Hong Kong based Blackview introduced the Blackview Hero 1 action camera to mix it up among the SJCAMs and higher priced GoPros. Does it have what it takes to sustain itself in the ever growing action camera market? Let us see in the in-depth review below.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Specifications
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Box Contents
The Blackview Hero 1 comes in a box that is divided into two parts: the upper transparent cube that houses the action camera which is already placed into a case that is waterproof upto a depth of 30m. The lower cube contains the manual, the AC power adapter, and a raft of accessories. Here is the list of the stuff you get inside the box:
As you can see, there are quite a good number of mounting accessories which should be sufficient for most users. One glaring omission though, is the absence of a detailed manual, which hardly contains any information, leaving me no option but to experiment with the buttons to understand what each one does. To make life easier for anyone who purchases the Blackview Hero 1, I have put down the outcome of each button press in detail, in the User Interface section which you can find in a later section below.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Design and Build
The Blackview Hero 1 action camera looks almost identical to a GoPro or a SJCAM. Moreover, the dimensions are the same too, which translates into interchangeable cases and accessories between various action camera brands. The camera itself is made of up of decent quality plastic, with a rough texture to it for good grip.
The front of the action camera features a wide-angle lens, with an IR sensor just below it. On the left of the lens is the power button. The back side houses a 2-inch LCD Screen and two LEDs on the left of the screen, while the top has a shutter button and an orange notification LED. The right side features two buttons used for adjusting the settings, while the left side is equipped with a microSD card slot, an HDMI output port and a micro-USB port. The bottom of the action camera houses a replaceable Li-Ion battery.
On examining the action camera before even using it, I noticed one button on the right-hand side to be slightly depressed when compared to the button immediately below it. This meant that the button wasn’t getting pressed when pressed through the metal button on the outer case. A greater than usual force was needed to be applied to get the button to work. This is a manufacturing defect which should have surely not passed quality control.
The plastic waterproof case that houses the action camera is well-built and feels strong enough to withstand mild shocks. The buttons are hard-to-press, which is a good thing since you do not want accidental button presses while recording all those precious moments. The rubber seal around the inside of the case is of good quality as well. Nonetheless, the various mounts and accessories are well-built too, and should not break too easily.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: User Interface
How to operate the Blackview Hero 1? Here is a detailed guide:
Button 1 on the front of the action camera is used to power on and power off the unit. Once the screen is on, the default screen you will see is the video recording screen. To toggle between video recording, still image capture, and video/photo playback, long press button 3 to toggle between the different modes.
Let us now assume you are on the video recording screen. Here, short pressing button 2 starts the video recording and an audio cue in the form of a beep is sounded, with the same button stopping the recording on a short press. When video recording is on, a blue LED blinks to let you know the same. Short pressing button 3 on the video recording screen brings up the video recording settings screen. Toggling between various options on the settings screen is done by short pressing button 4, while selecting a particular option is done by short pressing button 2. To exit the settings screen, button 3 needs to be short pressed. There is also the option to turn on or turn off the mic by short pressing button 4 while in video recording mode.
Now let’s assume you are on the still image capture screen. Short pressing button 2 captures the image. Bringing up the settings screen and cycling through the options is the same as the steps on the video recording screen that I have described above.
While on the playback screen, you can toggle between video and photo playback by short pressing button 3. Short pressing button 4 toggles through the videos/photos, and short pressing button 2 starts video playback/displays the image respectively.
In general, I really liked the way each button functions: easy to remember and easy to use.
A point to note, however, is that the action camera hung up quite a few times during regular use, marring the user experience a bit. To restart the camera, simply keep button 1 pressed for about 10 seconds.
The screen itself is a 2-inch LCD screen which is not bright enough, especially in broad daylight. On a sunny day, I had a tough time toggling between the recording modes and playing around with the settings, as I could hardly see anything on the screen.
As far as screen content goes, adequate information is displayed in each mode. In the video recording mode, you can see the video symbol, the resolution along with the frame rate, and the number of minutes specified when cyclic recording is enabled.
In image capture mode, you can see the photo symbol, the image quality(Fine/Super Fine/Normal), and the resolution(16MP, 14MP, 12MP).
In both the above modes, you see the battery charge indicator, the memory card indicator, the date and time of course.
To switch on WiFi, long-press button 2. Once WiFi is enabled, a green WiFi symbol is displayed on the screen. Now on your Android or iOS smartphone, you will need to install the “LinkInEyes” app to sync the Blackview Hero 1 with your smartphone. Once installed, turn on WiFi on your phone, and connect to the WiFi network with the password provided in the user manual. Now open the app, and if all is good, the action camera and your smartphone should be in sync. Your smartphone will now display exactly what is on the screen of the action camera as you can see in the image below:
On this screen, you can start and stop video recording, capture still images, download and play videos/images and adjust various settings right from your smartphone. This particular WiFi feature is handy in situations where the action camera is not at arm’s length, or when you cannot look at the action camera screen, like when it is mounted on the side or top of your motorcycle/bicycle helmet. The WiFi feature worked well in all situations and definitely enhances ease of use.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Video
The Blackview Hero 1 action camera records full HD videos and can capture images as well. Let us first look at video recording first.
Supported Video Resolutions:
The camera supports 2304 x 1296 (30 fps), 1080p (60, 30fps), and 720p (60, 30fps) resolutions. Here are a few sample videos:
1. 1080p, 60fps video:
2. 1080p, 30fps video:
3. 720p, 60fps video:
I recorded videos at all the resolutions and frame rates and found the video quality in each case to be good but not exceptional, especially when capturing moments at high speed. As soon as speed increases, the video gets a tad blurry, which does not degrade the quality too much, but could have been better nonetheless. That being said, colors are reproduced correctly, without any distortion at the edges, and the 170-degree wide-angle lens captures video which is pleasing to the eye as well.
When cycling through the settings menu, I found options only for changing the resolution, the quality (Super Fine, fine, normal), anti-flicker, setting date and timestamp off or on, and setting cyclic recording to off/ 1min/ 3min/ 5 min. There is glaring absence of image stabilization, ISO, white balance adjustability, etc, which is a downer for those who like to tinker around with the settings to get that perfect video. But for those of you who do not like to play around too much with the settings, the default settings are good enough to give you decent quality videos.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Image
Supported Image Resolutions:
The camera supports 16MP (4608 x 3456, 4:3), 14MP (4608 x 3072, 3:2), and 12MP (4608 x 2592, 16:9) resolutions. Here are a few images I captured on the Blackview Hero 1. Click on them to view them in their full-sized uncompressed avatar.
As you can see in the images above, the SONY IMX206 image sensor does a good job of clicking decent quality pictures, albeit with a curved appearance to the image, especially around the sides of the image.This effect is due to the wide-angle lens. Do not expect top-end smartphone-like quality from the action camera, but quality is good, with accurate and natural colors throughout.
The only settings here are the resolution, the quality(Super Fine, fine, normal), anti-flicker, and setting date and timestamp off or on. Again a dampener to those with a will to experiment.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Battery performance
Powering the Blackview Hero 1 is a replaceable 1050mAh Li-Ion battery that slots into the bottom of the unit. The battery takes about 3.5 hours to fully charge from the included AC power adapter. When the unit is being charged, a red LED stays on till full charge, after which it turns off.
On an average, the battery lasted about 2 hours, which included 1 hour of video recording and other miscellaneous activities like image capture, video playback, and WiFi usage. It is worth pointing out that WiFi drains the battery pretty quick. I would strongly recommend carrying along atleast one spare battery, as the battery won’t last a full day of action-packed video shooting.
That being said, there are a few settings that help in improving battery performance:
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: A few important observations
After recording videos and clicking a few pictures, I was excited to view them on my computer. So I connected the action camera to my computer and what message do I see: USB device not recognized. Tried reconnecting a few times, to no avail. Even tried connecting it to a MacBook but no luck there as well. I had to end up using a card reader to transfer files. After a lot of head scratching moments, I accidentally found the device to connect properly to the computer by using the original USB cable provided. Not sure what’s special about this cable but it sure is pretty weird.
While using the action camera mounted onto the side of my motorcycle helmet, I felt my head being constantly pushed to one side due to wind resistance, especially at speeds greater than 100km/h. This is because the camera case is rectangular shaped, causing maximum wind resistance. I wish there was a more streamlined case specially made for mounting on motorcycle helmets, which would cut through the wind with lesser resistance.
Blackview Hero 1 Action Camera Review: Verdict
For under $130, the Blackview Hero 1 action camera does 1080p video recording. Video quality is good but could have been better, especially under fast motion. That being said, at the price point, you get the whole gamut of accessories as well, which are compatible with the likes of GoPros and SJCAMs. The overall experience with the Blackview Hero 1 was good, barring a few software glitches and a few quality related issues that can be fixed by firmware updates and better quality control.
Design and Build