Sony Action Cam FDR-X1000V Review
Sony's high-end action cam brings 4K shooting in a small, portable package.
By the Numbers
Sony has come a long way since it first got in the action cam market a few years ago. During that time it has quickly become the number two action cam company behind GoPro, but the gap is still pretty significant. The new FDR-X1000V has gone a long way in closing that gap with 4K video that rivals GoPro's quality.
4K resolution, 100 Mb/s bitrates, and decent low light performance is giving us a lot to be excited about for Sony action cams. Here's a full rundown on what we observed from the X1000V in our labs.
Sharpness is by far the brightest light shining on the X1000V. 4K obviously brings a giant leap over 1080p in quality, but Sony has taken it a step further by implementing the highest bitrate that we've seen on an action cam–a whopping 100 Mb/s. This is the best way to improve quality on action cams since you can't increase sensor size–due to wanting to keep camera size down–because it improves the write speed, which makes the video smoother.
This is fairly impressive considering GoPro tops out at 60 Mb/s when shooting 4K footage. However, it does come with the downside of having to use an expensive micro SD card that is rated for 95 Mb/s write speeds. These aren't readily available in most stores yet, so it could take a few days if you need a new card.
That said it pays off as we observed a staggering 1250 lp/ph (line pairs per picture height) both horizontally and vertically while shooting 4K. This is about 25% more that what the GoPro Hero 4 Black gave us (1000 lp/ph) and about 80% more than most HD cameras (around 700-800 lp/ph).
Below is a sample of the 4K video.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance is a bit tricky for all small sensor cameras and action cams are no different. Sensors simply aren't big enough or able to collect as much light thus creating darker images when light is sparse. The best performance we've seen out of an action cam in this category was 3 lux with the GoPro Hero 3+ Black last year, with GoPro sliding backwards in this category on the Hero 4 Black.
The X1000V was able to produce a usably bright image with a light level as low as 5 lux. This is the exact same point that the GoPro Hero 4 Black was able to reach meaning that Sony hasn't discovered a way around small sensor low light limitations either. That said, the image at 5 lux is far from something you'd want to use except in an emergency situation. If you're looking to shoot in relatively dark environments, be prepared to artificially light the scene.
Motion & Detail
Sony covers all the major resolutions 4K/30p, 1080/120p, and 720/240p. While 4K is obviously the sharpest, 1080/120p is the most balanced between quality and detail. Couple that with the fact that most people still don't have access to 4K monitors, the 1080/120p is your best bet for most situations.
The higher framerates allow for a lot of leeway when editing as well. Slowing down the 1080/120p four times gives silky smooth slow motion at 30 fps. This becomes even more fun if you shoot 720/240p and slow it down eight times, but you start to really sacrifice the quality at that point.
I'm not entirely sure why someone would drop down to the 480/240p instead of the 720/240p, but below is a sample of what it looks like at 480p.
Battery life is a spot that Sony needs to make progress. GoPros are notorious for having short battery life, but compared to this Sony they are a godsend. The X1000V only managed to get 63 minutes of footage in 1080/120p before having to recharge. This is without WiFi, GPS, or any other battery draining features we could think of.
If you're planning on going out for a few hours of shooting, make sure you pack plenty of these guys.
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