Sony has announced a new version of its very capable GoPro competitor, the 4K Action Cam. The new model, called the X3000R, costs $400 and has a slew of new features like optical image stabilization, face detection, and the revamped menu system that we first saw on the smaller Action Cam announced at this year’s CES. Sony also announced the $300 AS300R, which has essentially all the same features except it tops out at 1080p. Both cameras will be available later this month.
Sony’s Action Cams have had digital stabilization for years now, so it’s great to see that the company finally found a way to build optical, or mechanical, image stabilization into this model. Digital stabilization is software-based — it smooths out footage by cropping in on the image and using the excess space to adjust for vibrations, so the results are not always good.
Mechanical stabilization involves physically moving some of the lens elements and the image sensor, which can produce better results without losing as much of the image to cropping. With almost every action camera capable of shooting 4K, image stabilization feels like it will be the next defining feature for action cameras. In fact, Garmin announced a new Virb action camera last week that uses electronic image stabilization, but while I was really impressed with it, I’d take optical image stabilization any day.
That’s not the only new thing about this model, though. Sony built a new lens for these Action Cams, which is supposed to produce an image that isn’t quite so distorted as it was in past versions. They'll also be using a new version of Sony's Exmor R CMOS image sensor, which is now back-lit. And Sony’s including the new menu system that it launched on the smaller Action Cam earlier this year, which is good, because the menu on the old 4K Action Cam (and all the models before it) was awful. The new screen serves up more information at a glance and it no longer takes you a dozen taps to change modes or settings.
The refreshed Action Cam also has some new software features, like the aforementioned face detection, and an automatic highlight generator mode — similar to what we've seen on the TomTom Bandit camera, or in GoPro's Quik mobile app. Both cameras are splash-proof, but still require the separate (but included) housing for underwater use. Sony will bundle each of the new cameras with the new, smaller "live view" remote that it debuted alongside the smaller AS50 at CES, and those bundles will run about $150 more than the retail price of the cameras.