Kogan is back for round two in the action camera wars, attempting to tackle GoPro on both price and features.
The original model , released in 2013, was a cheap and cheerful affair no bigger than a matchbox. It certainly had its issues -- such as a fiddly battery and decidedly average still image quality -- but it scratched the itch for many buyers who just wanted an inexpensive alternative to the GoPro and Sony action cameras of this world.
This time around, Kogan is more aggressively comparing itself to the GoPro with the Action Cam 3+ Black Edition (AU$159), especially as it borrows the same naming convention as the market giant. Does this new model have what it takes to compete, especially considering the entry level GoPro Hero (AU$169) is at a very similar price point?
Boxy, boxy, boxy. That's the first thing you'll notice about the Kogan Action Cam when taking it out of its packaging.
Certainly, the Action Cam is not as streamlined as the GoPro alternative, even if the weight difference is minimal. The Action cam tips the scales at 88g without a case, while the "equivalent" GoPro Hero 3+ Silver is 74g without housing.
Want accessories? The Kogan has an absolute glut of mounting options provided in the box. There's the waterproof housing, a helmet strap, handlebar mount, suction cup mount, car charger, wrist straps and a spare back plate for the waterproof housing.
The mounting system is incredibly similar to the GoPro, with a screw-based arrangement on the waterproof housing. This means it's compatible with some GoPro accessories.
Like many other action cameras, the Kogan version is not natively waterproof. Instead, the included housing can withstand depths of up to 100 metres.
Other features come thick and fast, with a built-in motion sensor on the camera that starts and stops recording automatically, a laser pointer to work out the direction the camera is pointing, and a 1.5-inch colour screen at the back of the unit. The screen detaches from the camera body if you need to access the battery.
Even though there are plenty of buttons to play with, operation is fairly simple. At the top of the camera the three buttons take care of the most important options: record, stop and still photo taking.
Connectivity is provided via mini USB and HDMI, with scope for attaching an external microphone. The Action Cam records to microSD cards and can snap 8-megapixel still images.
The biggest design fault is the positioning of the power switch, which is on the top of the camera. Once the camera is inside the housing, there's no way to turn the camera on and off without taking the whole thing out and flicking the switch. Remember to turn the power on before mounting it in the case.
The camera has three different fields of view to choose from: the standard wide view (170 degrees), medium and narrow. Here is a visual indication of what each looks like.
Exposures are all automatic, though you get the choice of three metering modes if you want to delve into the menus, and the ability to toggle ISO sensitivity from auto to ISO 800 for low-light situations.
Image quality is acceptable considering the price. The image is saturated to emphasise blues and greens particularly, which you won't notice when viewing the video on its own, but is quite obvious when compared to footage from the GoPro.
Also, in bright outdoor situations, there is quite a lot of vignetting (darkened corners) at the edge of the frame. Compression artefacts are fairly visible in scenes where there's lots of detail, or when there's fast-moving action. Shooting at 60i only amplifies this with added interlacing effect, so for best results stick to 30p.
Audio recording from the built-in microphone is quiet and muffled when the camera is in its waterproof casing.
On the product page on Kogan's website, the Action Cam is compared to the GoPro Hero 3+ Silver. It's only fair to compare the two side by side, which you can watch in the sample footage below.
This video was shot at 1080/30p on both cameras, as the GoPro doesn't have an interlaced option at 60 frames per second.
The camera has two selectable bit rates, with the highest quality setting averaging approximately 12Mbps in our tests. This is significantly lower than the best quality setting on both the GoPro Hero 3+ (45Mbps) and the Sony Action Cam AS100V (50Mbps).
At reduced resolutions, such as for web use, still images aren't much better than acceptable quality. Zoom in a bit further and you'll find that images look very distorted, with detail suffering from a painterly, smudgy effect. Click here for the full resolution version of the image above.
Battery life is OK, with the 1000mAh unit lasting for about an hour of stop-start recording and still photos.
For those on a budget, the Kogan Action Cam 3+ Black Edition provides all you need to get started. However, those looking for the best image and video quality available should look elsewhere.