Thursday, February 19, 2015

Product Review for Emerson Go Action Cam

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If you are reading this review, you know that I like to video nearly all of my outdoor adventures. Whether it's fishing, hunting, skiing, or just using it as a convenient way to capture family memories, these pocket cameras are the way to go.

Regardless of which you use, you need to read my writeup on the tricks and tips of using these cameras:

Tips and Advice for Videoing Your Fishing Trips



Of course, there is the issue of cost. The number 1 name of pocket cameras is GoPro. And, I have learned over time that you are usually best served to buy the top of the line model. If you buy a GoPro and all the hardware you need, you are looking at a $500 investment, which pushes a lot of people away. 

The best option I have found, price-wise, was the Emerson Go Action cam. Here is a direct link to the Emerson sales page on Amazon:




The first thing that will stand out to you is the price. At $52, it is drastically cheaper than a GoPro. It comes with most of the tools you need, just as the GoPro does. And, like the GoPro, the most notable item missing is the most useful and flexible one: The suction cup mount, shown below. Now, this is the GoPro name brand. There are much cheaper options. But, this one is hearty and well worth the money. I have two. Just make sure you keep a close eye on the hardware, as it gets loose and is easy to lose. 
 


Ok, so let's talk about the camera. First off, my uncle got this for me for Christmas, so let me thank him for that.

Here are the specs for the Go Action Cam, which only comes in 1 model:
  • 720P HD Video Allows You To Shoot High Resolution Videos For Your Extreme Sport Actives
  • Includes Waterproof Case, Camera Shield, Bike Mount, Helmet Mount, Helmet Band
  • 5.0 Megapixels Provides Crystal Clear Images With 4X Digital Zoom For Higher Focus
  • 1.77" Color LCD Display So You Can See What You Are Shooting
  • Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery, Micro SD Card Slot For Memory Expansion

Unlike GoPro, who only adds a digital viewing screen to their higher end models in the GoPro Hero 4, the Emerson has a color screen. This allows you to easily select your settings and set your viewing angle without guessing or having to review prior footage. 

Speaking of settings: the Emerson is much more intuitive with the menus and button selecting techniques. Where GoPro uses a series of 2 buttons to scroll and select, The Emerson has a "menu" button, an "up" and "down" button to scroll, and it uses the "capture" button on top of the camera for "select." It also highlights your selection to let you know exactly what you are selecting. In my experience, this is preferable, as you can unknowingly change settings or delete files from a GoPro without ever knowing what you selected. 

The camera comes with a maximum 720p video resolution, which is the lowest resolution you can use on a GoPro. The GoPro has up to a 1080p resolution. To be honest, I use the different resolution options on the GoPro to widen or shorten the viewing area only. I don't see much of a functional difference in the video resolution in terms of quality. I do see drastic differences in file size and battery life, however. The Emerson only has a few other choices.

Like the different models of the GoPro, there are only a few framerate choices and each are dependent on the resolution. For example, there are no frame rate choices under the 720p. Under the 480 resolution, you can select 30 or 15 frames per second. Honestly, I wouldn't bother using anything OTHER than the 720p resolution. The rest are too low to bother with. At least on the GoPro, you have some flexibility to dictate file size and battery conservation and still have useful settings. 

The Emerson has a 5MP resolution camera for still shots, as compared to the 12MP resolution for GoPro. That's a fair disparity, though I never use the still shot capability, anyway. 

The Emerson uses an internal battery, as opposed to a removable battery in the GoPro cameras. I don't like that, because you will have forced downtime to recharge. With a GoPro and a set of batteries, or a hard-wire kit such as the Cam-Do HardWire setup, you can shoot all day. So, personally, I don't care for that. That being said, the battery holds charge EXTREMELY well between uses. I charged it after Christmas and it still had enough charge to shoot a vacation 2 months later. 

I have not tested the waterproof case for the Emerson, but I will say that it doesn't look as sturdy or hardy as the GoPro waterproof case. Additionally, you cannot get a "skeleton" case, which allows you to protect the camera in a case while getting sound. That's a big bummer to me. Additionally, the side of the Emerson, which is used to access the memory card and micro-USB connection, doesn't have a waterproofing panel like the GoPro uses, though most GoPro users lose it. 

The Emerson does have a digital zoom. It is very functional for really zooming in on something close. It is not useful at zooming something outside of a 10 yard range. The picture quality degrades drastically with use of a longer shot. In my use, it is perfect to pull the view in close onto a fisherman on the deck of a boat from the mounting point on the console or the engine cowling. It would be useless for zooming in on action further than the front of the boat

I haven't done much dropping or battering of the Emerson, but I have with the GoPro. Judging by the reviews I have seen and the fact that 1 of the 2 cameras my uncle bought were DOA, I don't imagine the Emerson will stand up to beatings like the GoPro. 

The Emerson doesn't handle motion nearly as well as the GoPro. I don't know if it's an internal stabilizing software or a hardware issue, but the Emerson is jumpy while the GoPro produces smooth video under dynamic conditions. If you plan on set shots, then it won't matter. If you plan on mounting on a bike or car....good luck.

The Emerson doesn't use wifi as the GoPro. While the wifi drains battery on a GoPro, it is an invaluable tool. 

Conclusion

The Emerson is inferior in most every way to a GoPro. However, it is a designed condition, which keeps the cost down per unit. The camera is very functional and is a great buy for those on a budget, or who may want a sacrificial camera. I do acknowledge that there are some issues with manufacturing causing DOA conditions, but mine was not. The image produced is acceptable. The use of the unit is easy. And, for the price, it makes a great addition to your collection, though I wouldn't use it as a primary source of footage.