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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%! 

            

 
Thursday
Mar012012

My next camcorder - The Sony HDR-GW55VE

HDR-GW55VE in SilverMy favourite camcorder from all the models that I've owned up till now is the Sony HDR-TG3 (aka the TG1 in the US & Japan) it came out in 2008 and I bought one pretty much the first day it was available. It's a 1080i50 premium quality pocket camcorder.2009's HDR-TG7

The next year, Sony brought out the HDR-TG7 (TG5 in the US and Japan). The upgrades were a Capacitive touch screen rather than the Resistive model of the TG3 and a new on-screen interface, GPS Photo and Video tagging and a slightly redesigned case. Strangely the camera downgraded its 5.1 sound to stereo during the upgrade. I stuck with my TG3, and thought I'd wait for the next year's model instead, hoping for a 1080p upgrade. However 2010 came and went as did 2011, both without an update. The TG7 was subsequently discontinued and I really thought that I had seen the last in the line of these upmarket Sony pocket camcorders. Perhaps, I guessed, that Sony assumed that as now people were recording video with their SLRs, compact cameras, smartphones or their bloggie range, there was no need for a camera like this.

Finally, last month I finally decided I couldn't wait any longer and bought a Sony HX100V superzoom. I needed a camcorder/camera that utilised 2011 rather than 2008 technology. A much wider angle lens, significantly better low light capability, GPS, AVCHD 50p, plus features like sweep panorama and a tilting screen all meant that this camera was the best replacement I could find. After using it for a while I began to wish that Sony had tried to find some way of incorporating this technology into their pocket-friendly TG style case. HDR-GW55VE in Black

Well to my surprise, the 1st March 2012 brought a long overdue and unexpected update. The catchily named HDR-GW55VE. Sony are touting the 5m water resistance as the headline feature of this camera, but to me the big features are all from my wishlist. 1080p 50 AVCHD video at 28Mbps, a wider angle 29.8-298mm lens and 20.4MP stills. Take that last spec with a pinch of salt it's only a 5MP sensor - albeit still a big step up from the old 2MP sensor. Most importantly to me though is the fact that its all still in that gorgeous pocketable case, with the vertical orientation that I insist on in all my camcorders (I explain why this is important at the start of this old video).

So thank you Sony for making my next camcorder, I was beginning to think that you'd forgotten about me.

Update 26 April 2012 It's going to be called the HDR-GW77V in Japan.

Tuesday
Feb142012

The 1080p Jumbo Camera

People have been expecting me to have a look at this camera, so who am I to argue....here is my review. If you want this camera, it's available on Ebay  Price at the time of writing is approximately £38 ($59). 

Moving away from the Jumbo 828 for a minute....I've got to reiterate how much the HD808 #16 camera has improved since my review. I managed to kill off my original #16 camera during testing, so I ordered a new one from  on Ebay and when it arrived I installed the latest released firmware. Everything that I mentioned as being less-than-perfect during my original review of the #16 has been improved/addressed and fixed. If you were to ask me what the best micro HD camera is today I'd have no hesitation in still recommending the 808#16. I really hope that the manufacturers of the #16 manage to find a way to put it into a proper action camera case soon. 

Monday
Feb062012

The Rii Mini Keyboard vs The Lenovo N5902

In this video I decide which of these two HTPC keyboard remotes I like the best. Purely based on the specs, the Rii Mini should have the advantage because of its bluetooth capabilities, however, as is often the case, it's a little bit more complicated than that.

Monday
Feb062012

What's my favourite <insert category> camera?

I often get asked what my favorite cameras are,  so I thought I should put my recommendations in a place that everyone could see. 

Car camera? 

None - I've only tested two purpose built car cameras, one cheap generic model that was supposed to be 720p but was just upscaled 640x480 and the other one, the 1080p V1000GS, worked well for me during testing, but lots of people have since reported big problems with it.

Mini Camera?

The HD 808#16. I may have had a couple of issues with it during my test, but that was  pre-production model. Since then firmware updates have improved and resolved any teething troubles. Second place is the Jumbo 808 - but there is a new 1080p Jumbo model supposed to be on it's way to me and if that does proper 1080p,  has a wider angle lens and a longer battery than the #16, it could claim the number 1 position....stay tuned.

Action Camera?

TIE - The RD32II & The Crocolis Extreme Cam Both produced very good results for me, but both have issues. The Crocolis records totally unusable sound and the RD32II creates video that I can't import into iMovie without re-encoding. Neither are perfect, and your choice depends on what you need to use them for. I haven't tried the GoPro, Stealth or Contour cameras, so I cannot do a comparison with these. If you have the money, you may well be better off with one of these more expensive options.

Pens, watches, sunglasses and other spy cameras?

No idea. I'm not really into spy cameras, it's been a long time since I've tested one and so I can't comment on which is the best.

Wednesday
Feb012012

The Lenovo N5902 HTPC Keyboard Remote

When I reviewed the Lenovo N5901 Keyboard Remote in April 2010, there were very few similar devices to choose from. Back then the Logitech diNovo Mini pretty much had this market all to itself. The diNovo costs £99 and if the user reviews are to be believed, appears to have relibility issues. So when the Lenovo N5901 turned up for less than half the price of the diNovo mini it was a very welcome addition.

However things don't stand still for long and towards the end of 2011 Lenovo released a revised model called (appropriately enough) the N5902. So in this video I'll highlight the differences between the old N5901 and the new N5902 and find out if the new model is a worthwhile upgrade.


IMPORTANT UPDATE 01/02/12 - The USB dongle does infact work on a Mac or a PS3. I stupidly trusted the manufacturer's info on the box and believed that this was a Windows only device.....but surprisingly when I plugged it into the PS3, it worked straight away and even the PS key is mapped to the Windows key. The Mac works equally well. So I apologise for the incorrect info in the video, when the Rii keyboard arrives, I'll be sure to include more information about this undocumented feature in that video, together with a demonstration.  

Sunday
Jan222012

Using the 3G ZTE MF10 WiFi router to solve a broadband problem

Its a good job that I like trying to solve problems....because I seem to do a lot of it. Latest problem...find a cheaper alternative to my father's current broadband setup. His current ADSL connection is only running at 800kbps due to the old copper phone lines on his street. It also disconnects regularly due to interference on the line. He is a very light internet user so data caps and limits are not a concern...but I'd like him to have enough allowance to download security and operating system updates to his PC without concern. This sounds like an easy enough problem to solve....except for the conditions. 

1) No software or drivers must be required on his PC..because it runs Ubuntu and attempting to troubleshoot Linux is my idea of hell. So an Ethernet connection is required. 

2) It should 'just work' - requiring no additional connection steps by the user. 

3) Avoid using his old rusty crackling phone lines. 

Well, luckily for me, Three Mobile stores in the UK have recently started selling the ZTE MF10 home 3G Wifi and Ethernet router. This was the piece of the puzzle that enables me to slot all the other pieces into place. So in theory I can now use 3G Broadband in the home, in the same way that a normal wired ADSL connection was used previously.

So the question is, does is work and is it as simple to set up as just plugging all the pieces together and turning it on? Watch my short demonstration video to find out. 

 

....If you've seen the clip above, you'll see that it does work and it works well. Of course all this relies upon having a good strong 3G signal. Assuming that you do, and your usage falls within the limits there are some other reasons why you might want to go down this route rather than the traditional wired alternative. 

Firstly there is no need for a monthly telephone line rental, you could disconnect your phone entirely. There is no 'installation fee' there is no need to wait in all day for an engineer to turn up in a van. You can relocate it in seconds (within the UK) and you aren't tied into long agreements....etc etc. 

Now of course prices could go up in the future, but they could also go down.  However I think it's more likely that as the average user consumes more and more data per month, the low data user will benefit from cheaper costs per GB.

Anyway, I hope this has given you something to think about. I still need my 50 meg connection. But for those people who just want to stay connected at a low cost and with minimal fuss, this seems like a good option.

Sunday
Jan082012

The RD32II 1080p .h264 Sport Cam

 

General

This video took a lot longer than I anticipated, but here it is. I've uploaded part 1 in 720p and part 2 in 1080p. This was to avoid oddballs asking what was the point of doing a 720p review of a 1080p camera (as happened with my Extreme camera review). However this isn't really a solution to the problem because Youtube's 720p and 1080p video both bear very little relation to the footage that was originally shot by the camera.

I've converted the video and then editied it and then converted it again and then uploaded it to youtube which converted it again - you can therefore appreciate the fact that the footage you see on youtube doesn't really do justice to the quality of the originals. For example, the Youtube clips start off jerky and then smooth out after a few seconds...the originals of course don't do this.

This isn't a unique problem, if you read any photography magazines they are reviewing multimegapixel cameras and printing credit card sized sample shots on low dpi paper. Car magazines don't let you test the car out, AV magazines try and describe sound quality etc etc.... So like those examples all I can really do is give you an indication of the quality, not a direct demonstration of it.

As I mentioned in the video - the .h264 avi files created by this camera could not be imported into my iMovie so I had to spend a day converting them using MPEG Streamclip into .mp4 files. This was a major inconvenience and something that will probably stop me from using the camera again in the future. Now I'm using a Mac with iMovie. I haven't tried these in Final Cut or any PC editing package, so they may import fine into other editing packages.

Downloadable Test Clips

Therefore  to enable you to test out the original footage from this camera with your own editing packages or just play back some unmolested clips - I have uploaded a few short clips. These are all 1920x1080p 30fps clips you can download them here.

If you just want my opinion and all you want to do is film clear sharp HD footage and don't want to edit it on a Mac in iMovie, then I would strongly recommend this camera. I know that I mentioned the footage had a blue tinge, but unless I had put it up side by side with the Extreme cam, I don't think I'd have noticed it and I also wouldn't have noticed how much more vibrant the colours were on the RD32II either. The footage is very smooth without a dropped frame in sight and the sound quality is totally acceptable for a camera of this sort.

More Info

If you want to see the Camera on the Manufacturer's page here is a link. You can look at the specifications here, which tell you things like you can fit 41 mins of 1080p or 720p 60 video on a 4GB card, the recording battery life is 2.5hrs (it's 1.5 with the torch lit at the same time), charge time is 3 hours and the camera weighs 86g.

Photos

I'm really taken with the 5MP fisheye photos too, they can turn out surprisingly well. My technique when taking a photo is to take four or five shots of each scene, pointing the camera at a slightly different angle each time. When I get home I download the photos and choose the best framed picture of each scene. It reminds me of the days of getting films developed and hurriedly flicking through the envelope of photos hoping that I managed to get a good shot or two - but without all the expense. I've uploaded a gallery of photos from this camera here.

Where can you buy one.

I've seen this camera on sale for about $145 or £90 including shipping (budget for import duties too) which seems a little bit high, although it's early days - something like £75 would seem even more right. Whatever you do though, don't get it mixed up with the original RD32, that one takes 720p mjpeg video and isn't a patch on this. Look out for .h264, 1080p and laser mentioned in the specs- and don't expect it to always be called the RD32II either. 

Places I've found selling this camera are below (Dealextreme also sell the mounting accessory pack).

Ebay

Yellow Camera At Dealextreme 

Black Camera at Dealextreme

The Accessory Pack at Dealextreme 

Part 1 and 2 of the review are below - but view these full screen in HD to get a better idea, and don't try to view the 1080p versions on an old computer unless you have a fire extinguisher at the ready.

 

 

UPDATE: 15/01/12 Importing the Video into editing packages - For iMovie users, you may want to try out a piece of software that was suggested to me by a reader - FLVCrunch, an easy way to convert the files into MP4s which can then be imported into the Apple editing package. Also look in the youtube comments for people reporting back with their results when using other software - the clips from this camera are reportedly working fine with Windows Live Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere and Vegas 9.0b.

UPDATE: 17/01/12 I've had a few requests for downloadable 720p 60fps Clips - which is understandable as youtube can only display 30fps as can my editing package. So ..here is a link to a single clip (24mb)....and here is a zip file containing that clip and another five as well (173mb). If your computer is anything like mine, you may only get the full 60fps effect if you view these full screen. 

UPDATE: 01/03/12 Dealextreme now stock this camera & The Accessory Pack (Essential for mounting it to things other than a bicycle) Links have been added to the sellers section above.

 

Saturday
Dec312011

The RD32 is back....along with a new Metal Bullet Camera (UPDATE - Oh, no it isn't)

It's New Years Eve and rather than being at a party, I'm posting my last video of the year (and there's nothing that I'd rather be doing). 

The subjects of this review are two of the three cameras Redleaf sent to me earlier in December. I suspect that they were beginning to think that I'd run off with them because these reviews did take a bit longer than I anticipated. My excuse is that I was waiting for some decent weather - and it's hardly stopped raining since they turned up. That and the fact that the 808#16 also turned up in the post one day before these, resulted in December 2011 being a very busy month for me.

The RD32 may be familiar to you from my earlier review, although this is an updated version, however the bullet camera is totally new to me. Both cameras unfortunately use the mjpeg video format, which in the past for me has resulted in dropped frames/jerky video and massive files sizes. You may recall from one of my earlier videos that I vowed never to buy another mjpeg camera....and I've stuck to that promise, but when someone sends two of them to you in a box from China, it would be rude not to give them a thorough test. Maybe these cameras will prove that mjpeg can produce good results after all.

The length of this video is rather ridiculous - you could watch an episode of the Simpsons in the time it takes to watch this, so perhaps I bit off a bit too much trying to review two cameras in the one video. 

I hope Redleaf don't mind, but It's going to take me another couple of weeks before I get the third of their camera reviews out. I really want to take the time with their 1080p .h264 camera to get some sample clips under optimum (sunny?) conditions so I can really do it justice.

So let me wish you a Happy New Year with a happy new video.

UPDATE 01/01/2012

In the video I mentioned that I would test out the battery life of the RD32 camera with the LED torch turned on. Well I've done that today and the results are quite impressive, the battery lasted 2.5 hours with all the LEDs turned and the camera recording. I still think that this camera would be an ideal road-rage evidence camera for cycle commuters....if only it could loop the video.

UPDATE 06/01/2012

 

BANNED!

 

I've been contacted by another HK company who advises that the RD36 Bullet Camera I reviewed is a patent infringement for one of their products and they've asked me (rather forcefully) to remove my video review. I have no personal stake in this dispute, although I am royally hacked off that I spent all those hours making a video, only to have to delete it a week later. I really don't have the time or inclination to get into the middle of a legal battle between two Chinese companies - and even though I don't think that legally I have to delete the video I have done so as a sign of goodwill. There are some things worth taking a stand on, then there are others that it's best just to let go. I really don't appreaciate the heavy handed manner in which the request was made, but I do understand that if I made a product that I believed someone else had copied, I wouldn't appreciate seeing publicity for that other product. That being said, my review of the camera wasn't exactly glowing, but I suppose even that could reflect on the original product. For example, if everyone wearing fake UGG boots was complaining that they fell apart and leaked then that would probably have a knock on effect the sales of the original UGGs. 

I can summarise the contents of my review here though - both the cameras I tested suffered from jerky video caused by the mjpeg video format used and I couldn't really recommend either one. The RD32 doesn't have purple video any more, if you get the right one (the one without the IR night vision and 20m rather than 30m water resistance). I may try to re-edit the video with just the RD32 part in it, but at the moment I'm concentrating on the next camera review (lets hope there aren't any problems with that one).

UPDATE - The video is back (minus the comparison with the Bullet camera). This makes the video pretty pointless now.

Sunday
Dec252011

Christmas presents... The 808#16 Camera.

I finished editing this video together at 1:30 this morning (Christmas day) - I was more than a bit punchy when I finished, so I can't tell whether it's informative and interesting or self indulgent and annoying, but it's too late to change anything now anyway - so here it is.

If you want to know everything about this mini camera - as mentioned in the video, you really need to get yourself over to the RC Groups Forum and Chuck Lohr's excellent site . On the RC Groups forum You'll even find links to some excellent PDF instructions

Right, I'm off to have some turkey, hope you are all having a good Christmas and you got something you wanted (I'll be playing about with my 3DS after lunch).

29/12/11 UPDATE - Contrary to what I said in the review, it has since been discovered that the Webcam Function does not have sound. This is not the end of the world and I'm confident that no one buys this camera just to use it as a webcam - but I thought you should know.

As far as the FOV goes, yes the older #11 and Jumbo cameras do have a wider Field Of View than the #16- not massively so, but it it there. I tried to do some side by side comparison shots to show you how much there was in it - but unfortunately I've irreversibly managed to mess up the focus on my #16 camera and no amount of fiddling will sharpen it up. I'm going to order another one from eletoponline365, but in the meantime, further testing is postponed.

I bought mine from his seller

Monday
Dec052011

Three New Action Cameras to review

Redleaf, the Chinese company behind the RD32 action camera have been in touch. They saw my rather uncomplimentary review of the RD32 camera and said that they appreciated the feedback as it gave them ideas where they could improve their products and as a result they wanted to know what I thought of some newer cameras in their range. I don't know about you, but this kind of honesty and openness is not something that I am used to. When I picked myself up I emailed them back and said that I would be happy to look at their cameras. So fast forward to today and a parcel arrives with three action cameras inside. These are... 

The RD32 Mk2 - A 720p 30fps camera with 20 metres water resistance and a 120 degree lens (I think this one might have fixed the purple colour problem of the original RD32.

A metal bullet style camera with 30 metre water resistance, a 137 degree lens and 720p 30fps avi video. 

Finally the top of the range model - A 1080p 30fps/ 720p 60fps RD32 lookalike with a 120 degree lens, H.264 encoding and HDMI out.

I will be doing a separate review of each of these cameras, each one will take me a couple of weeks to put together and I aim (but don't promise) to have all three reviews out before the new year. I'll start with the RD32 mk2 and work my way up the range. I've no idea how much these cameras are supposed to cost - but if you find any links to resellers, please feel free to post these in the comments.

Wednesday
Nov302011

Assembling a Solder:Time watch.

There is a sense of achievement that comes from using something that you assembled. Most people will have experienced this with Ikea furniture, going from a box of pieces to a fully made wardrobe takes some effort, but it's a task that most people are capable of and it's probably the nearest many of us will get to actually making something with their own hands.

If you buy the Solder:Time kit from Spikenzielabs you'll get the chance to assemble your own watch. It's not difficult, and I found it to be very satisfying. I like the fact that you constantly get reminded of your handiwork every time you look at your wrist to check the time.

When I got the soldering iron out it reminded me of the first time I soldered a chip. Back in 1989 I bought one of the first affordable Satellite TV receivers - the Amstrad SRX200. It had 16 channel buttons on the front, one for each channel. The problem was when they launched the next Astra satellite, this broadcast another 16 channels but the Amstrad box had no capacity left (due to incredible shortsightedness) . The solution was to send off for a mail-order chip that replaced one in the machine, allowing you to tune into the extra channels and repurpose the buttons above 10 to allow access to the extra channels. That day when I desoldered the old chip, soldered in the new one and switched on the machine to find that what I'd done had actually worked has stuck with me till this day.

I experienced a bit of that feeling again when I put the battery in this watch.

Here is the video showing how I got on.

 

Update - 1/12/11 - Andy from Spikenzielabs has been in touch to apologise for not sending me the sample one - I really wasn't expecting an apology - it was all just a bit of fun. So I just wanted to add that Andy and the team from Spikenzielabs are really nice people with a good fun product and they deserve your custom.