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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
Apr162011

"The Smallest 720p Camcorder in the world"

After being impressed with the 720p HD 808 #11 camera I decided to see if I could find another mini 720p camera, but one that wasn't designed as a covert spy camera. It's still early days for mini HD cameras and the choices are limited but I found a few Chinese eBayers selling a camera called the Y3000. I thought this camera would be an interesting one to compare with the HD808 because the 808 records its video in the .mov format whereas the Y3000 records as .avi. This meant that the cameras were definitely different internally from one another.

The design of the Y3000 is clearly a copy of the Chobi Cam One Camera, albeit with a number of improvements, the most notable of which is HD rather than VGA recording. I was interested to find out if the lens on the Y3000 could be swapped with one of the optional Wide Angle or Fisheye lenses designed for the original Chobi One.

When the specs are compared against the HD808, the most notable difference is that the Y3000 features cycled recording. This means that the camera splits its recordings into short file segments, in this case 3 minutes, and then re-records over the oldest file whenever the memory card is full. Depending on your requirements this could be either an essential or an undesirable feature.

[EDIT] - Now available from Dealextreme - Product Link Here for approx £27

or eBay here -

I suppose most people just want to know if this is a better camera than the HD808. Well it's a little bit less clear cut than that, so I'll try and present the case for both cameras and let you make your own mind up.

My video review is below.

I've got a gallery of re-sized pictures taken with the camera HERE

Below are a few thumbnails of these pictures which link to FULL SIZE unmodified originals.

 

HOW TO CHANGE OR DELETE THE TIME STAMP (info provided by Bob in the comments - thanks Bob)

To set the time and date of the Y3000 you have to put a text file in the root of the SD card. The name of the file must be TIME.txt.

The content of the file is a string of text like this:

2011.11.25 08.12.00 Y

This means "set the current time and date to 25th November, 2011, 8:12am, and ("Yes" ) show the date".

If you were to put instead

2011.11.25 08.12.00 N

This means "set the current time and date to 25th November, 2011, 8:12am, and ("No" ) don't show the date".

So, open notepad, write the string, save to the root of the SD card as "TIME.txt". Put the SD card in the Y3000 and power on the Y3000. That's it.

Tuesday
Mar292011

A look at the Mira Ball Message Display Globe

This is a review that very nearly didn't happen. 

I remember seeing the Olympia Infoglobe many years ago, but wasn't able to buy one as it didn't make it to the UK and the US model didn't work with the UK phone systems. I suppose that disappointment must have been at the back of my mind when I ordered the Mira Ball from Hong Kong. For some reason I wanted one, but I didn't know why. I can now say that after struggling with it for a few weeks, I am now officially over it.

The problems with the Mira Ball were numerous. The software needs Windows XP to run, (it wouldn't install on Windows 7). The pictures the Mira Ball displays are a maximum of 24 pixels tall in  .BMP format and using a primary colour palette.  When I started to look for interesting images that matched this criteria I drew a blank. I don't have sufficient talent to  draw my own pictures. I also wanted to show some animations - but again the only images I could find were animated GIFs, usually in the wrong dimensions and the wrong colour palette.  I tried to convert these, mostly without success.  

In the end, I spent far too long messing about trying to find something interesting to put on the device for the mediocre results that I achieved. The juice just wasn't worth the squeeze.

I nearly deleted the footage I'd shot for this review without editing it, but in the end decided that I should have something to show for the amount of time I'd spent - so here it is. A brief look at a device that I really shouldn't have bought.

 

 

Monday
Mar282011

Why your iPad needs a Matte Screen protector

Recently I dropped my aluminium Apple remote onto my iPad screen. It tore a hole in my screen protector. The iPad's screen itself was undamaged but I was still absolutely gutted, why? Well when I had applied the screen protector a number of months earlier I'd managed to do it perfectly, straight and with no dust or bubbles. This was a feat that I thought I might not be able to repeat and my misgivings were well founded.  The next day I attempted to apply my spare screen protector, completely messed it up and ended up throwing it away.

I decided to make do and use the iPad commando style - and experienced a miserable couple of weeks with the original unprotected glossy screen. The glass screen just felt wrong, fingers seem to squeak across it rather than slide on top, games were made more difficult, fingerprints were everywhere and most distracting of all - the reflections. Oh the reflections, if I wanted to look at my own face all the way to work, I'd stare at my train pass. My iPad had become much less fun and was bordering on being unusable in some situations.

So finally I couldn't stand it any more, I bit the bullet and ordered another screen protector. The same model as before - a Mediadevil Matte Magic Screen Protector. Hopefully this time I'd be able to apply it correctly, the future of my iPad/sanity depended on it. 

Find out how I got on in the video and see for yourself what a difference a matte screen makes.

 

Thursday
Mar172011

The Dotklok (a fun piece of Clock-Art)

I splashed out on a clock called the Dotklok. I bought this via Etsy.com and this was the first time I'd come across this website. 

It tuns out that Etsy.com is a website set up for small business people to advertise and sell their own products to individual buyers. It reminded me of a massive arts and crafts fare, but with cooler stuff for sale and instead of each stall holder getting a small booth or a table, they get a professional looking webpage with proper payment facilities.

I bought the Dotklok as soon as I heard about it, fully expecting the boot of Atari's lawyers to stamp down on the sale of a clock that can tell the time via a game of Pong© (™). This hasn't happened yet (and I hope it doesn't), the Atari brand has changed hands so many times, they have probably forgotten who owns what anyway.

Since the demand is there why don't the people who own the Atari rights, licence someone to make official Pong Watches and Clocks  - I'd buy a Pong watch tomorrow. The idea of telling the time using a game of pong is a stroke of genius, it's such a perfect concept, it's fun, retro and practical, all at the same time….and at the moment, it's a missed opportunity.

Anyway, click through to see my hands-on look at the clock, I wouldn't really call it a review because I'd already made my mind up about it before I bought it.

 

Sunday
Mar132011

My £50 alternative to the GoPro HD

I wanted to find a way to mount an HD808 keyring camera to my motorcycle that didn't involve using duct tape. I'm not very good at making things, and therefore have to instead rely on repurposing off the shelf ready-made products.  

I ended up utilising a couple of Microphone holders and the end result is surprisingly effective. 

Before anyone says it, yes I know that this isn't anywhere near as good as a proper GoPro HD Hero, it doesn't do 1080p or 720p 60fps, it doesn't have a 170 degree fisheye lens and the battery life is poor. It does however cost about a fifth of the price......

 

Sunday
Feb272011

Just a quick video about Bananas

My last few videos have been progressively longer and more complicated to produce. The last two took up all my spare time up for a fortnight. So it feels like the perfect time to release a simple and quick how-to video.

After reading a forum post about AV amplifiers where a number of otherwise very knowledgeable people had admitted to cutting their banana plugs off their speaker wires to attach them to their AV amps - I thought that this tip might be worth sharing.

 

Friday
Feb182011

(Finally) A Real HD Mini Keyring Spy Camera #11 808

After having my hopes raised and dashed in quick succession by a number of "HD" spy cams - I've finally managed to get hold of a real one. It's the latest version of my previous favourite, the DVK808 Keychain spy camera #3, and it's unofficially known as the #11 808 camera.

First a quick word about some of the (non) HD cameras I've received in the past. Some people are still surprised that there are dishonestly advertised Chinese products available. In comments left on my youtube videos, people can't believe that my HD spy pen wasn't really HD, and my 720p Car Recorder doesn't record in 720p - they naively suggest that I must have been using them incorrectly. Surely someone wouldn't sell a jittery SD product claiming it was HD, would they? Well normal trading rules don't seem to apply in China, and to me that's all part of the fun.

If I wanted to guarantee that I got a real HD helmet camera, I could always go and spend £200 on a GoPro or a Contour HD, but where is the fun in that? I give Amazon £200 and they send me exactly what I paid for..... sounds a bit dull to me. I'd much rather send some bloke in China £30 and see if what turns up in the mail a few weeks later. Finding out if  a product lives up to the grandiose claims in it's Ebay listing is a big part of the enjoyment. It's like a lucky dip, some you win, some you lose.

This time I won big..... this camera is the real thing. The video quality on this is astounding considering the size of the lens and the £26 cost. You'll need to watch the video to learn all about this amazing little camera - I will warn you that you may shed a tear at the end, I nearly did.

 

Where can you get one from?

At the time of writing the Ebay sellers who offer this camera are all based in Hong Kong. A few example names of sellers are below (I am not endorsing any of these, but they seem to sell the #11 camera).

 -----> My order from here only took 10 Days to get to the UK!

hxelepro360

power-gps

How can you make sure you are buying the right camera?

Look for the following info in their listings, H.264 .MOV file format, 1280x720, #11 HD car key camera (or words to that effect).

If you see a 1280x960 HD camera advertised don't buy one by mistake, they aren't HD and are only 640x480 upscaled.

How do you change the time?

Here is an example of the TXT file used to set the time. Download this, open it in a text editing program, type over the appropriate time and date, save it and copy it to the memory card in the camera.

Example Photos

It takes mediocre quality photos,  nothing that any modern camera phone couldn't beat. 

Below are some thumbnails which link to the original untouched photos taken by the camera in photo mode.

UPDATE - 21 FEB 2011 - It Lives!

After the video, I retrieved it from the bin and left it on a shelf for a couple of days. I thought I'd give it one last try and put the old firmware back on a Memory stick again. Plugged the camera into a wall charger and tried to switch it into webcam mode. To my surprise it came on and then re-flashed the old firmware. Pushing my luck, I decided to try flashing the date removal firmware again and it worked this time. I now have a time & date free camera. I may even upload the new firmware to the site now.....but don't come running to me if it all ends in tears.

Update 22 FEB 2011 - Firmware!

OK, I've relented. For those people who want to try and delete the Time & Date stamp - the firmware is uploaded on my Files & Drivers page or you can just Click Here to download it directly.  Just a couple of pointers, make sure the camera is fully charged. Put the firmware on a memory card  (preferably using a card reader). Just put the FW96630A.bin file in the root directory - not into any folder & also don't change the filename. Insert the card into your camera. Tap the On button and then wait a few secs - the orange light should flash, wait another couple of secs and then switch the camera off. Remove the card, put it back into your computer and delete the firmware file from the card (if you don't delete the firmware, the camera will just try to re-flash it every time you switch it on). I take no responsibility for anyone who kills their camera trying this....good luck.

(Too many people were reporting errors with these firmwares - so I've removed them)

Update 20 MAR 2011 - Video Editing Issues.

I've come across a strange problem with the .MOV files that this camera creates. iMovie sometimes wants nothing to do with the video files and refuses to import them. This only happens with the 20 minute files that the camera has closed off itself. If I start and stop the recording manually, then the resulting video clip imports fine. So for example if I were to record 30 mins of footage in one go with the camera, the first 20 min clip wouldn't import, but the last 10 min one would. This is weird, its as though the camera is corrupting it's own clips when it closes them. I've get the same results with both my cameras (one with the date stamp firmware and one without). The only way I could get my footage into iMovie was to transcode it first. I tried a few transcoding programs that refused to touch the video, erroring out with unrecognised/unsupported file type messages. Luckily I found that Handbrake was happy to transcode the file into an MP4 which I could then proceed to import and edit in iMovie. 

This might not be an issue to many people, and if the above paragraph means nothing to you then you are probably one of them. If all you want to do is capture video and then play it back through Quicktime or VLC then you are fine - but if you actually want to edit the footage you have shot, you should be aware that it is likely you will need to transcode it first.

Update – 25 March 2011 – New Continuous Recording Firmware

I have uploaded the ‘continuous recording’ firmware to the Files & Drivers page HERE. I have successfully installed and tested this on my second camera. 

This firmware fixes a number of problems. 
  1. It removes the time and date 
  2. When the battery dies, the current recording is now saved, rather than lost. 
  3. Rather than creating a new file every 20 mins, it now creates a new one every 4GB. 
  4. The video files created can be edited as normal - no transcoding required.

A 4GB file will be contain either 50 or 75 mins of video – dependent on the bitrate that your camera records at (there are two versions of the camera, one that records at 7000kbps and one at 10000kbps – the video quality is indistinguishable between them). As the battery life of this camera is approx 45 min, in normal use the camera will record one file until the battery dies. 

If you attach the camera to the supplied car charger, it will keep recording 4GB files until your memory card is full, however if you power it with a normal USB lead, it will only record one 4GB file and then stop recording. This is because of the non-standard way the camera USB power plug is wired. 

Installing the firmware is done in the same way as before – download and extract the zip file. Get the file called "FW96630A.BIN" and copy it to the root of your memory card. Put the card in the camera. Tap the On button and then wait for the yellow light to come on, this should take about 5 seconds. Turn it off again and remove the card from the camera and then delete the "FW96630A.BIN" file from the memory card. That’s it. 
If you ever want to reinstate the time and date – you could re-flash the original firmware – but due to the various drawbacks with the original firmware, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Saturday
Feb052011

My review of the Sanyo VPC-CS1 pocket 1080p Camcorder

Many thanks to Sanyo for sending me their VPC-CS1 camera for review. I really enjoyed my time with the camera and as you can see from the review it is capable of taking some stunningly clear video. I think it offers the best value for money in pocket camcorders today - especially if you manage to pick one up at Amazon for £110.

I just want to say one thing about pink coloured electronics - does anyone buy these? Every year I see the January sales full of unwanted pink versions of electronics whilst the black/silver devices remain at full price. Surely that is an indicator of the lack of demand that exists. For every teenage girl who wants a pink camera - there must be hundreds of adults who would rather have something a bit more subtle. I bet I'm not alone in feeling that it also cheapens the whole range of products concerned, making them associated with toys and fads. It might be crazy - but I think I'd be be less likely to buy a product where a pink coloured version also exists in the range. Anyway, rant over - but I want the manufacturers to realise that for every pink device they sell, they may well be losing out tens of sales in more normal colours.

 

Back to the VPC-CS1, I won't be trading in my trusty Sony TG3 camera yet, but it wouldn't take too much for Sanyo, Sony or even someone else to get me to upgrade - they would just have to bring out a new camera that meets all these requirements. 

Vertical Orientation

Pocket Size

Wide Angle Lens (I'd happily sacrifice my 10x zoom for an 8x if I could get a wider angle lens)

Auto Lens Cap - Absolutely essential for a one handed camera

720p - I'm not too bothered about 1080p in a pocket camera - it's also easier to edit (forget 1080i)

60fps - This would enable me to do better slow-motion.

Decent & quick Still Photos - good enough so I won't need my Panasonic Lumix TZ10

GPS for Photos - I want all my photos GPS tagged from now on

Touch Screen - 

Decent Battery Life -with swappable batteries

Good Stabilisation -

Microphone-In socket - Many people ask for this, but it's rarely included 

Multi Speed Zoom - This should be standard

One Thumb Operation - For stop, start, zoom etc.

Comfortable ergonomic design  

In the video I also indulge myself by stating the case for the vertical oriented camcorder  - this is a very important feature for me and I felt I needed to defend this format. I have no idea why everyone seems to buy horizontal cameras, for me the design makes no sense at all. However people do, and as a result this is what the manufacturers make. The vertical camera design as used in the Sanyo CS1 makes so much more sense to me - and hopefully after watching the video you'll understand why I'm so enthusiastic about this orientation of camera over the traditional style. If you don't want to listen to me going on and would rather see the review itself,  just skip 5 minutes into the video.

Unfortunately I have a bad feeling that the Sony TG5 / TG7 might be the end of the line for the vertical style of camera from Sony.  The last time this range was revised was in 2009 - and Sony now appear to be concentrating on 3D and the Bloggie range instead. So that leaves Sanyo as the last man standing in the quality vertical camcorder game and I await their future models with great interest.

Most companies currently appear to be involved in a race to the bottom and are attempting to make the cheapest Flip competitor - but the way that the cameras in mobile phones are improving year on year, this appears to be a very short sighted strategy. The alternative is people shooting videos using a SLR or Micro 4/3 camera, this is fine for the high-end of the market - but there is plenty of room in the middle for someone to bring out a convenient and powerful pocket camcorder to suit my needs.

Sunday
Jan302011

The £34 HD Media Player

Sometimes you can get a bargain from HK and this is an example. Amazingly this tiny cheap unbranded black box is capable of playing full HD 1080p videos. Even more surprising is the fact that it will down-mix DTS soundtracks into stereo so they can be played back in stereo via an HDMI lead on a normal TV and this is something that my old Popcornhour NMT A-100 media player couldn't do. 

I currently use Boxee on my Mac Mini or my Revo 3610 for viewing MKVs  - so I only bought this box to test it out. I already have someone who is waiting to take this device off my hands. It's exactly what he needs - he doesn't care about network streaming and doesn't have an AV system and therefore is unable to decode DTS soundtracks. Until recently he was viewing MKV videos on his PS3 - splitting them into two halves so they would fit within the 4gb limit of the FAT file format the PS3 supports and also re-muxing the sound from DTS into AC3. Its definitely worth £34 for him to avoid all that hassle. 

I ordered my media box before Christmas and turned up in January.  If you want to order one of these yourself - it came from DEALEXTREME.COM and the SKU (product number) is 50567 (type this into their search box to find it yourself.

 

Tuesday
Jan252011

Possibly my most useless video yet (unless you own a Mini)....

I found when I went looking at cars inside a dealer showroom that they all seemed easier to get into than my car at home. I realised that the cars I tried all had their windows wound down, so I went home and tried to get into my car with the windows down and found that it made it a lot easier. The difficulty was finding how to wind them back up from outside the car. When I figured it out I had the idea to post this video for a while but was a bit apprehensive in case everyone were to say that they knew this already, that it was obvious and made me look daft.

In the end I made this video for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I think that this tip might be actually useful to a handful of people across the world (but only a handful). Secondly I am testing a camcorder out.

Sanyo have been kind enough to lend me a Xacti VPC-CS1. I am currently collating some footage for a review and I thought what better idea than to create another youtube video using the camera itself. That way I can see how the Xacti HD footage works with iMovie. 

So unless you own a BMW Mini and regularly park it in a narrow space this video probably won't be of use to you - unless perhaps you instead want to see how the Xacti VPC-CS1 copes in the low light conditions inside my garage.

Full Sanyo Xacti VPC-CS1 review coming in a week or two....

 

 

 

 

Friday
Dec312010

Car DVR Review part 2

In a bit of a departure I've made a 'part 2' to a video review. I've included a demonstration of a few features that I missed out in part one,  a comparison with the DVR D011 and shot some night footage. I think I've exhausted this camera now - and there might be a bit of a break before I post up my next video. I hope everyone has a happy new year.