Sony takes advantage of the long form factor for optical image stabilization in their new X3000.
With most action cams offering resolutions of 4K and slow-motion capabilities and similar dynamic range curves, the real area of competition right now is in image stabilization. Action cams have long offered different variations on electronic image stabilization, where the image is moved around the sensor in sync with a motion sensor, but that definitely involves some sort of cropping or electronic zoom and doesn't always give the best quality stabilized image.
Optical image stabilization (OIS) has always been the goal, where the physical lens optics are moved in realtime to help stabilize the image. With relative newcomer Garmin offering image stabilization with the VIRB Ultra 30, it was only a matter of time until the big players in the field (Sony and GoPro) offered something similar, and with the X3000, Sony has entered the race with a full on optical solution borrowed from its experience in larger cameras.
Sony has always had a different take on the action cam layout, placing the lens on the short side of the rectangular body instead of the long. This makes viewing the image more awkward in realtime, but I think Sony has made a smart bet here since the vast majority of action cam footage is captured where you don't care about viewing the image live on camera. You are almost always rigging these cameras somewhere, not operating them in realtime, so provided you can launch an app on your phone to see the image and frame up, you don't really need a convenient form factor for operating. They have stuck with the layout with the new X3000, but brought along technology from their Handycam line of camcords, BOSS (Balanced Optical Steadyshot) to provide a higher quality stabilized image, as you can see demonstrated in the video below.
In addition to the OIS, Sony has redesigned the lens for less distortion and added better automatic face detection tools to help the stabilization know what features to focus on. Sony has also released a new live view remote for monitoring and controlling the camera. It's a smart design, easy to attach to a tripod, your handlebars, or the back of the camera for operating, and it offers a UI that mirrors the UI for the on-board menu system, a nice touch that will make memorizing the menus easier for faster operation.
- 4k at 100mbps
- 1/2.5 Zeiss Tessar Lens, F2.8 max aperture
- Exmor R CMOS Sensor
- Balanced Optical SteadyShot (BOSS)
- Waterproof to 60m with housing
- Memory Card Slot
- Micro HDMI connector
- Multi-Micro USB
- Stereo MiniJack
- 114g / 4.1 oz with battery
- 29.4 x 47.0 x 83.0 mm
- H.264 .mp4, XAVC S recording options
- 1080 up to 60p, 4k UHD up to 30p
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS
GoPro has been overdue for an update for a while now, and the time is ripe for other manufacturers to move into their market. What do you think? Are there enough killer features here to make you consider Sony for your next action cam?