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Pick of the Camera Reviews

(Click the pictures for reviews & links) 

ACTION CAMS

Yi 2 - Best Budget 4K 

Gitup Git2 (My Pick)

Xiaomi Yi

Dazzne P2

SJCAM M10+
 
DASH-CAMS (CAR DVRs)
 
A119
Yi Ultra 2.7K
   
    MINI CAMERAS
Mobius (also works as a Dashcam)
Polaroid Cube+
    HELMET CAMERA
Sena Prism Tube

My favourite USB battery power Pack

This is the excellent USB power pack I use when I travel.

2 x 2.1amp outputs. 8400mAh capacity.

Two digit Led display shows battery level

 

What SD CARD should I buy?

If you want an SD Card for your camera - these are the ones I use and recommend. 

I'd strongly recommend not to buy any SD cards off ebay - I've heard about too many issues with counterfeit cards - often sold on by unwitting resellers. My inbox regularly gets messages from people who bought a £150 camera then cheaped out and bought a £3 memory card on ebay - Then when it doesn't worth they blame the camera! It doesn't make any sense. Good memory is cheaper than it's ever been - see the links above.

A lot of HD cameras will not work properly with cards larger than 32GB (cards over 32GB are usually SDXC rather than the SDHC standard used by 32GB cards. SDXC cards use the ex-FAT system rather than FAT32 - in short they are a different standard). - so don't just buy the biggest card you can afford - read the specs in the manual to see what it accepts.

UK & US LINKS & PRICES BELOW

RECOMMENDED CARDS (for action cams - see dashcams below)

CLASS 10 UHS-1 CARDS (For HD Cameras)

 

U3 CARD (For 4K cameras)

 

 

SPECIAL DASHCAM CARDS

The SD card in a dashcam is re-written over, more frequently than in other types of cameras. Some manufacturers void their guarantee if an SD card was used in a dashcam. So, no surprise, there are special High Endurance SD cards made just for dashcams...here's some.

 

VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

To give you an idea of the extent of the fake goods problem. In a 2016 survey by Apple - 90% of the 'Apple' chargers sold through Amazon - using the other the two methods..which includes the "Fulfilled by Amazon" option -  were found to be counterfeit....90%! 

            

 
Sunday
May192013

Putting XBMC on a Raspberry Pi is Ludicrously easy

I know I'm late to the Raspberry Pi party, but as I mention in the video, sometimes it's wise to wait until after all the fuss has settled down. In the year since this tiny low-power computer was introduced, enthusiasts have spent countless hours optimising and debugging code to make this hackers machine an easy to use consumer product for your average end-user like me.

I delayed making this video for months. I really thought that installing XBMC would be a lot more complicated than it was. I anticipated that I would be fiddling about with settings and configuration files for hours, but in reality the whole process turned out to be a surprisingly simple formality.

If after watching this video you like the idea of having a Raspberry Pi powered media centre but still aren't confident about configuring your SD card (and you live in the UK) you can even buy a Pre-Loaded SD card.

I don't know if this is the cheapest way you can get XBMC on your TV...and at times the menus can be a tad laggy, but the features that make this configuration particularly appealing to me are the Airplay capability and the fact it can be powered directly from my TV. 

Total Costs: Under £45

Raspberry Pi  £28 for a Model B (512mb). 

Wifi Dongle £12 - All from CPC Farnell. (You can get other dongles for £5 on ebay)

Case £2.58 From Ebay

All the other items I used were already in the house (HDMI Cable, 1 amp USB Charger, SD Card, Keyboard Remote).

The Lenovo N5902 I used is overkill. An MCE Remote will be more than sufficient. 

By the way - I know there are a few continuity errors in this video which I'm fully expecting youtube commenters with way too much time on their hands to bring up....4GB cards becoming 32GB cards, WiFi dongles changing ports - references to keyboards and mice on the setup screens which don't appear in the video and vanishing ornaments. These things come from shooting a video over three different days, spread across two weeks....that and I had to let my continuity team have the week off (as well as the fact they don't exist anyway).

In case anyone is interested, the film playing in the video is 'The Brain', AKA 'Le Cerveau', a 1969 French caper movie with the dream cast of David Niven, Belmondo and Bourvil. 

 

Friday
May172013

Revisiting the Sony Action Camera

I've owned my Sony AS10 Action camera for six months. Since I posted my original review in January,  I've bought another one (the AS15), picked up numerous accessories, and the camera has received additional features through a firmware update. I therefore decided that it was time for me to make a video update. 

In the video I mention that you can download a sample of the footage I recorded in it's new 1080p60 mode. CLICK HERE to download this file from Dumptruck. 

You can see from the comments posted under my previous AS10 vs White video that people can get very excitable about action cameras. They'll defend a particular manufacturer's range as though their life depended on it. So for those individuals, I'd like to reiterate,  I'm not saying this is better or worse than any other model from any other manufacturer. The world isn't that simple. Decide what camera you want....but don't try and tell other people that it's what they want too, that's something for them to decide. 

Sunday
May122013

The GSE550 1080p GPS Dashcam (clone)

I started on this review a couple of months ago, after a few people had requested that I do some reviews of higher priced dashcams. I thought that a small car camera with built in GPS and 1080p h.264 video for less than £70 could be of interest to a lot of people (if it was any good).  

I broke away from doing this review when Blackvue and Hetai sent me their latest dashcams but now that those reviews are complete I've finally found the time to finish this video.

In the meantime I've found that this camera is a knock-off of the real GSE550 made by DOD. I'd imagine that the original DOD version is in a completely different league from this camera. 

I was very tempted to just delete the project off my hard drive, and start on something more interesting….but after spending £68 and countless hours, I wanted to have something to show for my efforts, so here it is, a review of a camera that really wasn't worth reviewing.

If you like the design of the camera, but would prefer a version that works properly - then this link will take you to both auctions of the real DOD GSE550 and the knock-off version I bought and reviewed. 

Sunday
May052013

Now this adds up - The SpikenzieLabs Calculator Kit.

A few weeks ago SpikenzieLabs sent me over their Calculator Kit. Unfortunately it arrived just before I took a few weeks off so this review has been delayed somewhat.

I'm old enough to remember when pocket Calculators first became affordable. I recall getting a £30 Commodore Calculator with a red LED display in 1977. A young child doesn't have much use for a calculator…but it's something I desperately wanted at the time.  

Over the years calculators have become disposable items. The last one I bought came from a pound shop, It's very poorly constructed, but it does work.

This SpikenzieLabs kit brought back some of the feeling of wonder and excitement that I would have felt all those years ago when I unboxed my first calculator. The bright red segmented display, solid chunky construction, and large responsive keys reminded me that cheaper isn't necessarily better. 

The work that goes into designing and manufacturing a kit like this doesn't come cheap. However if you've bought any Lego recently, you'll know that quality and precision always come at a premium price.  

You can buy this kit direct from the Spikenzielabs website. 

WIN A FULLY CONSTRUCTED CALCULATOR KIT (Closing date 31 May 2013)

One lucky individual can receive a fully assembled calculator free of charge. In addition to the model that I assembled in the video I was also sent a kit with a board soldered professionally by the chaps at Spikenzielabs, I've assembled this one too and am now giving it away.

To win it…all you have to do is tell me the Make & Model of the item I unbox in my Unboxing with a twist...guess the contents video from May 3rd.

Follow me on Twitter and send me a tweet containing the answer (You'll see my Twitter feed in the blue column on the right) and I'll get in touch with the winner on the 1st June 2013 to arrange delivery.

Competition closed - The winner was Tom Bailey. The answer was that I unboxed an Akai GX-625 (Reel to Reel Tape Recorder).

Saturday
May042013

A Beginners Guide to Car Cameras

Dashcams are already well established in some countries and people all across the globe are gradually learning about the usefulness of these devices. It can be difficult though, for newcomers to learn about a complicated product like a car camera from scratch, so to make things easier, I've made this one-stop video explanation that covers all the basics. 

This video explains the purpose of car cameras, what features are useful and which ones are unnecessary. 

Feel free to send this video link (below) to any friends or relatives who want to know more about 'those car camera things'.

http://youtu.be/HQ0Tm9FFpKM

Friday
May032013

Proview HD Action Camera from Chinavasion - Review  

Here is my somewhat delayed video review of the ProView Camera from Chinavasion. This is advertised as an action camera - but can also be used as a car camera. This video had to cover a lot of ground because of the camera's extensive feature set.  The camera comes with most of the accessories that people will need - and also sports a convenient tripod hole which enables it to be used with many other mounts.

I'm always on the look out for the cheapest decent-quality action camera and this is definitely one worth considering. It's smaller and cheaper than Chinavasion's Crocolis and Xdreme cameras that I reviewed previously from Chinavasion.  If you like the look of the Proview and want to buy one then please CLICK HERE.

I mentioned in the video that the clips from the camera look a bit jerky in the review - they don't look jerky if you play back the original clips from the camera, and I'd recommend you DOWNLOAD MY ORIGINAL CLIPS FROM HERE. (Note most of these have been trimmed for length - but not re-coded in any way).

I am still searching for the elusive sub £50 water-resistant HD action camera with a microphone-in socket (this isn't a feature included on this camera). A lot of people like the idea of a helmet side-mountable camera with a microphone socket that can also survive a rain shower.  This is something I receive a lot of emails requests for, so I should re-iterate here that I haven't found a camera that fits these requirements yet….but when I do, I'll be sure to review it.

Apologies that my voiceover is a bit blown-out at times at the beginning of this video…I accidentally nudged some settings and thanks to everyone who sent me messages during my enforced absence and I'm sorry that I couldn't respond to them all. Hopefully I can get back to my usual irregular update schedule now. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE - Contrary to what I mention in the video, the lens does rotate. This allows it to be twisted either 90º or 180º. The reason that this is important is because it means the camera can be mounted on the side of a helmet using the clip on the base and then the lens rotated at 90º. This also resolves the upside-down timestamp issue. 

Friday
May032013

Unboxing with a twist...guess the contents.

I don't do unboxing videos. I won't share my opinion on this form of video 'entertainment', because I know that some people (crazy people) do like watching them. 

However when a large interesting-looking box arrived from abroad...I couldn't resist sharing. I've added a twist to this unboxing though, see if you can figure out the parcel contents from the clues I give, before I've finished unpacking it.

This video was just uploaded as a bit of fun. The real reason that this clip exists is a little more mundane. I had my camera and tripod nearby and thought it would be a good idea to record the unpacking if I needed proof that the fragile contents had been damaged in transit so I could claim on the parcel insurance. As it was, the packing job was one of the best I've ever seen and the contents were in perfect condition.

In future I'll continue to quickly skip past the unboxing steps of any product demonstration and get on with the review. I'll leave unboxing videos to the 'experts'.

Tuesday
Apr092013

Something for you to read while I'm offline for a while....

On 11 April 2013 I'm finally getting some long needed surgery on my troublesome sinuses. Provided that everything goes according to plan, I'll be back home the same day...with a wad of dressings up my nose and possibly a black eye or two.

The reason I'm telling you this is because afterwards I'm going to take approx 10 days off and therefore won't be updating the site or responding to comments, messages or emails during this time.

Making decent quality voiceovers will be impossible until things heal up, so apologies to anyone who has sent me items to review - I'll get to these as soon as I can when I'm back up and running properly.

(UPDATE - Surgery was successful, but recovery is likely to take a while - next site update -  May 2013)

To give you something to do in the meantime... here is another in my occasional series of Trips Down Memory High-Street.

Below is a Christmas 1985 Catalogue from the UK High Street Electrical Retailer Laskys. Laskys was less common than Dixons (in more ways than one). Their product line was a bit more upmarket and aspirational, for example they sold HiFi separates where Dixons preferred ready assembled Mini Systems.

I remember the Laskys in Manchester's Arndale Centre as being a long dark cave filled with flashing LEDs and VU meters. When I started working in Manchester a couple of years after this 1985 catalogue was printed, I regularly visited their shops to lust over the CD Portable Boomboxes which would have cost me well over a month's wage at the time. This catalogue is interesting because it claims to feature the "Worlds First" portable Compact Disc Stereo, which cost £399, the CD555 from Philips.

Another very strong Laskys memory I have from around this time, probably the same shopping visit where I picked this very catalogue up, was seeing an demonstration of an Atari ST and its High Resolution SM124 Monochrome Monitor with the (at the time) impressive resolution of 640x400 at 71.2hz. It was the first time I'd seen a computer display that didn't flicker and looked to my eyes then, as sharp and white as a piece of paper.

Other things to look for in this catalogue are the Sony WMW800 Back-to-Back Tape-to-Tape Walkman, an Aiwa Personal Stereo with a wired Remote Control - something I remember being desperate to own, a Panasonic 'portable music system' with a slide out turntable, the last of the Disc cameras, a Casio B&W pocket TV, the Nintendo Donkey Kong 3 Micro Vs LCD Game, and the popular James Bond Musical Alarm LCD watch. CDs were already well established by the time this catalogue was printed with various players available, including a twin disc model and portables including the D50 from Sony.

The competition to win the Golf GTI has expired now so don't bother entering, I think the car has probably been scrapped by now too. The thought of getting the sum of £50 spending money for your free holiday made me smile.

Laskys was bought out by Comet in 1989, and the branches disappeared completely, but the name was resurrected in 2006 as an online retailer, which then disappeared when the Comet chain closed in December 2012.

 

Sunday
Apr072013

The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad

It's not often that I get to try something before it's released - but Belkin gave me the opportunity to do just that when they sent me over a pre-production sample of their 'Ultimate Keyboard For iPad'. 

My two previous experiences with iPad keyboards had been less than satisfactory...but it seems like things have moved on in leaps and bounds since then. One of my main objections to using a physical keyboard with the iPad in the past was the constant need to revert back to touching the screen to do things like move the cursor or use cut and paste. Now I don't know whether Apple has revised the way that the iPad can interact with a bluetooth keyboard - or whether the previous keyboards I used were just particularly poor - but it transpires that functions like these can now be accessed directly from the keyboard itself. This makes a physical keyboard a much more attractive and useful proposition. I didn't demonstrate it in the video - but Command X, C, V also work for Cut, Copy and Paste and B, I and U operate Bold Italic and Underline as expected.

Now as this was a pre-production version I was advised that there were a couple of things that are being tidied up before release - the open to wake function has yet to be implemented and the rubber pads to protect the iPad are not the finished article. The case is due out in a few weeks and I can see it being very popular with people who like to travel light and type everywhere. 

I post these blog entries from a laptop - if I had to type them on an iPad screen it would be torture. The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard case would make jobs like this a breeze, even in the cramped conditions of an economy (coach) seat on an airplane. The price is right at the top end - but people who make their living from typing will appreciate the true value of a quality product like this.

One thing I didn't mention in the video was it's weight, it's probably lighter than my normal iPad case - according to the Belkin website it's just 17 ounces or 481 grams.

More information is available from Belkin themselves - links below

Belkin US

Belkin UK

 

Sunday
Mar312013

Blackvue DR500GW-HD WiFi GPS Car Camera

Most people will have heard of Sony, Samsung or Panasonic but the names of dashcam manufactures are less familiar. One of the biggest name in car cameras at the moment is the Blackvue range, from the Korean company Pittasoft. I was very happy then when they got in touch and asked me to review their latest and greatest model, the DR500GW-HD.

This is a fully featured, highly specified, yet easy to use device which warranted a very complicated review. With the built in GPS, WiFi and supplied software there was so many things to demonstrate that I that I ended up creating what is possibly one of my most detailed (and quite probably long winded) videos yet.

Normally once I complete a review of a car camera I immediately remove the mount from the car so I can move on to the next one... but with this one I've left it in place. That's because I hope to be able to revisit this one again if a firmware update is released which resolves the issues I experienced during my week of testing.

This specification of camera commands a premium price (£250-£300) and the best place to obtain one appears to be eBay.

I have uploaded a zip file containing original 1080p & 720p clips here.

Update - Thanks to Stefan Leone in the youtube comments for providing the fix for the GPS mislocation bug. This is resolved by downloading the latest V1.001 of the Player software from the Blackvue website here.

Sunday
Mar242013

The DR32 Dashcam - A Full HD car camera from the team behind the 808#11 & 808 #18

From the comments I receive it’s clear that many people are under the false belief that all the different 808 key ring cameras are made by a single manufacturer. 
 
The reality though is that there are a number of companies behind the various iterations. The company responsible for two of the better models, the 808#11 and the 808 #18 recently got in touch to ask me if I’d like to test out their new car camera. Co-incidentally this was a camera that I was just about to order myself, so I asked them to send it over.
 
For brand recognition purposes they want me to refer to this model as the 808 #18 DR32 Car Camera – which is a bit of a mouthful.
 
This is a low to mid-priced camera, with a performance that exceeds many considerably more expensive models. The price will fluctuate depending on the  international exchange rate and where you are shipping the camera to - so I would suggest clicking on one of the seller links (provided by the manufacturer) below to get the latest price (look for DR32 listed in each store's inventory on the left hand side).
 

powerdigital898   power-gps   beetleonline   eletech086   hxelepro360   internet-shop365

I’ve also put a few UNTOUCHED DOWNLOADABLE CLIPS HERE to enable you to see the true quality of the original video without  the artefacts generated during the youtube encoding process. 

I didn't go into any detail about playing clips back through the camera either on screen or via an HDMI lead in the video, so I'll cover this information here. AV out via phonos or HDMI both work in the same manner. They allow you to display the clips you've recorded earlier on your TV screen. There is no live viewfinder streaming or display of the setup screens.  When playing clips you can skip forward or back, play and pause and it continuously plays subsequent files. When playing back through the camera itself the sound on the built in speaker is nice and clear. 
 
By the way, since I've now got a line into an HD keyring camera manufacturer I've reiterated my desire for a budget HD action camera the size and shape of the ACT20 combined with the h.264 video quality from the key ring cameras. They say they will look into making this happen, so watch this space.....

Update - 28 March 2013 Answering a few questions and comments.

The manufacturer has been in touch. In response to comments left here and on youtube they will develop a new firmware that has an option to flip the video. They are also looking for different more compact mounting options. They also advise that setting the brightness level manually (e.g. to +1) should resolve the low-light brightness fluctuation issue.

Someone wanted to know the weight of the camera - it is 70g - you can see the specs on the side of the box 46 seconds into the video.  

I mentioned this already above - but to reiterate... the AV out does not display a live viewfinder, it is only for playback.

720p modes have a narrower field of view than the 1080p mode. The 720p60 mode is a true 60 frames per second with no dropped or duplicated frames.

Pressing the Keep Button just locks the current file - not the previous one or the next one. As I've mentioned many times now - a 32GB card will hold over 5 hours of 1080p footage. The oldest files on the card only get deleted one by one when the card is full. Some people seem concerned that they will lose recordings of events. You will….but only after 5 hours of driving. If there is something amazing that you want to keep on the card, you would have to be incredibly daft to lose it with a five hour notice that it's going to be deleted. If you do still lose a clip despite having those five hours to do something to stop it being wiped (e.g. swap the memory card out or stop recording) then frankly, you deserve to. 

Finally - Yes the camera auto-starts when it receives power and stops when the power is disconnected, that's the feature that differentiates car cameras from other types of cameras. All car cameras have this feature. 

BIG NEWS...Small Mount! (Update 30 March 2013).

Here are the pictures of the new smaller mount that will be supplied with the cameras - some of the retailers are already showing this with the camera - others will no doubt follow shortly. You really have to say that things move quickly with these guys. 

 

They are also now selling the camera with a bike mount and external battery. Bear in mind that the camera isn't waterproof  but the video quality this camera produces is so high that you can understand the attraction of using this camera for different activities. 

 

 Lets hope we see the internals from this camera used in a number of different form factors in the future.

The work on a new firmware with the video-flip option also continues. 

By the way, the manfacturer of this camera is a company called Hetai. Their website is HTInter.com