Action cameras. We love 'em. Much like buying new sports gear, owning one makes you feel one step closer to the adventurer you know your true self to be. While we're familiar with more than one contender for the "gnarly throne", who said there wasn't room in the rankings for one more? Veho's been making pocket-friendly cameras for some time, even of the action variety, but this latest edition -- in conjunction with No Proof No Glory (an extreme sports video hub) -- sees it making the clearest move yet towards carving its own slice of the high-octane pie.
The latest member of the Muvi HD family will do you full HD at 30fps, along with 720p (at both 30 and 60 fps) plus the usual other resolutions -- 960p, WVGA, etc. Of course, it'll also do stills (if you don't mind them all being wide-angle) and it'll even just record audio if you like. So far, so good. What really got us interested, though, was that Veho has squashed two of our most common bug-bears with action cameras by including a viewfinder / screen and a remote control as standard. So, with hope in our hearts and glory to prove, we fastened one on and took it for a ride. Scoot past the break for the impressions.
Hardware-wise, the first thing you'll notice is the size. Initially it seems a bit bigger than, say the Contour or the GoPro, but at 2.85 oz., compared to the GoPro's 3.35 oz. (cameras-only), you realize that it's just the layout of the device that gives it that appearance. While the Muvi looks broader, it's slimmer, like a small deck of cards. As for the body itself, you'll find all the things you need around the sides, such as a microSD card slot (it comes with an 8GB card), a voice activation control, HDMI, USB and AV out.
At the bottom is a handy tripod connector so all your existing photography gear will work right away, a simple addition missing in some of its competitors. While the front part just sports the lens, it's the back that will interest some of you more. A small screen means you can actually view what you just shot (or are about to shoot) without reaching for an accessory -- bliss. Underneath this are some touch controls and a click button. The 1,400 mAh battery means you should be good for about three hours of filming, but it's non removable, should you wish to go beyond that.
What is an action camera without accessories though? Nothing, right? Well, it's good then that the Muvi HD NPNG comes with a stack. When we opened the box, our first thought wasn't, "Oh cool." It was more a case of, "Ah man, we'll never get these to fit back in." Mild compulsion for orderliness aside, it is nice to see that you get a bunch of straps, clips, mounts, sticky plates and tools. You can still go and buy more specific additions (like a surfboard attachment) if you need to, but the standard pack will see most people ready to film right off the bat.
As for the interface and software, it's pretty standard. The UI isn't anything special, but it's easy enough to browse settings and options, and all the better for having a screen to do it with. No fiddling with clicking in and out of menus, cycling through options on a tiny monochrome display, or having to use external software. On the downside, you can't access the menus while the camera is in the housing, meaning you'll have to pop it out if you want to view a video, or change a setting. The same is true if you want to take some photos, as the central button, is also the shutter control.
What about those settings? Well, as briefly mentioned before, you can choose 1080p, 720p, 960p, and WVGA at 30fps, with 720p and WVGA also having a 60fps option, all at 160 degrees FOV (non-changeable). The bitrate has been jacked up to 16mbps when shooting in 1080p (up from the previous model's 12mbps), but if you want to save some disk space, this can be dropped to 8mbps. Camera mode will take snaps at eight megapixels with a variety of timer and multi-shot modes. If you want, as mentioned before, there's even an audio-only mode should you find yourself up a mountain without your Dictaphone, but luckily we didn't.
This moves us swiftly onto actually using the thing. The inclusion of standard tripod connections (in both the device itself, and the waterproof housing) meant that we could use it with a monopod, which makes self-filming that much easier. The included remote control is also a godsend. Being able to set your shot up (at arm's length) and then just set it recording is just a gift. Okay, it may only take a second to edit out some fluff at the beginning of a video, but not having to do that, and more importantly, being able to get into position first, then set recording later takes the "go go go, we're filming" pressure off.
We also attached the camera to a skateboard by using one of the elastic straps pulled tight around it and clipping the camera in with one of its mounts. It worked out okay and it's a decent enough option for those times when you don't want to, or can't, use one of the 3M sticky pads, but still want to get that sort of perspective. When talking about video, words are great and all, but some sample footage goes a lot further. In the video below, we shot two runs and edited them together to show the difference a closer point of view (from the board) gives compared to the wider, full-body shot.
The verdict? We think the results are very respectable, with decent color contrast (filming was on a cloudy day) and no rolling shutter effect (which can often be a problem). Around the edges, some pixelation can be noted, but not to the level of distraction. At some of the faster points, there are noticeable wobbles, but that's also likely as attributable to the monopod / self-shot nature than the camera itself. Certainly, given the nature of the filming, it wasn't beyond anything we expected, and in fact came out steadier, if anything. Besides the straight action stuff, we also thought it might be fun to put it through another extreme -- though this time an elemental one. The video below shows us testing out the waterproof case. Sadly, there's not all that much to see in the cloudy drink, but with the lens part of the outer casing being flat, it should be able to get some interesting underwater clips in clearer waters, should the occasion arise.
Now that you've seen what it can do, what it looks like and how it can decorate your attire and equipment, the big question is whether you will be replacing (or reconsidering) your current HD action camera of choice. A lot of that will come down to cost, of course. The Muvi HD NPNG comes in at £199 (about $230 in the US), which puts it some way under the GoPro Outdoor Edition (based on the like-for-like UK price) and that's without factoring in the remote and viewfinder accessories. Sure, you might get a few other options (FOVs and so on), but in terms of the value-to-results ratio, the Veho is holding its ground. The other consideration will be the form. We noted earlier there was more surface area on the front side, and this caused us no problems in use at all. But for some helmet uses, it might be just a little too tall. The GoPro is not much better, but compared to the iON's and Contours, the more cuboid models are a bit of a heave at times.
With size and price down, the main thing left is the quality of the footage. We didn't get time (nor did the miserable London weather permit us) to try the Muvi HD out in the full gamut of situations that we'd like, but from what we did manage, we were generally pleased. The still photos came out a bit on the washed-out side at times, but this can often be a hit-and-miss feature of sports cams. The main thing, and this is our inner adventurers speaking again, was that it made us want to go out more and try it. We wanted to see what other cool shots we could take, or what sports we might try, and in many regards, that makes it priceless. Of course, it's not priceless, it's $230 / £199 and available in the UK now, and the US starting next week.