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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
DR02 D - Best Budget Dual Cam
Yi

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%! 

 
Tuesday
Jul022013

The Contour Roam 2 - Using the right tool for the job

After reviewing the SJ1000 camera recently it’s become very apparent that the mounting system a camera employs is every bit as important as the performance of the camera itself.

If you've seen any of my other reviews of action cameras – particularly the Sony AS10/AS15 you’ll know that I’ve struggled to side-mount any of these to my motorcycle helmet. I find the cube-shaped cameras like the GoPro particularly unsuited for this task. Not to mention the fact that a boxy camera mounted on the top of a helmet is guaranteed to make you look like an utter pillock. They may be ideal for recording a free-fall from the edge of space, but are much less suited for a daily bike commute.

It comes as no surprise then that if you want to side-mount a helmet camera then you should buy a model that’s specifically designed for that purpose, like the Contour Roam2.

The Contour Roam 2 which is the subject of this review is the basic model (and is currently on offer for £134.99 at Amazon). The other camera in the range is the Contour +2 which is the all singing and dancing model and costs about £330. The cheaper model forgoes the advanced features of its more expensive brother, such as a replaceable battery, mic-in, GPS Logging and WiFi App Capability, however both cameras utilise the same excellent mounting system and rotating lens. As you would expect there are a variety of optional accessories shown on the official Contour Site.

I don’t know if the video quality varies significantly between the two models but I should hope that low-light performance is improved on the Contour +2 model. Ideally I’d test both models out, but the +2 costs significantly more than I’m prepared to spend on a helmet camera. When you consider that you can buy a nice new Sony NEX3-NL Interchangeable Lens camera for the same price, the Contour +2 does look overpriced.

If you want to download SAMPLE CLIPS recorded with this camera CLICK HERE  all are untouched, but trimmed for length.

Following the demise of Contour the official US website no longer hosts the requried software.....

however CONTOUR SOFTWARE IS STILL AVAILABLE FROM THE JAPAN WEBSITE

(Links BELOW)

WINDOWS

OSX

Sunday
Jun232013

Q) Which car camera is best for catching a vandal in the act? A) None of them.

I wanted to explain in a video why its a really bad idea to consider using a car camera to catch a vandal. You may think that no-one would contemplate doing this, but every week I receive a handful of emails asking me to recommend a car camera for this very purpose. This video also demonstrates why motion activation isn't all its cracked up to be.

Extra information to think about;

If you want a camera to record for a prolonged period whilst your car is locked up you will have to hard-wire it in to your vehicle. Then to catch the offender, the incident would have to happen in the daytime - or in a very well lit area at night, the offender doesn't wear a hood or faces away from the camera, they decides to damage your bonnet rather than the side of the car, you have a tall vehicle, e.g. a 4x4 so you capture more than just an image of their headless torso, and you'll also have to notice the damage to your vehicle and check the footage on your memory card before it is overwritten...this will usually happens every few hours. In addition if you park on a busy street, every passing car or pedestrian will trigger the camera to start recording. It's more than likely that something happening at 10pm will not longer be on your memory card when it gets light enough for you to spot the scratch the next day.

You may not agree with my assessment, and if so that's great, please do whatever makes you happy - but IN MY OPINION, trying to catch someone 'keying' your car with a dashcam is ALMOST impossible.

 

Sunday
Jun162013

The Rollie Eggmaster Vertical Grill

This is the second of two videos I made featuring unusual kitchen appliances imported from America.

This video features the Rollie Eggmaster Vertical Grill.

Here is a link to the Rollie Website but they don't send to the UK, so I imported mine via Amazon.com.

 

Sunday
Jun092013

SJ1000 - At last...a good cheap action camera 

After years of fruitless searching and a not inconsiderable amount of money spent, I've finally found a good, cheap, 1080p waterproof action camera.

I get a lot of emails from people asking what action camera I would recommend for occasional use for paint-balling, mountain biking, etc - that costs around £50. Prior to today, my response has been that the cheapest camera I could really recommend was the Liquid Image Ego, but it costs£100.

If your budget doesn't stretch to £100 then there are very few action cameras to choose from. Perhaps the best camera from a very short shortlist is the the RD32II, but it suffers from a substandard mounting system and a non-standard video format. 

The SJ1000 changes everything. For about £60 you can buy a camera that is capable (under the right conditions) of producing video that rivals cameras costing over four times as much. I'm not suggesting that people throw away their GoPro HDHero 3 Black Edition cameras and get this instead...but if you are on a limited budget or don't see the point in spending £200+ on something you only plan on using a couple of times a year then this might well be the camera for you.

You'll have to do a bit of experimenting to get the mounting options to fit your requirements, but it's definitely worth the trouble when you see the video quality that you can get from this small camera. 

 

WANT TO BUY ONE?

Click on your Country of Choice ... US UK AUS DE NL

 

Here is a folder of downloadable sample clips

I should mention that I haven't shot many 720p60 clips...and you'll only find 1080p on the bike.

The only thing I think that I forgot to say in the video was that when using it as a car DVR there is no gap between clips (as you expect nowadays)...in fact each clip repeats the last second of the previous one just to be sure.

UPDATE - 10 June 2013 - Answering a few questions.

First some bad news - The 720p60 mode turns out to actually be 720p30 (every frame is shown twice). I should have spotted this earlier, but I had only been testing the 1080p30 mode as that's the one I use. iMovie always converts 720p60 to 720p30 so that's why I didn't notice it before...apologies for that. Here is a link to a fast moving 720p clip I shot today.

Motion Detection mode - When this is on, the camera records 10 seconds of video and then stops until it sees another movement. If a movement occurs during the 10 seconds when it's recording then the timer is reset and it records for another 10 seconds. This way if the movement doesn't stop then the camera doesn't either....hope that makes sense.

The camera should be able to be mounted the right way up in a car if the correct mounts are combined....this is demonstrated in some of the ebay auction photos. 

File Sizes: 10 Minutes of video takes up 1.2GB in 1080p or 1.07GB in 720p modes.

The case floats in water and on it's own weighs 66.7g.

The camera itself is 7cm tall, 4.5cm wide, 3 cm thick at the bottom and 3.5cm thick at the top where the lens makes it deeper.

The timestamp can be switched off. I turned it off for the Night Time Driving clips and show this option on-screen 19:57 into the video.

I think the manufacturer may be a company with the snappy name of Shenzhen Hongfeng Century Technology Co. Ltd.

BATTERY LIFE is 2hrs 15mins (Could be 2hr 30 mins or more with the screen off)

UPDATE 29 August 2013 'NEW' FIRMWARE!

I know a few people have been waiting for this - so finally here is the updated firmware that fixes the screensaver bug. If the fact that the screen didn't automatically blank out wasn't an issue to you, I'd suggest skipping this update. If you want to update the firmware, you can download the file from the Files & Drivers Page. Updating it is very easy, but just in case you are unsure...here's a quick video. Beware, if you somehow kill it, you are on your own.

Update 27 Sept 2013

Here's a link to another review of the camera by Tom Hardwick (he likes it).

Update 28/12/13.

This is a six month old review and a lot has happened since. You'll find the cases are improved, possibly the mounts too..and you now have the ability to turn the camera on when it's inside the case due to a different button arrangement. The current crop seem to have a 90º lens rather than the 140º on my camera. That means no fish-eye - but less FOV. I'm not doing any more videos about camera this but.....PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS...before posting a question that's been asked countless times before, it's the least you could do for all the kind people who have given up their time to elaborate on the features of this camera and posted their findings in the comments.  I'll give you a starter...NO IT DOESN'T DO TIMELAPSE...The way you can tell this is because there is no option for this on the screen when I go through all the menus in the camera...and it's the kind of thing I would have mentioned. I tend not to mention the things a camera doesn't do because we would be here all day....you can't clip your toenails with this camera, it can't be used as a flotation device, it won't take x-rays etc..... 

Friday
Jun072013

The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker

I can never resist a new kitchen gadget, even when I have a very good feeling that it's destined to spend most of it's days gathering dust at the back of the cupboard (next to my panini press). 

In order to take a break from reviewing cameras, I ordered a couple of kitchen appliances from the US to review.  I intended to title these videos - "Appliance or Crappliance?" but decided this may be a bit low-brow, and besides I still haven't decided which side of the fence this particular gadget falls.

It accomplishes the one simple task that it sets out to do, and if you live in the US it is pretty cheap ($24), but whether that's enough for you really depends on how much you enjoy breakfast sandwiches. 

UPDATE - Now Available in the UK HERE on Amazon.

Saturday
Jun012013

The Viofo VF960 / G900 Dashcam Review

Here's another dashcam review. Recently I've been turning down quite a few requests from manufacturers to take a look at their car cameras for fear of getting stuck in a rut. However this is a camera that I promised to review at a time last year when I hadn't reviewed any dashcams for a while. The manufacturer ended up delaying this camera for a few months to make some improvements, so when it did arrive, it has come at a time when I feel that I may have already done enough dashcam reviews for a while. 

The links the manufacturer sent me are shown below.

Manufacturer Website

Buying Link

The current price (on 1 June 2013) is approx £72 or $109 USD. 

As mentioned in the review - I won't be permanently installing this in my car, but during the week or two that I was testing it, I didn't experience any problems. Now I can only report on my own experience - but it functioned perfectly for me and it was a nice change to review a well executed product. One thing I should say, I mentioned to Viofo that it was a bit too large for my car - and they explained that by having a larger case, the camera wouldn't overheat. I can't really test that theory in the UK - but any Australian viewers/readers may be interested in this information.

Regarding the fact that I wouldn't want to leave any camera in the window of a parked car, I wonder if theft from cars is not a universal problem. Perhaps in the countries where these cameras are designed, people are more respectful of other people's posessions and would never dream of breaking a car window to steal something. It's just a thought, but it may explain the lack of a quck release mount on most of the cameras that I test. 

You'll notice that this review is shorter than some of my previous car cam reviews - I'm now able to reduce the length by omitting any information already covered in my Beginners Guide to Dashcams video.  

Details not mentioned in the video - The camera records in the .mov file format. One minute of 1080p30 video takes up 92MB.

Here's the link to my downloadable sample clips.

Monday
May272013

A review of the ACT35 Action Camera

I'm very relieved to get this particular review completed so I can finally delete it off my hard drive. This 15 minute video has taken eight months and an unreasonable amount of money to complete. 

For a while now I've been on a mission to hunt out the cheapest action camera that I would be happy to recommend. It needs to be capable of 1080p and encode its video using the h.264 codec. A lot of people would like to buy an action camera for occasional use, but can't justify spending gopro type money on one.  If you are wondering, the current cheapest action camera that I really rate is the Liquid Image Ego that can now be found on ebay for just under £100.

On paper the ACT35 camera looks very interesting. It is capable of recording in 1080p30 or 720p60 and its waterproof metal case, image stabilisation, vibration motor and one button operation mean that it has the potential to be a great helmet camera. Watch the video to see how it fares.....but considering that I haven't uploaded any video samples or provided a purchasing link, it doesn't take a genius to figure out the direction that this one is headed.


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).