Like many others, I’m interested in diminutive action cams modeled GoPro’s popular line of devices, which are targeted at people who like to jump off cliffs with one of these gadgets attached to their person.
Not surprisingly, there are a number of low-priced competitors coming from obscure Chinese off brands. They sell like crazy, but are they valid rivals or total duds? It’s hard to know, as none of the companies making these gadgets have PR teams sending out review units.
I first noticed these knock-offs in 2015 when an article extolling the $64 Yi Action camera by Xiaomi appeared in Asia. It looked exactly like the $130 GoPro Hero, but with more features and a nicer design. Chinese cameras hold that price point even while the current 4K GoPro Hero5 is closer to $400.
Cheap action cams are all over Amazon with names such as ELE CAM, Southstar Digital, Apeman, Campark, iJoy, HomKim,
I’m tempted to contact the makers of these cams and have a John C. Dvorak-branded 4K
This leaves professional reviews, such as those on PCMag.com, limited to companies like GoPro, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Kodak, all of whom have proper marketing departments with a good product to market.
Selling action cams on the cheap does work for a while, but profits are meager and short-lived; everything is a one-shot deal. This philosophy is compounded by a lack of authority. If any of these $60 4K cams had a brand name like Nikon, sales would skyrocket.
Unless someone with authority happens to buy one of these units and review it favorably—and that’s unlikely—end users play a $60 crap shoot. So go ahead: explore the world of cheap 4K action cameras, knowing that they might all be the same unit with different names, and have some fun. Throw them on your drones or take them paragliding; these things are not going to break the bank, but chances are, they are going to break, so live it up while you can.