Review: Sony HDRAS15 Sports Action Camcorder with Full HD and Wi-Fi

I am constantly on the look out for good action cameras. The action I shoot is quite specific in that I attach cameras to off-road vehicles and I insist on them being robust, easy to use but obviously able to capture quality images in all weathers. Audio is important to me to the extent that there must be sufficient sound quality to capture an old Land Rover engine.

Sony HDRAS15 Zeiss LensThe market leading GoPro range can be found wanting in many of these areas: the moment the sun goes in or you drive down an enclosed lane, the picture quality plummets. That and thinking of the extra case needed to make it waterproof and the poor sound, well it’s fair to say I’m not a GoPro fan.

So I read about this Sony Sport Camera and the fact it was running a Carl Zeiss lens and I was excited about the prospect of some high quality images. Perhaps I’d found a competitor to my current camera of choice the Drift Ghost HD?

Sony HDRAS15 FlimsyOut of the box I was immediately a little disappointed. Everything felt flimsy and light. The access panel to the camera’s inner workings is a really shoddy-feeling click-off panel. I was willing to forgive it this because after all, it did come with a snazzy looking waterproof case. The battery compartment was similarly fiddly and cumbersome and this camera was starting to me more like one of those cheap Chinese ones you pick up from eBay. I couldn’t help but hold it up to the HD Drift Ghost and wonder if I had paid a lot of money for a dead duck!

It uses what is now the standard (MicroSD memory cards) and can handle up to 32GB.

From some quick research, it had everything I expected from an action camera in this price range other than, weirdly, a colour screen. Instead Sony assumes the wireless connection to your mobile phone will be all you will ever need. I think that’s a big mistake. Action cameras should trade on simplicity and image quality and I’m not a fan of unnecessary bells and whistles that do little other than push up the prices.

So I read ‘Carl Zeiss’ on the side of the camera by the lens. Surely the pictures at least will be high quality?

Okay then, time for a short video demonstrating the footage this camera takes.

Sony HDRAS15 On of buttonWhat can I say after that? To be honest I cut my review short. It’s quite simply unfit for purpose and I returned it to Amazon for a refund. I really could not find one redeeming feature in this camera and apart from the poor case design, average sound, average visuals it simply didn’t work. The on/off switch through the case was rubbish and often wouldn’t toggle the power without some serious force. It was just a really bad user experience and something that I recommend you avoid. You would be much better off spending a little more for a Drift Ghost HD or even a little less and getting the Kodak PlaySport Zx5, both of which are superior in every single way.

I had high hopes for this camera and it’s not often I buy something that so bitterly disappoints. I’ve watched and read quite a few reviews that seem to make some lofty claims and I can only guess they are sockpuppet reviews from retailers because this camera is nothing short of useless. In fact since buying it and writing this review I notice the price is plummeting which tells you all you need to know really!

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”No screen to align the camera; on off button is hopeless.” cat1rating=”0.5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”I’ll credit it a 2 because of the features it claims it has. I didn’t get that far.” cat2rating=”2″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”I found it unfit for purpose. Certainly expected a lot more for the money.” cat3rating=”1″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Everything about it felt cheap and shoddy” cat4rating=”0.5″ summary=”I’d spend a quarter of the price of this on an eBay special and get better quality .”]

Review: Drift HD Ghost Action Camera


I’m going to start this review in an unusual place for me, with the packaging! Have you ever looked at a review and it starts with someone taking the product out of the box and you just think ‘Why? Not interested!” and then you fast forward? Yes, yes I know, I do the same. So at at the risk of boring you guys…

I picked this one up from Action Cameras UK and what a cool little box the Drift HD Ghost comes in. It’s designed so well to display the product and also to be used as for ongoing storage that I thought it merited a mention.

The Ghost is the updated incarnation of the Drift HD, which was already a pretty successful action camera in its own right. The big draw of the HD Ghost for me was the remote control unit.

Drift Ghost Camera and RemoteBoth the remote and the camera have a durable rubberised coating. If you’ve experimented with one of the cheap and cheerful ‘Chinese’ eBay action cameras, the jump in quality to the Ghost is very evident indeed, as is the price of course. It feels satisfyingly heavy giving me the impression of quality but perhaps it would be a little too weighty to be used as a helmet cam. Since I plan to mount this on a 4×4 and give it some abuse, that’s not an issue for me.

Now as is my Dummy remit, reading the manual before using the camera is not my style. My first test was to jump straight in. I mounted the HD Ghost on one of my VacMounts Pro series suction mounts (after all it’s more expensive than my usual cameras and I didn’t want to lose it) and went for a day’s green-laning in the Oldham and Holmfirth area. The weather was horrible, so perfect as a first test for something claiming to be an action camera.

Camera Mounting

One issue that irritated me about the HD Ghost was the way it mounted. The standard camera screw thread is located on what is in fact its side. To me it appeared to be the base so when I mounted it for the first section of testing, a laning day in Oldham, all the footage was on its side and I had to flip it in post-processing, which lost the effect of the 170 degree lens. The thread seems poorly located to me and I expect everyone to make a similar mistake the first time they use the camera. Okay, you can spin the lens around but the more you have to mess about with an action camera to set it up, the less I see it as an action camera.

Camera Lens and Waterproofing

Drift Ghost Fish Eye LensThe weather during this testing was horrible: driving rain and a dark brooding day. When I started watching my footage back the first thing I noticed was that all of my cameras with a traditional flat lens had collected beads of rain and a lot of the footage from them was useless. The Ghost HD has that fish eye lens in a glass dome and whilst rain did hit it and stick for a short while, the shape encouraged the rain to run off. The first gust of wind or bit of speed and the lens would clear again. Definitely score one for the Ghost. As for being waterproof, the weather was simply horrible all day long and short of being submerged I couldn’t have tested it any more thoroughly. The Drift Ghost came out with flying colours.

Battery life was comparable with any other camera I’ve used in the action area. I started with a fully charged battery and with frequent activation via the remote, the camera battery lasted about 3 hours. The remote unit lasted all day without any issues.

Drift Ghost RemoteWhilst we are on the subject of the remote, wow, what a feature that is! It flashes in different colours to indicate to the operator what mode the camera is operating in and what the camera is currently doing. The camera options to take single pictures or bursts of pictures (which you might use for stop motion photography?). I stuck with it in standard video mode because that works best for my kind of action photography. However I did test both modes and they worked perfectly and the images were of a good quality. I loved the fact that when the camera was recording, the remote flashed red and it gave me great control of the footage I was shooting and saved me hours in the editing room.

Sound Quality

When I did start editing the footage I noticed that the sound recorded by the Ghost was very subtle and of low amplitude. Within the sound recording options I found I was 2 clicks off the maximum setting but even cranking it up to full, the volume level was pretty low. It did however eliminate wind noise like no other camera I’ve used to date so the low volume can be fixed during editing.

To start my testing of the video quality I took the Ghost HD on a Green Lane day with my local Land Rover club during which I also filmed with some of my favourite Kodak Playsport ZX3 cameras (review here). The lens on the Kodak is superior to anything else I’ve used so straight away it had a lot to live up to. I also took some side-by-side sample shots so you could see how the cameras transitioned between light and dark conditions. I did also include my expensive Panasonic Bridge Camera in this test, which I would never mount on my bonnet for anything other than a test, but I thought it would set a bench mark for everything else!

Everything was testing using VacMounts’ professional quality mounting systems, which I have already reviewed and found to be quality kit at the right price.

I’d suggest you watch this short video because the results could come down very much to personal taste. The colours and quality from the Drift Ghost are what I would demand from a camera costing £250. That coupled with the genius remote system make it a major contender and something I am considering buying for myself (I had a demo unit for this review). My only issue is the way it handles anything other than perfect lighting situations. For use in woodland and overgrown lanes therefore the camera can be found lacking – in fact not as good my cheap and cheerful Kodak Playsports.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Its okay. Not too complex but the mounting angle is just plain weird.” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Honestly can’t think what else it could have. Remote is genius, low light filming average.” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”Quite simply, it needs a better lens. for this money it should work in low light.” cat3rating=”2.5″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”Its solid and robust and oozes quality.” cat4rating=”4.5″ summary=”It’s a cheaper more flexible Go-Pro with the same frailties but some nice bells & whistles.”]

Review: Kodak PlaySport ZX3 & ZX5 Action Camera – Waterproof & Shockproof

One of my intentions when creating Geek & Dummy was to review cutting edge and newly emerging tech but every now and again, I hit on an old favourite that just does its job so well it deserves to be re-visited.

Let me set the scene for my requirements in an action camera. I am an avid off-roader. I want a camera that can be bashed by branches, submersed in water and generally shaken to within an inch of its life. Through all that it still needs to shoot images of sufficient quality to edit into films.

I’ve tried numerous budget options where picture quality is laughable, especially in low light. I’ve also toyed with the high end GoPro range that, whilst capable, has so many drawbacks and reliability issues for such a high price tag, I struggle to see why they are the go-to answer for most professionals wanting an action camera.

So step up the Kodak PlaySport ZX3 and more recently the updated ZX5 variant. The action camera that makes the lofty claim of being shockproof, waterproof with in-built image stabilisation and HD quality images. Many action cameras claim it but is it true of the Kodak?

Kodak Playsport ZX3

The camera itself is mobile phone size (approx 55mm x 115mm) with a rubberised finish and feels comfy in the hand. It has only 5 buttons and the main control is a 5-way rubberised button, positioned ergonomically for its operation. On first inspectio,n given the shape of the camera when compared with a GoPro, you could be forgiven for making the assumption it simply won’t be up to the job. This camera is nothing short of astonishing, however. It has the standard 1/4” threaded adaptor on its base so, unlike the GoPro, your mounting options are cheap and varied.

The compartments that house the battery, SD memory card and charge points are all positioned under water tight sliding compartments. Having fully submerged this camera on a number of occasions, Kodak’s claim of a waterproof design is completely true. And I haven’t just dipped this in a pool or the bath. This camera has been through rivers of mud at speed and still come out smiling!

Here’s a short demo of the cameras size and compartments and some examples of a few of the knocks and dips it’s taken.

Pretty cool, right?

The image clarity is fantastic although I find full 1080p too detailed for the action footage I shoot. 720 at 60 fps gives a perfect balance between file size and quality. The in-built image stabilisation means it’s easy to mount on say a Land Rover bonnet and still get a relatively stable image as the car bounces all over the road.

Sure there are some trade-offs. There is no option for an external mic. The built-in mic is sufficient for close up action though. In my extensive testing and editing of the footage, the PlaySport takes better quality images than cameras costing triple the price.

Kodak has gone for the middle ground in firmware, falling between the idiot-proof Flip and the overcomplicated Toshiba Camileo, with simple and obvious operation. It still has everything it needs to be an action camera – even a decent zoom feature.

So after I’ve ticked the boxes for rugged build, quality image, waterproof and shockproof, what else is essential in an action camera? Battery life! It’s this area where all action cameras seem to be weak. I remember being particularly fed up with the GoPro because not only did the battery give me only 45 minutes of continuous video, it was a pain to open the waterproof housing and replace or charge the battery. And the battery cost silly money. Again the Kodak excels in this area. I get between an hour and 2 hours of continuous use, depending on the conditions. Then when it is time to change the battery it’s simplicity itself; the waterproofing is built into the camera and replacement batteries slot in easily. Considering the PlaySport’s battery is a standard 3.6V camera battery and can be bought anywhere for a few pounds this camera, on the market for 3 years now, is shaping up to be a Go-Pro killer!

I stumbled on this camera by accident but I’m so glad I did. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on handhelds, Go-Pros and everything in-between. In the end this little £80 marvel stands out in every area and puts far more expensive models to shame.

You’ll be buying this camera for its rugged and waterproof claims, and in those points the camera performs in a class of its own.

[easyreview title=”Dummy rating” icon=”dummy” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Fairly simple, point and shoot for good results” cat1rating=”4.5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”Almost everything it needs as an action camera” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”Considering what other action cameras sell for, its a snip” cat3rating=”4.5″ cat4title=”Build quality” cat4detail=”I literally haven’t been able to break one yet!” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”You can still buy these on Amazon but they are getting rare. If you see one then snap it up because they are amazing.”]