If you had five years ago asked someone what an action camera was the chances are that you would have got a blank look. The market was invented and championed by GoPro with their very successful Hero line. It features people throwing themselves out of planes, surfing or being very athletic with their Hero camera’s recording every moment.
But what if you’re not that hyperfit adrenalin junkie but just want to film you kids bike ride or catch them swimming underwater for the first time? GoPro’s are indisputably the best cameras available on the market but they’re expensive costing more than a hundred pounds for the most basic version.
The Kitvision Escape HD5 Action Camera aims to be the action camera for normal people. It will work on your bike and in the pool on holiday. Most crucially the price is much lower – currently £30 on Amazon.
That price gets you the HD5 camera, the waterproof shock case and a range of parts and connectors. Some of the connectors are a little opaque as to their use but I’ve been able to attach the camera to pipes on bikes and scooters, tripods, mini-tripods, strapped onto a bike helmet and onto my chest and a dashboard camera. I’ve also used rubber bands and tape to strap it to my daughters remote control car and just held it free hand as a conventional camera.
Included in the box: HD5 camera, waterproof case, multiple connectors, tape, velcro, microUSB cable and a quick start guide.
Paid Extras: The HD5 does not include any storage – a microSD card will be required to make use of it.
Kitvision is a UK company that specialises in action camera. They have a range of cameras and accessories including chest and head straps and selfie sticks.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The actual camera build into the HD5 has a reasonable but not great lens and sensor. It can take videos of up to 1280 x 720 at 30fps and pictures of up to 5MP. This is not anywhere near broadcast quality and if you blow it up on a big screen TV clearly shows some pixelation. It is however perfectly sufficient for viewing on your PC or uploading to Youtube. The camera has some problems transitioning from a high to low light environment and never handled low light wonderfully.
As well as video the HD5 can take normal pictures – although not of a wonderful quality. I found it difficult to remember the correct order of key presses to get to the still picture options but with a little practice this could be avoided. There is also a burst mode to get a lot of pictures of a particular thing, timed mode if you want to setup and then get into the frame yourself and a time lapse mode for taking a series of pictures. The time lapse is particularly interesting as the length of the gap between pictures can be set and it will keep going until it runs out of space or battery life hence making some potentially very long lapses possible.
The microphone in the HD5 is not great to start off with and when you put it inside the waterproof case becomes unavoidably rather muffled. Kitvision acknowledge this limitation on their advertising and say the microphone is an extra and they’d usually recommend editing your videos with added soundtracks.
The HD5 camera is very simple in design. It has a four buttons which are accessible both when it is in its case and naked. The buttons are a power button on the front, a start filming/take picture button on the top and up/down buttons on the side.
To start filming press the power button on the front for a second or so to switch on then the button on the top to start filming. A red LED starts flashing to indicate recording and the LED screen will stay on for around a minute. It’s simple enough our five year old has no problem with it and made several of her own films with it.
The buttons need a reasonable amount of force to operate – a positive as you do not want it them accidentally switching on or off – and in the case are operable underwater.
It is possible to watch your videos and look at the photo’s you’ve taken on the HD5 but it’s not a great experience – the screen is small and not great and there is no sound on playback at all. It’s a useful extra to check that you got everything in but what you see on the device’s screen is much lower quality than what you’ll see on your PC later.
The connectors and clips are surprisingly versatile and solidly manufactured. Apart from the bike clamp they do require a certain amount of ingenuity and experimentation to get the best setup. The manual suggests their recommended uses but it’s still a little confusing and a little experimentation can go a long way.
Environment & People
Kitvision has no particular information about it’s environmental impact or it’s trading practices. The company appears UK based and sells most of its products here but handles it’s manufacturing in China.
The big attraction to the HD5 initially was the price. At £30 it’s a viable cost for a much wider range of people than the big name action cameras. The only obvious cutting of corners is the fact that there is no microSD card included (or internal memory) and the fact that the battery is a little smaller. I was able to get almost one and a half continuous hours of recording out of the HD5 before it ran out of charge which is sufficient for most users. If you are switching it on and off to take shorter clips getting through a day is practical.
If you’re going to be using the camera every day I’d be a little more concerned about durability but for holiday and occasional use the HD5 seems to stand up well.
Lens: 120 A+ HD wide-angle lens
Video Resolution: 1080 x 720 / 30fps, 640 x 480 / 30fps
Video Format: AVI
Compressed Video Format: MJPEG
Photo Resolution: 5MP
Storage: None included takes up to 32gb MicroSD
Photo Modes: Single shot / Timed / Continuous
USB Interface: USB 2.0
Battery Capacity: 900 mAH
Power Consumption: 260 mA @ 4.2V
Dimensions (mm): 60 x 41 x 29 – note that this is the camera out of the case
Weight: 58 g – this is without the case or any connectors
The HD5 requires an microSD card to be added for storage. Without it it will boot up but will not let you record.
The battery is changeable but if removed you will lose your settings (not your videos!) such as the time and resolution settings.
When I first heard about the HD5 I was prepared to get a look at a product that had too many corners cut to get to its price. The camera and packaging looked good but I was expecting that it would have an Achilles heel.
If you are looking for very high quality action video or pictures the HD5 is not for you. It does however represent a very good way to experiment and try out something new for the rest of us. The HD5 produces surprisingly good quality videos and although it is let down somewhat by its still photography is impressive.
If you’re going on holiday and want to take some videos in the pool, want a simple way to record your bike rides or want to experiment on the slopes the HD5 is a great place to start. If you decide you like it you might end up upgrading to it’s big brother the HD10 or HD30 but for most of us it’s perfect. It’s earned a place in my holiday bag and for the price might deserve one in yours as well. Recommended.
The review is based on the Kitvision Escape HD5 Action camera. This article was first published on the 8th of February 2016.