Sometimes, we feel the need to share our experiences with our friends, family, and other people that share our passions. The fact that social media has become an integrated part of our lives has led to more and more devices being shaped for sharing your memories and experiences – smartphones are being equipped with better and better cameras at lower prices, recording devices are shrinking down and becoming pocket-sized, and manufacturers everywhere are trying to grab a slice of the cake.
Since Youtube was launched, back in 2004, content creators have had the perfect platform to showcase their unique videos and montages, but creating professional, quality content requires proper equipment, which can be more expensive.
But these devices won’t be of any use to you if you’re interested in practicing more extreme sports. You won’t be able to carry a camera when diving or paragliding, skating, downhill biking, hiking, and so on. This is where action cameras come in.
Action cameras are very portable devices that can be mounted on chest straps, helmets, bike handlebars, and more. But high-end cameras can get quite expensive, and amateurs or beginners might not want to empty their pockets on a product that’s not going to return any sort of profit.
So, the question is: can you buy a quality, affordable action camera without making major compromises in quality? The answer – totally. Let’s discuss an action camera manufactured by Eken, one of the emerging manufacturers in the industry.
EKEN H9R Features
Let’s take a closer look at the camera, now that we’ve talked about the accessories that come with it.
The black version of the Eken H9R action camera has a nice, quality plastic build. It’s pretty lightweight, has a nice texture on the exterior, so you’ll keep a good grip of it and it’s very small – you can fit it in your palm.
On the front side panel, you’ll find the big power button, an LED that indicates when the camera is active and the beautiful, 170-degree wide angle camera. The power button is easy to reach from every position and the camera lens is pretty easy to clean in case you smudge it up.
On the top panel, the Eken H9R has a shutter button for starting and stopping recordings, for taking pictures and for selecting menu items. The button is, again, very easy to find and offers nice feedback and satisfaction when pressing.
The left side panel features the IO, with the aforementioned HDMI, USB and SD card slots. The right side panel has two arrow buttons that allow you to navigate the camera’s modes and settings and also activate the pairing mode for the wireless app and wrist remote and a tiny speaker, so that you can hear your recordings without having to connect the camera to a display or an audio setup every time.
The menu is very intuitive to use and it comes in a lot of different languages, with English set by default. In the menu, you can access the different resolutions and framerates, that range from 720p to 4K, different modes, such as burst photo or time lapse, video or photo.
The back panel is occupied entirely by the 2 inch FHD display, which actually looks really well at first, but it doesn’t have any fancy gorilla glass or very durable materials used in manufacturing flagship models. It’s very bright and easy to read in daylight, so that won’t be a problem.
Lastly, on the bottom, you’ll find the 1050mAH battery slot, masked by a lid made from the same material as the case. It’s easy to remove and the battery has a little ribbon on it so that you won’t have to struggle with taking it out.
Make sure that you use the water case for more dangerous activities, as it will offer the somewhat frail display a lot more protection than it has, and with a little bit of care, you’re going to be very pleased with the quality of this product.
Okay, that’s great and all, but how does it perform?
Well, for starters, what are your options? You’ve got 1280 x 720 pixel resolution at up to 120 fps. This option is great for saving space on your SD card or for creating content that’s easier to edit, as it will be processed much faster, easier to transfer to a hard drive, and most likely best to be used when uploading to Facebook, Instagram or just generally sharing with your friends, as it’s very clear and sharp on mobile devices.
When filming in 720p quality, you’ll see that the frame rate will be steady the whole time of the recording. Very fluid video, very enjoyable to watch. The white balance on the camera is actually surprisingly good and the colors are pretty deep, so you won’t have to put up with bland, washed up image quality.
One of the things that you should know is the fact that it lacks image stabilization, but that isn’t as much as a drawback as you’d think, because the straps and mounts that are included in the bundle keep it in a very tight position, so the video won’t be vertigo-inducing.
Photo quality is also pretty clear, as the camera allows you to take photos at up to 12 megapixels, which is decent. You can also use a burst photo setting to capture specific frames, like a jump or a pose, which is a nice feature to have.
Next up, we have 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution video at a 30 or 60 frame per second frame rate. We think this is actually the best setting for the camera, and we’ll explain why. First off, storage. Storage-wise, you’re pretty limited, due to the limited nature of SD cards.
Shooting in UHD means dealing with huge video files that take quite a while to transfer, especially when using a USB 2.0 connection, and a lot of space to store. Full HD is a perfect compromise of quality, performance, and utility.
We recommend that you choose a fast-grade SD card so that you won’t be facing any performance issues, and go for 32+ GB of storage, as it will comfortably fit videos that you can film on your battery life, which also decreases as you increase the resolution.
In 1080p, the camera will perform beautifully, as you’ll be getting steady frame-rates and Full HD quality. Whether you’re choosing 30 fps or 60 fps, you’ll be seeing the same results. 30 fps offers a more cinematic experience and smaller video files, while 60 fps videos are more life-like, but you’ll be taking up more space on your SD card.
These are great options for content creation, such as YouTube videos, contest submissions and so on. It’s best viewed on a monitor or any other type of Full HD display. The video is as colorful and rich in contrast as the 720p version, just sharper.
Let’s move to 2K resolution (2.7K, actually), and where things get a bit surprising. First of all, this is where you’ll notice a big increase in video file size and a big surge in battery consumption.
While 2K is very nice to have, it’s a bit of a compromise, especially because you need some pretty good hardware to edit and view 2K resolution. Most mainstream PC’s and laptops have built-in GPUs (graphic processing units) and they can’t handle rendering a UHD video, let alone edit it.
Make sure that you either have a TV that’s capable of playing 2K video or a PC that’s equipped with a dedicated graphics card that supports high resolution playback.
That being said, we’ve been fairly skeptical about the manufacturer’s claims about the performance and quality of the videos when moving up from 1080p. To our surprise, 2K videos filmed with this thing look pretty darn good and pretty smooth, which came as a shock – obviously.
The frame-rates to tend to drop a bit in the low 20’s and sometimes even around 15 frames per second, but the end result is still VERY usable, and you’ll be capturing footage at very high resolutions!
Now, let’s see how this thing handles 4K – the creme de la creme. First off, 4K videos will require the most storage space and battery consumption out of all.
When filming in 4K, things get a bit tricky. The average frame rate will be in the low 20’s and will dip below quite often, so it’s important to adjust your expectations. We’ve found that 4K works best in well-lit environments that don’t suffer a lot of shifts in lighting and contrast. Additionally, the best, most usable videos that you can capture are static – using a tripod would be ideal for the 4K setting.
Timelapse! Yeah, this thing has time lapse too. Depending on the quality, it pretty much works as you’d expect, but with a small issue. When using time lapse, there are some limitations – well, just one actually.
Contrast is a bit of a problem, so busy streets or any sort of landscape that’s filled with shifting shadows will cause the image to be blurry, as the camera will constantly try to adjust to the new factors and colors. We don’t consider this much of an issue, as this isn’t really the main use of an action camera.
Strenghts and weaknesses of the H9R
First of all, this is more of an entry-level product or a budget pick, so we’ll be judging it accordingly.
Let’s start with the good. The first thing that’s very impressive about the EKEN H9R action camera is the impressive number of accessories it comes with. Basically, you’ll be 100% ready to use this little guy as soon as it lands at your front door.
The different mounts that come with it will allow you to use it in biking, paragliding, scuba diving and snorkeling, skateboarding, driving and any activity that forces you to wear straps, helmets or to have a steady, immobile surface.
The fact that it doesn’t have a touchscreen is solved by the wireless remote, which can be strapped to your wrist, so you’ll have access to your videos, navigation and shutter buttons, and you’ll be able to use it from up to 10 meters (30 feet).
The LED will indicate if the camera is active, so you can get creative with angles and frames, giving you a very professional experience for a very, very affordable price.
In addition to that, the fact that it comes with a water case and TWO batteries also significantly improve the value of the EKEN H9R. The water case will make it watertight, and you can use it in pools, lakes, oceans, seas or in rain, as extra protection. When using it in rain, you can screw off the lense’s plastic lid to avoid smudge and blurry footage.
One of the issues with the camera is the built-in microphone. The sound quality is usable up to a point, but very loud or very rich environments will have a bit of a negative impact on the quality.
The other is the time it takes to adjust to different lighting settings. With a bit of adjustments, this will significantly improve, but the default settings might cause some blur and tearing in the footage. Make sure to test it a bit in different settings and times of the day to see how you can achieve the best results.
The angle of the lense gives you a full view, and the white balance on the EKEN H9R is actually not that bad. The lack of image stabilization isn’t that much of an issue, as we’ve mentioned before, because the straps and the mounts really keep it in place and you’ll be getting very good quality video in spite of that.
The Eken H9R works best with:
- Filming at resolutions up to 2.7K, although we think that the best results are achieved when using the 1080p 60 fps setting
- Filming in open environments, such as mountains, fields, wide urban spaces like parking lots and highways
- Filming while airborne
- Filming underwater in virtually any conditions
- Using 4K setting for less-crowded settings that don’t have a lot of motion
- During night time
- Great for any extreme sport
Where it should be improved:
- Crowded places, such as parks, gardens, downtown areas, where there are a lot of shadows and colors that are constantly changing
- A better built-in microphone
In conclusion, the Eken H9R action camera is a great purchase. The camera has a quality build, good, consistent frame rates at high resolutions. If you’re a beginner, we feel that this offers the least amount of compromise for the lowest price. Get your today and start sharing your memories!