4 Days later
Not sure how I should begin the little review... no, I'm sorry. I know how: You get what you pay for.
Ok. Granted I paid just Php 1,199. For that amount, I was promised the following:
1) A portable yellow Action camera with
2) 5MP still photo capability, and
3) HD video recording
4) A waterproof case with different mounts
Given that there were at other similar cameras on offer for at least 3x the price (the SJ4000 for example costs roughly Php 4,400 ), I thought I'd take the risk and buy this cheap little thing fairly conscious of potential trade offs. I conditioned myself to expect the worst. In that regard, I guess I wasn't disappointed, though not fully so.
The A7 looks a lot like the GoPro and some other Chinese made action cams (like the SJ4000 as previously mentioned). Unlike the GoPro, it comes with a built in LCD with which you can see what you record. The water proof casing it comes with is indeed waterproof, though I have yet to test it at depth. The basic mounts it came with would allow me to mount it on a bicycle (if I had one), and on my helmet (which I did). Instead of going ahead and buying a new microSD, I opted to try it with my class4 16GB extra, which worked (and saved myself at least 900 pesos too).
The Bad (and not so bad):
Are you familiar with the term "interpolated"? It seems like the sensor itself isn't truly HD, nor is it truly 5MP. So while the final image and video may have the dimensions published in the manual and in the settings, what you get is a stretched image of whatever passes for the raw size. Photo samples below (click to enlarge).
The camera actually takes photos, with burst mode and, supposedly, time-lapse. Technically, it IS capable of producing 5MP (2592x1944), 3MP (2048x1536), 2MP (1600x1200), and 1MP (1280x1024) images. But like I said, interpolated. Click the above images to compare quality when enlarged.
Color quality isn't all that hot, under some fluorescent lighting.
Video recording works as well. Technically, the video dimensions are 1280x720 and 640x480. 640x480 recording isn't bad at all. Acceptable in bright light, passable in the dark (though I heard the same could be said of most action cameras). "HD" however, well, that's another story.
Above videos are meant to be video size comparisons.
One of the features on the camera is called "Loop Video" which basically means it cuts a video into 5 minute clips making the file size a little smaller. 640x480p recordings are cut into 350MB chunks in sunlight, and 250MB night time recordings. "HD"
I think I need video editing software. Those file sizes are crazy.
Alright, so the moral of the story is "keep expectations low, and you won't be disappointed." Or is it "You get what you pay for?"
While the A7 does look a lot like its more expensive brethren, it doesn't perform nearly as well. I keep coming back to the price to justify it's performance. Considering that I paid Php 1,199 (it's now selling via Lazada.com.ph at Php 1,299), did I get my money's worth?
I got a camera that can go under water, capture decent 640x480 video, and usable stills, that I can mount on my helmet to record maybe an hour plus worth of video.
I think I'll reserve a more serious and definite verdict until I get to bring it underwater and test the casing for depth. On paper, it says 30meters. We'll see. I'll post more photos taken by the A7 and Video from under water by June, or on the road within the month.
Should YOU buy it? Maybe if it was your first action cam, and you don't have any lofty plans for the video it will take, and just wanted a toy for 1.2k, why not?
But if you're willing to pay a little more, you could probably go with the 8ten SDV-5271 Action Cam, or if you're willing to pony up upwards of 4400 pesos, you might go with the SJCAM SJ4000.
I've finally been able to test the action camera at depth. The rear cover actually compressed deeper into the body int he middle of the dive. And yes, the casing held and kept the camera dry. Mostly. After our first dive, it became apparent that there was moisture on the front of the body, near the on and off switch. I'm guessing the seal wasn't quite as water tight as I'd hoped. Not that the casing flooded though. Kept it dry enough to survive 3 dives at Apo Island.
As you can see, the videos do turn out super blue as there are wavelengths of light that doesn't penetrate to those depths, particularly reds. The challenge for these cameras would be not having underwater dive filters built for the underwater case, or at least I haven't encountered any.
Underwater Use Verdict:
Did it work? -- Yes. Just keep its limitations in mind and don't expect too much from these Go Pro Clones and you'll be fine.
Was it worth it? -- Yes. Even if the dive case did eventually fail, I wouldn't have felt quite as bad if I had lost the camera compared to possibly losing a GoPro.
Should you buy it? -- I leave that up to you.