Cameras. There’s not actually much to choose from in terms of their differences. If they work and record footage that you’re happy with that is surely most of what matters. Whether you WANT a camera is, of course, one of the more interesting questions. If you just want to record the odd thing, take it underwater on holiday or, for the more hardcore, show how you nail that gnarly downhill then great. But, I suspect, most buyers are joining that section of society that records their commute. And, why not? We’re not vigilantes, how can having evidence of the happening of a thing be a vigilante action? And with the actions of the West Midlands Police and latterly other police forces there’s a much better chance that your video will be accepted as actual evidence in relation to an allegation. But, there’s a risk. A risk that having that camera on your bike makes you more likely to be looking for trouble, more likely to seek righteous confrontation. Whatever. Don’t be too obsessive about it.
Though what you need isn’t really complicated, what you can buy certainly can be. £25 on ebay will get you something from China that will arrive in a few weeks. £400 the latest Go Pro. But choose also from Garmin, Sony, Kitvision, Muvi and the plethora of brands which, basically, all look the same.
In the Apeman A70 you’re more or less looking at a Go Pro Hero 4 (Silver) shorn of its front screen. It is, if we’re being respectful, at least a Go Pro clone or more harshly, a rip off. But then their cloning is our gain as long as what we’re getting is a good camera. And look at that price. £60. You can do away with the Wifi and get the A70 for £45. Or add 4k on the A80 and get one for £99. Consider that your equivalent Go Pro is £150 to £400 and these look like a bit of a bargain. Assuming that they perform, of course.
So, specs, well. It’s 1080p at 30fps or 720p/WVGA etc. That’s not earth shattering. Move up to the 4k model and you gain 60fps recording modes on the 1080/720p modes and 24fps on 4k. Depending on your view of frame rate it might be a price worth paying. Selecting these higher options will fill up a memory card far more quickly.
But this model is no slouch, so let’s take a look at the features you get as standard.
Two detachable batteries
12-MegaPixel CMOS HD 170° wide-angle lens
Micro SD support up to 32GB (128GB on the 4k version)
Multiple video recording formats: 1080P 720P WVGA
Multiple photo shooting modes: Single shot, Snapper
Lens: 170 degree + HD wide-angle lens
Video Format: MOV
Compressed Format of Videos: H.264
Resolution of Photos: 12M / 8M / 5M
USB Interface: USB2.0
Power Source Interface: 5V/1A
Battery Capacity: 900mAh
Recording Time: 90 minutes (per battery)
Charging Time: About 3hours
Dimension: 59.27x 41.13 x 29.28
APEMAN Sport Action Camera
Specialized Portable Package
Bicycle Stand, Base 1, Base 2, Clip, Fixed Base
Switch Support 1, witch Support 2, Switch Support 3
Adapter：Helmet Base , Bandage, Ribbon, 3M Adhesive Tape
Wire Rope, Data Wire, Manual, Wiper
It’s a pretty comprehensive package. There’s a tidy storage case to keep everything together. And, whatever your sport, there should be some sort of holder there to mount your camera. All except cycling. That’s not fair perhaps. Most cameras come with this sort of mount. And they are, in my view, rubbish. For a start you need to install the main part on the bars, and fitting isn’t always possible due to oversize bars. Then you need to attach another connector to right angle it before then installing the camera. It’s a ball ache. So, whenever you buy a cam, you instantly head out and buy this sort of thing. It makes installation easier, you get the camera out of the way of the bars, sorted. What looks like a very useful set of accessories is devalued a little by this common omission.
And if you want to dabble into the wider range of water sports etc, then hop over to Amazon, spend fifteen quid or so and you can buy an array of floats and additional attachments for all sorts of things. Interestingly Go Pro seem to be going off in a more square direction now so these ‘clones’ and the original Go Pro cams are really the only ones that use this sort of housing. There are already ‘clones’ which ape (sic) the look of the new Go Pro session cameras as well.
The housing is suitably robust. The mechanism has a slide release lever which pops the cover open which is a better design than the original Go Pro case in my view. Being waterproof it kills the sound stone dead so, on non rainy days, you will need an open skeleton case and that, once again, costs more. This sounds negative. It’s not, if you’re a cyclist you really do need a better mount and an open face case.
I’ve used an upright camera mount of this type. That makes it all rather upright. If you use the out front mount you can angle it down and get the camera under or level with the bars.
The camera itself is an unremarkable square. A power button to turn on and cycle through the modes. An ‘ok’ button to record. Buttons down the side to control menu functions and an SD and charging slot. The battery lives underneath and is released by opening a small door.
It’s all rather straightforward. Menu functions are controlled by a series of button presses.
Then, there’s the App. The recommended one is Final Cam and, to be honest, it just isn’t very good. Crude, clunky but it does let you monitor what the camera sees and change settings. You can transfer files, but, more of that later. Other apps should work with it but, again, most are rubbish. But, are they all rather beside the point? You see, I’m not actually all that interested in WiFi transfer or remote setup when I have an LCD screen. I’m more inclined to take out the SD card, select the physical files and format. And in terms of setup using the LCD screen is a breeze once you get used to it. So, I’m not really sure that, for me, given my proximity to a PC most of the time, I really want the Wifi. I could therefore take the hit and get the £45 version which only really does away with Wifi but keeps the LCD screen. But, the thing is, you just get more stuff with the £59 one including a spare battery and, once you add another battery, you may as well get the A70 in the first place.
There are a plethora of settings that aren’t really worth exhausting but, in terms of what’s important, you get full 1080p HD recording at 30fps, cyclic record, a fairly good (but not great) anti shake system and a few other bits and pieces. Cyclic record lets you chunk up the files into 10 minute (or lower) segments. As the memory card fills it will start to overwrite the older files first. That’s a non issue on any reasonable ride as the recording capacity of a 32gb card is around 5 hours which is 3 hours longer than the two batteries will last. Bear in mind that’s the largest size card that’s supported, the A80 (4k) will take a 128gb card. With 32gb cards coming in at a tenner now, carrying a spare is also a non issue. Battery charging takes about 3 hours and progress is indicated on the screen. The first time I used it, it indicated full. On each subsequent occasion the progress bar continues to cycle so I did find that aspect temperamental. Stick a timer on and wait 3 hours, I guess.
If you’re remotely interested the extension created by the file is a quicktime compatible .mov file. The code is h.264 and the sound is recorded in linear PCM. So opening a file on my Mac defaults to Quicktime but, of course, it will play on other players such as VLC and uploading to youtube does not require prior conversion.
None of this is remotely all that important. All that matters is the quality of the footage and, in that respect, I have been a bit unlucky with the weather. So, here is some footage on some of the more grim recent days in crappy light.
It’s pretty good and, in my experience of my old Go Pro (which you can find by clicking through to my channel above) at least comparable. Indeed, my thoughts are that it handles road surfaces a little better with slightly less pixelation. I’m hoping for some brighter, sunnier days to test it a little more in due course. Do also bear in mind that there’s an inevitable drop in quality when uploaded to youtube as well. You’ll also note that the sound is dreadful and, in my view, slightly below the Go Pro in that regard. If you do get cut up then you have to shout very loud indeed to recite the registration plate. Again, an open case would take care of this but introduce inevitable wind noise.
So, better than a Go Pro? Yes and No. There are definitely rough edges here in terms of the App and things like battery charging. In terms of the OS that works as well as any other camera I’ve tried. Quality is good, it certainly compares in that respect and, if you forego Wifi and the App, you pay as little as £45. I still think that the £60 version is the better one due to the presence of that spare battery. You will need an SD card or so. So your total investment with mounts is going to be £80 or so, just under half the cost of the cheapest Go Pro to which you will still need to add some stuff. That one will record 1440p mind. But then the £90 Apeman will do 4k.
It’s a good camera at the price. The image quality is good but there are effects when panning and at speed. As a record for safety purposes it’s excellent, as a record of treasured memories it’s probably slightly less successful. That said, the quality when standing still is not far off my Galaxy S7 and, when moving, it’s more adept at capturing detail. In comparing my Go Pro Hero 3 footage I’d say that they come out fairly equal overall. And, in the end, it boils down to that choice. If you want a good performing cheap camera this works very well. If you want the best, buy the best, but do be prepared to pay for it.
EDIT: Turns out there is a skeleton case, of sorts, so I’ve rigged it up ready for some dry action tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes and post some better footage in better audio conditions.
I headed out to take some more footage. The Apeman likes daylight, it likes sun. It’s ok in flat light. It doesn’t like sunset at all mind as is evident in the second video below. It’s also rubbish in the dark (most of them are though). So those to me are the limitations. As you can (hear) see the skeleton case makes the audio much much better.