Budget Action Cams have always intrigued me a lot, ever since I began my motorcycle expeditions a couple of years ago, mainly because of the amount of features and ‘oomph’ factor that goes into them for almost half or less than half the price of expensive, ‘show offy’ action cameras! Just to clear things out, by budget action cameras, I do not mean the ones that are on offer on various social media websites these days for about 1,500-2500 INR. Those are fake, you could read about them here.
During the days of my SJ4000 action cam, I never liked any of the SJCAMS on offer. But with little choice back then, I was satisfied overall as for 8000 bucks, I got quite a lot from a tiny camera. Not to forget the blue sky tint that all SJCAMS have by default. Didn’t like that one bit. But, the action cam did a decent job of clicking pictures and videos that were good enough to view on the phone.
I then switched over to the Yi action Camera in 2015 which was quite a big bang for the amount of money I paid, even though it didn’t come with a screen. So, I had to connect it to my phone via WiFi to operate it but the action cam came with so many features and amazing image clarity, that I didn’t care about anything else. What more would you want if your action cam could produce images and videos similar to what your high end phone could produce and it costed just INR 7000!
Though it being a Chinese action camera, the thing I’ve seen about action cams from Yi is that they’re durable. I don’t say that just by touching and feeling the camera, but by the experience of keeping the camera exposed to dust, wind, drizzle, sunlight for 7000 kilometers (without the waterproof case) on my trip from Bangalore to Himachal and back. The action cam worked well without a glitch! Another instance was when I hadn’t mounted the action cam tightly on the frame of my KTM Duke 390 and it fell off. My motorcycle’s rear wheel went over it (it was again without the waterproof case) and yet, apart from scratches and dents on the edges, no major damage was seen on the action cam and it continued to work flawlessly.
Three years later though, I came to a point where I had the budget to buy the newly launched GoPro Hero 6, available at a price tag of around 40,000 INR. My requirements were HD video recording, a touch screen display for ease of use, 5G download speeds from action cam to phone via WiFi, a decent battery backup and some other stuff here and there. Not to forget clear, sharp images, manual shooting options for photo and video.
I got tempted by the GoPro when some of my friends were using the GoPro Hero 5’s and 6’s. Those action cams had all that I needed and since I had the budget that the action cam demanded, I was inclined to make a purchase. But, there were some things bothering me though my mind was reluctant in buying the GoPro Hero 6.
Firstly, I believe anything used for adventure must be such that if you lost it, you should be able to buy the same in a short span of time. After all, it is an action camera and the odds of losing one, breaking one, drowning on or spoiling one are very high. It is meant for adventure, uncertainties, slush and what not. Would I throw around a 40 grand action cam the way I used my previous action cams? Was I in a position of affording to lose a GoPro Hero 5 or 6 action camera on any of my adventures? No!
Secondly, getting an expensive action cam would coax me into taking extra care of it instinctively. I wouldn’t be surprised if I kept checking on it while riding, if it was working fine or if I had folded the charger wire properly or wishing that I hadn’t scratched the lens by mistake. That behaviour occurs naturally to many and I wasn’t fond of worrying too much about a gadget when I’d be savouring beautiful moments on my trips. I needed something that I wouldn’t worry much about, stuff it or mount it a little carelessly (energy and excitement level are high on a roadtrip), start recording and forget about it! That’s the kind of freedom I intend to have from all gadgets and things I own and would own in the future.
Having an expensive camera for such purposes, though it is made for such challenges is a bit like thrashing a big, expensive adventure motorcycle you own, on dirt trails. You know it’s made for that, you know you can ride fast but most of all, you’re always under the fear of dropping it or damaging something on it, and that sort of, spoils the fun! People say the price tag doesn’t affect them but as per my experience, it does! Sometimes, without them even realising that they’re being a gadget nanny. Ask some guys with big ADV motorcycles and they’ll tell you they have more fun thrashing around dirt on the smaller motorcycles than the big, heavy purpose built machines.
“If you’re out on motorcycle tour,’gadget nannying’ is the last thing you should do- consciously or subconsciously.”
Lastly, I wanted an action camera that had support in terms of warranty. GoPro is a big brand and does provide warranty but I’ve heard many instances where GoPro owners in India have had to face hassles when it came to their action cams not working properly and claiming warranty, especially if it was bought from some place abroad. Yes, just because they’re expensive action cams, doesn’t mean they don’t come with problems. The latest GoPro Hero 6 had its issues initially and owners had to wait for quite sometime to wait for an update to have it rectified.
So after keeping all that in mind, the price tag of 35000- 40000 INR for an action camera seemed rather steep. It was accessible but did it make sense for to spend that much on a pocket cam when there are loads of other options in the market? Was it a practical decision? Would I be more happy with it, especially since most content would be used on social media and not for professional purposes? Buying the GoPro Hero 6 then, didn’t make sense to me.
But, my requirements remained the same as I had mentioned earlier and I wasn’t going to compromise on any one of them. Soon enough, I came across ActionCams.in– a one stop online place for a lot of the stuff related to action cameras- be it gimbals, accessories, mounts, action cameras, car dash cameras, etc. I was keen on checking out their GitUp G3 Duo action cam that also came with an external mic option and an optional slave camera in case you wanted to record another perspective simultaneously.
Another advantage of dealing with ActionCams was that I didn’t have to wait for a month for the camera to arrive unlike ordering them online on websites based in other countries (since most budget action cams are available in China) and most importantly, I didn’t have to face the hassles of paying customs duty. I have done that for both my previous action cams and trust me, its a long and painful wait. Over and above that, if anything went wrong with the cam, I could approach ActionCams and claim warranty as they’r based in Bangalore, India!
While the GitUp G3 Duo costed 13,500 INR which is epic considering the amount of mounts and features that came along with the action cam, ActionCams launched the Yi Lite action camera just when I was considering to pick the GitUp G3 up. This new action cam from Yi is ideally version 2.0 of the Yi action cam I had earlier. The Git3 was a suitable choice for me but I felt it would help people who make Vlogs on YouTube even more. Since I don’t vlog, I went ahead and got the Yi Lite instead and I was more inclined to do so considering my positive experience with the older Yi action cam.
The Yi Lite meanwhile came with all features I mentioned earlier. It also records 4K at 30 fps (not a big fan of 4k since it consumes too much memory), records 1080P at 60 fps, produces 16mp images, has a responsive touch screen, comes with a waterproof housing, has 5G media transfer rate over wifi, has electronic image stabilisation, I can shoot and record using manual settings of my own, etc, etc.
In short, the Yi Lite action cam has all that I really ever needed and performs most of its tasks rather excellently. Available for just 11,500 INR, I feel this cam is a steal for anyone looking out to record their rides and adventures. Not only that, you could also use it as a daily camera instead of the phone, just like I do. Selfies, architecture, people, etc, this pocket cam comes in pretty handy anywhere you go, even in low light conditions!
The Yi action app (available for Apple and Android) too is fast and proves to be a good tool to download photos and videos quickly onto your smartphone, making it easier to share stuff instantly on social media. In terms of battery life, the Yi Lite constantly records at 1080P for 110-120 minutes, making it one of the most energy efficient action cams among all the other super expensive action cams.
Coming back to the point of Budget cams VS expensive GoPro’s, I feel budget cams from companies like Yi, Gitup, etc, are advancing rapidly in the action camera market as they offer most of what GoPro’s offer for a fraction of the price, which I personally feel is a big accomplishment for not only the brand but also for the buyer. There’s no wonder why GoPro has filed for bankruptcy, despite charging customers a bomb for their action cameras.
Now that I have the Yi Lite with me, I did compare it to my friend’s Hero 5 and frankly speaking, I didn’t regret my decision of choosing the Yi Lite over a GoPro. Being practical, frugal, analytical helped me save up quite a lot of money, that I would have otherwise spent on an expensive, mind burdening action camera. I’m glad I saved up the rest of the money that could now be utilised on gathering experiences on a motorcycle tour.
My advice to you? Don’t get carried away by what others say or buy. Do your own research and don’t buy action cameras based on brand popularity (something like GoPro). Also, please don’t trust YouTube videos and reviews about action cams and other gadgets blindly, many are biased or paid reviews. I’d say go out there, check it out in person, see for yourself and then take a call. Do a ‘what you need’ VS ‘what an action cam offers’ analysis. Be practical, be sensible- save more money for travel and food. 🙂
“You can get Pro shots without spending a bomb on an action cam. Quite a revelation, eh?”
Sharing some of the clips made by me with the Yi Lite action cam below. Best viewed at 1080P, 60 fps.