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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

 

 
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
Drift Ghost X

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%! 

 
Wednesday
Mar202013

The A8 Car DVR - Another 'smallest' Car cam.

After reviewing the faulty Smallest Car DVR and still coming away impressed with it's design and night-time performance I thought I should see if I could get a fully working version of the newer h.264 model in to test. So I ordered another one and here it is. 

 I didn't do a exhaustive review this time as some of the info was covered in the previous video - I would recommend you watch both reviews as the cameras perform quite differently from each other. This new one records using an h.264 codec in a .avi container (not the .mov format mentioned on the box).  

Given the number of different variations of this model I've provided a link to the auction from where I bought mine - HERE IT IS 

 If you want the older mjpeg one I reviewed previously, you'll have to do a bit of a search yourself - THIS LINK will point you in the right direction. The main visible difference between the two cameras is the absence of a Mute slider switch on the old model. Assuming the seller is using accurate pictures - then you'll need to check the specs to ensure the camera is 720p as there are some 640x480 versions available too.

Wednesday
Mar202013

The New Video Intro - why, what and how.

I know that some people dislike the idea of intros on videos - but I think they can be useful. Beyond the obvious branding function, they give the viewer time to adjust the volume, set the resolution and make the video full-screen. The best intros are also entertaining - like the Luxo Jr animation at the start of the Pixar Movies

My new intro is 12 seconds long and utilises a mechanically created persistence-of-vision effect. I've had this idea in my head for a few months now. To achieve it, I purchased an old mid 1970s reel to reel tape player off ebay (a Philips N4414 which I'll continue to use after this video). The message is displayed using a bike wheel led message display (also bought from ebay - which worked just long enough to make this). My computer no longer recognises the USB component - so no new messages for me.

Because the low-light conditions played havoc with the focus on my Sony HX-100V I ended up shooting this with the Sony HDR-AS15 action camera due to it's fixed focus and excellent low light capabilities. I used it in the AKA-LU1 case so I could use it's tripod mount as well as the LCD screen to accurately frame the shot.

The sound was created by layering tracks up in Garageband on my Macbook until it sounded right to me - I'm not a musician but I wanted a swell and then a tail-off with a bed to talk over.

The overall feeling I am attempting to convey is about having fun with gadgets to achieve interesting and entertaining results. 

If  you are old enough to remember late 70s or early 80s UK children's TV - I was very influenced by contraptions created by Wilf Lunn's appearances on 'Vision On' or the contestants on 'The Great Egg Race'. 

I may have more to come regarding reel to reel recorders because I've become obsessed with them for some bizarre reason.

Friday
Mar152013

Well it's cheaper than emigrating - A DIY Sauna.

I thought some people might be interested in a short video about a self assembly sauna that I put in my tiny spare bedroom. A few of you may not have seen one of these before, because it's not the kind of thing you come across unless you specifically go looking for it. I didn't know these existed until about a year ago when I saw one in a DIY store.

Electric saunas like this are freestanding, powered by a single mains plug and cost a few pence to run for an hour. There are a couple of rival technologies that are used for the heating elements in electric saunas, carbon or ceramic. Manufacturers of both types say theirs is the best. Mine uses the FIR carbon technology combined with an infrared heater. There aren't too many specialist companies in the UK selling self-assembly home saunas like this, but bathroom showrooms are a good place to look for one.

A word about assembly - it comes flat packed and each wall has all fixtures and fittings already attached, all the large pieces just need to be clipped or screwed together and the wires connected between them. The front section containing the smoked glass door was the heaviest thing that I've ever carried up a flight of stairs, so if you do ever get one of these make sure you have a strong friend on hand as well as a good few hours to spare. 

I'm only showing this one on here because I don't think it would be suitable for all of the channel's youtube subscribers.

Saturday
Mar092013

Philips CAM295 - £50 1080p Touch-Screen Camcorder 

Here is my latest camera review. I picked this model up because I was interested to see what corners were cut to make a £50 touch-screen 1080p camcorder. There were a few features sacrificed to hit the low price but one in particular was noticeable by its absence.

However, as you'll discover through watching this video, under the right conditions this camera is capable of recording footage that matches or even exceeds that from more expensive models.

Nevertheless after testing this camera for a couple of weeks I've now come to realise that image stabilisation is an essential feature in my camcorders. If you don't feel as strongly as I do about stabilisation then I doubt that you can find a better camcorder for the price. You can buy one here on ebay. I don't intend to upload any samples from this camera - the youtube clips should give an adequate representation of the quality and at this price it should be pretty easy to decide if you think it's worth your money or not.

- A word about youtube comments. I've decided to minimise the amount of time I spend answering youtube comments. I get hundreds of comments and questions each week across all my uploaded videos and I've now found it impossible to keep up and respond to them all. The most frustrating thing for me is that people are still asking the same questions about two year old videos that other people asked (and I answered) when these videos were new. The way that comments scroll off the bottom of the screen combined with the reluctance/impossibility of reading through hundreds of old comments looking for an answer means that each response I give is only useful for a few fleeting moments. Increasing levels of trolling and vacuous comments don't help much either. Between me and you, as an experiment, just see how long it takes for someone to post a comment under this video suggesting that you should just use your cell phone camera instead, completely missing the fact that this one has a swivel screen and costs £50. I will intend to answer questions for the first day or two after I upload a video, but if things go a bit nutty, like the previous video, I'll probaby bail out a bit earlier.

Sunday
Mar032013

External USB 3.0 SSD from Transcend - ESD200

I was surprised to find that hardly anyone is making external USB 3.0 SSDs. After a bit of searching this device seemed to be the best contender from a very limited selection, so I picked one up and made this review.

If you do decide that you want one of these after watching the video, buying via this Affiliated Link on Amazon helps me out. The Speck plastic Macbook shell featured in the video is also available from Amazon. 

Update - This video generated an unusual number of strange questions and comments on youtube. It was really just supposed to be a review of an external SSD - but many people just wanted to question why I'd bought it in the first place.  I really tried my best to respond - but things just seemed to go down hill. I've now removed all my fruitless responses to questions and have have decided to orphan this video. I think it's probably best if I take a few weeks off.

Saturday
Mar022013

Sony VCT-HM1 Handlebar Camera Mount

I have the intention of doing another video at some point about the accessories for the Sony action cameras. This is one accessory that I didn't end up using myself.  Rather than just file it away it in a drawer, I thought some people may want to see a demonstration, especially since it transpires that it can be used with cameras other than the Sony Action cams.

Saturday
Feb232013

SJ72 Review - plus why you shouldn't expect your FPV to look like a FPS

I regularly receive emails from people asking me what the best action camera is for under £50. It seems that a surprising number of people like the idea of using a cheap head/goggle mounted camera to record their paintball battles.  

Unfortunately I can't recommend any of the cameras I've tried so far and the SJ72 is no exception.

That being said, whilst I've never been paint-balling myself I imagine that it would be impossible to capture any meaningful footage of a frenetic activity like this using a head-mounted camera….irrespective of how much you spend. 

I think that FPS action games like the Call Of Duty series may have given people an unrealistic expectation of what a soldier's eye view of a battle looks like. There is a good reason why real-life head mounted FPV footage is not often seen on TV. Footage taken from a headcam is often very disorientating and difficult to watch for anything more than a few seconds at a time. Activities with smooth movement like skiing and skydiving can come across well, but anthing involving quick random movements like running and ducking will usually look terrible.
 
Even TV shows where cameras are strapped to police officers on the beat only really utilise a few brief seconds of footage taken from this perspective and then quickly switch to video taken by traditional cameras from conventional angles as soon as the TV crew are set up. 
 
So if you are going to try and use a camera for your action activities make sure you have realistic expectations of what is and isn't possible with small body-mounted cameras like these, think about videos you've already seen that work well and why these types of cameras are commonly used to document some activities but not others.
 
Anyway, here's my review of the SJ72.
If you want an SJ72 - Ebay seems to be the place to go. CLICK HERE for a seller.

 

Saturday
Feb162013

Memory Lane 1 - High Street Consumer Electronics, 25 years ago.

I've always been interested in consumer electronics, but when I was growing up in the 1980s finding out about the latest products was a lot more difficult than just clicking on a link to The Verge, Engadget or Gizmodo. You couldn't even pick up a copy of T3 or Stuff magazine, you actually had to go into a town and visit a real shop (remember them).

One of the biggest high street names in the UK at the time was Dixons. Now because my £3 pocket-money was usually spent on a budget game for my Spectrum, I couldn't actually afford any of the gadgets on display, so I made do with picking up one of the free catalogues off the counter. When I returned home from the trip this was my own version of the WWW, I used to spend hours poring over these catalogues, wondering if I'd ever be able to save up £1299 to buy a camcorder, and if I could, which one would I'd buy.

The recent demise of a number of familiar UK High Street chains has made me think back to the days when I'd take a trip to the shops just for fun. Luckily I've saved a few of the store catalogues that I picked up in the 1980s and thought you might enjoy having a look at one of them, so I've scanned it and posted a slideshow below.

If this post generates any interest, I have a handful of these (not all from Dixons) that I can upload over time, so please let me know if you would like to see any more.  

This catalogue is from late 1986/early 1987 so it's more like 26 and a bit years ago...but accuracy would have made for a less snappy headline.

Saturday
Feb092013

A review of the Sony AKA-LU1 Action Cam LCD Screen Grip

I've been waiting for this accessory to come out since I did my review of the Sony HDR-AS10 over Christmas. I'm actually a little bit surprised that it finally got released as I have a feeling that the Sony action cams haven't been as successful as they would have liked and there was always the potential for Sony to just pull the plug on the whole endeavour.

I'm a very big fan of these cameras though, so much so that since my original AS10 review I've now bought an HDR-AS15 as well. I intend to make at least one more video about the Sony AS15 and it's accessories.

You may have spotted that both my AS10 and the AS15 were used during the making of this video. I attached the AS15 to my head with the VCT-GM1 waterproof Helmet mount- which meant the sound quality suffered. I have therefore now ordered the BLT-HB1 Headband mount  which will leave the microphones exposed.

Mr Sony, if you are reading, I've got one question about the missing Mic Socket....what the heck were you thinking?

Thursday
Feb072013

The Smallest Car DVR - So close, but misses by a mile.

The form-factor of this car DVR is almost exactly what I want, compact, neat simple and inconspicuous.

The camera attaches with one wire, doesn't beep (ever), eschews using distractingly bright LEDs, and doesn't have the typical overly-large suction cup mount. It also doesn't have features that I find unnecessary like an LCD display, GPS or LED Night Vision. It just performs one simple role, recording driver's eye view footage all your journeys.

But if it's so good, then why did I remove it from my windscreen the moment my testing was complete. You'll find the answer in the full video review below.

The auction that I bought mine from has closed and the typical selling prices are now quite a bit higher than I paid. I should mention that at the time of typing many retailers of this camera have temporarily taken down their auctions during Chinese New Year. There should be more sellers appearing after the holidays have concluded.

If after watching the video you do still want to buy one, you could CLICK THIS LINK - which will perform an appropriate search on eBay - but when you get there you'll need to change your buying/search location preferences to worldwide to bring up the Chinese retailers.

I do like this camera's external design so I may revisit this model again but next time I'll try to source an improved model that really does record in h.264. I have my eye on this one (on eBay) - which looks like it might be the real deal.

 

Sunday
Jan202013

A review of the Senseo Sarista 8030/60 Coffee Machine

I think I may have a coffee machine obsession. I like a cup of coffee as much as the next person, but I like getting a new coffee machine much more.

I think the attraction may relate to pressing a button which in turn operates a complex piece of machinery, and ultimately dispenses a cup of coffee. It's a bit like having a Star Trek Food Replicator in your kitchen.....although it won't respond to "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot."

Americans call comically overly-complicated devices Rube Goldberg Machines. Here in the UK they are known as Heath Robinson Contraptions. As a child I was alway making crazy contraptions. It seems that some hobbies never leave you, they just get more expensive.

Anyway, what of the Senseo Sarista. Well I love it and I hope it keeps working for many years to come, and I'd go as far as saying that if it were to break, I'd order a replacement immediately. One reason that I wanted to import one was so I could have the first English Language user demonstration on Youtube. I figure that if it does ever get released in the UK then I'll have a head start.

If you, like me, can't wait for an official UK release, you could always do what I did and import your own through eBay - here is a link to some auctions.

The only problem with importing the machine is that the Coffee Bean-funnels are not yet available here in the UK and importing them is expensive. I get 10 mugs of coffee out of each funnel, and I've already emptied two of my seven. So I have to figure out a solution quick or I won't be able to afford to keep running the machine.

I'm not naive though, I reasoned when I bought this machine that someone, somewhere would figure out a way of circumventing the Bean-Funnel's refill lock-out mechanism. As you can imagine, many individuals (coffee hackers?) quickly set about doing this very thing and already seem to have completely succeeded.

After collating ideas from various foreign-language bean-funnel hack demonstration videos and adding in a few tweaks of my own I can now demonstrate how I modified my empty bean-funnels to enable them to be refilled with my sensibly-priced coffee beans. Video Below.