It’s exhilarating capturing video from action sports or adventures like mountain biking, white water rafting, scuba diving, skydiving and other intense sports. Sometimes it is also fun to capture footage on a stroll around a festival site, a leisurely hike through a mountain pass or even a back-road trip on a 4×4, snow mobile or a Jeep. Yet unless one was willing to drop a couple hundred dollars, there really has not been an affordable action camera for the occasional user. Until now.
Monoprice’s MHD Action Camera is one of the most affordable POV camera yet. Opening up action videography to a huge market (that may only be a sporadic user and unwilling to spend $200-$400 on offerings from GoPro, Sony and others) the Monoprice camera doesn’t skimp on quality, durability, or ease of use. Offering 1080p HD video in a fully waterproof body with good battery life and a compact, lightweight form factor, this camera is quite amazing for a little less than $100. Read on the view examples of videos and learn more about this camera.
In A Nutshell: This is a bullet-style action camera weighing less than four ounces and able to record three hours of video at up to 1920×1080 resolution on a single charge. Fully waterproof to 30′ deep along with being shock, dust and freeze proof allow you to record practically anywhere your adventures take you. An intuitively designed recording slider switch allows for quick recording on the fly even under intense conditions. The video quality is very good at 30 frames/sec. and 24-bit color depth. An included handle-bar or pole mount coupled with the standard 1/4″ threaded mount allow for many mounting options. Optional helmet, suction and board mounts are sold separately.
Use: Charge the camera with the included USB cable and insert a micro-SD card (not included) into the slot and you’ll be ready to shoot three hours of video on a single charge. The top slider initiates recording and is accompanied by a relatively strong vibration so you can be sure you are recording if you can’t look at the recording LED indicator (say, if mounted on your bike helmet). All the settings are accessed through a utility program when connected to your computer. Barring a toggle switch that changes between 720p and 1080p, there are no settings or switches on the camera to be accidentally bumped or switched to ruin your recordings. An HDMI output allows for viewing on any monitor you want. You can also simply mount your camera as an external storage device to your computer and drag your files over and do what you want with them like any other digital camera. Likewise, you can of course remove the micro-SD and insert into anything else you want. The quality switch, USB port and HDMI port as well as the SD card slot are all located behind a small cover that twists on and off and locks into place.
[Back of camera with locking cap in place and attached to quick release mounting adapter]
Video & Sound Quality The video is surprisingly high quality for a video camera of this price and size. The 1080p HD resolution provides not only great detail but also fantastic colors with great saturation. Filming outdoors with plenty of light provides the best results offering bright blue skies, lush green grass and intricate detail with no digital noise or other aberrations. Filming under low light situations, the quality becomes less pristine but still acceptable. The frame rate is only 30 frames per second, so with extremely quick movement or jarring camera movements, you’ll get some wobble effects. Likewise, there is no anti-shake built into the camera, so if you have excessive shakiness, you may need to use a video editing program to take care of that. Below, is an example of video when driving with the camera attached to the front bumper of a Jeep with the included bar mount and then hand carried for last minute or so. You’ll notice great colors, nice detail and minor shakiness here and there. The field of view is about 120 degrees which is relatively wide but not quite as wide as more expensive competitors. (No post processing has been done to any of the video files embedded in this column except for adding a music track.)
[Attached to bumper of Jeep]
The audio quality is acceptable and what you would expect from a waterproof camera or mobile phone. The microphone is very sensitive and can pick up dialogue and other quiet sounds relatively clearly. Even loud sounds like boat motors come across clearly and not blown out. Don’t expect stereo recordings that you’ll want to listen to solely for the audio quality. In other words, the mic is great for capturing your action event but not for archiving concert audio.
[Underwater yields great results also – rich colors and fine details]
Build Quality and Design: I love the design of this camera. A simple slider for recording with great form factor and lightweight. The included bar mount and the other optional mounts all click into place with a satisfyingly loud ‘click’ to give you the assurance your hardware is mounted properly. The design of the mounts allow you to quickly change from mount to mount if needed without any hassle. While the camera feels sturdy with it’s one piece design, much of the body is made from plastic. Tough to test a device for longevity in a short time, but the limited amount of abuse I was able to direct towards the camera was all taken in stride. Only time will tell how much abuse the camera can take, but early indicators are quite good.
Other Things to Know:
- The Action Cam can also be used as a regular camera with a shutter release button right in front of the recording slider. A press of the button snaps a picture of relatively good quality and 5 megapixels. (Example below)
- The lens has a sensor and will automatically adjust your video 180 degrees if you have to mount it upside-down so playback is orientated properly. If you have to mount your camera at 90 or 270 degrees, you’ll have to edit your video in post-production.
- You can use the Action Camera as a web-cam but only for 32-bit Windows systems.
- Besides the mount, other included accessories consist of a wrist strap, neoprene carry case, and USB cable.
- The optional suction mount is extremely powerful and offers quite strong suction power.
[Sample Picture taken with camera]
Drawbacks: In addition to the framerate, which is good, but not great, and camera shake and rolling that can happen in some circumstances, there’s a few other things to be aware of as well. The battery is internal (like an iPhone) and can’t be changed. This obviously could be an issue if you wanted to take it into the field for a multi-day event or hike. You’ll need to bring an external power supply (like Monoprice’s very own external charger) as you can’t merely bring along a few extra batteries. Also, talking about the battery, there’s no battery life indicator. The LED will start flashing if your battery is low, but other than that, there’s no way of knowing how much life you have left in your battery which can be disconcerting when heading out for a shot and not knowing how long you’ll be able to shoot for.
Finally, I found the various mounts (board, helmet and suction) a bit confusing. The parts come in a small box with no instructions or even pictures of how the parts are supposed to work and they are not intuitive in the least.
Bottom Line: The Monoprice Action Camera is a great choice for a POV camera for people not needing more expensive offerings and looking for an outstanding value. HD video quality is impressive and will allow you to relive your adventures without breaking the bank. No additional enclosure is needed for waterproofing so you can take it underwater or to the top of a frozen mountain.
MHD Action Camera $98.88
— WIN! — Interested in shooting some great action footage with your very own Monorprice Action Camera? The rules are simple. Just leave a comment here to be entered and promise to send us some of your video if you win. Tweeting or “Liking” the column is not necessary to enter, but as always, very much appreciated.
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