Muvi HD 1080p Action Cam
We've reviewed plenty of pocket camcorders here on Pocket-lint, including the Toshiba Camilieo S30 and the Kodak Playtouch, and with one of the big hitters - Flip Video - recently pulling out of the market, there's plenty of room for other brands to make their mark. As the name suggests, the Muvi HD 1080p Action Cam is not only a pocket camcorder, but a product that's designed to be used while on the move (whether that's on a bike, in a car, or on foot).
Measuring just 83 x 49 x 22mm, the Action Cam is positively dinky and one of the very smallest pocket camcorders that we've seen. It's also extremely light, weighing in at just 78g. It features a matte rubberised casing so it's very grippy and the textured finish also lends it the feel of a premium product.
Controls are kept to the bare minimum - underneath the screen on the front you'll find a "select" hard button flanked on all four sides by touch buttons for moving left and right and up and down. There are also two touch buttons just under the screen for selecting the menu and going back a screen.
On the right-hand edge of the unit there is a raised record button at the top, just in the right place for your thumb and underneath that you'll find the vox mode switch. This side of the unit is where you'll find the microSD card slot. The left-hand edge is home to an HDMI port, a Mini-USB, the power switch and an AV out connection.
There is a standard tripod mount on the bottom of the unit as well as a hole for attaching a lanyard. The back is home to the lens, along with a tiny microphone. It's possible to use the Action Cam just as a voice recorder, although you need to be fairly close to the microphone for it to pick up voices clearly (and also make sure that you haven't got your hand over it if holding the unit, which is easier said than done as the mic sits just underneath where your hand naturally sits).
The Muvi HD 1080p Action Cam also comes supplied with a substantial range of accessories for attaching it to various things. Along with a padded carrying pouch, you'll also get a remote control, helmet mount, clip mount, several adjustable velcro straps and an adhesive mount. Along with a USB cable there's also a USB to Mini-USB lead along with the a CD. The spec list says that this is a software CD, although it only appears to have a digital version of the enclosed instruction booklet with no extra options for file editing or transfer. The Action Cam is supplied with a 4GB microSD card, while the device can cope with cards up to 32GB.
Despite a slightly rugged finish, there are no claims about being waterproof or dust or shockproof, so it's probably best not to go dropping it in the mud or taking it out in the pouring rain. If you do want to protect the camcorder from a proper soaking then the manufacturer offers an optional waterproof case for around £20.
Navigating through the basic onscreen menus is pretty easy - the first thing we did was speed through to the settings menu to turn off the annoying beeping that occurs everytime you press a button. There are also options for changing the video settings - as the full name of the product suggests, the Action Cam can record at full HD 1080p (at around 30fps), and there's also the option to switch to 720p, WVGA (800 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240) resolution. You can also choose the relevant TV standard from NTSC or PAL.
You can start the Action Cam recording by using the dedicated button, the remote or by turning on the the Vox mode for automated sound activation. This enables you to start recording by simply making a noise. However, it's quite sensitive and we found that practically anything would set it off, before we were ready to record.
The tiny 1.5-inch LCD screen makes it slightly tricky to see what you're recording, especially if it's tilted at an angle or you're out in bright sunshine. However, as the Action Cam is designed for handsfree as well as handheld use, it is likely that you won't actually be composing shots all the time, as the device will be attached to your bag, clothing or bike helmet.
The remote control is almost as big as the camcorder itself, but that's simply because the product is so small, not because the zapper is big. The idiot-proof design sports three large colour-coded buttons enabling you to record, stop and take a photo. On the back, you'll find a heavy duty crocodile clip for attaching to your bag or clothing (or wherever else is appropriate).
A 3x digital zoom is listed as one of the specs - according to the instructions, this can be activated while recording using the plus and minus buttons. While pressing these brought up a zoom scale on the screen, we couldn't make it actually zoom, despite trying an enourmous amount of button press combinations before finally giving up.
The Action Cam has an ultra wide 160-degree field of view which means that footage, and pictures in particular suffer from barrel distortion, making everything at the edges curve inwards, like the effect that you get from a fisheye lens. If that's that the look that you're after then great, but it will prove to be annoying for those that want more conventional footage. The device has also been enhanced to work in low light conditions, says the maker. While it's true that the camcorder will capture images in reasonably low light (e.g., inside a poorly lit room), the resulting is footage is very grainy and soft.
Filming in daylight produces much better results. Colours are punchy and edges are sharp, although there's no getting away from that barrel distortion. The video cam copes pretty well with capturing footage while on the move - obviously if you're recording while out running or on a bike, for example, then the video isn't going to be completely smooth, but Muvi's device manages to keep motion judder to a minimum. Sound is ok, but suffers from the usual background noise (which sounds a bit like a waterfall) that tends to plague pocket camcorders. The on-board speaker isn't much to write home about - it sounds quite tinny and there's a lot of noise, but it does the trick for a quick review of your footage.
The snapshot function will let you take photos by pressing the central select button, although these can't be taken at the same time that you're recording video. You can choose from 3 megapixel (2048 x 1536), 5 megapixel (2560 x 1920) or 8 megapixel (3200 x 2400) resolutions and there is also a timer function, which you can set to go off after 5 or 10 seconds. We found the picture-taking mode to be pretty basic, although the camera coped reasonably well on what was a slightly cloudy day. However, detail was lost in darker conditions and on indoor shots and the fisheye effect appears much more pronounced than it does on video. To be fair, the Action Cam is really designed to be used as a camcorder, but the no-frills photo option is still a little lame.
The built-in rechargable lithium-ion battery offers around 3 hours of video recording on a full charge and the unit also includes an auto standby mode which can be set to 30 seconds, 1 minute or 5 minutes to make sure that you don't run out of precious power. Although the battery lasted well, we found that the unit got very hot, very quickly.
The Muvi HD 1080p is a very compact recording device, so if you're looking for the smallest and lightest product around, then it's certainly worth considering. The video is good, although only if you don't mind the slight fisheye-lens effect that surrounds all of the footage. There's not a lot of flexibilty when it comes to recording or still capture options, but the handsfree functionality and the wide range of accessories are definite plus points.
Although it's fairly sturdy, we would have expected a camcorder of this kind to have a few more features to make it resistant to the elements, such as waterproofing. It is a little on the pricey side, but the accessory count and the dinky dimensions certainly help to soften the blow.
Thank you to Firebox.com for the loan of this product.