Sony HDR-AZ1 Camera: A Comprehensive Product Review

sony hdr-az1

This is a breakdown and review of the Sony HDR-AZ1. This review aims to take you through the details of all features, pricing, and use for this great little camera, including how it compares to similar products on the market. If you’re shopping for a new mini-cam for yourself or an adventurous family-member or friend, here’s everything you need to know about the Sony HDR-AZ1 and a few other noteworthy options.

What Is the Sony HDR-AZ1?

The Sony HDR-AZ1 is a mountable video camera that can be categorized as a more basic, stripped-down version of Sony’s top point-of-view camera, the Action Cam HDR-AS100V. In many ways, Sony’s endeavor to streamline usability has made the HDR-AZ1 the preferable model of the two. Shedding certain extra features has allowed this camera to be more compact while increasing versatility. 

The camcorder has no video or audio jack, the screen is small and only shows battery-life, SD card status, and Wi-Fi connectivity, and the only buttons are On/Off, Wi-Fi controls, and Record. All of this might sound like a lot of compromising, but there is a clear benefit. This minimizing of physical features has allowed the Sony HDR-AZ1 to be one of the most compact on the market, making it great for mounting, tracking, tight spaces, and interesting angles.

Product Specs 

Sony HDR-AZ1VR Waterproof Action Cam Mini with RM-LVR2V Live View...

While certain features were cast away, Sony kept the integral ones that make for a great video camera. The Sony HDR-AZ1 has a Zeiss Tessar f2.8 lens with a 170-degree field of view, high-bitrate XAVC-S-format video, electronic image stabilization, a dual-format card slot, and wireless features accessible with either the Live-View Remote or an assisted Apple or Android device. 

The camera can record in MP4 or XAVC-S format, which has a bitrate of 50Mbps. In MP4, there are several options: 1080p at 60fps or 30fps; 720p at 30fps or 120fps; and 480p at 30fps. The high-speed slow-motion option comes in at 720p at 120fps, but higher quality is offered by the XAVC-S format with full HD at either 60, 30, or 24fps. Color settings for the HDR-AZ1 allow for Vivid, Neutral, or Underwater. 

The battery is small and rechargeable, with a life around an hour and a half depending on bitrate and Wi-Fi usage, which means extras will likely be needed for full days of shooting; but the battery won't weigh the camera down when it's mounted onto something like a skateboard or bike. All of these features are packed into a body that is only 24.2mm (0.95 inch) x 36mm (1.4 inches) x 76mm (3 inches) and weighs 2.2 ounces. The small size and quality recording capabilities make the Sony HDR AZ1 a versatile little device.

Pricing

The best place to purchase the Sony Action Cam Mini HDR-AZ1 is on Amazon for around $200-$300. Purchasing the camera as a bundle is probably going to add about $100 to the overall price, but, in addition to the micro-USB, battery, waterproof housing, and tripod mount, you’ll get the Live-View Remote that can easily strap around your wrist and give you full control and viewing capabilities of 5 Action Cams at once, as well as providing GPS for location of photos and videos taken on the go. The price is fair in the field of action and POV cameras and puts it in the low-to-mid range without a drop in end-product quality.

How It Compares

We picked a few similar products available on the market to see how they compare to the Sony HDR AZ1 across a few categories.  

  • Canon Vixia HF R800
  • Panasonic HC-W580K
  • Sony FDRAX53/B 4K

Sony HDR-AZ1

Sony HDR-AZ1VR Waterproof Action Cam Mini with RM-LVR2V Live View...
  • Records 1080p60 Video in XAVC S Codec; 120 fps Slow Motion in 720p; 11.9MP Photos in 16:9 Aspect Ratio
  • Splashproof Camera / 16'-Rated Housing; Wi-Fi for Remote Monitoring and Control; Interv
  • Takes Photo Bursts up to 8 fps; Includes RM-LVR2V Remote;
  • Price
  • Ease of Use
  • Video quality
  • Design Quality
  • Warranty

The listed price is around $250, subject to market variability, which puts this on the mid-lower range of the price spectrum.

Pros

  • Very small and compact.
  • Wi-Fi allows remote viewing and controls
  • High quality video recording formats and options
  • Ease-of-use (just hit record and go)
  • Easily mountable
  • Splash-proof
  • Image stabilization

Cons

  • Relatively low battery-life
  • Limited manual controls
  • No zoom

Canon Vixia HF R800

Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder (Black)
  • 57x (32.5-1853Mm) advanced zoom/ 32x Optical / 1140x Digital and Super range OIS.
  • Canon 3.28 Megapixel full HD CMOS image sensor.
  • Digic DV 4 image processor.

The calling features of this camcorder are its lightweight stature (8.5 ounces), durability, high-quality recording (MP4 1080/60p), Touch Panel LCD, and video-assist features such as Highlight Priority and Zoom Framing Assist. It is not considered a POV or Action Cam.

  • Price
  • Ease of Use
  • Video quality
  • Design Quality
  • Warranty

Amazon has this listed at around $200, subject to market variability, making this on the cheaper side of the spectrum.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use
  • LCD touch screen
  • Good quality video for size

Cons

  • Not POV or action cam
  • Doesn’t easily mount
  • No remote viewing
  • 4x size of HDR AZ1
  • Relatively basic features

Panasonic HC-W580K

Panasonic HC-W580K Full HD Camcorder with Wi-Fi, Built with Multi...
  • Super-sharp Full HD 1080p recording
  • Intelligent 90x zoom and 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization provide maximum handheld stability
  • Wi-Fi and NFC enabled for quickly sharing content and controlling camcorder features remotely

This camcorder is larger: 5 x 2.4 x 2.4 inches and 9.3 ounces, but it has more features for sure. It records in Full HD 1080p and has the same intelligent zoom feature as the Canon, with 50x zoom. It has 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization, which is on-par with others in its field. This camera does have Wi-Fi enabled, so remote viewing and feature-control is possible.

  • Price
  • Ease of Use
  • Video quality
  • Design Quality
  • Warranty

It is listed around $350, subject to market variability.

Pros

  • Battery-life of about 5hrs
  • Decent video-quality
  • Wifi capability for remote viewing and control

Cons

  • LCD Screen does not swivel
  • Image quality suffers in low-light
  • Not POV or action cam
  • Doesn’t easily mount
  • 4.5x size of HDR AZ1
  • Relatively basic features

Sony FDRAX53/B 4K

Sony FDRAX53/B 4K HD Video Recording Camcorder (Black)
  • 4K XAVC-S recording with 16.6MP, Exmor R sensor, B.O.SS stabilization
  • ZEISS lens(26.8mm) 20x optical zoom in 4K, 30x Clear Image Zoom in 4K
  • 3.0" LCD (Touch panel), EVF, Wi-Fi/NFC, manual ring, night shot, 4K Time-lapse capture

This camcorder has all of the features one could want for this type of product. It’s highest recording format is the 4K XAVC-S, but gives you options for MP4 and AVCHD and the Exmor R Sensor, which is large enough for good quality in low-light. The Zeiss lens gives you 20x optical zoom and 30x zoom in 4K. Its 3” LCD screen is a touch screen, it has Wi-Fi capabilities, a manual ring, built-in zoom mic, night-shot, and time-lapse capture setting.

  • Price
  • Ease of Use
  • Video quality
  • Design Quality
  • Warranty

This is on the high-end for camcorders with a price range of $700-$800.

Pros

  • High video quality in both 4k and Full HD
  • Manual controls allow for a better user-experience
  • High-quality image stabilization
  • Effective zoom
  • Touch-screen LCD
  • Built-in zoom mic

Cons

  • Large and heavy, especially compared to the others on this list (2 lbs)
  • Does mount, but not in tight spaces
  • All of the controls can result in issues when filming extremely dynamic situations

Conclusion

Out of the compared cameras, we’re giving the Sony HDR-AZ1 mini cam a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Price is important to keep in mind, as the range discussed in this article was fairly wide. The other cameras had more user controls, but really can’t be used in a lot of the on-the-go and action shots for which the Sony HDR-AZ1 comes in handy. 

For its size, it really is a thoughtfully designed piece of equipment with a lot of options for external features that you won’t find with basic camcorders (such as the different kind of mounts and waterproof casing). It is only two ounces, so can easily be strapped to nearly anything with minimal effect. Its sensor allows it to get even better image quality in certain situations than some of its larger counterparts in a similar price range. 

Really, there is a lot to be said for the features packed into this tiny camera and the effort that went into compromising things like zoom for the sake of dexterity. That gives the Sony HDR-AZ1 an edge in capturing more novelty shots, which is primarily what an action cam is purposed for. 

But there was a clear balance in place for this product in maintaining quality. There is no compromise on video resolution, which means the shots will always be usable, controlling for user-error. There are also just so many interesting captures that can be accomplished with the remote-view and control, whether that is with the app or the remote wrist-strap. While not ideal for basic recording, such as a child’s soccer game, it is perfect for novelty recording situations. The Sony HDR-AZ1 rides the line of usability and quality as a tiny action cam with great video.

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