Sony HDR-AS50 Review

January 13, 2017 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Sony HDR-AS50 is an affordable action camera. It has an 11.1 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor paired with a Zeiss Tessar lens, and features advanced SteadyShot image stabilisation. Adjustable and enhanced beep sounds as well as three tally lights on the top, front and back have been added to allow greater notice of camera conditions even when wearing a helmet and when mounted on handlebars or monopods. Divers and swimmers can benefit from a supplied underwater housing, which allows footage to be captured down to 60m under water. Sony’s own in-built movie creator, Highlight Movie Maker, incorporates face detection and automatically assembles a highlight package which can be viewed and shared immediately. The Sony HDR-AS50 costs around £179 / $199.

Ease of Use

As demonstrated by the success of the GoPro brand, action cameras remain big business – appealing to those who want to film and/or photograph their latest bouts of derring-do – or simply a cycle ride – without risking their latest expensive smartphone, or indeed system camera, in the process. In other words, here is a definitive reason to invest in a dedicated camera rather than just using your mobile device. Suggested retail cost of the Sony HDR-AS50 at the time of writing is £179, which means it won’t break the bank either.

Whilst Sony may not be the first brand the man on the street thinks of when considering which action camera to buy, it has been making models such as the high definition HDR-AS50 – first announced back at CES 2016 – for a few years now, and here offers both a conveniently compact yet high quality item that rests easily within the palm of your hand, whether ensconced in its protective clear plastic housing, or in its ‘nude’ black liveried state.

Sony HDR-AS50
Front of the Sony HDR-AS50

Unsurprisingly the protective housing (included in the box) matches the camera button for button, of which there are merely five – including the main power activator – thereby keeping matters (and operation) simple. Said plastic housing (the MPK-UWH1) is also stated to be good for using the camera underwater up to an impressive 60m in depth, as well as being dust and shockproof. We also get flaps covering the USB port and battery compartment, whilst external storage is via the thumbnail-sized microSD card, and predictably so, given the unit’s overall compact dimensions. The supplied lithium ion battery is recharged within the camera, via a supplied USB/mains lead, as it is with our mobile phones; a tiny indicator light glowing orange as its power is replenished.

Obviously designed to be unobtrusive and to not get in the way, this Sony’s height and length are smaller than a credit card, whilst the width matches that of your thumb. Official dimensions are 24.2x47x83mm, whilst the weight is a far from substantial 83g including the NP-BX1 battery supplied but not including the waterproof housing.

The fact that there is no grip or way to comfortably hand hold it, either within or without said housing, suggests that this is designed to be screwed onto a tripod or mounted in some fashion – then simply activated and left to run. A screw thread has been provided on the actual unit and on the external housing also – so, on the plus side, there is no adapter needed to be able to use it with a tripod. Obviously though you’ll have to budget extra for said tripod, or whichever mount is chosen.

Sony HDR-AS50
Side of the Sony HDR-AS50

Spec wise, the HDR-AS50 isn’t going to challenge your DSLR or system camera, even if it does feature a Bionz X processor as found in Sony’s top-end models – neither is it intended to. Rather, here, it’s a case of best utilising the Sony’s particular set of skills, namely a 11.1 megapixel, 1/2.3-type back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor (lest we forget, Sony is the biggest manufacturer of camera sensors worldwide), suggesting a better than otherwise lower light performance, coupled with a Zeiss Tessar lens with fairly standard f/2.8 maximum aperture, 3x ‘smooth zoom’ option and two angle setting modes (either wide – equivalent to 18.4mm for that fish eye effect – or ‘narrow’ at 21.8mm for simply an ultra wide perspective). Handheld operation is supported by Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilization, which here is of the electronic variety, rather than our preferred choice of optical or sensor shift to help avoid blurred images. Minimum focus distance is again fairly standard, at 30cm. It wouldn’t be action camera without a burst shooting function, naturally, and here the camera offers up to 8fps.

In terms of MPEG-4 format, Full HD 1920x1080 video, we get the ability to shoot at frame rates of up to 60fps, or otherwise 120 or 100fps at HD resolution to enable slow motion replay, as well as a 4K time-lapse option. A stereo microphone is built into the camera, located beneath the lens, but the adjacent speaker is unsurprisingly mono. Still image resolution is given as 11.9 million pixels, with the option provided of creating a time-lapse video using 4K stills, using Action Cam Movie Creator software or Action Cam App.

Fresh bleep sounds and lights have been implemented on this version to indicate various camera functions have been selected and/or are underway – something which Sony says it has implemented as a direct result of user feedback. It’s worth noting that since there is no viewfinder built into the camera itself – the tiny postage-stamp LCD supplied just displays available shooting modes and settings. If utilising the Sony HDR-AS50 itself, it’s a case of point and hope rather than precision here; it’s all about capturing the experience rather than symmetrical compositions.

Sony HDR-AS50
Top of the Sony HDR-AS50

However Sony also provided us with a wrist-mounted remote – affixed to your person via Velcro strap - that provides us with a second screen, thereby acting as a remote viewfinder. To be honest we felt this is needed – otherwise all that happens is that you end up with shots displaying wonky horizons. In practical terms this means that the camera itself can be mounted to the handlebars of your bike, whilst you line up the shot, or adjust the Sony HDR-AS50’s settings via your wrist.

The buttons on both this accessory unit and the camera itself are basic but understandable – again operation is intuitive enough to avoid having to faff around with the basic user guide to get going, or have to pause when you’re in the heat of the action. If you want to invest in the remote – which we’d argue is worth it in order to go ‘hands free’ – you’ll have to stump up an additional £120 for the purpose. It’s worth it simply because we ended with a lot of skewed shots with tilted horizons when we weren’t using the HDR-AS50 paired with a screen. We welcomed the capability to line up our shot first. In practice it took just a few seconds for the handset to ‘find’ the camera and pair up with it. If we were constantly getting a spinning symbol suggesting it couldn’t connect, the old failsafe of turning it off and on again seemed to right the problem. It goes without saying that the camera itself needs to be activated and up and running first before you even attempt to connect.

Control wise we get a big red record button on top of theSony HDR-AS50 that is hard to miss, with a power button sitting just behind it and an indicator light located just in front. The camera powers up in two to three seconds, with a bright sounding bleep indicating we’re ready to go. On one flank of the camera is the compartment for the battery, which takes up most of the real estate; indeed, in keeping things manageably compact, the Sony HDR-AS50 is barely bigger than the rechargeable cell that powers it, which is an impressive feat of engineering in itself.

Sony HDR-AS50
The Sony HDR-AS50 In-hand

On the other flank we find a basic set up of three operational buttons – two being for tabbing through menu options, with the ‘menu’ button itself being the third. Settings are displayed on the tiny LCD screen that sits in their midst. We found tabbing through and selecting the options we wanted a little fiddly to start with, as the record button on the top plate also doubles up as an ‘enter’ button for implementing the chosen settings, whether these be set up or operational. Obviously there are just two shooting modes here – for stills or video, with a set up menu pertaining to each, which keeps things simple on the face of it. However there are a myriad of options for each – key among them the narrow or wide-angle lens shooting settings, along with the predictable self-timer and time lapse settings.

The back of the Sony HDR-AS50 features a sliding lock button to prevent the battery compartment at the side from being opened accidentally, adjacent to which is a loose plastic cover for the multi application port to which the USB lead provided in the box is attached. The base of the camera features the aforementioned screw thread for a tripod mount and fingernail sized flap covering the slot for our microSD card.

With build quality being good, the price being fair and operation being reasonably straightforward once you’ve got the hang of things, the unobtrusive Sony HDR-AS50 is a welcome addition to the action camera fraternity. But what of the imagery it produces? Does this justify a purchase, or is back to drawing board? Read on to discover more…

Image Quality

Whilst some may consider shooting with the Sony HDR-AS50 in the UK in December as not ideal – short, dark days never being the best for photography – this did make for plenty of atmosphere. We found the still images straight out of the camera looked a bit flat on first inspection however, resembling a video grab, and therefore benefitted from an adjustment to exposure to bring more detail out of the shadows. They also benefitted from a subtle boost to saturation to bring some colour and life into the images. 

Obviously shooting with the wideangle setting lends subjects that obvious fish eye effect – fine if that’s what you’re aiming for, but, if not, the marginally more restrained narrow setting is the one to opt for from the photo menu. Either way, neither are a replacement for the (better) quality you’d get from a larger, dedicated stills camera – but here the appeal is obviously the chance to get photographs that you wouldn’t normally be able to – or at least a perspective that you wouldn’t typically be able to achieve.

Video clip wise, the Sony HDR-AS50 is capable of delivering smooth and bright imagery with clear, natural sound despite its diminutive stature and features – in fact it undoubtedly works and functions better as a video device. For moving images, the narrow lens setting is less disorientating than the wider, fisheye effect, which by comparison is a bit of a head rush, particularly if there is motion of subject matter also involved. We have examples of both in our test report. Ultimately though the AS50 does the job it’s pitched as doing – namely delivering a record of something that you may well not risk using your smartphone or a standalone camera to film or shoot. 

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony HDR-AS50 camera, which were all taken using the 11 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 36 second movie is 107Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon D5600

Front of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Front of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Side of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Side of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Top of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Rear of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Bottom of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Battery Compartment

Nikon D5600

Memory Card Slot


Nikon D5600

Side of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Side of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Front of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Front of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Side of the Sony HDR-AS50

Nikon D5600

Side of the Sony HDR-AS50


The Sony HDR-AS50 is an affordable way to jump on the action camera bandwagon – as long as you're happy with high definition video, as opposed to 4K footage, and stills quality that reflects the fact that it’s been shot on something a quarter of the size of the average smartphone handset, complete with 1/2.3-inch sensor. 

The camera and supplied underwater housing feels as well built as we’d expect from a brand such as Sony, despite the diminutive proportions. We loved that the waterproof and dustproof housing was included in the bundle, but would have also liked some means of attaching the camera to handle bars or helmet beyond just a provided screw thread for a tripod. That said the camera is so small you can actually cycle – or whatever else – and hand-hold it at the same time.

We’d argue that the Sony HDR-AS50 is more of a success when it comes to shooting video than shooting stills – and we’d wager that moving footage is what anyone would want to use it for in the main. That said, JPEGS from the device aren’t bad and are good certainly as an aide memoire, even if they do require a bit of adjustment in terms of saturation and contrast to get them looking their best. Like most compact devices, bright sunshine and clear skies will be the ideal conditions for the Sony HDR-AS50. 

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Sony HDR-AS50.

Canon PowerShot D30

The Canon PowerShot D30 is an action compact camera that's waterproof to an impressive 25m, as well as being dust, freeze and shock proof. The Canon D30 also offers12 megapixels, a 5x zoom, 1080p HD video, built-in GPS and a 3-inch screen. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot D30 review now...

Fujifilm FinePix XP90

The Fujifilm FinePix XP90 is a tough water, freeze, shock and dust proof compact camera. The XP90 offers a 16.4 million pixel 1/2.3 inch BSI-CMOS sensor, built-in wi-fi, 10fps burst shooting, 1080i HD movies, a 5x zoom lens and a 3 inch LCD screen. Read our Fujifilm FinePix XP90 review now...

Nikon KeyMission 170

The KeyMission 170 is Nikon's first attempt at an action camera, featuring 4K video recording and a 170-degree lens. Can it compete with the similarly priced GoPro Hero 5? Find out by reading our Nikon KeyMission 170 review.

Olympus TG-4

The Olympus TG-4 is a new flagship water, freeze, shock and dust proof compact camera for 2015. Boasting a 25-100mm equivalent f/2.0-4.9 lens, the 16 megapixel TG-4 also offers Raw file support, built-in wi-fi and GPS connectivity, 1080p HD movies, a 4x zoom lens and a 3 inch OLED screen. Read our Olympus TG-4 review to find out what this tough camera is capable of...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 is a new freeze, shock, water and dust proof camera. The well-appointed Panasonic FT5 also features built-in GPS, wi-fi and NFC functionality, a compass, altimeter and barometer, 4.6x zoom, 1920x1080 full-HD movie recording and a 16 megapixel sensor. Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 review to find out if this is the best do-it-all camera for your family....

Ricoh WG-5 GPS

The Ricoh WG-5 GPS is a new shock, freeze, dust, water and crush proof compact camera. The Ricoh WG-5 GPS offers a 16 megapixel Backside Illumination CMOS sensor, a 4x zoom lens with f/2 aperture, Full HD movie recording and built-in LED macro lights. Available for £259.99 / $379.95, read our in-depth Ricoh WG-5 GPS review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony HDR-AS50 from around the web. »

Sony’s Action Cam range is pretty diverse, ranging from the entry-level AS20 all the way up to the 4K-capable X1000V. The HDR-AS50 sits just above the former, but it's still firmly at the cheaper end of the line-up.
Read the full review »


Size & Weight
Dimensions (W x H x D)
Approx. 24.2 x 47.0 x 83.0 mm
83 g (including supplied battery)
Sensor Type
1/2.3 type (7.77mm) back-illuminated "Exmor R" CMOS Sensor
Effective Pixels (Video)
Approx. 11.1 Megapixels
Effective Pixels (Still Image)
Approx. 11.1 Megapixels
Lens Type
ZEISS® Tessar
F-Number (maximum aperture)
Focal Length (35mm) (Video)
f=18.4 mm (WIDE), f=21.8 mm (NARROW)
Focal Length (35mm) (Still Image)
f=18.4 mm (WIDE), f=21.8 mm (NARROW)
Minimum Focus Distance
Approx. 30 cm
Image Stabilization
SteadyShot electronic image stabilization
Exposure Mode
Minimum Illumination
6 lux (1/30 Shutter Speed)
White Balance
White Balance Modes
AUTO/Color Temp/Custom
Shutter Speed
1/30 - 1/10,000 (30fps)
Image Processor
BIONZ X™ image processor
Other Shooting Functions
Loop Recording, Motion Shot LE, Burst Shooting, Time-lapse capture, Live Streaming
With supplied Underwater Housing (MPK-UWH1)
With supplied Underwater Housing (MPK-UWH1)
With supplied Underwater Housing (MPK-UWH1)
Recording Media
Compatible Recording Media
Memory Stick Micro and MicroSD/SDHC/SDXC compatible
Recording Format (Video)
MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, XAVC S format: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Recording Format (Still Image)
DCF Ver.2.0 compatible, Exif Ver.2.3 compatible, MPF Baseline compatible
Video Resolution
MP4 PS:1920x1080 60p/50p, MP4 HQ:1920x1080 30p/25p, MP4 STD:1280x720 30p/25p, MP4 HS120 (HS100):1280x720 120p/100p, XAVC S:1920x1080 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p
Video Recording Rate (ABR / VBR)
MP4 PS: Approx. 28Mbps/HQ: Approx.16Mbps/STD: Approx. 6Mbps/HS120(HS100): Approx.28Mbps, XAVC S 60p/30p/24p Approx. 50Mbps 50p/25p Approx. 50Mbps
Still Image Size (Photo Mode)
Approx. 11.9 Megapixels 16:9 (4608 x 2592)
Audio Recording Format
Built-in stereo Microphone
Monaural Speaker
Input and Output Terminals
Multi/Micro USB Terminal
Power Requirements
3.6V (battery pack)
Battery Type
What's In The Box
  • Rechargeable Battery Pack (NP-BX1)
  • Micro USB Cable
  • Startup Guide
  • Underwater Housing (MPK-UWH1)
  • Attachment Buckle

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