Owning a GoPro, or any other ‘action camera’ is only for a select few: Sportman, climbers, people with money to spare, long-haul drivers, and the like. Rarely does the average person require blowing the £200 plus for a high-end action camera when most modern phones do the job to an acceptable level.
Well after owning the Sandberg ActionCam 4K during a really convenient time I have to say I can see the benefits. For less than half the price of a GoPro it manages to maintain a relatively strong level of quality for most of its functions. It is good enough for the sportsman, and versatile enough for everyone else. But not for the budding photographer or those who have really any other camera available.
The ActionCam itself is nothing special to look at: A small cube with a lens, no bigger than a box of Tic-Tacs. You have a power/mode button, two scroll buttons, a fire button doubling as the ‘OK’ button, a microSD slot (which is required) and two micro USB ports for charging or connecting to your computer.
But with this comes a menagerie of attachments, around 14 of them. While some are specific to sports such as the bike attachment the most important ones are the waterproof housing (30m), neck strap, computer charging and connection cable, car charging cable, and replacement plate for the waterproof housing. They have covered plenty of bases and you should be able to find a way to attach the ActionCam to whatever you need to.
Now the camera has three main recording functions from the box: 4K at 30FPS, 720p at 120FPS and a 16MP camera function, though there are plenty of other resolution and framerate options available. Alongside this you get some little extras including webcam mode when attached to a computer, and Wi-Fi connection to allow remote activation for those voyeuristic shots you need. Now naturally these are the crux of whether the product is worthwhile, and as such I will discuss each one with a short video and photo to demonstrate my description. Big thanks to mother nature who, the day after I got this camera, decided to drown the UK in snow and give me an opportunity to take the camera out and about.
With 4K you get a pretty solid result. Quality is passable and the overall image is decent. From this alone, I would recommend this as an action camera on a budget. You can see that edges are not incredibly sharp, particularly when viewing the footage back on a smaller resolution screen.
720P at 120FPS is where the camera falls down a little. The image is noticeably poorer quality than the 4K video due to the stretching of the film to slow down time. In a pinch it works but most modern phones will do a better job. Notice again the grainy overall look.
The camera mode works about as well as a cheap digital camera would. I have no real complaints with it. You naturally aren’t going to get the quality of a DSLR and buying it thinking you are is crazy. The ability to take snapshots during filming as well is helpful, and those shots are not of lesser quality on the 4K setting.
So if you’re sticking with 4K filming this camera will do the job, and overall the camera is a simple device to just turn on and get some quick film. Plenty of attachments mean it is a versatile tool, and the variety of filming options gives you plenty of bang for the money. The grainy effect overall is an annoyance but it is an acceptable payoff for the cost.
There are a few lasting niggles with the camera I found with its use. First and foremost it is only really capable of capturing quality images in daylight. The first time I took the camera out was at night time as seen in the 4K video, aiming to get a few cool photos and a couple of shots of snow and the quality was mixed, particularly when shooting into a light source from darkness. The battery is also decidedly short, lasting only about 90 minutes on a full charge. While the sleep mode is helpful during inactivity it does not extend the battery life by much, though you can buy backup and replacement batteries. The microphone is also pretty useless, its capture range is short and naturally in the housing the sound is muffled beyond all real use, which limits what sort of filming can be done.
Overall, the ActionCam has a lot of things going for it. Being sold at around £80 it is really a bargain if you are just looking to strap up a camera and go on bike rides or drive with a dash cam. For high-speed filming and quality audio the camera falls down, but this is really minor against the strength of the other functions as well as the myriad of extra attachments. If you are apprehensive about blowing the £200 a GoPro will cost, or you just want a simple camera to strap up and ride with you can’t go wrong here.