issue, the NEX-5R has a new control dial and function button to adjust the camera much like you would find on a DSLR. The camera also boasts a top ISO of 25,600, and can capture AVCHD Progressive videos (1080/60p). With a 18-55mm kit lens, the NEX-5R will set you back $750. Body-only will run for $650.

With the Photokina trade show just around the corner, get ready for more announcements from the majors. We’ve been sworn to secrecy or we’ll lose our first born, but take our word for it: some cool stuff is definitely on the way.

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