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When Monoprice announced the MHD Sport Wifi action camera in November 2013, it was pretty hard to ignore that it looked an awful lot like the DXG IronX HD.
And that's because it is the IronX HD -- or at least a version of it. While Monoprice doesn't discuss its manufacturer partners, a quick look at the EXIF data of a photo taken with the camera confirms that it's a DXG 5G9V.
Like that camera, the MHD Sport Wifi is more attractive for what you get for your money than the quality of its video and photos. However, the video from the Monoprice looks a touch better than the DXG branded model. Also, although it started out priced at $178, Monoprice frequently puts it on sale for less. At the time of the review, it was down to $150.35, which includes everything you'll need to get you started except for a microSD card for storage.
The MHD Sport is similar in design to a GoPro in that it's a tiny, boxy camera that needs a housing of some sort in order to be mounted. In this case, you get a waterproof housing that's good down to nearly 200 feet (60 meters) with both closed and vented backs, so audio isn't always muffled when you're shooting out of the water.
The housing's bottom and back have T-tip adapters built in so that the housing can easily be attached to the included T-tip swivel plate. This plate then slides into the curved or flat adhesive fittings that are included for mounting the camera to different surfaces.
The T-tip adapters also have slots that you can feed a Velcro strap (included as well) through for attaching the camera to a vented helmet. There are antifog strips to help prevent, um, fogging when the camera is sealed up in the housing; a Micro-USB; a USB power adapter for charging the camera; a security tether; and a lens cap. And to top it all off, there's a simple RF wrist remote that lets you start and stop recordings and take pictures (there are colored LED lights on the camera's side let you know when you are recording).
If you're worried that because this isn't a GoPro there will be a shortage of mounts, don't be. Monoprice sells several options that use the T-tip adapter mount (head, chest, handbar, rollbar, rail, and suction cup) as well as a T-tip connector that's compatible with mounts for GoPro's housings. Plus, unlike the DXG package, the Monoprice comes with a 1/4-inch 20-thread adapter for tripod mounts.
The camera alone is fairly lightweight, with most of its heft coming from its removable, rechargeable battery pack. The plastic body doesn't feel like it can take much abuse on its own, though, so you'll want to be careful handling it outside of its housing. Up front is an f2.8 15mm lens (35mm equivalent), which gives you a wide 110 degree angle of view when shooting in full HD.
On the left side you'll find a Micro-USB port that's used for charging as well as for transferring videos and photos to an external storage device. There's also a mic jack for use with an external microphone (not included) should you want better audio than you'll get with the built-in mono mic. However, the included housing doesn't allow access to the jack; you'll have to get Monoprice's simple camera holder to mount the camera and use the jack.
The camera's right side has a Mini-HDMI port for direct playback on an external display and a microSDHC card slot that supports cards of up to 32GB. Given all that the camera does come with, it's a bit of a surprise that a memory card isn't included, which is really the only thing that prevents the MHD Sport Wifi from being ready to go out of the box.
On top is a bright, easy-to-read OLED display and two buttons: one for recording and one for changing settings. The menu system is relatively simple to navigate, too, and there's a setting that lets you flip the display's orientation, so it's easier to read regardless of how the camera is mounted.
Diving further into the settings, you can set the camera to record at three resolutions: 1080p at 30fps, 960p at 30fps, and 720p at 60fps. Also, the camera supports dual-stream recording, which simultaneously saves your full-resolution video along with a low-res thumbnail version for playback on mobile devices and faster uploads.
Photos are shot at 5-megapixel resolution and can be taken one at a time, in a burst of 10, or as a time-lapse video, snapping shots at 1-, 3-, 5-, 10-, 30-, or 60-second intervals.
There is no built-in or add-on display for seeing a live view from the camera, which means you'll be blindly setting up your shots. However, the camera does have Wi-Fi, which you may have already picked up on since it's in the model name.
Download the free ActionCam app for iOS or Android and you can use it to link directly to the camera so you can see just what you're shooting. It can be used to control the camera, too, including changing resolution settings. And, if you shoot something you want on your mobile device for viewing and sharing, you can use it to transfer them as well.
Again, the value in this camera is that it's a more affordable option than a GoPro for those who just want decent POV video to post to YouTube or other sharing sites. If you need the absolute best in video quality for this type of camera, you'll need to spend more money. With the Monoprice, you get decent-looking video that plays well at small sizes.
Playback on a large screen reveals a fair amount of compression artifacts, and there's a bit of jell-o effect under heavy vibration. However, it seems like the processing may have been tweaked some for Monoprice, as subjects look a little sharper than the video from the DXG version, and colors aren't as oversaturated. (Note: In the opening clip in the sample video, water splashed on the lens causing the softness on left side of the frame.)
What the camera did struggle with was adjusting its exposure when pointed into the sun. While it adjusted smoothly, it tended to really underexpose. Lens flare under this condition was also somewhat of an issue, giving video a red/purple tint in spots. Basically, just try not to shoot with the camera pointed toward the sun.
Low-light video is predictably noisy, grainy, and soft. If you need good low-light video, you'll need to spend more money.
The camera's 5-megapixel photos are decent, too, but like the video, you'll want to have as much light as possible. Also, there's some smear and distortion toward the sides, which is typical of inexpensive ultrawide-angle lenses. Oh, and it takes photos in only 4:3 ratio, so if you want to drop shots into your videos, you'll have to edit them to 16:9.
The Monoprice MHD Sport Wifi is a good entry-level action cam that, even at its original price of $178, is a solid value for all that is included. The video quality is more "good enough" than "oh wow," but the latter will cost you a lot more.