Veho Muvi HD NPNG edition
You might think that GoPro has the extreme sports camera market stitched up with its Hero range. In fact, the popularity of those cameras has inspired a lot of other manufacturers to produce action cameras that have an amazing range of features.
One such company is Veho, which produces a camera called the Muvi HD. The version we're looking at is called the NPNG, or No Proof, No Glory edition. It's a bit more expensive than the standard camera, but you get 8GB of storage - via a microSD card that's included - where the standard camera has 4GB and there are a whole bunch of mounts and accessories included in the box.
One interesting thing about the Muvi is that, despite our urge to hold it more like a traditional camera, it's designed to be held like a phone. We have some mixed feelings about that, because while it gives you a really good grip of the camera if you're holding it, in your hand, it does also mean that it sticks up a bit more when mounted to something. While that's unlikely to be a big problem, it's counter to the short and squat GoPro.
The camera itself is actually very well designed too. On the back there's a small LCD screen that allows you to use the simple menu system, along with a series of really simple controls that allow you to navigate around. This is all about a thousand times more simple than the GoPro system, especially on the Silver and White editions of those cameras.
On the left of the camera, there's a power switch, mini-jack for video out, mini-USB and mini-HDMI. On the right is a record button, a VOX mode button, to trigger recordings when sound is detected and there's a microSD slot too, for storage up to 32GB.
On the bottom there's something very handy indeed. A standard-fit tripod screw mount, that will enable you to mount the Muvi on pretty much any support system ever made. This is one of the best features of the design, and it allows for a lot of flexibility with mounts. Big thumbs up from us.
Waterproof housing and more
As you'd expect from an outdoor sports camera, there's a waterproof case included in the box. Veho says that you can use it at depths of 60m for as long as 60 minutes. That's not bad, and most people will never get to anywhere near those depths.
Like the camera itself, the waterproof housing has a tripod mount too, which is very cool indeed as it means you can mount it to any mount designed for pretty much any camera, and it's easy to build your own special mounts too, which is harder with plastic clip mounts. Of course, if you buy the NPNG pack, you get a load of those plastic mounts too. There's quite clever mounting system here too, because the waterproof housing can be attached to you, or other accessories via back-plate that screws on to the rear of the waterproof housing. A small screwdriver is supplied to do this, and it means you can attach the camera to a belt-clip type mounting, which while won't do much of use on your belt, will allow you to keep the camera safe, but also attach it to other bits if your clothing, or other pieces of equipment and safety gear.
There's the inevitable helmet mount too, with sticky pads that will glue it to your skid-lid. In the NPNG kit there are other mounts too, many of which also fit other brand of camera's accessories. Especially a car mount, should you want to record yourself driving around on tack days.
Can be remote
One thing we love about the Muvi HD is the included remote control. With the GoPro this is an extra on all but its most expensive camera, the Black which costs £350, a full £150 more than the Muvi HD.
The remote control is simple, and reasonably logical. There's a green - the colour varies, some remotes have a grey button - button that starts video recording, a red which stops it and in between, a button that takes a still shot.
There's a built-in battery within the remote, which should be swappable by unscrewing the back of the remote. We haven't tried this though, and can't therefore comment on how easy, or not, it is.
The remote isn't waterproof either, so don't take it swimming with you and the camera. It's splashproof though, so you should be able to get a boat-bound friend to start and stop recordings for you while you potter about in the water, depending on how far you go - you won't be able to start the camera underwater.
In our tests, we had no problem using the controller to start the camera when it was a reasonable distance away. Pop the camera on a tripod, and keep line of sight with it, and you should be okay, but we don't think the remote will reliably work around corners or through walls and metal.
Record modes and bitrates
The Muvi HD has 1080p, 720p at both 60 and 30fps, 960p and WVGA.
The 720p modes mean that you can record at 60 frames per second, then slow this to 30fps in post production. That will give you a 50 per cent slower motion, which is handy for capturing high-speed action. UK users might want to set the camera for 25/50fps, but we can't see why, unless you're planning on broadcasting the footage on national TV. The days of worrying about using the higher frame rate of US TV is no longer a big deal.
The 960p mode allows you to record with a slightly taller image. This is handy if you're skydiving or skiing and want to capture a larger area without worrying too much about where you're pointing the camera when you're in the air. It has a more dramatic fish-eye effect than 1080p, although the image is still distorted in 1080p with this camera. That's not a bad thing, it's just how these cameras work. There's no option to change the field of view on this camera though, something that is possible on the GoPro.
Video recording happens at bitrates of up to 16mbps. That's not a massive rate, and it's much less than the GoPro Silver and Black cameras, and a tiny bit higher than the White edition. That said, very high bitrates are only useful if your sensor and lens are very high-end, and while the Muvi makes beautiful video, we honestly don't think upping the bitrate would do much more than fill your SD card more quickly. Professionals would prefer a higher rate, of course, but this is much more aimed at the budget conscious than TV camera operators.
Picture and sound quality
Sound is exactly what you'd expect from an action camera. It's very wispy and thin, and has no real depth to it. It's serviceable but when things hit the camera, or you submerge it in water, there's a very distinctive sound that isn't pleasant. There are not really any of this type of camera that has got this right yet.
On the Muvi HD, the sound is considerably worse in the waterproof housing, with audio being a bit muffled while also having too much high end. It's a funny situation, but this is not a camera you'd want to rely on for audio. There's no microphone input either, so you'll need to record audio on a separate recorder if you want it to be useable later.
Picture quality is very good though. We tested both indoors and out, and in some pretty subdued lighting. The quality was likeable in both situations. Inside, you'll see some very noticeable grain in darker areas, and the colours will look very washed-out. The grain didn't strike us as a massive problem though, it looks fine and certainly no worse than you'd see on mobile phone cameras.
Outdoors in bright sunlight things are brilliant though. There's loads of bright and vibrant colour, and the camera does a great job of recording it. There are some settings in the menus for exposure settings, and we did noticed that the camera was a little slow to react when moving from a dark room to a light outside. And if you're shooting outside in the shade, and catch some light, it will blow out the highlights very noticeably. We aren't worried about this especially though as it's the case with pretty much every cheap camera with automatic exposure.
Still picture quality
Surprisingly, the quality of still images from the Muvi HD are very good. We've taken lots in various lights, and they always look pretty decent. Give them some decent light, and they really can impress.
That's not to say there aren't some minor problems, look at any tightly-packed lines and you'll start to see moire patterning on them, but this isn't a camera designed mainly for stills, and what it produces are certainly good enough to fire off to social networks and to friends.
We love the remote for stills, it makes everything so simple, and we had a lot of fun giving the controller to our daughter, and letting her fire off snaps on this near-indestructible camera.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a knockoff of the GoPro. It's really not, and it has some nice features of its own that set it apart.
You get an included remote, a built-in screen and a menu system that won't drive you utterly crazy every time you use it. The only real downside is that there's no removable battery, and you can't use the camera while it's charging.
So, if you're looking for a sensibly-priced action camera, the Muvi HD is certainly one to consider. Unless you're a real action sports enthusiast, there's probably no need to go for the NPNG pack, as you might find some of the mounts aren't all that useful. While it certainly offers savings over buying everything separately, if you're never going to use all of it, it's arguably a waste of the extra cash.
The fact remains though, this camera is fabulous to use, produces great video and is dead simple to use.