Chinese phone-maker Elephone has made its foray into the world of action cameras with the introduction of their first action camera, dubbed the Elephone Explorer. So does it have what it takes to mix it up with established brands such as GoPro, SJCAM or the Blackview Hero 1? Let us find out in the in-depth review below!
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Specifications
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Box Contents
As with most China based action cameras these days, the Elephone Explorer comes shipped with a wide variety of accessories in the box. Here is the complete list:
As you can see, the accessories included should be sufficient for most users. That being said, the manual is not self-sufficient in terms of allowing you to master the controls on the Elephone Explorer. I had to experiment with the buttons to understand what each one does. To make life easier for anyone who purchases the Elephone Explorer, I have put down the outcome of each button press in detail, in the User Interface section which you can find in a later part.
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Design and Build
The Elephone Explorer action camera looks almost identical to a GoPro or a SJCAM action camera. Moreover, the dimensions are the same too, allowing for interchangeable cases and accessories between various action camera brands. The camera itself is made of up of good quality plastic, with a rough texture to it for good grip.
The front of the action camera features a wide-angle lens. 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 WiFi notification LED. The right side features two buttons for cycling through menus, 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.
In addition, 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.
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: User Interface
As I said earlier, if you buy the Elephone Explorer, you would not know how to operate it without fiddling around with it for a while. So here is a detailed operating guide to help you start using it right away:
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, slow motion video recording, video/photo playback, and settings, short press button 1.
Let us now assume you are on the video recording screen. Here, short pressing button 2 starts the video recording, 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. While on the video recording screen, long pressing button 3 or 4 zooms in (upto 4x digital) and zooms out respectively. Moreover, short pressing button 3 turns WiFi on/off, while short pressing button 4 turns the mic on/off.
Now let’s assume you are on the still image capture screen. Short pressing button 2 captures the image. Zooming in and out is the same procedure as on the video recording screen.
When on the slow motion video recording screen, controls are the same as those on the video recording screen.
On the playback screen, short pressing button 2 starts/stops video playback, and short pressing button 1 goes back to the screen where you can cycle through all the videos/images by short pressing button 3 and button 4. While on the playback screen, long pressing button 1 gives you the option to delete that particular video/image.
Last but not the least, consider being on the settings screen. Now you can toggle between 4 individual setting screens by short pressing button 1. While on a particular settings screen, you can toggle up or down the various options by short pressing button 3 or 4 respectively. Selection of a particular option is by short pressing button 2.
Do note that in all cases, short pressing button 1 is used to select a particular option when you have multiple options to choose from.
In general, I really liked the way each button functions: real easy to remember and easy to use.
Coming to the screen, it is a 2-inch LCD that is surprisingly sharp and bright. Even in broad daylight, I could see what’s on the screen, further enhancing usability.
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, the mic symbol, and other respective symbols if time-lapse or loop recording is selected.
In image capture mode, you can see the photo symbol, the resolution, and other respective symbols if timer, auto shoot or drama shoot options are selected.
In slow motion video capture mode, you see exactly what is on the video recording screen, except for a symbol that lets you know this is slow-motion mode.
In all the above modes, you see the battery charge indicator, memory card indicator, memory card speed, date, time, and the WiFi symbol.
An important point to note is that I did not find the camera to hang up or lag even once so far during usage, so kudos to Elephone on the software part.
To switch on WiFi, short-press button 3. Once WiFi is enabled, a popup with the WiFi SSID and password is displayed on the screen and the orange LED on top of the unit starts blinking. Now on your Android or iOS smartphone, you will need to install the “XDV” app to sync the Elephone Explorer with your smartphone. Once installed, open the app, select the Elephone action camera as the WiFi network, enter the password displayed on the action camera screen, 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, record slow motion videos, 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. The XDV app in particular, is really user friendly I must say.
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Video
The Elephone Explorer records Full-HD videos but also does 4K video.
Supported Video Resolutions:
The Elephone Explorer supports 4K (15fps), 2.7K (30fps), 1080p (60, 30fps), 720p (60, 30fps), 720p (120fps slow-motion)
1. 4K, 15fps video:
2. 1080p, 60fps video:
3. 1080p, 30fps video:
4. 1080p, 30fps low-light video:
5. 720p, 60fps video:
6. 720p, 120fps slow-motion video:
For all the above video recordings, a class-10 microSD card was used, which is what Elephone recommends.
The Elephone Explorer does record video at 4K, albeit at a lowly 15fps. As you can see in the 4K sample video, the 15fps frame rate proves too low, meaning you will probably never use it.
At 1080p (60fps), a slight stutter is present (you will notice it only by playing the video full-screen at 1080p), but nothing that degrades the whole experience too much. Otherwise, video quality is good with hardly any blurriness even during fast motion. The combination of 1080p and 60fps video is what most users will like to use, and I can say that the Elephone Explorer handles this combo well.
At 1080p (30fps), video quality is good with no stutter at all. At 720p (60 or 30fps), video quality is good without being as good as 1080p obviously, with no stutter even during fast motion.
An interesting inclusion in the Elephone Explorer is 720p (120fps) slow-motion recording. The high 120fps frame-rate translates to great slow-motion videos, which are really fun to watch.
Coming to low-light conditions, I would say that the Elephone Explorer does a decent job, with natural video reproduction and decent ability to capture low lit objects in the dark.
Another neat feature is time-lapse video that can be set at intervals of 0.5-seconds to 60-seconds. The camera clicks still images at the time interval you have set, and stitches all individual images together to form a single video. This particular feature is handy if you want to capture a sunrise or a sunset, a blooming of a flower, or any such slow-paced activity.
Loop recording is at your disposal too, allowing you to use the Elephone explorer as a car dash-cam.
In all videos at any resolution, I found color reproduction to be good when there was no direct sunlight. In bright sunlight though, the video has unusually high brightness and contrast, with unnatural color reproduction.
As far as video settings go, a few options can be manually changed, which should benefit those with an eye for tinkering around for that perfect video. So what you get is adjustable exposure, white balance, and light source frequency.
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Image
The Elephone Explorer supports image capture at the following resolutions: 16MP, 12MP, 10MP, and 5MP. Here are a few images I captured on the Elephone Explorer. Click on them to view them in their full-sized uncompressed avatar.
As you can see, the OmniVision sensor does a good job of clicking decent quality pictures, albeit with a curved appearance to the image, especially around the sides.This effect is due to the wide-angled nature of the lens. Do not expect top-end smartphone-like image capture quality from the action camera, but quality is pretty good with natural color reproduction at most times.
Image capture options you get are: timer mode (3-seconds to 20-seconds), auto-capture mode (3-seconds to 30-seconds), and drama shot (3-photos/second, 5-photos/second, 10-photos/second).
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Battery performance
Powering the Elephone Explorer action camera is a removable 1050mAh Li-Ion battery that slots into the bottom of the unit. The battery takes just under 3 hours to fully charge from the included AC power adapter. When the unit is being charged, a red LED blinks till full charge, after which the red colored LED stops blinking.
On an average, the battery lasts about 2 hours, which includes 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 at least 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 like auto-power off and auto-screen off that help in slightly improving battery longevity.
Elephone Explorer Action Camera Review: Verdict
The Elephone Explorer for under $90 shipped, comes with great user-friendliness, good build quality, and a bright and sharp screen. As far as video quality goes, it proves pretty good at most instances, but could have been better in bright sunlight.
So does the Elephone Explorer pack a punch to fight it out among the best out there in the market? Well, at the price point, it certainly is a value-for-money product, but not yet up there in terms of video quality vis-a-vis some of the established action cameras out there that fall within a similar price range.
You may also have a look at some other action camera reviews in the reviews section.
Design and Build