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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%! 

 
Saturday
Nov262011

A few short videos about things

Over the next couple of days I'm aiming to put out a few short videos, most likely three. A couple of the videos will be a bit of a break from the norm as they aren't really very tech orientated.

Don't worry though, normal service wll be resumed shortly - I've got the soldering iron out and I'll be able to show you what I've been using it for in a week or so. Also you may be interested to know that the manufacturers of the RD32 camera have been in touch and are sending over a new version - the RD32 Mk2, which they promise is big improvement on the old model (no more purple?).

But moving back to the present...as and when I complete my short videos I'll be adding them to the end of this post. If things work out as planned there should be three videos here by the time I'm finished.

Sunday
Nov132011

A 'black box' for your car.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who are looking for a 'fit and forget' car camera. One that will continuously and unobtrusively record every journey - with no need for any manual intervention. A camera that you would only touch if you got into an accident and you needed to pull the evidence off it. The automotive equivalent of a aircraft black box recorder. 

Well, if you can find a way to hide this camera away in your car then this might be the one for you. The video explains pretty much everything (hopefully) that you will need to know.

Even the Muppets that I picked up a couple of years ago get let out of their display cases to help me explain something. 

If you are thinking of taking the camera apart - I've put a picture below that shows what it looks like without the Suction cup mount and what happens if you try and unscrew and remove the protruding bracket (it contains the wiring to the GPS aerial socket - so you would need to disconnect/snip these wires to be able to remove this section - not beyond the realms of possibility, but also not something that I want to do).

I have also put a couple of untouched 1080p sample clips in a dropbox folder - a 2 min 130MB clip, and a shorter 30 second 30MB clip. Right click and save either of these if you want to test them. 

130MB

30MB

UPDATE - People email me regularly to tell me that this camera is no longer available from Chinavasion. 

A quick search shows that it is still available on ebay though.. 

 

Sunday
Oct232011

Two new videos, A Crystal Watch and an OBD-II Display

Here are two new videos. 

First up, the Phosphor Appear Swarovski Crystal Watch. Not the typical type of thing that I make a video about, as it doesn't have a lot of functions. It can either tell the time or not tell the time and that's it. What it does have though, is an interesting time-telling mechanism.

It can be purchased from here http://www.chinavasion.com/phos/ 

(although wait until 1st November for the price to drop by 20%)

Secondly we have something that's a bit more into my usual territory, and that is technology for technology's sake. This OBD-II LCD Display is the kind of thing that no one really needs to own, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. I know that people really like adding gadgets to their cars and this is one of the more potentially useful ones. It may even pay for itself eventualy, if it makes me drive more economically. I made a really annoying mistake whilst doing the voice over because my brain insisted on saying ODB instead of OBD (I must have dead-rapper-itis). I didn't feel in the mood to re-record the whole thing, so please transpose those two letters for me when you hear them. I've sacked the quality control team.

Again this came from Chinavasion here http://www.chinavasion.com/2f3z/ 

Chinavasion have been selling this since last year - but today it has also appeared on Dealextreme under the name V-Checker A301. Mine doesn't boot with a V-Checker splash screen - but it appears to be the same device. Here's the manual (for what it's worth).

Friday
Oct212011

Nothing whatsoever to do with tech

I thought you might like to see this short video of a street artist I saw whilst in Malaga on my recent break.

If this is of no interest, I apologise, but I wil have a couple more gadget/tech related videos uploaded very soon.

Monday
Oct172011

The Multi-Function Spy Cap

I've had a break and been out of the country, but now I'm back I've been able to finish a review I started earlier in the month.

This review is just a bit of fun, so I haven't done a full in-depth test. I really wouldn't recommend that anyone buy this product, therefore I haven't included any details of where to buy one or how much it cost.

I've already got a couple of new items in to test out, so whenever I get some free time I'll be putting more reviews together,  I'll aim to keep the running time of future videos to a minimum so that I can upload reviews a bit more frequently.

Sunday
Sep182011

The Crocolis HD Extreme Cam - Longest review ever.

This is very likely going to be the only video review I'll make for a £100+ Action Camera and that's because when you get a camera that does pretty-much everything you want, then there is no need to go looking for another. The alternatives from GoPro, Contour and Drift cost considerably more and don't offer me anything extra that I need. I was really just looking for excellent quality 1080p 30fps and smooth 720p 60fps video with a nice sharp fish-eye lens in a waterproof case and an LCD screen - and that's exactly what I got.

The only significant issue with this camera is the sound quality. Normally this wouldn't be a concern because virtually all Action Cam footage gets overdubbed in post production anyway. But the problem with this camera is that the quality of it's video is so good that I am tempted to carry it around with me like a normal camcorder - unfortunately the wasp-in-a-tin-can sound quality means that it's not really a suitable as a camcorder substitute.

I think this might be the best (and longest) video review I've done so far. It's took a lot of time and effort and I think I've managed to cover everything that I wanted to. The only bits of info that may have got lost in the mix somewhere are the video formats - it's AVC .MOV - which imports into iMovie extremely quickly. One hour of video at 720p 60fps used up 3.63 GB of storage, the bitrates are CBR rather than VBR, the battery lasts about 2.5 hours and you can of course charge and record at the same time (very useful for time-lapse photography).

I'll just try and pre-empt some of the more predictable (but silly) questions before they get asked.

Does it work as a Webcam or have motion/sound activation? - No. Why? - Because it's not a Spy Cam it's an Action Cam. It's the same reason why your washing machine doesn't make toast.

If anyone desperately wants to see some original .mov footage from the camera then I'd appreciate it if you could suggest a reliable & free online place where I can post them. One that doesn't delete files automatically after a while. I would upload some 1080p and 720p60 clips, because youtube doesn't do justice to the brilliant video quality - the youtube clips look considerably softer and less vibrant than the originals. I didn't put the review on youtube in 1080p because you need a powerful computer to play 1080p flash video smoothly. *** Update - Clips added, see below***

I have to thank the 'extreme' skateboarding lads in Manchester - I'd imagine that they were more than a little bit concerned about the creepy middle-aged bloke asking if he could film them. Hopefully their Tony Hawks-esque videographer remembered my youtube channel name - please leave a message chaps if you do see this.

I'll be having a bit of a break for a few weeks before any more updates - but I can confidently say that the next video, whatever it is, will be a lot shorter and simpler than this epic.

This camera can be purchased from the nice people at Chinavasion - Here is the link

*UPDATE* SAMPLE RAW VIDEO CLIPS

If you wanted to download some (unedited) sample clips to see the original quality of the video (before youtube has mangled it) you are in luck. Below are five clips, two are in 1080p30 and three are in 720p60. These are not the best framed/shot clips - but they are short enough to share.

If you are playing back these clips, you should download them first (right click) and then play them on your computer in Full Screen mode. I know that on my Macbook if I show the 720p60 stuff in a window then it only displays it at 720p30.

1080p30 Static

1080p30 Panning

720p60 Static

720p60 Panning

720p60 Skateboarders

 

UPDATE 26 September - Important extra info about sound quality.

I've discovered that the mic hole on the front bottom of the camera seems to do nothing at all. However opening the rear LCD screen door does effect things immensely. With the door shut tight, only the loudest sound gets through to the mic (like shouting into a pillow), however with the door open, sound gets recorded at an acceptable volume. It's still rather hissy and metallic sounding, but a infinitely preferable to the water-in-the-ears type sound you get with the door closed. To record sound the door doesn't need to be wide open - just left slightly ajar.

As a further experiment I also removed the dummy screw in the base of the camera but this had absolutely no positive effect on the muffled door-closed sound .

On the subject of sound I bought a small microphone with a 3.5mm plug and found out that the socket on the camera is actually 2.5mm (apologies for the factual error in the video). Luckily I have a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adaptor and have tested out the microphone and noticed no obvious difference between the hidden internal mic and my new mic. So some good news and some bad news - the sound is better than I thought, but seemingly cannot be improved upon (I suspect a low bitrate sound encoder). The sound test in the video when I'm talking into the camera is still an accurate demonstration as the door was open throughout. I may do a follow up video when my second test mic turns up in the post. 

Further Update 26 October

I've been informed (see the comments) that the Sound from an external mic is actually OK, it just needs to be seperated out from the sound from the internal mic which also gets recorded at the same time, messing it up. I haven't tried this out. 

Also that mystery screw in the base is a kind of heatsink (in screw form) - so leave it screwed in.

Wednesday
Sep142011

The Cheapest 8" Android Tablet in the World?

This week Chinavasion rushed me over their latest budget Android Tablet. I say rushed, because they needed me to have my review done within three days of receiving the parcel so that they can coordinate it with the product launch. Well I'm up for a challenge - so rather than take my usual month or so to put together an overly long, complicated and unnecessarily intricate video review - here's what I can slap together in a few evenings. Please bear in mind that I haven't touched an Android device before, so we really are in unfamiliar territory here - oh and I've got a terrible cold so my voiceover may be a bit weird....anyway on with the show...

This 8” tablet is one of the cheapest Android Tablets on the market, and is currently available from Chinavasion for just £64 (+ postage) - it's called the Leotab and the Product Code is CVWS-PC17

Here is the direct link to the product on the Chinavasion website.

http://www.chinavasion.com/wzpu/

Apple’s current lofty position at the top of the tablet mountain seems virtually insurmountable, they have the mid to high-end tablet market all but sewn up. They have however stated that they have no interest in making cheaper tablets with smaller screens. So whilst the Blackberry Playbook struggles on and the HP Touchpad retreats from it's fight against the almighty iPad with a bloody nose – the bargain-end of the tablet market has been left wide open.  It therefore makes a lot of sense for smaller tablet manufacturers to direct all their efforts at this segment of the market.  

There are two ways that a manufacturer can approach the budget tablet market. One approach is to try and shoehorn in as many features as possible whilst offering a competitively priced product, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the Motorola Xoom.  The other approach, the one favored by this tablet is to try and make the cheapest tablet on the market using the most economical components available to them today. 

So what do you actually get for your (rather small amount of) money - well the one extravagance on this tablet seems to be the screen, which is a pleasingly sharp 800x600 8" display. Beyond that everything has been stripped back to meet the lowest possible price. The screen is resistive rather than capacitive, you'll need to supply your own storage memory (on microSD), the wifi is 802.11b/g (no 802.11n),  there's no built in 3G sim card slot or bluetooth, there's no GPS, it's running Android 2.2 and the processor is an 800mhz ARM 926EJ-S (Rev 5). 

How does this translate into real world usage and what can you actually do with a £64 tablet? Well one way of finding out, might be to press play on the video below. If after watching this you decide that you really do need a higher feature count and more oomph, then it's still worth having a look at Chinavasion's Android Tablet range. They seem to get new models in all the time so they might still have one that fits your needs.

Monday
Aug292011

Various

Just thought I should do a brief update, although there is not much really going on. 

HD808 Tripod Mount

Firstly - if you are using the HD808 (or similar) camera you might want to think about doing what John Whatley did and making a simple tripod mount 

To Quote John "OK here it is so simple but it produces great movies with no shake. There is a 4BA screw at one end and I have tapped the other hole 1/4 BSW to fit tripods"

Brilliantly simple.

 


HP Touchpads

 Next - I managed to get hold of two 16gb Touchpads in the recent HP fire-sale. I was going to say that I was 'lucky' to get hold of them, but luck had nothing to do with it. 10 hours of constant refreshing and registering accounts with multiple online retailers and putting things in virtual baskets only to have sites crash out - is not luck, it's flippin frustrating and it's damned hard work.  I only intended to get one, but the website I used was crawling and I managed to click Add-to-Cart twice before it refreshed. After unboxing and playing with one, I liked it so much I decided to keep both.

So in addition to my old trusty 64GB 3G iPad1 that entertains me on the train for the daily 1.5hr round trip commute I now have a lounge based tablet and the missus has the other. I won't be doing a review of the Touchpad - there are plenty of detailed and knowledgable articles already out there, but suffice it to say, I'm very happy with my purchase and if you could possibly get hold of one you shouldn't hesitate (but you probably know that already). One tip that I can give to new owners is that Costco (in the UK) stock a neat carrying case designed for 10" tablets/laptops. It costs approx. £6 and has handles, a shoulder strap, two side pockets and an impact protective lining.   One knock-on effect of getting hold of the Touchpad(s) is that I will no longer be looking for an Android tablet to review. I was contemplating the Andypad - but even I can't find a use for four tablets in the house. 

 

Renault Twizy 

 Third, I've been looking at a small car suitable for driving the mile or so to the station - I've been walking the route for 10 years and another dark damp winter is something that I'm really not looking forward to. I started off looking at Smart cars - but then started thinking about electric vehicles, which lead me to find and investigate the upcoming Renault Twizy. It's a small electric two seater (one person sits behind the other) that is due to come out next spring. I got very close to reserving one, I thought it would be a fun thing to blog about, but then the practicalities hit me. Unfortunately this vehicle is classified as a quadricycle which due to some technicality necessitates the fact that it cannot have full doors on either side. The gull wing style doors on the Twizy are therefore two third length only. This means that the top part of each door, where the window normally resides,  is open to the elements. I don't know how things are like where you live, but unfortunately in the UK anything new or unusual tends to get fiddled with by idiots. Park a scooter at a station and inevitably one day when you get home, it with either be on it's side or missing. Well imagine the amount of attention something like the Twizy would garner, and with those open sides there is nothing to stop anyone climbing into it and messing about inside. Even if people didn't manage to live down to my expectations, there is nothing to stop a family of pigeons taking up residence or cats climbing in there to use it as an outdoor toilet.

 

 So although the Renault Twizy is just not suitable for me (and possibly not for the UK either), I look forward to seeing one on the road. Just imagine the amount of attention you would get from other road users, if you owned one it would be like being a celebrity. I know from owning a Piaggio MP3 that people like to talk to owners of unusual vehicles. If you are the kind of person who likes to stop and chat with people, I can't think of anything.that would be better suited to the purpose of starting conversations with perfect strangers than the Renault Twizy. More info on the Renault ZE site here.

 

ACT20 - New Firmware

Finally, the manufacturers of the ACT20 camera unexpectedly got in touch and supplied me with their latest firmware. I wasn't even aware that the firmware on the ACT20 could be updated so this came as a nice surprise. The new firmware comes supplied on all cameras sold after July 2011. I updated it on mine and it works fine. One interesting new feature that I haven't tried is the ability to record at 1600x1200 at 15fps. However the best new feature is the ability to choose to have the camera auto start and stop whenever power is applied - this feature works perfectly and makes the camera very useful as a journey logger in a car. The link to the firmware is below- the instructions are included, but just connect the ACT20 to a PC and delete the old setup file from the memory card and then run the Firmwaresetup.exe file and Click the Firmware button at the bottom and choose the update.pvf file and then click Setup to overwrite the firmware on the camera.

I tried to import footage onto my Mac that had been recorded using the new firmware to see if the video importing issues I experienced in my review had been resolved. I was pleased to find out that the footage did import into iMovie this time and could be edited as normal, but unfortunately had no sound - however this is still a big improvement and I rarely use the sound recorded on these cameras attached to vehicles anyway, because it's 99% wind noise. One thing I was now able to check was whether this camera suffered any dropped frames, and I can confirm that it records at 25fps, and doesn't drop or repeat any frames - even though it uses the older mjpeg encoding rather than h.264.

I took the opportunity to email the ACT20 people to enquire whether they were thinking of making an h.264 version or a model with a wide angle lens. They replied that the h.264 chips are too expensive at the moment but they already sell a 120 degree wide angle lens version (although I've yet to find a distributor).

So overall I'd like to re-evaluate my assessment of this camera now and recommend it with the new firmware - especially if you use a PC and you can find one in it's 120 degree wide angle lens guise.

Click here to download the New Firmware and associated Update software for the ACT20 camera.

Click this link to see my old review of the ACT 20 Camera - recorded back when I still had a bike :-( 

One more thing…. I will be doing one more action camera review (although it will probably take a few weeks to put this together after it arrives from China) - but after that I think I may be done with these cheap cameras for a while. Now that I no longer have a motorcycle (purely for financial reasons) I don't really have any use for an action camera any more. So I'm at a bit of a dead end - there isn't anything new and exciting piquing my interest from the far east suppliers at the moment - everything seems like it's been done before. So I'm going to sit back and see what happens, just be aware that it might be a good few weeks before you see any more reviews from here. I'm not dead (probably), I'm just saving up for the next big thing.

Sunday
Aug212011

KGB Marker Pen Spy Camera  

There really isn't much to say about this camera that isn't somewhere in the review itself. Although this isn't the perfect camera for me, I know that there are quite a few people who are looking for a camera with some of the features of this one. 

I have had a few people enquire as to whether the lens assembly in the HD808 #11 or Jumbo 808 can somehow be turned at a right angle without snapping the connectors (it can't) - well the KGB camera already points at a right angle to the body. It can also be easily mounted to the side of a helmets by strapping some duct tape around the casing. Some people might find the ability to monitor a recording live via HDMI to be invaluable. The photo quality is surprisingly acceptable and the ability to do looped recording is always welcome. So overall then, not a complete waste of time, but the narrow FOV seals it's fate for me. Another one for the drawer.

If you want to buy one from Chinavasion Here is the Link

if you want to get hold of the Magnetic Fisheye Lens I used in the video - Here is the link to the product on Dealextreme.

Thursday
Aug042011

Jumbo 808 Micro HD Camera Review

I’ve decided to grab the bull by the horns and do something about the naming convention of these cameras because it’s getting out of hand….. let me explain.

If I were to go on Google with the intention of finding a review of the Sony HDR-TG7 camcorder, I’d search for “Sony HDR-TG7 Review” and amongst all the spam link-bait sites, I'd get some results that met with my requirements.

Unfortunately it's not as easy for people trying to find out information about this camera. The manufacturer goes by at least eight different names and they don’t have a homepage. The camera itself doesn’t even have a defined name. The previous model was known as the 808 #11 only because Chuck Lohr had been diligent enough to determine that it was the 11th Revision of the 808 camera. Versions 1-10 had varied resolutions between 640x480, 740x480 and upscaled 1280x960.

Version #11 of the 808 camera was the first one that recorded using the h264 .mov format in 1280x720. Prior to this model coming out, version #3 was generally considered the best one – but most of them had circuitry that was made by a number of different manufacturers incased in the same car keyfob case design.

This latest larger model has already been referred to as the Jumbo 808, the HD818, HD828, the V3 etc. So to make things easier for myself from now on I’m going to simplify things.  

I’m going to call all these mini cameras that use MicroSD and record in HD – “Micro HD Cameras” and I’m going to call the older camera the “808 #11” and this new one the “Jumbo 808”. Hopefully this will make things easier to undstand.

So with that said,  below is my review of the Jumbo 808 camera. I originally intended to just make a brief update – but in the end I decided upon making a full review. So if you’ve seen my 808 #11 review then you'll know most of this info already.

There are two important bits of information below that will hopefully pre-empt the majority of queries.

BUYING A JUMBO 808

Here is a link to Eletoponline 365’s Jumbo 808 Auctions on ebay UK - You will find the camera here.

SETTING THE TIME & DATE

                      &

FLASHING THE FIRMWARE

I've made a video that’s only been posted on this blog – because of it’s limited interest. This video explains how to change the Time & Date or flash the firmware. These procedures are identical whether you are using the 808 #11 or the Jumbo 808.

I put this instructional video together so that I can send people a link to it when I get asked about either of these procedures.

I have uploaded the firmwares used in the video on my Files & Drivers page. I am aware that people were having problems with some of the firmwares I’d uploaded in the past, I have no idea why as they all always worked for me. So again I’ve tested these firmwares and they work for me but I can’t guarantee that these are going to work for everyone.

There are only two firmwares this time to make things easier.

One that creates a new file every 50 minutes and overlays the footage with the Time & Date stamp and another that creates a new file every 20 mins but without the Time & Date stamp.

The stock firmware that came on my camera recorded in 20 minute segments with a Time & Date stamp. 

Now, other firmwares may be available from other places (RCGroups Forums for example) but I’m only going to post these two here. Now, if you do somehow manage to knacker your camera up – you are on your own, so please take care.

 

Saturday
Jul302011

Laser Car Garage Parking Assistance

I put this video together last weekend.

It's a look at a £10 laser parking device, bought from Dealextreme. I'd recommend that most people just use the tennis ball on a string solution if they just want to determine length - but I wanted an inch perfect width measurement - and this did the trick.

Direct link to product here